Council of Ministers to discuss Vorst family land deal

POSTED: 07/8/14 2:44 AM

St. Maarten –  Prime Minister Sarah Wescott-Williams discussed the ongoing land purchase issue with the public during her live radio call in show One on One with the Prime Minister last Friday on 98.1. The Prime Minister explained that the issue will be discussed in the Council of Ministers meeting tomorrow and again highlighted the responsibility of Parliament to question the roles and responsibilities of Ministers.

“The former Minister of Justice had a grand idea for what he called a Justice Park in the area of Cay Hill. The Minister at that time looked at two projects: one to build and complete a structure that is currently there and the other to add other structures and in order to do that his proposal was to purchase a piece of land to fulfill a Justice Park there,” the Prime Minister explained. “The Minister signed a lease agreement for the land that over the period of thirty years would have come up to over eight million dollars. All of the negotiations were done with the Ministry and the owners of the land. The Minister during the negotiations inserted a clause that the lease would not go into effect as long as government agreed with it. Since government changed the current Minister of Justice was not even made aware of this, which is what happens when you have changes of government.

“The owners of the land contacted the Minister of VROMI and they have agreed to replace the lease agreement with a purchase agreement. The Ministry and the owners negotiated for the land to be purchased instead of leased and an agreement was made between the Minister and the landowners. The owners wanted to know the status of the payment for the property and questions were asked after which the Minister brought the purchase to the attention of the Council of Ministers,” Wescott-Williams continued. “Members of the council, who were not aware of the purchase, soon asked the questions that we had to ask with regards to the purchase of the land. I believe that the former Minister of Justice conditioned the agreement to have an approval by the Council of Ministers but this was not included in the purchase agreement. We also needed a budget amendment for the purchase and there was a meeting scheduled for the budget amendment in the Central Committee of Parliament but there was no quorum.

“The Council of Ministers still needs to come together and discuss the implications of not having the budget handled by Parliament and what is needed to be done to move forward with this issue. The court case was put on hold with me only finding this out through reading it in the newspaper. I look forward to having a discussion on resolving this issue. The Minister that tied the government signed an agreement but he needs to be authorized by government,” she said. “In our Parliamentary system the general basis is that Ministers have an amount of freedom; however, this does not take away the right of Parliament to question on, within the context of the budget, what the Minister can do. It puts the discussion again what the responsibilities are whereby Ministers unknown to the Council of Ministers go out and finalize agreements without the knowledge of the Council of Ministers as has happened on occasions in the past,” concluded the Prime Minister.

 

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