Published On: Sun, Oct 15th, 2017

Ombudsman monitors rebuilding efforts

Ombudsman Sint Maarten Nilda ArduinGREAT BAY – Transparency, fairness and accountability should be the guiding elements of the relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts,” Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin says. She is asking the public to file substantial complaints about relief, recovery and rebuilding promptly to her office.

The Ombudsman will apply a fast track investigation to these complaints.

“It is clear that we are in a state of crisis,” the Ombudsman says. “It should be obvious that business as usual cannot apply at this stage.” The focus of the Ombudsman office will therefore be on monitoring relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts. This will get priority over going concerns.

However, going concerns that are impacted by the hurricane and that have important consequences for the livelihood of a complainant will still be investigated. Other investigations will be put on hold.

Ombudsman Arduin will use the mandate given her by law “to supervise and promote propriety in the allocation of material and services during the country’s recovery and rebuilding stages.”

During the past couple of weeks, the Ombudsman has been gathering information about relief efforts by the government and by non-governmental organizations to facilitate referrals when the public approached the office of the Ombudsman with a complaint.

The Ombudsman will terminate current investigations and recommend to the government to properly deal with these issues. The office will scrutinize procedures to keep a close eye on how the various registration lists, applications and procedures are dealt with.

In this sense, the role of the Ombudsman goes beyond the usual investigation into why a complainant did not get the relief she or he requested.

Ombudsman Arduin called upon the government and on non-governmental organizations like the rent committee, the Housing Development Foundation, the Red Cross and the VKS to share as much as possible information with the public through the media.

She also called on Minister Emil Lee (Public Health, Social Development and Labor) “to look into shortened emergency procedures to address the financial, social and emotional wellbeing of the people.” Furthermore, the Ombudsman urges the minister to look at procedures for legal aid “for those who might have to address the court about labor or housing issues.”

Dr. Arduin also called on Vromi-minister Christophe Emmanuel to look at garbage and debris removal from places that are difficult to access by private citizens.

The Ombudsman appealed to citizens to be tolerant towards each other: “Let the general interest prevail above your personal interests. We need to remember that apart from our own bad situation, there are those who are worse of and that there are those who have lost everything. The needs of the most vulnerable and the hardest hit should prevail.”

The Ombudsman furthermore explained that she has been appointed for a second term of seven years and that there is currently a candidate in training to succeed her. As soon as the trainee is ready, Ombudsman Arduin will retire.