Prime Minister establishing “Pelican Crisis Committee”POSTED: 02/14/11 5:35 PM
St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams has called for the establishment of a Pelican Crisis Committee to discuss the closure announced Friday and how to mitigate the negative impacts that action will have. To further this goal she’s invited stakeholders from the public and private sector to a meeting this morning at the Government Administration Building. The closure was announced by the new owners of the property formerly known as Pelican Resort. They’ve rebranded the Pelican Resort Club as Simpson Bay Resort and Marina and the Pelican Marina Residences as The Villas at Simpson Bay Resort and Marina. In a statement the prime minister said her government was very concerned about the latest turn of events and urged parties to go back to the negotiating table after she had a meeting with a representative of the resort on Friday.
“The impending closure has the potential to irreparably damage the economy of our island and all efforts must be made by all parties to prevent this. Dialogue is the only way to resolve the Pelican issue. All the interests at stake here need to be taken into account with the ultimate goal of maintaining the resort operational, to safeguard employment and ensure investors’ – property and time share owners – confidence in our country,” Wescot-Williams said in a statement on Sunday.
The prime minister also said Sunday she’s appreciative that the St. Maarten Timeshare Association and the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association have already agreed to make runs available to time share guests, who would have gone to Pelican. She also offered for the second time to appoint an extraordinary mediator in order to get talks between the new owners and the union representing the employees started again. This effort is consistent with e-mails that the prime minister has sent to timeshare owners that the government is attempting to mediate what’s been labeled “an unfortunate situation.”
The attorney for Wifol Wim van Sambeek said on Sunday that neither he nor his colleague, Maarten Le Poole, had received information that his client was invited to today’s meeting and they’ve decided to wait for further instructions about the gathering. At the same time van Sambeek said he’s just about ready to begin filing summary proceedings on behalf of individual staff members so they can return to work.
National Alliance Member of Parliament Frans Richardson believes the time has come for the government to step in at Pelican and set up an interim management to secure the jobs of the employees and to give the 12, 000 time share owners a sense of continuity.
“I’m not saying to take the resort away but if the government can’t broker an agreement with the owners and the union, then they should step in and temporarily run the resort to make sure the employees keep their jobs,” Richardson said on Sunday’s For the Record with Eddie Williams on Radio Soualiga 99.9 Choice F.M.
The MP pressed his point with the example of Antigua, where the administration took possession of businesses owned by Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, in order to keep people employed as the businessman’s empire began to crumble after his arrest. He also said the two occasions were similar because it involved using Ponzi schemes where companies shifted assets around, but the same people stayed involved and avoided things like paying taxes.
“Nobody saw any money transferred, there was continuity of the old management company and the employees continued to work. If things were so bad why wasn’t the company bankrupted? I think the new owners need to declare what exactly they are planning to do and yes the government must step in. While yes we have a responsibility to create a free and fair environment, we also have to make sure that investors don’t use these kind of tactics. Also with that 30.5 million there obviously was no money, because if there truly was a loan then the workers could have been paid out, so there was no money there,” Richardson said.
The MP is clear that the closure of the resort is an undesirable situation and something that should be avoided.
“If the resort closes then we really are going to have a problem with our budget because that will be a loss of 50 dollars per week, per room,” the MP said.