Published On: Sun, Sep 15th, 2019

Sarah: “US Preclearance More Than Just a Presence at PJIA”

Arrival Pavilion SXM Airport 20180323

Philipsburg – Now the issue that is polarizing the community of St. Maarten is the planned US preclearance presence at the PJIA. Not the Dutch aid, or the pace of the Trust Fund Program, not the reconstruction of the airport, but US preclearance! I am of the opinion that a US preclearance presence at our airport could be beneficial for the island. In fact, in all Government programs of recent times, US preclearance is mentioned, including the one that governs the current Government. I also can attest that since I was a member of the Executive Branch of Government, negotiations have been going on regarding US preclearance.

I think we have so polarized the issue, that no one is standing still by ALL what it entails, what it will require etc. There are for example some none airport related matters that need to be addressed as well. Safety, sovereignty, immunity, liabilities, etc..

The latest statements from Government Ministers have even me confused and I can just imagine the general public. Given the status of such a project, I can imagine that we also have international partners scratching their heads. Rather than requesting a meeting of Parliament on the topic, I have chosen the route of formally asking the Parliament’s approval to question the Minister(s) in a meeting of Parliament, specifically for that purpose. Making use of this right of “interpellation”, is shorter, more direct and Ministers must come to Parliament prepared. This right is enshrined in our Constitution and worked out in our Rules of Order.

The request from a member to have an interpellation must be motivated. My request is further motivated in the letter as submitted. The questions are usually sent to the Minister(s), once Parliament decides to call the Minister(s) in on the topic. But I have already provided these to Parliament in my request for an interpellation.

Letter to Parliament

Member of Parliament Sarah A. Wescot WilliamsBased on the Constitution of St. Maarten, article 63, sub 2 as further expounded on in the Rules of Order, article 68, sub 1, the undersigned, Sarah A. Wescot-Williams, Member of Parliament, hereby requests parliament’s approval to invite the Prime Minister, the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunication and Transportation, and the Minister of Finance to Parliament within the shortest possible time.

The reconstruction of the Princess Juliana International Airport is a matter of ongoing debate and concern. Statements by different minsters have unfortunately not contributed to putting to rest the prevailing sentiment that the plans to reconstruct the airport, the airport’s financing and the US preclearance plans, are not synchronized between the airport companies and their shareholders. In other words, we don’t seem to have our act together.

That several international partners are in one way or another involved in one or more of the abovementioned aspects, and the apparent lack of one vision from local authorities and stakeholders in my view place St. Maarten in a negative light and weakens the country’s position.

I hereby also wish to put forward the questions, I would like the abovementioned Ministers to provide Parliament with the answers to, if my proposal to call the Ministers to appear in Parliament is supported by Parliament:

  1. Is there a firm agreement between Government, PJIA and all other involved stakeholders on the WB/TF financing proposal for the reconstruction of the airport? If yes, please list name, function and date of approval.
  2. And again if so, what is the delay in proceeding in accordance with this agreement?
  3. Is the airport still desirous of seeking other financial options?
  4. If so, what are the terms and conditions for other potential financiers?
  5. Is the airport still engaged with potential financiers it had approached in the earlier stage of its reconstruction efforts? Are the interested organizations and or firms on hold or have these talks been terminated?
  6. Is it permissible under the WB/TF agreement to simultaneously pursue other options for financing?
  7. What is the current financial position of the PJIA(E)?
  8. What is the precise (re)construction plan or layout for the airport?
  9. Must or can a US pre-clearance facility be included in the plans at this time?
  10. Do we already know what is required, financially feasible, and economically beneficial of the envisaged preclearance?

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Photo caption: File photo temporary pavilion at SXM Airport after the passing of hurricane Irma.