“Maybe I do not serve the interest of certain highly paid consultants”

POSTED: 03/8/11 12:40 PM

Cft board member Max Pandt speaks out about his tiff with Shigemoto

GREAT BAY – “If I am a well respected professional, why the hell did he threw me out?” Tax attorney Max Pandt is still exasperated about the action by Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto to remove him from a meeting with the board for financial supervision Cft on February 23.
Pandt, who is the representative for the BES-islands on the Cft board is especially miffed about Shigemoto’s statement that he does not have St. Maarten at heart.
Yesterday afternoon, Pandt called a press conference in his office to vent his frustration about the finance Minister’s actions. The former Lt. Governor made copies available of an email-exchange between him, the minister and Margo Vliegenthart, the Dutch Cft-board member who stood in for the ill chairman Hans Weitenberg on February 23.
Pandt also included a copy of a letter he wrote to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles thirty years ago (remarkably on October 10, 1980) to prove his allegiance to St. Maarten. In the letter Pandt refers to the report of a Kingdom committee that studies new forms of cooperation. “For the island territory the Windward Islands the report shows clearly a lack of understanding about the factual situation. One ought to bring this territory on a par with the other partners before getting into actual decentralization, to monetary and budgetary consolidation.”
That, Pandt says now, was how he stood up for the interest of St. Maarten all those years ago. “Maybe I do not serve the interest of certain highly paid consultants,” he said, making clear later on that he was referring to Maarten Hassink.
Ahead of the meeting on February 23, Shigemoto received Pandt together with the other Cft-members. When the advisors came in, I was already sitting close to the door,” Pandt said. “I had a premonition. Hassink said to me: what are you doing here you are not with the St. Maarten group. And I answered, it’s better to have the devil in the house than on the outside. Within minutes Shigemoto wanted me out.”
The meeting got a follow up in several emails the following day. First, Pandt fired off a brief message – a motion of protest – to the Finance Minister and the members of the Cft. In it, he labeled Shigemoto’s behavior “towards a civil servant appointed by the crown, a member of the board and also a former Lt. Governor” as “unacceptable.”
Pandt asked Cft chairman Hans Weitenberg in the email to bring the matter to the attention of the minister. The Kingdom law that regulates the financial supervision does not contain “in spirit or in text” reasons that support this behavior.
Shigemoto answered the same evening. He pointed out that he had objected from the beginning against Pandt’s participation in Cft-meetings about St. Maarten. “Because the board member we nominated (Michael Soons – ed.) still has not been appointed, while we know that the Kingdom Council of Ministers needs to handle this, we do not approve of replacing the board members we nominated by whomever. If there are objections against the me4mber we nominated we want to receive an official communication based on facts.”
Pandt said yesterday that this email proves that the minister – erroneously – assumed that he was going to be St. Maarten’s representative on the board.
Shigemoto received a day later a tersely worded email from Margo Vliegenthart, who had acted as the chair of the meeting. “This is not about replacing the member of St. Maarten. Mr. Pandt is a member of the board for financial supervision nominated by the BES. He obviously does not take part in the decision making about St. Maarten but because of his expertise he is valuable for our work and as far as we are concerned he must be able to attend these meetings as an observer.”
Referring to her question in the actual meeting whether these was an objection against Pandt’s presence (there was, Shigemoto said at the time), Vliegenthart wrote, “”His question was posed as a matter of courtesy to you as the host. We hope that there will be no more objections in the future. In that case we will submit the interpretation of the law to the competent authorities.”
Pandt said yesterday that, had Weitenberg chaired the meeting, Shigemoto would never have been able to throw him out. “He would have said something like, enough of this nonsense and I would have been accepted. I feel very offended by the minister’s action. Now his budget was thrown out and I was not even present in the meeting. Who is he going to blame for that?”
Asked whether he had a tip for Shigemoto about how to fix the 2011 budget, Pandt said pointedly, “Absolutely not. He has highly paid advisors to solve these problems for him. He is not going to get it for nothing from me.”

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