Protests against the rumoured takeover of Sint Maarten-based TelEm Group by Curacao-based United Telecommunication Services (UTS) rumbled on last week, with a large group of workers hand-delivering a letter stating their objections to the Government Administration Building on Friday.
Last month, in an official statement released via SintMaartengov.org, prime minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, confirmed that negotiations with UTS were ongoing, and noted that no final decision had been made. Her statement concluded by saying: ‘The government of Sint Maarten is considering what is in the best interest of the government and the people as far as its shareholdings in the former Antillean government companies are concerned, such as UTS. In all of these companies, Sint Maarten has a minority share. In the case of UTS, this company has physical assets on Sint Maarten. Hence consideration is being given to a ‘swap’ in exchange for the shares owned by Sint Maarten’.
In a veiled reference to pan-Caribbean telecoms giants Digicel and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), both of which remain keen to enter the Sint Maarten telecoms sector, Wescot-Williams added: ‘Our local telecommunications companies must be strengthened to withstand any threat of being gobbled up by deep-pocketed private telecom companies. The telecom market is a cutthroat one and if we want to protect the Sint Maarten workers at TelEm and UTS, we better had start to strengthen our own local companies first. And not ‘clear the ground for monkey to run on’ as the old saying goes’.