Published On: Fri, Jul 22nd, 2022

Minister Doran claims PFP-motion of no confidence is about Alegria

PHILIPSBURG — Smoke and mirrors. That expression comes to mind after hearing VROMI-Minister Egbert Doran’s say in an interview on 102.7 FM radio with Lady Grace that the motion of no confidence the Party for Progress intends to table against him has nothing to do with the highly critical Ombudsman report about the tender for solid waste-collection. Instead, Doran said, it has to do with the role PFP-MP Raeyhon Peterson played in the granting of rights of long lease to Alegria. The facts tell however a different story.

“This motion is not about the Ombudsman report,” Doran said. This is a concerted effort to get rid of this minister. One of the main reasons is the situation with Alegria. That is why I have been targeted.”

Ray Sidhom, the ultimate beneficial owner of Alegria quoted in a letter to Minister Doran on June 22, 2020 about the minutes of a meeting with VROMI on March 20, 2019. “Notably is that Mr. Raeyhon Peterson (now a member of parliament asking you questions) was instrumental in the discussions, including agreeing to the pricing of the long lease for the water rights. In fact, all matters related to the issuance of the water parcel were prepared by him and he promised on many occasions to get the matter resolved. He never did.”

MP Peterson refutes this. ”Wever is the one who removed me from the position of head of domain affairs, because I did not advise positive on Alegria.”

Doran said in the radio-interview that his secretary-general (Louis Brown) went into an agreement without his knowledge and without ever informing him and after the fact he tried to rectify it. “Raeyhon Peterson was instrumental to it. He guaranteed these individuals that it would get done.”

Doran furthermore claimed that Peterson had agreed about the pricing for the long lease, before pointing out that MP Peterson was not a minister and calling him the head of the department.

The government took the case to court in an attempt to get away from the agreement with Alegria, arguing that the attorney who had informed the company that there was an agreement about the deal (Aernout Kraaijeveld) had no authority to do so.

The court disagreed and ruled that the country is bound by the settlement agreement about the long lease.

MP Peterson maintains that Minister Doran “has his facts confused,” adding: “How dumb must I be to publicly go on record against an issuance I supposedly got bribed for? I hope the authorities will investigate the minister’s statement. If there was a bribe, why was it not reported to the authorities? I would have walked to the police station myself. Unlike them, I do not owe those handlers anything.”

When Brown went to court to contest his dismissal, the court ruled against him. Even better: the ruling established that Brown, in his function of substitute head of domain affairs has abused his position by changing a negative advice from his department (about Alegria’s request for long lease) into a positive one. “Brown gave a civil servant a “hard instruction” to change his motivated and substantially negative advice into a positive one.”

When the country did not live up to the settlement agreement, the court ordered it to do so. It held it against the country “that Minister Doran had only objected after the fact to attorney Kraaijeveld’s authority to enter into a settlement agreement on behalf of the country and to Secretary-General Brown’s approval of it.”

Minister Doran remains defiant about the long lease for Alegria, saying that this could affect 1,300 license holders, like taxi drivers and tour operators. “They want to build a deck there to bring water taxis to the Maho area. That would kill the taxis. That is their goal,” Doran said about Alegria’s intentions.

When former Minister Miklos Giterson said in 2018 that he had no objections to granting Alegria the long lease, he pointed out in an email dated May 31, 2018: “The only construction to be allowed in that area is a breakwater and a sea aquarium.”

Minister Doran however, maintained in his radio-interview that granting the long lease would take bread out of people’s mouth. “I will tell you Mr. Accountable (referring to MP Peterson) I will hold each and every individual responsible if this does not go in St. Maarten’s favor. I’d rather run the risk of paying a million guilders than selling out St. Maarten.”

This begs the question why Ray Sidhom in his letter expressed his gratitude to Minister Doran for finalizing the matter. Sidhom noted that Alegria paid for the certificate of admeasurement on May 18, 2020, and that the certificate was issued on May 29. “The deadline for issuing the decree to Alegria is therefore June 26, 2020.”

After the court ruled in Alegria’s favor, Sidhom announced an investment of $100 million in the development of what is now called the Morgan Resort and jobs for 500 people.

Sidhom closed his letter to Doran like this: “I express my sincere gratitude for your finalization of this matter so that we can put this ordeal behind us and focus on what is truly important: the further development of the Morgan Resort.”

Sidhom’s euphoria about the favorable court ruling did not last very long because on October 6, 2020, Doran denied Alegria’s request for the long lease.

Alegria appealed this decision at the administrative court on November 17, 2020. This court heard the case on March 15, 2021. It ruled that Secretary-General Brown and attorney Kraaijeveld were not authorized to take a decision about the long lease. The competent authority is the minister of VROMI, the court ruled. Therefore, Doran’s refusal to grant Alegria the right of long lease still stands.

Doran maintains that the motion of no confidence has nothing to do with the Ombudsman report about the solid waste collection-tender but that it is related to the Alegria-saga: “This is what this witch hunt is all about. The minister has to go so that Alegria (and the Morgan Resort) can grow. This minister has to go so that Alegria can grow!”


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