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Aug 22nd
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Open Government Part II.

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Dear Editor,

After the publication of my first article on "Open Government" the topic has caused many responses. Please allow me to continue on the platform of Open Government, and I ask the public to be open minded and decide who they would put their trust in on Friday, August 29th 2014.
Webster dictionary defines being accountable as "subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable" or, "capable of being explained; explicable; explainable."
There are many people saying "hold us accountable after you vote us into office" and "we stand for integrity." I am asking, how can the people hold elected officials accountable, when they aren't provided with a proper report of business in this country? Where are the control mechanisms that Parliament enacted in this first parliamentary term of Country St. Maarten that empowered our people to indeed hold Government accountable? I say again, the people deserve to know!

How is our tax money being spent by Government? Which companies win the public tenders, which companies have contracts with government? How many technical assistants do we have and how much are they paid? How many times have a minister or parliamentarian traveled, what was paid for these travels and why? What was the purpose of those travels? Are they relevant to their ministry? What is in the contracts for government purchases that Government keeps losing cases? What did the government legal experts advise?
We all see a budget claiming what Government is going to do with our tax money. However, where is the annual report stating what they actually did with the money? Does this spending also reflect what promises were made during elections? This also counts for Government owned companies. Where are the annual reports of the BTP, TELEM, GEBE, PJIA and not forgetting the Harbor Group of Companies? What lands, buildings or services were bought and from who? And for how much? Is it market value? Or another deal made? Without knowing these hidden facts, you cannot hold your elected officials accountable. You the people, have a right to know.
Ask yourself the question, who would not want this information to be made public?
I can assure you, that I, Gerard Richardson, will champion this cause as it is something I truly believe in. Open Government reduces corruption, and the illusion of power that elected officials wield over the population. There will be no more politicians telling you, "I will take care of it." There will be no more asking for services that you are entitled to. Government must publish their policies in order for you, the people, to know what is required of you for any service they provide. Open Government means less money is being wasted on scrupulous matters with no return on investment, but better wages, vacation pay and periodic raises for our hardworking, deserving teachers, civil servants, law enforcement etc. Open Government means more accurate pricing for projects, which in turn will result in less taxes on the people of this country, meaning more money in your pockets.

Ask yourself St. Maarten, who really wants to give you, the people, the tools in order to hold us accountable? I ask you, to take a stand with me. Take action today, for a better tomorrow. On August 29th 2014, vote for transparency, vote for Open Government, vote for you, the people, to have more control in how your country is being managed. Vote for Gerard Richardson into parliament, your number 10 candidate on the Democratic Party slate.

Gerard M.C. Richardson

Last Updated ( Thursday, 21 August 2014 19:04 )

 

Historic Heritage Motions.

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Historic Heritage Motions.

Dear Editor,

In February of 2013 Member of Parliament Mr. Frans Richardson called to assure me that he believes in and fully supports the efforts of Sint Maarten Pride Foundation, EPIC and the Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation to safeguard and properly manage Sint Maarten's Natural and Cultural Heritage. After a productive discussion, the Member of Parliament and I agreed to pool resources on the compilation of several parliamentary motions aimed at the protection of Sint Maarten's Natural and Cultural Heritage. These motions were finalized in March 2013 and MP Richardson subsequently tabled them in Parliament on April 17th and 18th, 2013 during the Budget debates of that year.
The motions, which were titled "Beach Access", "National Heritage", "Fort Amsterdam Sint Maarten" and "Mullet Pond", listed time frames for the Council of Ministers regarding the taking of suitable measures towards meeting the objectives of the resolutions as stipulated in the different motions.
Allow me to provide a number of examples in order to remind your readership of the content and purpose of the motions. In the motion titled "Beach Access", which as the title suggests was aimed at ensuring unobstructed beach access, parliament resolved: "To charge the Council of Ministers with the task of drafting and implementing a Beach Protection Ordinance, within one hundred and twenty days of the passing of this motion. This Beach Protection Ordinance should include ... ... ... regulations aimed at protecting the recreational, ecological and natural values of Sint Maarten's beaches and securing unrestricted and unobstructed public access and ample parking spaces";

The motion on Mullet Pond charged the Council of Ministers, specifically the Minister of VROMI, with the task of taking the necessary measures towards establishing the entire Mullet Pond as a Nature Park and required the zoning of the Mullet Pond for conservation purposes.

In the motion titled National Heritage Parliament specifically charged the Minister of Culture and Education with; "Including National Heritage Education in the mandatory school curricula". This motion furthermore charged the "Council Of Ministers with Strengthening Monument protection and national heritage conservation legislation".
A year and four months have come and gone since the passing or approval of these "Natural and Cultural heritage motions" and not one Minister has reported back to parliament or to the general public regarding progress made in carrying-out the resolutions as specified in the motions. A few months ago I submitted a letter to the President of Parliament requesting details on Government's execution of the resolutions of the motions. I was informed that my letter was forwarded to the Council of Ministers for further handling. I am still awaiting a detailed response but I am confident that none of parliament's resolutions were actually carried out.
In my modest opinion this unwillingness to take much needed measures to protect our heritage is a prime example of the fact that the term sustainable development, although often used by our decision makers is nothing but a catchphrase to them.
Bearing in mind that the durability of our tourism based economy is largely reliant on the proper management of our Natural and Cultural resources and that proper management of resources is a core component of sustainable development it is beyond my understanding why Government does not take the matter more seriously.
As an environmentalist and advocate for the sound management of natural and cultural heritage, the abovementioned motions are amongst the causes I will continue to champion when elected to Parliament.
Please consider visiting and liking my page at www.facebook.com/thompsonsxm where I will be regularly posting my thoughts on where St. Maarten should be headed.

Best regards,

Rueben J. Thompson
Environmentalist
Candidate number four (4)
United Sint Maarten Party

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 August 2014 19:06 )

Is a vote for the UP indeed a vote for Rollocks?

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Reliable information reaching our movement, clearly indicates that there is a growing concern within the UP-party of Theo Heyliger about a number of issues.
One being that there are some candidates on the UP-list, who are increasingly feeling very uncomfortable being associated with some of their fellow candidates on the list, especially those close to the bottom of the list.
A number of these concerned candidates seem to have been complaining privately, that it is becoming particularly difficult to defend their number 22 candidate, against whom a number of very serious accusations are being leveled by his brother Cimmaron Marlin on various radio-stations.
The fact that a brother of one of the UP-candidates is coming out so publicly accusing his brother of being a very untrustworthy and greedy person, is making many wonder, if this person should ever get in Government.
According to Cimmaron Marlin, this episode with his brother was re-activated a few weeks ago.
His brother, UP number 22 candidate, approached him with the request to 'smooth out' his reputation and to have the court-verdict against him retracted, so that he could have a 'clean slate' and can be successful in the upcoming election.
According to Cimmaron, his brother promised him, that in return, he would make sure he would not have to endure any more pressure operating his project at the Border-point.
The controversy between Cimmaron and his brother Julian Rollocks has been a very bitter one for years and many in the public never understood, why such a very wealthy businessman would make the life of his brother so difficult and still want to postulate himself on a political list, where trust is the key to be elected.
Our sources have shared with us, that it should not be ruled out that some of these UP-candidates, might put pressure on the leader of the party, Theo Heyliger, to either see to it that the candidate in question, urgently comes to a settlement with his brother Cimmaron, or that he be removed from the list.
All in all, this is not a situation that any party would want the public to focus on so close to the election and Theo Heyliger therefore has to prove now whether he is in charge of the leadership of UP, or Julian Rollocks.
Already there seems to be a slogan in the make that 'A vote for the UP, is a vote for Rollocks' , since they feel that that is the way Rollocks will interpret such.
In addition, it seems that internally, also the party is very un-easy as to the outcome of the 'vote-buy court-case against the leader of the party, in which a verdict is expected just before the election.
The public should follow these developments very closely, because they can have a very surprising impact on the outcome of the election.

drs. Leopold JAMES
Founder and president of the St. Martin Nation Building Foundation (SNBF) and the AssociationL'Esprit de Concordia

Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 August 2014 19:01 )

St. Maarten needs a Nationalized Bus System.

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Dear Editor,

Over the years I have seen our leaders propose several solutions to help alleviate traffic congestion. Some of the solutions include stop lights, round-a-bouts, bridges, a moratorium on bringing in cars and tunnels. Several of them were carried out costing tax payers millions of dollars but traffic congestion still remains an issue. In this letter I propose a solution which is a bit different. Instead of just changing our road network, I believe the solution lies in reliable public transportation. This stems from the belief that people buy vehicles because they cannot rely on our current transportation system and if it is improved the population would naturally make use of it and as a result less cars would be on the road.
Currently, St. Maarten has over 300 buses that make up part of our public transportation system. This information was obtained from the Ministry of TEATT and I was a bit surprised that so many buses service a 16 square mile island with two routes to the French side. These licenses were given out over several decades and anyone who uses the public transportation system can tell you this system is unreliable. Buses come at unpredictable times and most people spend too much time waiting on the road in the hot sun for a bus. To improve this system I propose nationalizing the bus system. If the bus system on St. Maarten was nationalized it would allow:

  • bigger and safer buses
  • more routes being traveled (this helps combat the gypsy taxi issue)
  • drivers can be screened and qualified drivers will be allowed to drive buses
  • drivers have fixed hours (no drivers working 24/7)
  • no reckless driving by bus drivers competing for passengers
  • government collects more money through issuing bus passes
  • timed reliable public transportation (e.g. a bus passes every 30 minutes)
  • effective use of bus stops (no stopping all over the place)
  • less traffic, due to some of my previous points
  • fixed fares (some drivers overcharge)
  • bus license owners would not be able to rent their bus license while having another job (no passive income)
  • bus drivers would be paid by government (no false declarations to evade taxes)
  • more efficiency and productivity for the general public

These are some of the benefits I was able to think of and I am sure there are more. However, this would be a drastic change in our public transportation system and it requires preparation. Two questions come to mind. (1) What will happen to the bus drivers we already have? (2) Can our current road network accommodate such a system? To answer the first question I would say we need to integrate current bus drivers into this system. The bus system could be managed through a government owned company and current bus drivers would get first preference at jobs at this company. This is easier said than done as some bus drivers may not want to cooperate, however in the long run this system benefits them too because they wouldn't have any overhead cost, in our current system bus drivers have to buy/rent and maintain their own vehicle. The answer to the second question is no, our current system cannot accommodate such a system in its current state. All routes would need to have bus stops and some routes do not (e.g. Sucker Garden). The lack of bus stops is a big issue on St. Maarten. Main roads don't have enough bus stops and some routes are not covered by buses. There are no buses to Point Blanche or Sucker Garden for example and this allows for gypsy taxis to service these routes.
I am aware that this seems like a lot of work and a big change, all stakeholders would have to be consulted before this can be realized. But the benefits are definitely worth it. The population would get a transportation system that is more affordable and safer and job opportunities through driving, maintaining and cleaning the buses. They would also save time and be less frustrated/stressed out by not having to wait too long on buses or in traffic jams. For the Government of St. Maarten this would be a great way to gain revenues through a bus pass system, enforce regulations on this sector of public transportation and several of the issues plaguing our transportation system would be resolved. It is also important to note that this solution is much more affordable than some of the solutions that have already been executed by our leaders.

Ramzan Juman

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 12 August 2014 17:17 )