Published On: Mon, Nov 4th, 2019

MP Peterson to present motion to break the impasse on PJIA financing

MP Claude Chacho Peterson - Parliament Photo

GREAT BAY — On Sunday, November 03, 2019, MP Claude “Chacho” Peterson issued the following press release.

As announced in my press release of October 28, 2019, I posed 4 questions to the caretaker Minister of Finance, Mr. Perry Geerlings, on the financial situation at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). I would first like to commend the caretaker Minister for seeing the urgency of the situation and providing the answers to my questions expediently. Regretfully, the President of Parliament did not share the urgency to reconvene the urgent public meeting on State of Affairs of PJIA (listed as OV-34) during the non-meeting week of October 28 – November 1 as requested by the SMCP faction.

In the response on the question “What steps have you, the care-taker government, and the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) and PJIA taken to remedy this situation?”, a detailed chronological outline was provided of the steps undertaken by all parties listed to finalize the financing agreement for the PJIA using the Trust fund and European Investment Bank (EIB) loan.

Referring to the Minister’s answer, it became evident that as early as October 9, the Bondholders required a declaratory motion of Parliament resolving that the caretaker Ministers can sign a binding/irrevocable agreement on behalf of the government of Sint Maarten. This would be in addition to the national decree from the Governor and the unqualified legal opinions stating such. In keeping with good governance principles, the “Formateur” was approached by the Director of the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) and the caretaker Minister of Finance to provide such on behalf of the new majority in parliament. Almost 1 month later, the “Formateur” chose to defer to the Governor’s role in the process and has elected not to take the initiative to bring such a motion to the floor of Parliament to appease the Bondholder’s requirements in order to finalize the desperately needed financing for the daily operations and reconstruction of PJIA.

I have no other choice than to ask myself: Does the new majority of nine in Parliament have any plan to rescue our airport and protect the livelihood of their workers and service providers. Every day lost, is another delay towards securing the funds needed not only to rebuild the gateway to our economy but more importantly to be able to secure the income of more than 1400 workers who directly or indirectly depend on a salary derived from PJIA.

In his press release of Friday, November 1, the CEO of PJIA, Mr. Mingo emphasized: “If the present World Bank and EIB funding is not completed soon, and the funding is not available by December 1, 2019, the business will not be able to comply with its liabilities.”

The instability created by ship jumpers and the clear vindictive political motion which resulted, have once more threatened our ability as an island to work in the best interest of the people. I believe it is time we treat the PJIA reconstruction financing as an issue of National Interest and put politics aside.

With that in mind, as the Faction Leader of the SMCP party in Parliament, during the second round of the meeting now scheduled for November 4 at 2.00 pm, I will be bringing a motion to take away the uncertainty created by the motion of no confidence of September 25 passed by the new majority of nine in Parliament. The motion considers all the issues preventing or obstructing the financing to be completed, and resolves that the agreements with all relevant parties in the financing of PJIA using the Trust Fund and EIB loan be signed by the present caretaker Ministers without delay.

Even though the new majority of nine in Parliament were adamantly against this financing option for PJIA, I truly hope that this motion will get UNANIMOUS support showing the stakeholders, specifically the Bondholders, the airport workers, service providers and the people of St. Maarten in general that as Members of Parliament we are capable of putting COUNTRY ABOVE SELF.