Julius Lambert remembered as friend of environment

POSTED: 03/25/14 8:41 PM

St. Maarten – Tributes continue to pour in for the late Julius Lambert; former managing director of GEBE who died on March 15 at the age of 67.

On Sunday, local radio host Stephan de Robert dedicated his radio show Breakfast With de Robert to the former corporate heavyweight who was described as a “friend of the environment.” The morning show that airs from 9:00 am to 10:00 am on PJD2 1300 AM recalled the many contributions of Lambert to environmental awareness and the development of St. Maarten, as a whole. The tribute show attracted many callers who shared their fondest memories of the man, who some called resolute, outspoken and patriotic.

“He gave me the opportunity to be at the radio. We were good friends, advising each other. He was a friend of the environment. I never had to have an appointment to see him.
Of course Sunday was a special program to remember him and my heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends,” De Robert told Today.

The radio host produced his Enviro News publication of May-June 2006 which featured the thoughts of Lambert as its cover story.

At that time Lambert was asked about his legacy at GEBE, a company he dedicated more than 3 decades of service to. Today, we bring you excerpts of that interview.

“My principles and some of the stances taking in the best interest of the company can be looked at as my legacy, but I leave it to others to talk about it. One thing I can remember is when I first came to GEBE: there was a cultural problem among the local work force, an attitude of “we work for an income, for a salary”- rather than being part of the company, they did not identify themselves as a part of the company and I changed that attitude over the years. Today the local worker feels part of the company and I believe that was one of my major achievements… Nowadays, the local people can go an extra mile for GEBE and for the community. Whilst you had that thinking that the company was about Dutch people and that, they felt they were working for the Dutch man. Now a different feeling… it is their local company because they are involved in more and more in the company decision making process and how they would want the company to be,” Lambert was quoted as saying.

Lambert was keen on ensuring that GEBE remain above political influence. This, he concluded, was his biggest professional challenge.

“The functioning and the local political environment was one of the biggest experiences, really for us, to be able to run the company as a business without political interference. To ensure that the  right business decisions were taken in doing anything (suppliers, goods and services) even to purchase the right equipment, we had to minimize political meddling for all decision making processes of the company.

When you have a major expansion project to execute, of course, suppliers have a key role to play by trying to make contact with those politicians who they think can influence a buying- decision in their favour. The MD has to make sure that the deal is done in a transparent manner, because it is the intention of the suppliers for goods and services to try to influence the politician who has some relationship with the company but it is up to the managing director to stand his ground and take business decision. Transparency is the key role to survive as MD for government owned company where millions are spent yearly on goods and services,” Lambert who also functioned on GEBE’s supervisory as chairman until his resignation in January said.

Lambert oversaw the expansion of GEBE’s environmental program and public awareness. This included investments in personnel training on how to minimize negative effects on the environment by the power plant, balances in the eco system, e-billing to minimize paper usage and championing the use of energy saving bulbs.

“The preservation of our environment is important to us all, not only to the tourists but also to every living creature. There has to be a certain balance in the ecosystem and I think GEBE has contributed to the awareness in the community and within the company.

We all pollute the environment to a certain degree… to say that GEBE is the big polluter is not doing justice to anyone unless you can prove it,” he said.

Lambert made significant statements as it related to the filling in of the Great Salt Pond and it was this statement that de Robert sought to remind listeners of, 8 years later.

“As child growing up around, I understood that the pond served a purpose and I am not too much in favour of filling for a parking space for GEBE customers, as matter of fact, is not our private property. The filling of the Salt Pond has not done any good to the island’s vulnerability, especially with the dump in the middle of the pond, that discharges toxic mix underneath, make it worse and that needs to be addressed because it is the biggest problem.

It is an eyesore and huge potential health hazards that need to be cleaned up…..down the line it will have a negative impact on the public health and the tourism, no matter how you twist it.

But be aware, there is a talk about GEBE making parking lots, for whom? It is government’s property so GEBE will not be funding for public parking on government’s property specially where it pertain to filling the Salt Pond. Our customers will not be the sole users. So for GEBE to use its fund to build public parking on land for which it doesn’t hold a title for, do not expect me to do it, let’s be very clear on that … and we will not be able to justify the financing of that project, as GEBE’s clauses do not stipulate that…it will be a loss in our financial statement.

Putting GEBE ‘s fund (Naf 1,400,000) into a construction of parking whereby the company do not have a title to, is actually throwing away GEBE’s money because we do not have title to whatever being build, it is not ours, so it do  not go to the balance sheet as property of GEBE. It will go into history book that Lambert has misused GEBE’s Naf 1,400,000 and he is not keeping with the article of incorporation of the company and the proper clauses.

I made it quite clear that GEBE will only be involved in such project if we have title to the land and if it is a small narrow piece that only allow one line of parking lots (which I still express disapproval of) and above all, proper environmental measures are taking into account where it pertain to the choice of the filling materials used for the strip,” Lambert said.

He also had stern words of advice for his successors.

“The managing director (MD) of a company has a huge responsibility therefore the future of GEBE depends on its new managing director. He or she represents the company’s interest in and outside in the law, not the board of the directors and, not the politicians. He or she can appoint managers to different positions but still under his responsibility. On the island, the supervisory board of directors or politicians believes that they can give instructions to the MD, or influence his or her decisions. As MD, you are liable to any decision that is not in the interest of the company. The supervisory board of directors can advise or suggest but the decision is up to you. You have to do what is in the best interest of the company. The mistake, many managing directors of government owned companies are making today, is to follow blindly instructions from the politicians or the board of directors. Sometimes you have to tell them “NO”. If you cannot say NO to a politician or board member, you have a problem. It might lead to difficulty in working relationship, as matter of fact; I was suspended in 1987 and 1992 for not accepting anything that was not in interest of the company that the board or politicians wanted me to do and for my opinion. So, I think wherever direction the company choose tomorrow will depend greatly on the ability and vision of the managing director, to be able to stand his or her ground and to the political environment…”

In 2001, Lambert accepted the post of treasurer on the board of the Emilio Wilson Historical and Cultural Foundation (EWHCF). The foundation was established for the upkeep and development of the Emilio Wilson Park.

Up to the time of the interview, in 2006, Lambert acknowledged that he had one regret; that of not being able to pursue his teaching career from the onset.

“I believe time has come that I take the rest of my life on a slow level, more easily. With the wealth of knowledge and experience acquired, I like to use to the benefit of the community whereas I can advice or support the organization GEBE if asked for a day or two… I would share my knowledge by teaching young folks in vocational school, it is sad we do not have a technical school on the island as  I wanted to teach in my youth.”

He is survived by his wife Marguerite and children, Julius, Joy, and Ivy.


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