St. Maarten Prime Minister, D.P faction leader agree on more protection for candidates

POSTED: 06/23/11 1:24 PM

Meyers calls Labega “perfect fit”

St. Maarten / By Donellis Browne – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Democratic Party faction leader in parliament Roy Marlin believe that there should be an analysis of the legal provision on advices of the Corporate Governance Council. Marlin has gone as far as to suggest the law should be amended.

The calls for review and amendment relate to the recent “leak” of the council’s unsolicited advice to the Council of Ministers that they should wait until Regina Labega – who is on her way to becoming Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport – is cleared of an embezzlement charge before appointing her. The council says they did not leak the advice and recommended in a letter on June 8 that both the Council of Ministers and the Parliament review their policies and procedures on advices concerning a person.

“Therefore the CGC recommends parliament and the Council of Ministers review their policies and procedures in order to stop such incidents from recurring and find ways to protect the privacy rights and interests of persons who are and will be (inevitably) mentioned by name in a CGC advice,” the body wrote in its letter.

The prime minister made her comments from the perspective that the council’s advice was preliminary and she’s questioned whether those types of advices, which are not the definite conclusion, should be sent to Parliament. The law stipulates that the Council’s advices are sent to parliament 10 days after they sent to the Council of Ministers.

“Now the law goes out from the premise that this will be the official advice issued by the Corporate Governance Council, so if you get a situation that is to be considered the not yet final advice, the question begs whether that advice belongs by Parliament at the time. Fact is that this report, which has been labeled a preliminary negative conclusion, that advice has been submitted as a formal advice to government and to parliament and clearly in its letter the Corporate Governance Council is referring to the fact that they wonder and regret that this entire report has seemingly been leaked. But once you have a document going to Parliament, it is basically public document, so that is why the terminology of an advice of the Council is so important and this being a preliminary report and preliminary report, begs to question whether such, and the status of such, whether it should have been at Parliament already,” the prime minister said.

Wescot-Williams has said that she has yet to see the Council’s unsolicited advice and expressed understand for them issuing a “preliminary advice” using the information they have. The Council issued their unsolicited advice because time was running out for them to give their advice and information they’d requested had not been received.

“Naturally if they feel that they needed more information they’re going to report that they can’t give a complete advice because they need x,y,z information. There is no summary in the law in terms of what all this information should be, so you could always have the discussion about whether you really need all that information to advise on someone. It’s like the same discussion we often have with the Cft, so it’s not limitations. They say they need it and on the other hand they report that some of the information they have used is information that they have read about, statements that have been made, so you know it’s a very open type situation that we’re dealing with,” the prime minister said.

The Council has also advised government to appoint a Chief Financial Officer and a Chief Operations Officer next to Labega because, in their opinion, the position at the Airport requires more human resource substance than Labega has at the moment. The prime minister says this part of the advice has not been discussed yet and confirmed as well that government has yet to submit its substantiation of why they would not follow the Council’s advice. Part of that could be the fact that government went above and beyond what is required in the law.

“The decision of the shareholder, so in this case the Holding Company, came to government and government’s first response was it pertains to an appointment at a government owned company and we’ll asked the Corporate Governance Council for their advice – A clear decision by the Council of Ministers. After that there was a discussion about the fact whether Ms. Labega was to be appointed Managing Director of the Princess Juliana International Airport Operating Company, whether that needed to go to the Corporate Governance Council as such, because that appointment officially takes place by the Shareholder of that company, which is the holding company of the airport. Never the less, the Council of Ministers decided it would go to the Corporate Governance Council. Their advice, whether preliminary or not, they report that advice to government and government decides whether they take it or not. Not taking it the government would then have to inform the Corporate Governance Council, and I think in the process if that is government’s final decision that will be done and will inform them that based on x, y, z we have a different opinion than you have expressed in your advice to government and that too is provided to in the law,” the prime minister said.

Another part of the reasoning would be that the company’s Articles of Incorporation allows the shareholder to appoint someone if the company is unable to complete the search for a suitable candidate within a specified time frame.

The ultimate role of government

Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications Franklin Meyers also made it clear Wednesday that he believes that Labega is a perfect fit for the airport because of her experience as Director of Tourism in dealing with the airport and airlines and has highlighted again his strong belief that individual ministers and the Council of Ministers as a body should be able to put aside advice, based on their feeling that they are making the right decision.

“Ultimately the role of government is that if I see, and any member in government sees someone who they feel is fit for any task then I think it is up to that competent person that this is the person that I want to head the airport or the harbor. With nation building we’re going to have to trust not only the people we appoint, but the people that they appoint and that we are putting people in positions, not because the person is a friend of mine, but because you really believe the person is capable of executing that task,” Meyers said.

As an example of the perfect fit, Meyers said Labega would be well placed to understand the need to create incentive packages that would attract new airlines to come to St. Maarten. These packages generate savings so for the airline for between 12 to 18 months so that marketing activities can bear fruit. Right now it is government that is taking up that slack.  One example is that the Government of St. Maarten is paying the landing fees incurred by Copa Airlines.

“Now when you put someone like Ms. Labega as Director of the airport she understands from a tourist aspect, to an airlift aspect and also and airline organization the importance of giving new carriers that incentive,” Meyers said.

Labega began the final leg of her farewells Monday night with a reception for staff of the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau. Meyers expects that there will be a formal farewell before she takes up her appointment at the airport on or around July 1.

Changing the law

Faction leader of the Democratic Party Roy Marlin is amongst the politicians that is concerned about the “leak” of the report and agrees that parliament should have stricter procedures when it comes to handling advices with people’s names in them.

“While members of parliament (MPs) have their own responsibility, any MP who does that is one we do not applaud. I believe, and I think I speak for my colleague Patrick Illidge who is here with me, that we want names to be kept more private. So maybe I will make a small proposal that documentation is handled differently when it contains names in it because we will close the door on people wanting to be involved if we keep putting people’s names into negative, public, political discussions,” Marlin said.

The Shareholder and the Shareholder Representative have announced they’ll have a press conference today to officially announce the appointment.


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