Opinion: Sour grapes

POSTED: 01/3/13 4:10 PM

Wow, the grapes are indeed very sour at the United People’s party. We’re the last ones to deny anybody the right to an opinion, but UP-leader Theo Heyliger turned his New Year’s message in a venomous attack on the government. We think that there is a place and a time for everything – including criticizing the government and Members of Parliament. A New Year’s message does not seem like the right vehicle for political attacks.

But there are elections next year and the UP is honing its knives we see already that this is going to be a lot of fun. But if you start the mudslinging you have to be pretty sure that your own hands are clean – otherwise these attacks are surely going to backfire.

Terms like personal piggy bank, uncertainty, insecurity, political instability – just to name a few from the first three paragraphs of Heyliger’s address – quickly create the impression that the National Alliance-led government consists of a bunch of thieves. Heyliger conveniently forgets that the previous Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto, who was a member of his cabinet, was recently arrested on suspicion of fraud, forgery and money laundering. One of these accusations apparently has to do with “breaking his own rules” – most likely a swindle with the rules for public tenders.

But we read no explanation, let alone a defense, for the fallen minister – even though he is a suspect and not someone convicted for any particular crime. Instead, Heyliger directs his arrows at Romain Laville (for threatening to kill UP-MP Jules James) and Frans Richardson (for ordering the filling in of the Great Salt Pond without authorization).

Of course, the names Laville and Richardson are missing from the address. Because this how we do business in St. Maarten: we speak about “a member of parliament” who threatened “another honorable member of parliament” (notice the subtle distinction).

Of course, there is also criticism for the Tempo-disaster – but that target is almost too easy. Tempo has been buried under so much criticism that it is highly unlikely the station will ever return to St. Maarten.

Heyliger also sings the praises of the 1.7 million cruise passengers, but he forgets that the stay-over tourists are the ones that bring in the real money into St. Maarten’s economy.

How much progress the country has made during the 19-month UP-rule remains to be seen. We’ll know more when the 2011 annual account has been audited.

During the UP-rule we also experienced the Bas Roorda-affair and the criminal complaints this former head of the finance department submitted to the prosecutor’s office. Next to the Piranha-investigation that has targeted former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto, this ought to lead to an investigation into embezzlement at the Tourist Bureau. But when these accusations first surfaced, Heyliger was instrumental to the appointment of tourist Bureau Director Regina Labega as the successor of Eugene Holiday as the airport director.

Heyliger describes the current government as a team with five different leaders at the helm. That suggests that the three independents, Richardson, Illidge and Laville, have more clout than is due to them and that NA- and DP-leaders William Marlin and Sarah Wescot-Williams are actually a minority within their own government.

It is now time to pay attention to the 2013 budget and especially to the advice from the financial supervisor Cft. We remember all too well how the previous budget, prepared by Shigemoto, contained projected revenue for condo taxes that never materialized.

It is alright, and oftentimes useful, to criticize the government. But the UP should not forget the challenges it had to face when it was in control. Every balance sheet has two sides and it seems like the UP-leader prefers to look at one side for his own achievements and at the other side for his political opponents. Welcome to the 2014 elections.

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