PHILIPSBURG–Several Members of Parliament railed on Monday against what they considered the covert Dutch takeover of the country through manipulation of the justice system and the Trojan horse disguised as Hurricane Irma recovery aid. However, the session was suddenly capped after an unexplained country-wide power outage.
The meeting was called by coalition MPs to discuss with Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever the “Stand for St. Maarten” petition submitted by residents with the demand for changes to halt the “systematic targeting of the country’s leaders” by the outside forces via the justice system. The chant of the marchers who delivered the petition on August 28 was “Let our leaders lead.”
MP Tamara Leonard (United Democrats) was keen on pointing out that the judicial, legislative and administrative branches must not mingle. This does not appear to be the case under the current circumstances, she noted.
MP Franklin Meyers (United Democrats) decried what he described as “gestapo tactics” by the Dutch to tear down the “local man.” The non-independent country in the Dutch Kingdom is being “de-nationalised” with positions within government and its entities filled by people from the Netherlands.
Meyers said he was wrong to say he would accept Dutch financial aid following Irma. The aid “was not given with an open heart,” he said, rather it came wrapped up in conditions.
The Dutch are doing much that they label as legal, but Meyers said St. Maarten should beware, as slavery was once legal and so was apartheid and both were of Dutch construct. Meyers was prevented from becoming prime minister because of a to-date-anonymous complaint circa 2009 about a threat for which the Prosecutor’ Office is still to charge him.
Independence, the leap many are afraid to take, is the only way for the country to steer its own destiny, said MP Frans Richardson (United St. Maarten (US) Party). The Dutch have targeted the country, he noted, adding his agreement with Meyers about the systematic pulling down of locals who are in leadership positions. Richardson is one of several MPs facing various legal issues.
MP Theo Heyliger, the country’s highest-profile politician, is under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office on suspicion of bribery. The United Democrats leader said the gestapo tactics are stifling the country with arms of the Prosecutor’s Office such as the Anti-corruption Taskforce TBO. That arm is now the country’s tax office, he said.
Heyliger also said the Dutch aid came with too many strings attached. The help should have been given without World Bank doing studies when government presents a plan, he noted. The studies and reports so far have had “nothing earth-shattering.”
The Dutch also helped after Hurricane Luis in 1995, without conditions. The same could have been done after Irma and if the Dutch did not trust the local institutions they could have opted “to write cheques directly to suppliers instead of adding the layer of the World Bank,” Heyliger said.
MP Christophe Emmanuel (National Alliance) minced no words, saying: “It is a Dutch takeover” of the country through systematically taking out its leaders. He gave a long list of names containing both coalition and opposition politicians who have been targets of the legal system since 2010 when St. Maarten attained its current constitutional status.
“It is time to send a resounding message” to The Hague and that message must be that St. Maarten wants its independence. The country “can’t hold on to the king’s clompers” any longer and expect things to change, Emmanuel said.
MP Rolando Brison (US Party) pointed his criticism at Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin. She should have declined to represent the Dutch Kingdom at the United Nations Security Council earlier this month and again this week at the UN General Assembly. The prime minister should have opted out instead of going to the UN just to add that representation to her resume.
Brison’s rebuke for Romeo-Marlin stems from Dutch State Secretary Raymond Knops saying it was not proper for her in her capacity to speak out in support of Heyliger when the Court granted the Prosecutor’s Office permission to investigate and prosecute him.
MP Silveria Jacobs (NA) said she supported the points in the petition. The democratic deficit in the country is a known fact and one that could be tackled by the introduction of the stalled Dispute Regulation for the kingdom. That regulation, aimed at settling disputes between kingdom “partners” – the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten – has been shelved by the Dutch Government in spite of support from all Parliaments in the kingdom.
MP Sarah Wescot-Williams (United Democrats) focused her questions on the points listed in the petition by asking Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever to outline how each component would be possible and what is the situation now.
The petition calls on Parliament to resume the process to request a constitutional referendum and to investigate, through the Council of Law and Order (Raad voor de Rechtshandhaving), the functioning of the Justice system in St. Maarten; among other things the selectivity of cases investigated and/or brought to trial by the Prosecutor’s Office, the number of cases investigated and brought to trial, the profiles of the persons involved and the status of those cases.
The petition also calls for review and modernisation of the Constitution to address, among other things, setting a time frame during which a case must be brought to trial (in the interest of justice and according to universal norms) and maintaining the fundamental principle of natural justice that persons be judged by their peers.
The petitioners are demanding that the government of the Netherlands complies fully with the Charter of the United Nations by acting in accordance with St. Maarten’s right to a full measure of self-government based on absolute equality with the Netherlands, and take concrete action to that effect by initiating dialogue with the Government of the Netherlands before the end of 2018.
Parliament was called via the petition to convene an urgent public meeting within seven days of receipt to debate and decide on the points of the petition.
When the meeting with the Justice Minister will resume is not yet known.
The Caribbean Palm building in which Parliament rents its offices and general assembly hall does not have a backup power source. Any power outage in the capital Philipsburg grinds the legislature to a complete halt, no matter the topic under discussion.