Philipsburg:— Prime Minister Sarah Wescot Williams announced on Wednesday at the Council of Ministers’ weekly press briefing that SOAB has submitted their report and the findings of the investigation they conducted at VDSM (St. Maarten’s National Security).
Prime Minister Wescot Williams did not divulge the contents of the report except to say that SOAB found that a considerable amount of funds could not be substantiated as funds used for the operations of VDSM. Wescot Williams said that SOAB also made several recommendations, one of which is to give the VDSM head the possibility to substantiate or give elucidations and or explanations in terms of the findings of SOAB. Wescot Williams said that government will be looking at the recommendations that were given in the report and decisions will be taken thereafter. Wescot Williams said she also asked SOAB to conduct a quick scan of the organizational procedures at the VDSM and submit some recommendations to government.
The Prime Minister further explained that she is expected to get those recommendations within a two week period. Wescot Williams said the SOAB report will be sent to the supervisory committee (oversight committee as described in the law), the general audit chamber will also get a copy of the report SOAB submitted on VDSM.
She said that the head of the Department now has to respond to the findings of the report and give accountability for the missing funds. SMN News asked the Prime Minister how and when it was made known to her about the missing funds. Prime Wescot Williams said that the discovery was made during the month of April 2013 and the discovery was made within the department itself. When she was asked to give a ball park figure of how much monies are unaccounted for, Wescot Williams said she did not want to do so because the VDSM head still has the right to respond. SMN News asked the Prime Minister if the oversight committee that is established by law was functioning if St. Maarten would have had this problem. The Prime Minister said there is no rules of order on the oversight committee. However, she re-enforced the fact that only in April 2013 the chairperson and vice chairperson were appointed. SMN News reporter further asked if this discovery was made during the same period of time when the VDSM asked for their funds to be replenished, Wescot Williams said the replenishing of funds had to do with something else but she said that when anything of this nature takes place in government it does come to light. Secondly, she said that when a department approaches government for monies and checks and balances are down they will make discoveries.
Wescot Williams said that when the department found out that something was amiss and they informed her, that is when she asked SOAB to investigate.
President of Parliament will deal with Amendment of VDSM Oversight Committee in August.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot Williams also announced that she discussed the amendment put forward by government to change the law that governs the VDSM and its oversight committee with President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell. According to Wescot Williams, the President of Parliament assured her that she will be making a schedule on the laws that has to be dealt with, but the one regarding VDSM will be dealt with as soon as the recess is over, meaning the first week of August 2013. Other laws that will be dealt with the Prime Minister said are those relating to the Ministry of Justice, such as the amendment to the traffic ordinance.
Prime Minister Furious about Statements made by MP Richardson.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot Williams did not take lightly the statements made by Member of Parliament Frans Richardson who openly called on the Prime Minister to resign now that it is known that there are problems at the VDSM (National Security Department). Member of Parliament Frans Richardson said that the Prime Minister has the responsibility of the VDSM and therefore he believes that she should resign. He also felt that the Prime Minister should have taken the initiative to inform the Members of Parliament of what has happened at VDSM even if that was done in a closed door meeting. He said that the Prime Minister did not have to wait on Parliament to call her. When one of the reporters at the Council of Ministers’ weekly press briefing asked the Prime Minister about those statements she said that it is unfortunate for words or terms such as “a breach of security” be used to describe what happened at VDSM. She said that is absolutely incorrect because no breach of security occurred and those statements are misleading. “It is also unfortunate for the MP to use examples such as the Snowden case. One and I for sure know that certain matters must be kept out of the political realm. There is a process that has to follow regarding informing and reporting to Parliament as far as the National Security Services are concerned. The supervisory commission has an important role to play in that process. I consider the statements really unfortunate and for it to be taken out of context. This MP could call for my resignation as often as he wants to.” Wescot Williams also made clear that she has no intention to resign at this moment.
Prime Minister Says it Unfortunate Words Such as Breach of Contract, Resignation are Being Used Politically.
“There are certain matters that should be kept outside of the political realm”
The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams reacted yesterday at the Council of Ministers Press Briefings regarding calls o a member of Parliament for her to resign to what he falsely refers to as a breach of security at the VDSM. The Prime Minister stated that it is quite unfortunate that in this context terms and words like a breach of security were used. “These terms are absolutely incorrect and misleading. To then make a relationship to cases abroad like the Snowden case to what has been occurring here for example I think is quite unfortunate. One should expect that members of Parliament would understand that there are certain matters that one should keep out of the political realm. And there is a process to be followed as part of informing Parliament as far as the National Security Service is concerned. The Supervisory Commission has an important role to play in that process and of course Parliament can at anytime ask a Minister to come and give account for any matter but one can imagine that the same kind of carefulness will also be used towards Parliament regarding the National Security Service and Parliament is asked to respect that.
“I consider it unfortunate that such a situation is taken totally out of context. This member of Parliament can call for my resignation as much as he cares to but outside of that it is quite unfortunate that this particular item is being used in this fashion. No one ever mentioned a breach of security. One uses these terms in order to sound popular and to cause an emotional reaction in the population. The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf in one of its reports erroneously mentioned that there were discrepancies with money regards to the DEA as it pertains to the National Security Service which is completely erroneous, so we as those elected to represent St. Maarten and its people should have a better understanding and not drop words and make accusations; we should realize that there is a world outside of St. Maarten that is looking at St. Maarten and we need to be cognizant of that fact. And as a matter of course I will not be resigning.
From the Cabinet of the Prime Minister
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