Knops sticks to conditions – deadline looms

THE HAGUE – The new Dutch government sticks to the conditions its predecessor has demanded from St. Maarten for the hundreds of millions of euros for the reconstruction of the island, John Samson reports on Caribisch Netwerk. State Secretary Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) confirmed this after last Friday’s meeting of the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

Prime Minister William Marlin earlier said that this way the island’s autonomy is being taken hostage after hurricane Irma, because it would hand over its self-government to the Netherlands in exchange for money. Marlin wants more time, but the Netherlands has given St. Maarten until October 31 to agree.

The fear is that the money The Hague will release ends up in the wrong hands. The Netherlands demands that St. Maarten establishes an Integrity Chamber that will investigate administrative corruption. The island also has to agree to border control by the Royal Marechaussee.

There is a significant chance that the Netherlands will call for a meeting of the Kingdom Council of Ministers this Friday to force the island-government to comply. This can be done by invoking article 51 of the Kingdom Charter.

Knops did not want to comment on that option last Friday. In the Second Chamber there is broad support for an intervention in the island’s government. Knops said on Friday that he hopes that St. Maarten will agree with the conditions during the next couple of days.

The Hague ran out of patience already at the beginning of this year. The island agreed already in 2015 to the establishment of an Integrity Chamber, but the government of Prime Minister Marlin wants a new agreement, Samson writes.

Since the island’s destruction by Hurricane Irma, the Netherlands has sent €55 million ($63.85 million) worth of emergency aid to St. Maarten, Saba and Statia, Knops said. The money for the relief fund that still has to come is earmarked for the island’s reconstruction. The aim is to make buildings more hurricane resistant.

Knops could not say on Friday how much money will go into the relief fund. His predecessor Ronald Plasterk indicated earlier that it is about “hundreds of millions of euros.”  Whether this is a partial loan or a complete grant from the Netherlands remains for the time being unclear.

The parliament in St. Maarten debated the establishment of an Integrity Chamber. Prime Minister William Marlin said that he needs more time to be able to meet the conditions. The debate was suspended after two hours because there were only seven of the fifteen parliamentarians present – not enough for a quorum.

Source: StMaartenNews