“The actions of the former minister cannot withstand legal scrutiny” Pantophlet pledges continuity despite Chun’s sackingPOSTED: 07/13/12 12:08 PM
St. Maarten – Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications Romeo F. Pantophlet issued a statement Thursday assuring that he will ensure continuity at the Tourism Bureau in the wake of the former director May Ling Chun’s sacking over a contract disagreement. The minister has also pledged to begin meeting tourism stakeholders when he returns from a working visit to Aruba.
“It has been a very hectic set up period, and I have only just completed staffing my cabinet. Meetings will be scheduled with SHTA and other key industry stake holders upon my return from Aruba,” the minister states in a release.
Pantophlet’s statement is a direct response to the expressions of concern from the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association about what will happen now that Chun is no longer heading up the tourism bureau. The SHTA also stressed that fully establishing the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau needs to happen as soon as possible so that upheavals like Chun’s sacking don’t happen when government’s change.
Gus Priest, a veteran in the tourism industry, has been appointed acting head of the tourism bureau after openly welcoming the challenge to serve as until a more permanent solution is found. A release from Pantophlet states further that “many members of staff at the tourist office have also shown their dedication to the industry and continuity by becoming more proactive during this interim period. All know what needs to be done and the minister is confident in the staff’s ability to carry out these tasks.”
Concerning the SHTA’s call for the establishment of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority, the minister is currently in Aruba on a fact finding mission to determine from the key stakeholders what the operational setbacks and bottle necks are and to generally get a feeling of how satisfied everyone is with the Aruba Tourism Authority. So far meetings have been held with Minister Otmar Oduber, the Chief Executive Officer and Supervisory Board members of the Aruba Tourism Authority, the Aruba Hotel Association and the Aruba Timeshare Association. With the exception of a few minor issues, all have mentioned that they are pleased with the functioning of the Aruba Tourism Authority.
Pantophlet emphatically stated that he has no plans of reinventing the wheel and likewise has received confirmation from all stakeholders in Aruba that they will assist wherever necessary to ensure a seamless transition from St. Maarten Tourist Bureau to St. Maarten Tourism Authority by January 1, 2013.
“My team and I are working very hard to get the state ordinance (Landsverordening) finalized, so we can submit to parliament after the parliamentary recess. This will be the first step in what we were told could be a lengthy process in getting the STA fully operational,” Pantophlet stated.
Pantophlet also clarified on Thursday that Chun’s appointment was based on a management contract between former Minister, Franklin Meyers and Innovative Marketing Creations N.V, and not Chun as a natural person. He also pointed out and stated for the record that this matter is not between Ms. Chun and him or has nothing to do with her person, her performance, her qualifications and or skills as her work for the tourism bureau has already been acknowledged by the minister.
“The vexing issue that has led to this unfortunate situation is the legality of the contractual agreements signed and subsequently silently extended twice between the former minister and IMC N.V. A proper analysis and legal scrutiny of the contracts resulted in no other conclusions than that the contracts in question are in conflict with the written and unwritten laws of St. Maarten and the principles of good governance. Consequently according to law these contracts are considered null and void and or should be cancelled immediately. The minister shall not and cannot be expected to honor contracts that are not in accordance with the laws of the land,” Pantophlet’s release stated.
The minister’s position is based on the following facts and legal considerations: The agreement between the former Minister and IMC N.V. is considered a management agreement for the position of head of the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau. This position forms part of the government’s formation plan and is occupied by a civil servant. Civil servants are usually appointed by government according to a body of administrative laws and regulations exist and which includes the involvement of the governor. There is also the option to appoint an individual in government’s service based on civil law, but this possibility was also neglected.
“By appointing an individual to such a position, making use of a contractual agreement with a limited liability company in which the individual is the managing director, the former minister has circumvented all relevant laws and regulations (intentionally or unintentionally) pertaining to the appointment and re-numeration of civil servants, including the involvement of the governor of St. Maarten. The actions of the former minister cannot withstand legal scrutiny and are in conflict with the principles of good governance,” Pantophlet stated.
Later he’d add, “As a result of this, the monthly salary and additional benefits as agreed upon in the management agreement were unilaterally decided upon and are not commensurate with the amounts that are stipulated by law and granted to other civil servants who serve in similar positions. The foregoing is in direct conflict with the applicable laws and jurisprudence and not unacceptable, the Minister has rightfully remarked that such an agreement shall not be tolerated and in keeping with the Principles of Good Governance and therefore chose not to renew the contract as is. In good faith and acknowledging the good performance of Ms. Chun and taking the best interest of St. Maarten into consideration (I edi.,) offered her a new management agreement in accordance with the existing rules and regulations of government in his letter dated June 19th 2012, which was not accepted.”