Parliamentarians pose questions on integrity chamber instruction

PHILIPSBURG–The decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to impose an integrity chamber on St. Maarten via a General Kingdom Measure, or instruction, was the topic of discussion during Tuesday’s meeting of the Parliament’s Central Committee with Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs William Marlin.

During the meeting Prime Minister Marlin gave an overview of what transpired since the May 2015 protocol signed between the Netherlands and St. Maarten to establish an integrity chamber, until the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers of April 7 to seek the Council of State’s advice on the instruction.

The May 2015 protocol includes a dispute regulation similar to the one in the Kingdom Law Financial Supervision. This means that parties can turn to the Council of State for a (partly) binding advice. Marlin said Tuesday that St. Maarten would be making use of this possibility and that a draft appeal is being finalised at this moment and that the appeal will be filed with the Council of State in the next few weeks.

Marlin reiterated his standpoint in Parliament that there is no reason to give St. Maarten an instruction, because the country has been addressing the issue of integrity. He said an instruction based on the Kingdom Charter was only justified if the country did not offer any redress and the situation had become untenable.

“The Netherlands doesn’t have the right to intervene just because it thinks that something is not good. We have not stood still before and after the protocol, and we have implemented measures. The improvements in the area of integrity are a work in progress,” he said.

The Dutch Government seems “hell bent” on giving St. Maarten an instruction and is not willing to listen to St. Maarten’s reasoning as to why an instruction is unnecessary, said Marlin.

He told Parliament that Prime Minister Mark Rutte was very agitated during the meeting of the Council of Ministers. “He didn’t want to talk. He said that St. Maarten should stop whining and that the instruction would be issued. He said that if we didn’t like it, we should get out of the Kingdom. His attitude was I am the boss and you have to obey. If the Netherlands has no more patience with St. Maarten, it is not our fault because we have stuck to the protocol,” said Marlin.

Marlin said that it was the Netherlands that had not adhered to the protocol by appointing a quarter master for the Integrity Chamber one and a half years after the agreed upon date and by not providing reinforcements for the St. Maarten Police Force and Pointe Blanche Prison.

“We have received no support, none whatsoever. The only thing that the Netherlands wants is an Integrity Chamber.”

Marlin said that personally, he was not against independence for St. Maarten. He said he was tired of always hearing that St. Maarten was full of corruption and that integrity violations were the order of the day. He said that integrity violations also happen in the Netherlands. “If it happens in St. Maarten it is corruption. If it happens in the Netherlands it is called fraud.”

The Prime Minister was called to Parliament to explain what transpired about the looming Kingdom decision to install an integrity chamber.

Several Members of Parliament (MPs) posed questions about Government’s position on the integrity chamber and on the way forward from the current impasse.

Perry Geerlings of Democratic Party (DP) said he was “confused” as to the question why Government decided to sit still and exercise “radio silence” after the Constitutional Court had struck down a chamber in its current form. “The ruling was an opportunity for St. Maarten to go ahead and stay ahead on the chamber. Why did this not happen?”

Geerlings said he had his doubts about the workings of the integrity chamber, “but since we agreed to go along with it Government cannot just do away with something on which it agreed upon in the past.” He urged Government to sit down and talk and find a solution. “What is the issue with a quartermaster even though he arrived a year late?”

MP Claret Connor of United People’s (UP) Party said the Dutch cannot be blamed for every issue with the integrity chamber. “What have we done in regard to our prison and police in the past two years? If we do not do it ourselves we cannot sit back and expect them to do it for us,” he said.

“That is totally irresponsible. If it was up to St. Maarten’s Government as it is now we would not have an integrity chamber,” the member for the opposition said in asking the Prime Minister how to move from here. “Sit down as responsible leaders and go to work,” Connor said.

MP Frans Richardson of United St. Maarten (US) Party said it is “absolutely not true” that St. Maarten has done nothing where integrity issues are concerned. “The question if St. Maarten had gone haywire and rogue has run totally out of control,” he said.

National Alliance (NA) MP Rodolphe Samuel echoed Richardson’s statement that St. Maarten had done enough where integrity is concerned. He made a plea to “dust off” the plan for St. Maarten’s Integrity Bureau.

MP George Pantophlet cautioned that the Dutch Government could still push the integrity chamber through. “This isn’t democracy, but dictatorship. It is not our law but their law he said.

The meeting was adjourned until further notice for Prime Minister Marlin to respond to the (written) questions.

Source: The Daily Herald