Minister shares deep concerns of Parliament about St. Maarten | THE DAILY HERALD

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren


THE HAGUE–Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren said on Tuesday that she shared the deep concerns of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament about the political crisis in St. Maarten, and its effects on the country’s stability and reconstruction.

  The Minister had come to the Second Chamber to respond to verbal questions of Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party during the weekly Question Hour.

  Aside from Bosman, other MPs, Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, Antje Diertens of the Democratic Party D66, Nevin Özütok of the green left party GroenLinks and Stieneke van der Graaf of the ChristianUnion also expressed grave concerns about the situation in St. Maarten.

  “We had good agreements with the sitting government about the reconstruction, the airport, waste management and the hospital. I fear with you that the reconstruction may suffer a delay due to the current situation. That is undesirable,” said Minister Ollongren.

  “We are looking at an autonomous country where elections have been called and are imminent. That means we are also looking at a bridging period in which, in my opinion, there are great risks for the reconstruction and other current affairs. Government is being asked to take care of ongoing affairs, but at the same time, Parliament has been dissolved. That presents a fluid situation,” the minister said.

  Bosman noted that after nine new governments things had not improved in St. Maarten: ship-jumping happens regularly and personal ambitions of politicians were more important to them than the general interest. “That raises the question: is there good governance? And if we conclude that this is not the case, we need to discuss the guarantee function of the Kingdom.”

  Ollongren responded that a political crisis, even if it frequently happened, wasn’t the same as concluding that the democratic state of law was in danger. “That is the agreement we have within the Kingdom, and that still counts,” she said.

  The minister agreed with Bosman that the political crisis results in instability and discontinuity of government. “That is not in the interest of the people of St. Maarten, who already have a hard time as a result of Hurricane Irma.” She said that State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops had shared these same concerns during his current visit to St. Maarten.

  Van Dam spoke of a crisis of the state of law in St. Maarten. “What is the Kingdom Council of Ministers going to do to tackle this crisis?” he asked. The minister said that there was little else to do than to have confidence in the decision of the St. Maarten government, supported by St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday, to dissolve the Parliament and call elections.

  “In the current situation it is the most adequate and maybe even the only adequate step: calling new elections. We will have to await those and in the meantime handle [matters – Ed.] in the interest of the people of St. Maarten,” she said.

  Diertens and Özütok expressed great concerns about the progress of the reconstruction process, financed through the Trust Fund. Diertens asked for a continuance of at least the projects that were carried out by non-governmental organisations in order not to hamper that part of the reconstruction for the people. Ollongren assured that this would be the case.

  “People in St. Maarten are already duped by the current political situation and they will be duped even more if projects stagnate in their execution. How can we guarantee from here that these projects are actually executed? asked Özütok. The minister said that this was indeed the objective. “Complete guarantees cannot be given, but we can make a maximum effort that it happens,” she said.

  Van der Graaf said she was “deeply disappointed” about the reports that the St. Maarten government had collapsed. “It is our hope that people will stand up who truly have the best interest of St. Maarten and its people at heart, and that St. Maarten will see progress.” She asked the minister to take the necessary steps so people can also see that progress.

  Ollongren promised to continue the cooperation with St. Maarten as much as possible, based on the agreements that have been made with the St. Maarten government, the World Bank and the local organisations, “because I believe that it ultimately benefits the people to continue, and [for us not to become] paralysed by a political crisis,” she said.

Source: The Daily Herald