SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Thursday called on Minister Silveria Jacobs to explain to the public why the cooperation agreement with Schiphol Airport is being renewed after two years of performance failure by Schiphol and demands that basically would lead to the complete takeover of the airport. The MP also said the PM has to be clear and inform Parliament and the country if State Secretary Knops and BZK (Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs) are now using the cooperation agreement with Schiphol as a negotiating tool for liquidity support.
“Which wouldn’t be a surprise considering the history of how State Secretary Knops and BZK has dealt with this government and the fact that this government keeps giving in to demands or begging for help,” the MP. “This is what happens when you simply refuse to come up with viable alternative plans, sign one-sided agreements and try to play games with the Dutch. Today St. Maarten is made to beg the Prime Minister of the Netherlands for help with the same State Secretary whose demands this government has constantly gave in to,” the MP said.
With regards to the airport, the MP stressed that he wanted to be very clear about his position on the cooperation agreement with Schiphol which has not changed: the Holding Company of the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAH) should be given the leeway to get the reconstruction of the airport done and sees no added value with the involvement of Schiphol other than pleasing BZK (Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs).
The MP pointed out that in most other countries lack of performance such as Schiphol has shown would be grounds for termination of any agreement. He said on St. Maarten however, it seems as if entities, once they have the backing of BZK (Dutch Ministry of Interior Affairs), can blackmail and demand their way to extensions of agreements that are drafted in their favor.
“The public shouldn’t hold its breath for any kind of explanation from the Prime Minister because she seems more scared and concerned about upsetting the Dutch. But the responsible thing for the PM to do is to explain why sign another agreement with a company that have not done anything at PJIA. More than likely the PM would look to replace the St. Maartners on the holding board rather than tell Schiphol that their demands are not acceptable,” the MP said.
The MP said that it has come to his attention that Schiphol wants the expired agreement to be extended and does not want to renegotiate anything. The MP urged the Holding Company of the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAH) not to cave to the demands Schiphol and BZK and make the same mistakes it did with the first agreement and allow Schiphol to have its way with St. Maarten’s airport, their exorbitant consultants and board members on the holding and operational boards of the airport.
“Airport Holding has to make sure the Prime Minister is aware of its objections and does not give Schiphol carte blanche at our most strategic national asset,” said. The MP also said PJIAH must ensure that timelines and benchmarks are met by Schiphol and penalties included if and when they are not met. He added that a firm date indicating when Schiphol will no longer be involved in PJIA affairs must also be included and suggested no longer than another two years.
“If Schiphol protest having an end date to the agreement then it becomes clear what their intentions are, as well as those of BZK: To be in control forever. He said PJIAH as the owner of the airport has to be forceful and ensure that the agreement is well vetted and advantageous to St. Maarten in all aspects. For example, the counterpart to the CFO must be appointed post haste. We all know who the local candidate is, it is time to appoint her.
“When you read the first agreement it read like a take-it-or-leave-it manual. This is our airport, built by our people. PJIAH must make sure that the language of the agreement does not give Schiphol any type of “Because I say so” leverage over the airport,” MP Emmanuel said.
MP Emmanuel said the airport should not be saddled with costs amassed by the Schiphol and BZK appointed CFO, consultants and board members. “Together these costs came up to well over US $10, million which PJIA had to pay. In the meantime, airport employees still waiting on answers about money owed to them,” the MP said.
“I think it is important that the Prime Minister tell us why they decided to stick with Schiphol especially after two years of no progress under Schiphol. Why not use the opportunity to say thanks, but no thanks and move in another direction? Why put up with demands and blackmailing from a company you do not need? The only thing we received from Schiphol is an expensive CFO, a whole army of consultants and demands that’s insulting to St. Maarten. It cannot be that Schiphol will get anything they want at the airport. If they, with the support of BZK, theathen to walk away because of not getting what they want, the PM has to let them walk and let PJIAH lead the way,” the MP said.