The Daily Herald reports that the recently announced airfare increases by Winair for flights to and from Statia received strong condemnation during Thursday’s Island Council meeting on Statia. One by one, council members not only criticised the reasons for the US $6.66 price increase on a round trip from St. Maarten to the island, but also the way the decision had been communicated by Winair.
Chaired by Acting Island Governor Kenneth Lopes, each council member protested the manner in which the decision had been reached and explained. Millicent Lijfrock-Marsdin (independent) asked why the Council had to first learn of the news through an article in The Daily Herald and not directly through Carlyle Tearr, commissioner for airport and transportation affairs. “It is time we look for alternatives to Winair,” she stated. “Winair is the only form of transport and the Dutch Government should be called upon to deal with this issue. Passengers may well have decreased, but the explanation for the rise was
not good enough.”
Executive Commissioner Tearr was on government business in Curaçao and was, therefore, represented by his colleague Reginald Zaandam. “Hans de Jong is our Dutch Government representative on the board of Winair, but he is not accountable,” he said. ”During a recent meeting with Hans de Jong in the Netherlands, we made our position quite clear. No more increases in the price of air tickets. Despite numerous efforts to contact Hans de Jong, the board
member has not responded.
“The Executive Council takes this matter extremely seriously and we will be communicating with Ronald Plasterk, Minister of the Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations to drive home how unfair this decision will affect our people on Statia.” Elvin Henriquez (UPC) was equally critical that an official was represented yet not accountable on the board of Winair. “This is a clear example of disrespect. The Kingdom Government is there to prevent such rises
yet we have nobody there to take responsibility,” he argued.
Lijfrock-Marsdin responded: “We can send letters and letters, but we just end up going round in circles. It is time for all of us to take a stand. We have no alternative form of transportation. Commissioners must take a stand and demand respect. God helps those who help themselves.”
Council member Franklin Brown (STEP) was particularly critical of Commissioner Tearr’s role in the issue. “He is in Curaçao on government business and I would like to know, for what purpose? Who is responsible for our interests on the Board of Winair? We need something tangible in hand now or we can expect
further increases in the future. Will that happen before or after summer?” he enquired.
Commissioner Zaandam replied that much had changed since 10-10-10. “The majority of Winair shares are now owned and controlled by the Government of St. Maarten. Whereas medical emergency transfers are now handled by helicopter, there is no reason to believe Winair’s assertion that medical tourism has declined. Public transport between Statia and St. Maarten should be subsidised in the same way that public ferry transport is subsidised between the Dutch mainland and the Wadden Islands.”
An electricity outage forced the council meeting to adjourn until Friday morning. The Central Committee Meeting originally planned for Friday morning has been postponed to a later date.