Coalition rallies in government’s defense as opposition slams council’s treatment

POSTED: 11/27/11 11:01 AM

“This beats the crap out of me and the citizens of this country”

St. Maarten – Members of the opposition National Alliance faction have slammed the government for its treatment of the Corporate Governance Council, while MPs factions supporting the United People’s Party/Democratic Party coalition have risen to the cabinet’s defense. The principle argument from within the coalition is that a 400, 000 guilder advance has been provided, but the council is not making use of it.
National Alliance MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson who opened the debate asserted up front that the faction had not called the meeting for political reasons, but out of concern for the fact that the council has continued to provide recommendations, but have been given any financial support or tools.
“If we are to continue it should behoove us to assist and see to it that all agreements pre and post 10-10-10 are carried out. So without any further ado let us help this organization,” Richardson said.
George Pantophlet also stressed the need for an apolitical debate and placed the discussion in the context of parliament stepping enforcement of its authority and role when it comes to supervising the government.
“We need to know why this institution still has to beg and why it is that to date they have not been given what they are legally entitled to,” Pantophlet said.
“It would appear that some are hampering proper governance and creating road blocks. This is a grave violation of good governance, best practices and the law. These high councils are designed so people don’t use the government owned companies as their personal tool,” Louie Laveist said.
Later he’d add, “This beats the crap out of me and the citizens of this country and if we allow government to function by violating the law then we are just as guilty.”

Opposition Leader William Marlin said Friday’s meeting was called because his party gets concerned when other MPs make statements like, “The Corporate Governance Council should evaporate” and when ministers openly criticize the body and its advices. He said a perception is also emerging that the current administration, “wants no part of the Corporate Governance Council because they don’t want it to interfere.”
“This is a blatant display to say just evaporate and this meeting can be summarized in one fundamental question to the government: Where do you stand on the Corporate Governance Council and why has the government not taken a decision on the 2010 and 2011 budgets of the council. How can we be proud of this nation if we behave like an old Banana Republic,” Marlin said.
United People’s (UP) Party MP Jules James opened the coalition’s defense of the cabinet by saying the opposition should not make allegations of corruption around government owned companies when their track record is not squeaky clean. He mentioned the frequent power outages that occurred when MPs started using the parliament building on Wilhelmina Straat and the fact that the administration is still working on finishing the new Government Administration Building on Pond Island as examples of how wheeling and dealing by opposition members, who formerly served in executive functions, had adversely affected the government.
“Time will tell and we will hear about the backroom dealings,” James said.
The UP MP also requested that the government state whether or not it has provided the Corporate Governance Council with funding and whether or not those funds have been used. This question is in reference to a 400, 000 guilder advance that the government gave the council. Democratic Party MP Leroy de Weever who also picked up on that point considers the advance proof that the government has supported the council while it finishes the decisions on issues like the body’s budget and the division key that will be used for the payments that come from the government owned companies and foundations.
De Weever, who voted against the council’s establishment as an Island Council member, is still firm in his position especially considering that of the 238, 000 guilders in a particular budget, only 9, 000 guilders was reserved to pay for overhead. The rest was for fees and salaries for the members and the staff.
“Probably the best thing is for it to evaporate. When you talk about higher supervision, it’s these high cat bodies,” the DP MP said.

Democratic Party faction leader Roy Marlin also hammered the opposition on its track record on corporate governance, based on an assertion that it goes past just government owned companies and government controlled foundations. His examples of bad corporate governance relate to the appointment of “card carrying members of the National Alliance to key functions like Vice Chair of the Council of Advice, Chairman of the General Auditing Chamber, Ombudsman and Acting Ombudsman.
R. Marlin also queried the payment of the advance and asked the prime minister to clarify whether the Corporate Governance Council was set up on insistence of the Dutch government. He’d stated earlier that it was in fact a St. Maarten initiative and that Judge Bob Wit, who sits on the constitutional court had praised the country for not just having rules on corporate governance, but for actually setting up the corporate governance council.

The DP MP also queried whether the council can have a legal relationship with the government controlled organizations by becoming a foundation. Attached to this is a question of whether changes need to be made to the existing law to allow for some kind of relationship. United People’s (UP) Party MP Dr. Ruth Douglas also questioned the legal structure of the Corporate Governance Council and is especially curious if they can become a foundation.

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