Faction Leader for the United People (UP) party and Member of Parliament (MP) Grisha Heyliger-Marten on Tuesday says she was unimpressed with answers given to Parliament by airport CEO Brian Mingo regarding Princess Juliana International Airport’s financial situation, its reconstruction post-Irma, and the resignation of the Airport CFO.
She said Mingo’s answers to various questions posed by MP’s in the Parliament meeting showed a lack of interest and at times no sense of urgency when it comes to the agenda point up for discussion. Heyliger-Marten stressed “We are discussing St. Maarten’s premier port of entry here, and the CEO came over as completely unprepared to Parliament”.
The MP further stated that Mingo’s dismissive tone when responding to the serious concerns expressed by the MP’s, along with the lack of progress at the airport since he took office almost two years ago, raises questions of his competence to manage on this level. “To attend a Parliament meeting as unprepared as he was unfortunately is an indication that the CEO is not taking his role of being accountable to the people seriously. At some point, you have to put on your big boy pants and level-up. These are crucial times for our country,” Heyliger-Marten said.
The MP stressed to Mingo that both him and the airport management team, must realize that they have to give an account to Parliament and the People of St. Maarten for what is happening there, adding that both businesses and residents who depend on the Airport as the gateway for the Tourism Economy, “must feel confident in the management and their direction of the Airport.”
In this context, Heyliger-Marten pointed out that her faction has many areas of concern and priorities that she expect to get clear answers on in the next Parliament meeting on this subject, and when the actual work to restoring PJIA to its former award-winning glory will start.
“If the Airport does not stop dragging its feet on the reconstruction, the Management and its Board of directors will be held accountable for their failure to deliver for the people of St. Maarten. PJIA must commence and complete reconstruction post-haste to give the island a fighting chance of economic recovery in the aftermath of the devastation from COVID-19. It’s always a different date with different and unclear reasons. We must have clarity about the start of reconstruction,” she said.
The MP stressed, the reconstruction of the airport must include local contractors, taking a page from her husband’s unwritten policy of ensuring that local contractors, big, medium and especially small, are active participants in the construction of their country.
“It is also clear to me that the Airport does not believe in the ability of St. Maarten people to deliver quality work and seems to believe that qualified workers must come from Holland,” she said, explaining that the Airport’s presentation to Parliament included information on Contractors selected from The Netherlands to do work locally.
“So, will St. Maarten contractors have to audition for the Netherlands Contractors to see if maybe they would get a small job,” she asked? Shouldn’t their involvement in their company be a pre-requisite? This frustrates me as a local politician to see that a local Government-Owned Company is bypassing local contractors to hire elsewhere,” said Heyliger-Marten. “I want to make it absolutely clear, the airport must understand that the local contractors have to be put to work on rebuilding the airport.”
In her press statement Heyliger-Marten further addressed the Airport Fuel Farm needing urgent attention, as outlined by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and the local Aviation Authority, declaring the present fuel farm a “safety hazard”, and the US Pre-Clearance as crucial steps to take in the overall reconstruction of the airport. Heyliger-Marten says she finds it “utterly disturbing” that the airport keeps spending millions with little to show for it, but she intends to keep a watchful eye on the airport’s progress.