Still no information on Salt Pond filling – PM peeved about Ser-letter

POSTED: 11/22/12 1:46 PM

St. Maarten –  The letter that the Social Economic Council (Ser) submitted to the Council of Ministers on October 15 requesting more information on the proposed filling of a section of the Great Salt Pond to develop a cricket stadium and drag racing strip has struck a nerve with the prime minister. The prime minister yesterday said that she was peeved with the way in which the council, which can provide solicited and unsolicited advice to the government, had handled the matter.

“I was somewhat taken aback when I received the format of the letter. I do not see the necessity for a letter directed to government to be publicized. Of course Ser can indicate that they have asked government questions but to publicize the letter, I believe was on the basis of a wrong premise,” the prime minister said at yesterday’s Council of Ministers press briefing.

In its letter, the Ser said “to our knowledge there have been no public statements so far by any member of the Council of Ministers clarifying this project or projects.

This lack of information on projects with obvious considerable socio-economic, environmental and financial consequences raises certain questions especially as some actions; in this case, filling in of the Salt Pond will probably have irreversible consequences.”

The council advises government on socio-economic issues and requested that government respond within three weeks from the date when the letter was submitted.

As a footnote to the request, the Ser cited Publication Sheet 2010 number 26 as the legislation under which it were requesting more information.

That legislation, the prime minister clarified, is actually the law on openness of government under which any citizen can request information from government. The government can then choose to provide the information, withhold it or request more time to respond.

“The Ser did not put itself in the position of Ser but rather quoted the law on openness of government. Ser refers to some things that they have heard and what was strange in the way that this letter has been publicized is that Ser seems to use the letter with questions as an advice of the Ser. This is no advice of the Ser. The council indicated to government that it would like to give unsolicited advice which the law provides for.  By coming and publicizing a letter with questions, the correct procedure was not followed.”

 

The letter was put to the Council of Ministers on October 30 and was on the agenda and was then forwarded to the Minister of Vromi. It will now have to go through the normal process that a private citizen would have to go through because of the legislation under which the letter was sent, the prime minister said.

She added that she would have preferred the SER approaching her directly, as the council had done on previous occasions, and then they would have discussed the most appropriate approach to SER’s concerns.

The prime minister reiterated that to date the matter of the filling of the Great Salt Pond has not been brought to the Council of Ministers.

The deputy prime minister himself, she said, has not been able to collect all of the relevant information concerning the filling of the Salt Pond.

She added even though she consistently tries to educate the population about the change in governing structure from an island territory to country, which gives ministers and ministries more independence, people and politicians still have not adapted to the new system.

“We are not where we ought to be at all. The fact that former commissioners and now ministers have a large degree of independence in operating especially towards government owned companies that fall under their management. So I made that statement on behalf of the council and the council still has not received the entire dossier on the filling of the Great Salt Pond.”

“The prime minister is responsible for the unity of the Council of Ministers.  That means that anything the prime minister can ask questions about and discuss with ministers to make sure that as much as possible that the noses of the members of government are pointed in the same direction,” Wescot-Williams concluded.

 

 

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