Opinion: State of Fear

POSTED: 10/16/11 11:23 PM

The symposium organized by our high councils of state, well attended and all, caught the organizers flat footed when Clarence Richardson, a retired unionist turned labor and management consultant, asked them to rate the level of appreciation these council had experienced in their first year from the government on a scale from one to five.
We are all familiar with the troubles the office of the Ombudsman encountered in the early going – up to the point where the office had to be equipped with rented plastic garden chairs. We are also all familiar with vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger’s opinion that the Advisory Council is, freely paraphrased, a pain in the neck and an institution that adds bureaucracy and hampers the island’s development.
So the audience was more than eager to hear from Ombudsman Nilda Arduin, Advisory Council vice chair Mavis Brooks-Salmon and General Audit Chamber’s chairman Roland Tuitt.
Keep in mind that these functionaries have a strong independent position and that it is, as Justice Bob Wit pointed out, extremely difficult to get rid of them. In such a position, free speech rules, one would think.
But look what happened. Arduin, Brooks-Salmon and Tuitt all showed a sudden skill that would make them ideal politicians. They hemmed and hawed, and in the end none of them came up with a number between one and five (Richardson forgot to add the zero to his scale).
Tuitt seemingly had the best excuse. He said that before he would be able to rate the government’s appreciation, the Audit Chamber would have to submit an audited report. That could take some time because for some unknown reason the government still has not submitted the annual accounts for 2010 to the government accountant bureau Soab that acts as a first station between the government and the Audit Chamber.
For the government it is attractive to delay these reports as much as possible, because that puts distance between their wrongdoings and the present. Such is the fate of Audit Chamber reports. Tuitt should know, because the audit reports about the time when he was a Finance Commissioner during the period that St. Maarten was under higher supervision in the nineties of last century made mince meat of the way the government acted. But by the time that report came out, said government was long history, and it was business as usual at Clem Labega Square.
The Ombudsman, who has had enough to complain about during her first year in office, remarkably kept a low profile and said that she concurred with Tuitt.
Even Brooks-Salmon declined to grade the appreciation level, even though, she said, the government had followed the advices the Advisory Council had given so far.
All this makes us wonder whether we still live in the State of Fear, while these high councils of state actually have to contribute to the creation of the State of Fair.

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