Peterson: Smoke and Mirror Tactics Will Not Prevail
PHILIPSBURG – Party for Progress member of Parliament Raeyhon Peterson took aim at what he called “nonchalant” responses received from the Ministers of TEATT and VROMI regarding the Mullet Bay petition submitted by the Nature Foundation to the Petitions committee of Parliament, concerning the objection to recent development(s) and future development(s) on Mullet Bay beach. He also took note of the ‘smoke and mirror’ tactics of UPP Member of Parliament Rolando Brison, who implied that the overdevelopment of Mullet Bay was a result of Peterson’s term as Acting Head of Domain Affairs under the tenure of former Minister of VROMI Miklos Giterson.
“The petition that was submitted against further development on Mullet Bay is valid,” Peterson states. “Already it is a hassle for residents to visit the beach and place their chairs, tents, etc where they are most comfortable. On an almost weekly basis, myself, MP De Weever and MP Gumbs receive complaints from persons who have been chased or harassed by especially the beach chair vendors, who claim a significant amount of the beach for their business. There is work for both ministries to do when it comes to this situation; a start could be publishing the rental agreements for the public to be aware of the parameters that these vendors are allowed to operate in.”
The petition by the foundation against further development on Mullet Bay was a reaction to the construction of Kalatua, which was announced in 2021 with much fanfare by then-Minister of Tourism, Roger Lawrence. The restaurant and beach bar drew criticism for its location on the beach, due to concerns regarding turtle nesting sites that are monitored by Nature Foundation and citizens alike. Noise levels and light pollution were highlighted by many members of the community, as both can harm nesting turtles.
Since 2020, Peterson has explained publicly about the history of the Mullet Bay beach ownership saga, which formed the basis for the expensive, long-running Mullet Bay inquiry. He was compelled to dive into the details of the process once more, after Brison tried to imply that the reason for the petition, Kalatua, would not exist had it not been for the rental agreements issued by Peterson while at Domain.
“The ‘young boys’ of the coalition, as Brison himself called them, take every opportunity to try and twist the facts,” Peterson states, “but I’m not here to play these childish games, especially not with persons who have been proven, by at least two High Councils of State, to make up the rules as they go along and as it suits them.”
Following Brison’s comment that this “all started with rental agreements,” Peterson explained that the rental agreements were established because there was no legal basis beyond an economic license for the vendors to be on Mullet Bay. The rental agreements issued granted protection to the vendors from the actions of SunResorts N.V., the owner of the former Mullet Bay Hotel property. SunResorts famously bulldozed D’Waterhole following Hurricane Irma; the Yorks took the matter to court and won the right to be on the beach. The case allowed Peterson, as Acting Head of Domain, and the hard-working employees of Domain Affairs, to “reclaim” Mullet Bay beach for country St. Maarten. This was done after consultation and advice from the department of Legal Affairs, who agreed with Peterson’s assessment that Country Sint Maarten can now act as owner of the Mullet Bay Beach.
That is when former Minister Giterson issued rental agreements to all license holders that were provided by the Ministry of TEATT, to give vendors a legal basis to place temporary facilities to operate their license. The emphasis in the rental agreement is placed on the premise that whatever development comes, that it is of a temporary nature, notably speaking of “portable facilities” that could be placed on the beach, with permission from the Minister of VROMI. The rental agreement concludes that none of this absolves the vendor of his obligations to acquire all other necessary public permits if they wish to do anything else, including a building permit. This process is a separate process and has absolutely nothing to do with the department of Domain Affairs. These conditions are the same for all vendors who wish to operate on the beach.
“In less than six (6) months after Minister Giterson issued the rental agreement, he stepped down and a month later, I was removed from my position as Acting Head of Domain Affairs. This was in the year 2019. But the ironic part is that the building permit request for the restaurant in question, was requested in 2020, under current Minister of VROMI Doran. So the building permit request, was done solely by the Permits Department under the helm of the current Minister. Every person who knows anything about land in general knows that the process of a building permit comes after receiving the land and is completely separated from the process of acquiring the rights to be on the land. To insinuate that we had anything to do with what is happening now, is the failed smoke tactic that is classic from the predictably wrong MP Brison,” Peterson said.
Peterson notes that the haphazard way that governments from the past to present had approached management of the country’s land and waterways had led to a legal hornet’s nest on Mullet Bay. This action from then-Minister Giterson resulted in Country Sint Maarten actually being able to legally act as owner of Mullet Bay beach, which is the main reason why Peterson did not see the sense in the Mullet Bay inquiry, as the Ministry had already taken back the beach for the country.
“Brison then commented that my explanation following his statement was predictable,” Peterson says, “and I’ll take that compliment. I will always be predictable when it comes to countering and silencing the unfounded and weak attempts to discredit my person and the functioning of the Party for Progress. Unfortunately, he then chose to try and personally attack my integrity, and by extension, the integrity of PFP. I would advise my colleague to take care when trying to shade others on their integrity; he lives in a glass house, as we were all privy to when a party at his house revealed his true feelings about the founders of the party that made him its alleged leader. Including his collusion with the ‘young boys.’ There is a reason why he had to step down as Chairman of Parliament, so he really shouldn’t throw stones.”