Knops: Political turmoil does not help recovery | THE DAILY HERALD

State Secretary Knops (right) observing Waste2Work trainees as they build furniture out of discarded wood, during his visit to St. Maarten last week.

THE HAGUE–Political instability and insecurity are not conducive to a speedy reconstruction and the tangible results that the people of St. Maarten are so much looking forward to.

  Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated this in the letter he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in which he reported on his visit to St. Maarten and St. Eustatius last week.

  Knops described that at the start of his four-day visit to the two Windward Islands, he had landed in the middle of a political crisis which resulted in the resignation of the cabinet of St. Maarten Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin and the decision to call snap elections on November 25.

  He explained that in the contact he had with Governor Eugene Holiday and Romeo-Marlin immediately after the crisis evolved, he had emphasised that the interest of the St. Maarten people had always been leading in the relations with the Netherlands, especially where it concerned the efforts of reconstructing St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma.

  Political instability and insecurity are not conducive to the reconstruction effort and the tangible results the people need, Knops said. “A situation can evolve whereby business as usual regarding the Dutch contribution to the reconstruction can no longer be a justifiable option,” he stated.

  About the snap elections, Knops said that complicating the situation was the fact that these short-term elections always caused conflict between the terms set in the National Ordinance on Registration of Political Parties and the National Ordinance on Voting Regulation, and the terms in the St. Maarten Constitution.

  “De facto it means that the National Ordinance on Registration of Political Parties and the National Ordinance on Voting Regulation do not contain a separate facility for snap elections. The result is that new political parties cannot participate in the upcoming elections. A solution is being sought for this issue,” Knops stated.

  “Of crucial importance is what the position of the St. Maarten government will be, before and after the elections, regarding the current reconstruction projects which are being financed with Dutch tax money via the Trust Fund at the World Bank.”

  According to the Knops, this is especially important in the case of the reconstruction of Princess Juliana International Airport, for which financing agreements are ready, and the tackling of the enormous amount of waste at the dump, where the St. Maarten government has to stick to its side of the agreement.

  Also, the preconditions for acquiring Dutch liquidity support for 2019 have not been fulfilled. One of these preconditions is a salary cut for the Members of the St. Maarten Parliament. “The Netherlands will closely follow the developments. Based on these developments, the Netherlands will determine its position,” Knops stated.

  In his letter to the Second Chamber, he also mentioned the meeting that he was supposed to have had with the St. Maarten Parliament last week Wednesday. He said unfortunately this meeting had been cancelled at the last moment. “Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to talk with the Members of Parliament and to answer questions.”

  In his speech, which was published in The Daily Herald, he wanted to tell the St. Maarten Parliament that the Netherlands was a reliable partner in the Kingdom, but that everyone had to stick to their side of the agreement, and that in this relationship there was “no room for political games that impeded developments that are important for St. Maarten’s future.”

  Knops mentioned the “frustration of many months” of the airport recovery project or the blocking of worldwide-accepted legislation to prevent money-laundering and financing of terrorism, “with as one of the possible consequences that visiting tourists can no longer use their credit cards.”

  Knops mentioned the various reconstruction projects, including repairs to almost 1,000 homes and pending repairs to 500 more, and to the school facilities of more than 1,300 people. The reconstruction of the airport can start right away once the financing agreement is signed by St. Maarten. Plans and financing are ready for two more complex projects: the tackling of the dump and the sewage treatment installation.

  He lauded the group of young St. Maarten professionals who had talked to him about subjects like governmental development, economic recovery, strengthening social cohesion and care for the environment.

  “I was impressed by the positive forces and the visible potential. But I was also moved by the concerns that were expressed in many of the stories about the seemingly small issues that kept success at bay, about politicians who care more for themselves than for the future of their country and its inhabitants, about talents that could make the decisive difference but decide to seek their fortune elsewhere because they are tired of fighting,” he stated.

  The willing forces in St. Maarten are facing an enormous task. Different, but also complex, is the challenge on the part of the Netherlands to, under these circumstances, do the right thing in the interest of the St. Maarten people, he concluded his letter.

Source: The Daily Herald