PHILIPSBURG–Finance Minister Perry Geerlings came under sustained fire from several Members of Parliament (MPs) on Thursday, after he was quoted by a Dutch news outlet as saying it was “unfortunate” that a comment describing the Dutch government as using “Gestapo tactics” against St. Maarten had been made by a St. Maarten MP.
Coming out strongest against Geerlings was National Alliance (NA) MP William Marlin who blasted Geerlings’ explanation about the context of the “unfortunate” comment. Geerlings told Parliament in a Central Committee sitting that he had called the comment “unfortunate” because he knows the weightiness of that word for the Dutch community especially after the horrors of World War II.
Marlin did not buy Geerlings explanation, saying that the Finance Minister “throw his party leader” referring to United Democrats leader MP Theo Heyliger “under the bus.”
“I am not here to defend your leader,” Marlin said, adding that Geerlings should have known better especially after Dutch MPs have called St. Maarten MPs and government worse names. The local politicians have been labelled corrupt by some Dutch MPs and have even been referred to as gangsters.
Geerlings harmed the country and disrespected his party leader; those are things his “crocodile tears” in parliament could not wash away, said Marlin.
The former NA leader was not the only one to take Geerlings to task. United Democrats MP Franklin Meyers, who has also used the Gestapo description for the Dutch government in the past, also said that while he respected the minister, he should have stood up for the country, rather than distance himself in any way.
United St. Maarten Party MP Rolando Brison said Geerlings should stick to his core tasks of delivering the budget to parliament and upholding the constitution and leave the tending of the relationship with the Dutch Parliament to the local parliament.
NA MP Christophe Emmanuel said Geerlings’ explanation was weak and did not service the country.
United Democrats MP Dr. Luc Mercelina said it was not Geerlings’ place to talk with the Dutch parliament; government should speak to government and MPs to MPs.
Geerlings was not only taken to task for his comments, but for meeting with the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, specially the Committee for Kingdom Relations. MPs pointed out that no Dutch minister would appear before the St. Maarten Parliament or any of its committees. Therefore, why did Geerlings feel it necessary, they asked, to inform the Dutch parliament about recovery effects at home.
Emmanuel said he did not believe the visit had yielded success. Geerlings only came home with news that the promised 550 million euros would not all come to the country, but as much as is needed will be given via the World Bank and funding stopped when the Dutch determine there is not more need for recovery assistance.
To date, the Dutch Government has deposited some 120 million euros in the Recovery Trust Fund, of which some 50 million has been allocated to projects. On reviewing these numbers, Meyers said in the session, called to deal with the country’s financial statements for 2013 and 2014, that all of the recovery so far has been on St. Maarten’s own standing and resilience.
United St. Maarten Party MP Rolando Brison advised Geerlings that he should spend more time on financial management of the country and upholding the constitution and not being an impediment to Parliament. Brison said the relationship with the Dutch government should be left to Parliament and not be meddled with by Geerlings.