Parliament takes Vorst Estate purchase out of 2014 budget

POSTED: 09/30/14 10:52 PM

St. Maarten – The Parliament approved a motion to take a $5.5 million provision for the purchase of the Vorst Estate out of an amendment to the 2014 budget with 7 votes to 6. This blocks the purchase of the land, for which Vromi-Minister Maurice Lake signed an agreement in February of this year, but it does not absolve the country of liability towards the Vorst-family, because the Court in First Instance has already ruled that the purchase-agreement Lake signed is a valid one.

The meeting to handle the budget amendment has a long history. It was initially scheduled months ago, then reappeared on the radar last week, when it could not go through twice due to a lack of quorum.

Yesterday morning however, there were suddenly quite some parliamentarians present. The United People’s party was there with Theo Heyliger, Johan Leonard, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce, Jules James, Gracita Arrindell and soon to be UP-MP Lloyd Richardson. The National Alliance was present with faction leader William Marlin, George Pantophlet, and Louie Laveist. DP faction leader Roy Marlin and independents Romain Laville and Frans Richardson completed the gathering.

In the end, the vote of Romain Laville gave the decisive push to a motion tabled by Roy Marlin. That motion resolved to replace the line “Overige duurzame investering (gronden Vorst US 5.5 mln)” with the text “Overige duurzame investering.” The motion effectively takes the purchase of the Vorst Estate for $5.5 million out of the capital investment budget.

The budget amendment facilitates the purchase of the Emilio Wilson Estate for 30.7 million guilders and it also slashes the travel budget for Parliament in half to 375,000 guilders.

There is however already a problem with that travel budget. According to (still) independent MP Lloyd Richardson this budget has been overspent already by 100,000 guilders. While Richardson wondered whether other MPs had taken notice of the state of the travel budget, he later showed himself as a firm proponent of visits to Parlatino meetings.

MP Laville wanted to know from Minister Hassink whether he had given Vromi-Minister Maurice Lake the green light for the purchase of the Vorst Estate – as has been suggested by Lake. “No,” was the minister’s answer. “I am not authorized to authorize any decision by other ministers. That is up to the Council of Ministers. All I can do is advise them about what is available in their budget.”

NA faction leader William Marlin painted a dark scenario, suggesting that Minister Lake had in fact encouraged the Vorst-family to take the case to court. “The court ruled that the Vorst-family has a valid claim and thereby the government was condemned to pay $5.5 million for 11,000 square meters of land,” Marlin said. “Now the minister can say – it was not me, the court is saying that we have to pay. If the minister gets away with this, who will stop any minister from doing the same thing?”

Roy Marlin addressed also the overspending of the travel budget for Parliament. “Parliament should have been more cautious in making travel commitments,” he said. “They knew the motion (to slash the travel budget – ed.) was accepted. Parliament has to watch over itself. This is not the minister’s problem.”

Marlin said that everybody knows his opinion about Parlatino. “I hope to see a reasonable amount for travel in the 2015 budget. I will be gone, but you can expect my critical letters to the editor.”

Marlin repeated an earlier stance with his suggestion to use savings on the travel budget for hiring a good lawyer that is able to assist parliamentarians with writing initiative laws.”

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