PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance NA says Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure VROMI Maurice Lake should be held liable for his "wrongdoings" in the Vorst Estate "land deal" and "for putting the people of St. Maarten in unnecessary expense of having to pay for the significantly overpriced property."
NA Leader William Marlin pointed to statements made by the judge in his verdict last week indicating that Parliament could call Minister Lake to account for an irresponsible purchase and that Lake could be held personally liable for damages incurred, if these were caused deliberately or by grave neglect.
"It is wrong what Minister Lake did. The people of St. Maarten will now be forced to pay for Minister Lake's wrongdoing, but there is a provision in the law and the minister should be held responsible for the wrong that he has done," Marlin said in a press release on Sunday.
Marlin said NA had been "flabbergasted: by Lake's "jolly and celebratory" reaction to the court verdict in which government was ordered to make the payment for the property, which Marlin contends had been part of a secret deal between Lake and members of the Vorst family. "I have never seen a case where government loses a case in court and a minister runs to the press to say that he is happy to have lost the case because in four days government has to find US $3 million to pay as a down payment for 11,200 square metres of land. That is highway robbery," Marlin said in the release.
He said too that the minister will now be solely responsible for the skyrocketing of the price of land in St. Maarten, which will follow as a result of the land being sold for way above the market price.
The NA leader said the court case showed that the minister had signed multiple agreements with the Vorst family, "some of them signed in secret without the knowledge of the Council of Ministers. Even the court found it incomprehensible that Lake had signed so many agreements. Persons who own a piece of land are probably smiling now because they are looking on at this case and saying that they too can sell land for a high price. This has serious consequences."
Marlin added: "The Minister now wants to hide behind the verdict because he can say I told you so, but the verdict is not saying that it's a good deal - the verdict is only saying that government has to pay for Lake signing not one, not two, not three, but from all indications, for signing four agreements with the Vorst family. The judge isn't looking at the consequences of the purchase price and the effects this will have on the price of real estate that will now skyrocket."
The party leader said the way this issue played out shows that the minister "had made a secret deal with one of his friends, signed the agreement in private and then told the friend to take him to court to force payment for the land."
"This verdict is sending a message that persons can become a minister, find a family or a friend, sign a deal with him or her, hide the deal from your colleagues in the Council of Ministers and then make a deal with your friends for them to take you to court for payment."
Marlin alluded to the agreement he had made for the purchase of a portion of the Emilio Wilson Estate for US $45- a square metre, more than ten times less than what Lake has committed government for paying for the Vorst Estate. "The minister should be held fully liable for this," Marlin said in the release.