GREAT BAY – “Cut the link between financial support and conditions that are not directly related to the transparent, effective and efficient spending of the reconstruction support from the Netherlands; establish those conditions now.” That is the plea Democratic Party MP and president of parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams made in a letter she addressed on Friday as a private person to the chairman of the kingdom Council of Ministers, Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The Netherlands wants St. Maarten to establish legislation for the establishment of the Integrity Chamber by October 31 – a practical impossibility – and to deploy the Royal Marechaussee and the Dutch customs department to take over border control in exchange for hundreds of millions in financial aid for the island’s reconstruction after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.
“From my side and for what it is worth I can assure you that I will do everything necessary to make sure that the issues of the Integrity Chamber and border control and the conditions the Netherlands demands for this, will be on the agenda of the parliament of St. Maarten as soon as possible,” Wescot-Williams writes in her letter.
In this process, the MP adds, it has to become clear how St. Maarten thinks about the relations within the Kingdom and between St. Maarten and the Netherlands in particular and what we are prepared to do (or not to do) to maintain that relationship and eventually to strengthen it.”
Wescot-Williams begins her letter by pointing to the resilience of the population and by expressing her profuse gratitude for the help St. Maarten already received from the Kingdom.
She furthermore states that whatever happens during the next three to four weeks will determine St. Maarten’s economic survival.
“Personally I often wonder whether it is useful or not to keep making efforts for the recovery of our beloved country; that how much it seems without perspective at times. And that alone speaks volumes,” Wescot-Williams writes.
The MP acknowledges that the global tentacles of integrity violations have also affected St. Maarten, but she adds immediately that “problems are being tackled and crimes are being punished; the population has become much more grown-up and social control has increased.”
Wescot-Williams notes that she does not understand the connection between the establishment of the Integrity Chamber and the transparent execution of projects. “That ought to be guaranteed at a much earlier stage by means of an effective control mechanism on the spending of funds for the reconstruction.”
Lastly, Wescot-Williams addresses the Kingdom in a desperate attempt for leniency: “The Kingdom cannot afford that the assistance St. Maarten so badly needs becomes the victim of a political discussion about autonomy and internal affairs. Even worse, an impasse would result in stagnation, also with other donors to country St. Maarten.”