UP-supporters control new Chamber of Commerce

POSTED: 02/3/12 2:47 PM

St. Maarten – After the last elections, the Chamber of Commerce is now completely under control of people who are in one way or the other linked to the United People’s party of Vice- Prime Minister Theo Heyliger.

On the board of directors the only independent is executive director Claret Connor. President Arthur Bute is considered the point man to bring in the votes from Curacaoleneans for the UP. Vice President Ludwig Ouenniche is Heyliger’s campaign manager in the run-up to elections.

Treasurer Abdul Meyers is the son of Tochie and Sylvia Meyers. Tochie Meyers owns, among others, the Petit Chateau brothel; Sylvia Meyers is a Member of Parliament for the UP.

Abdul Meyers won 14 votes in the chamber-elections as a representative for large companies. Tamara Leonard won 103 votes as one of the representatives for small companies. She runs a manpower agency that among others supplies staff to the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina, where UP-parliamentarian Jules James is the general manager. Leonard is also a board member of the UP.

Ajay Rawtani became a new board member on the strength of 80 votes; he is married to a daughter of Al Wathey who is a member of the UP.

Other board members are attorney Jeroen Veen (Lexwell), Gebe-employee Hubert Pantophlet and social activist Jose Lake jr. who happens to be on the same page with Vice PM Heyliger about St. Maarten’s future independence.

The choice of Arthur Bute as the Chamber’s departed President Glen Carty’s successor may raise some eyebrows, because of Bute’s business activities. Under the name AB Consult he operates a company from a Front Street address that deals with business licenses, “legal and notarial assistance,” residence and work permits, taxes and visa applications. Additional services listed on a page on the lifestyle-caribbean.com web site include “beach services and car rental.” On the site, Bute mentions that he is a board member of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Social Economic Council.

Because Bute offers his services in English and in Spanish, it creates the impression that these services target the large group of immigrants who seek residence in St. Maarten under the Brooks Tower Accord.
In August of last year, the BTA advisory committee that investigated the legality of 2,588 applications discovered that 1,610 of them had entered the name of a bogus employer on their papers. The committee that examined the applications found some “employers” with a remarkably high number of employees. On further examination these employers turned out to be no more than small offices with hardly any economic activity, let alone a large work force.

The bogus employers have never been publicly identified, nor has any action been taken against them for forgery, even though Justice Minister Duncan said last year that the bogus employers had given applicants whose real employers refused to issue a statement “a guarantee for a fee.”

The BTA advisory committee came on the trail of the bogus employers because they appeared to have an unusual large number of employees but no significant economic activity.

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