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Jan 31st
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Response De Weever re Counterpart Policy. (UPDATED)

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I read MP de Weever's press release re The Counter Part Policy in the papers and on-line news media of January 22, 2015 and while I am the furthest thing from being a literary scholar, I believe there was a line from Macbeth by Shakespeare that is applicable here and goes like this: "... a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!". The MP's explanation of his efforts and intentions related to the Counterpart Policy are basically thus summed up. Not only does the "tale" fail to include useful information about the policy (or law, as he suggests it is), but the MP's story also makes clear to me, that he for one is a politician who believes that if he spews enough venom, makes enough noise and bends enough truth, he can misdirect the attention of the public from his own professional failings. Nationalistic rhetoric and shouts of "saving our people" while scoffing and demonization what he calls "special interests" and businesses, may be all well and good in MP de Weever's world of politics. But it won't solve any real-life problems of St. Maarteners out of work. While he may try all he wants, this MP will not gain a bit of integrity (an area in which we all know by now he is sorely lacking) by wrapping himself in the flag and stirring up the emotions of those he has made promises to, but failed to deliver on. I do not speak for 'The people', or for special interest, or for any political party. I believe a couple of months ago I made my position clear. I am presently not an active politician or member of any political party; I am a member of the community of St. Maarten and a business professional. I speak as a businessman who talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to doing business on this island and employing locals (NONE on contract, EVER!). MP De Weever has not yet explained the Counterpart Policy and how in his opinion it is good for the island. I believe it will be a downright disaster. But don't just take my word for it. The now infamous policy, has been weighed and measured and has been found to be lacking (by experts, not only me)! The very Social Economic Council (the SER) behind which former Minister de Weever has often hid himself, has issued clear advice on not only the counterpart policy, but also on the proposal for flexibilization of the labor laws, something first championed by me as Commissioner of Social Welfare and Labor back in 2001. All bad, according to the newly self-proclaimed "defender of the people", MP De Weever.
According to him special interests are supposedly looking to "hire and fire" employees at will. What he can't seem to fathom is the fact that those unscrupulous employers that abuse the 6 month (or short term) contract, are primarily the ones that think they cannot get rid of a non-productive, or plain "bad" employee if that employee is in permanent employment. So to circumvent the very out-dated law that was put in place almost 45 years ago to protect the employee, the short term (6 month) contract is used and abused. I have always said that I do not know a sane employer who wants to fire a GOOD employee, unless it is for well supported economic reasons. I guess the IMF is infested with the "St. Maarten special interests" too. This internationally renowned and respected expert group, issued a report in which they wrote that labor laws of St. Maarten are very rigid and that the labor situation is harmful to competitiveness. The IMF found that St. Maarten's labor market is overly regulated. They advised government to change the labor laws to make them more conducive to the cycles of our Tourism driven economy's labor demand, so as to raise employment in a lasting manner and to facilitate investment from outside. MP de Weever's answer to those advices is to ADD labor regulations, in this case one for counterparts. So, with local and international experts being on the same side of this argument, I can't help but wonder why Mr. De Weever is trying to force this policy down our throat? It can't be because it is good for business, good for employees, good for nationals, or good for St. Maarten? No one, especially the MP, has provided a shred of evidence. Could it then be because it is politically convenient? When a politician does not have a successful record to run on, or when he/she does not have a scrap of political loyalty or integrity, then that politician will use whatever is available to shift attention from his failures. MP Cornelius de Weever has yet to convince me in the case that I have a vacancy in my business and a national (local) with the (reasonable) required qualifications cannot be found, how the labor department is going to decide for my business who will be a counterpart. Private business has to take acceptable financial and economic risks. That is part of the business environment or entrepreneurship. Being dictated to by government in terms of who to hire and under what conditions, is not acceptable in a free-enterprise society! This smells like "Chavizmo" and look how well THAT is working for Venezuela! De Weever proved a long time ago (and I was an "insider", so I know) that he will not accept good advice, domestic or foreign and he never blinked an eye when trying to apply bad ideas that suit his personal/political objectives-of-the-day. That thinking is not how this island got where it is today. In closing, my message to MP De Weever is simple and clear. Riling up locals with "anti-immigrant, anti-private sector" talk is not going to do any one a bit of good. Neither the unemployed kid on the block, the student abroad, the business community or government will benefit from this type of approach. Does Sint Maarten have labor challenges? Without a doubt! But a counterpart policy is not the answer. If Mr. de Weever is really a man for the people, he should talk less, listen more and pay attention to good advice when it is available. (He may also consider in his spare time trying to run a real business and drink some of his own medicine).

‎According to information received, MP Cornelius De Weever and the Acting Labour Minister seem to want to push the Counterpart Law to a ridiculous extreme in time for the Policy introduction in the Third Quarter of this year as announced in the media on Saturday, January 24, 2015: As I understand it, effective October 1, 2015 the Counterpart Law may also be applied to requests for Employment Permits as required by the numerous Houses of Pleasure on the island. It will be interesting to see how the Labor Department will identify, assign and monitor the possibly available local work force. Who will determine when they are qualified to take over from the foreign professionals now recruited abroad? Personally I am appalled! I take this opportunity to also question if the Counterpart Law will be applied by the Council of Ministers when it pertains to Government job openings that are to be filled by foreigners.

Michael J. Ferrier
Business owner.

Last Updated ( Monday, 26 January 2015 20:47 )

 

The Emilio Wilson Estate Sint Maarten’s Heritage in peril.

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Dear Editor,

A number of people have called me over the past two days to express their frustrations regarding the most recent turn of events in what some are now calling the Emilio Wilson Estate Saga.
The news as featured in the local media announcing that Rain Forest Adventures (RFA) has obtained or will soon obtain the long lease to Emilio Wilson Estate is of course extremely worrying. The Honorable Prime Minister Gumbs' (a Gentleman I hold in high regard), statement in the media yesterday that "no long-lease has been granted to Rain Forest Adventures" and that he has "not signed anything for or granted anything" does nothing to decrease my concerns. Fact is that those who appointed the Prime Minister have been relentless in their efforts to see to it that Rain Forest Adventures gets the go ahead to do as the Company pleases at the Emilio Wilson Estate.
Please allow me to make it abundantly clear that my position regarding the Emilio Wilson Estate is the same as it always has been. The Emilio Wilson Estate is of invaluable Natural, Cultural, Historical and Social significance, it is the people's patrimony and the entire Estate must be established as Sint Maarten's first
land-based National Park and Protected Area!
Allow me to reiterate the fact that, contrary to what some politicians would like everyone to believe, it has never been the Foundations' nor my desire to have a large fence erected around the Estate, call it a protected area and keep people out of it. The Emilio Wilson Estate can and must be a place where residents and visitors alike can go to learn about Sint Maarten's rich cultural and natural heritage, to learn about our ancestor's tribulations and triumphs and to just enjoy being surrounded by Nature. There is of course a necessity for a limited amount of facilities such as a visitor center an environmental education center, a museum and an area for refreshments. Countries all across the Caribbean and around the world have established locally operated and managed National Parks/ Protected Areas so why are our decision makes so eager to believe that we cannot do the same in Sint Maarten?
Since 2005 successive Governments have publicly committed to establishing the Emilio Wilson Estate as a protected area for the people of Sint Maarten. Many of our Parliamentarians, across the party lines, have voted in favor of a number of motions aimed at protecting the Emilio Wilson Estate. During these past parliamentary elections the future of the Emilio Wilson Estate was also often discussed. Where are these Members of Parliament now? Have they changed their minds or will they stand in solidarity with the Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation in efforts to protect our National Heritage?
There are some questions which repeatedly come to mind with regards to the Emilio Wilson Estate affair Why is it that while economically viable National Parks have been established all over the world, some of our decision makers, particularly those of the governing coalition have no faith in St. Maarten and the island's organizations' capacity to manage a National Park of our own?
To what extent are Rain Forest Adventures, Carnival Cruise Lines and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) "influencing" decision makers to hand over the people's patrimony?
Why is the Governing coalition so eager to Peddle-off Sint Maarten's heritage to a company whose track record on other Caribbean islands is dubious at best? Does the fact that RFA left Dominica in a hurry leaving dozens of people unemployed not concern our decision makers? Are our decision makers not aware of the fact that repeated accusations have been made regarding the non-payment of employees of RFA facilities on other islands? What is causing decision makers to turn a blind eye?
Why is it that while at the beginning of his term now former Minister Maurice Lake was so reluctant to finalize the purchase of the Emilio Wilson Estate, as initiated by former Minister William Marlin, his
willingness to finalize matters completely turned around as the end of his term grew nearer?
Has the Governing coalition/ have former Ministers made agreements with Rain Forest Adventures regarding which companies, families will carry-out construction activities, will hold concessions or will
provide transport to and from the Emilio Wilson Estate should the Rain Forest Adventures project be allowed to continue?
Perhaps these questions warrant some investigation. The fact that the Gumbs cabinet has already met with Rain Forest Adventures less than a full month into the Cabinet's term but has made no effort to
consult with local natural and cultural heritage organizations which have been involved in the matter for years speaks volumes and is rather disappointing.
I do hope that those Members of Parliament claiming to have Sint Maarten's Natural and Cultural Heritage at heart will make an effort to shed some light on the aforementioned.
Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/emiliowilsonestate to keep informed about efforts to protect the entire Emilio Wilson Estate.

Rueben J. Thompson
Environmentalist

Last Updated ( Thursday, 22 January 2015 19:08 )