Parliaments have candid debate on integrity issue

THE HAGUE–Members of the St. Maarten Parliament, Chairperson Sarah Wescot-Williams (Democratic Party DP) and Cornelius de Weever (independent) made two particular suggestions during a candid, sometimes fierce meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation for the Kingdom IPKO on Wednesday on integrity in Government.

De Weever informed his fellow Parliamentarians that in his opinion a Kingdom Law should be implemented to introduce an Integrity Chamber for the four individual countries of the Dutch Kingdom, and not only for St. Maarten, as is currently the case.
“It is somewhat discriminatory to have an Integrity Chamber for only one country. It is not right to single out St. Maarten, and pretend that other countries have no integrity issues. We should have an equal playing level,” he said.
De Weever suggested drafting a proposal for a Kingdom Law to install integrity chambers for all countries of the Kingdom after the St. Maarten Constitutional Court has ruled in the case that was requested by the St. Maarten Ombudsman regarding the integrity chamber.
Sharing her view on the roles of the Parliaments in the Kingdom, Wescot-Williams implied that the Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten should also have the right to address and question issues that affected the Kingdom, not only the Dutch Parliament.
Wescot-Williams said she wanted to discuss the roles of the Parliaments and create more equality. “If the Dutch Parliament can ask questions on issues that concern us, than we should also be able to do the same. “This would give true content to the cavity of the democratic deficit,” she said.
The amendment that Member of the Aruba Parliament Andin Bikker of the PDR party has prepared gives content to Wescot-Williams’ line of thinking of extending the influence of the Dutch Caribbean Parliaments.
Bikker will submit his amendment next week during the handling of the Kingdom Law proposal of Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA to amend the Charter in order to restrict the use of the General Measure of the Kingdom Government (“Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur” AMvRB) instrument for the Dutch Caribbean countries.
Bikker’s amendment proposes introducing the right of initiative for the Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten so that these Parliaments can also submit Kingdom Law proposals, a right that currently only the Second Chamber has. Also, Members of these three Parliaments should be able to take that initiative in person without first needing the approval of the rest of his or her Parliament.
Wednesday’s meeting of the IPKO included a fierce discussion regarding integrity and what the islands perceive as meddling in internal affairs by the Second Chamber. Members of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party and Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) said it was important in the interest of integrity to address each other in case of alleged integrity violations.
Member of the Curaçao Parliament Alex Rosaria of the PAIS party said that the focus in discussions on integrity should not only be on individual politicians, but also on institutional integrity. And that institutional integrity could only be achieved through a Dispute Regulation (“geschillenregeling”) for the Kingdom.
“Having no Dispute Regulation or constitutional vetting is not good governance. We should also have the guts to talk about that. We need checks and balances on that level too. For me it is unacceptable that we speak about good governance without a Dispute Regulation,” said Rosaria.
“Integrity has to do with rules and checks, addressing your neighbour,” said Ronald van Raak, who proceeded to talk about the online gambling industry in Curaçao and the billions that are made in this sector without the proper supervision from the side of the Curaçao Government. He said he wanted to work with the Dutch Caribbean countries to get all information on this matter so it could be tackled.
Member of the Curaçao Parliament Glenn Sulvaran (independent) struck back at Van Raak. He cited a recent report of the European Union (EU) which described the Netherlands as a major producer of synthetic drugs. “The report made it look like the Netherlands is as bad as Colombia and Mexico combined. You have to explain this one to me,” Sulvaran said, addressing Van Raak.
“In Curaçao we have a saying, don’t turn on the lights on the road and leave your house in the dark,” said Sulvaran, who made clear in an angry tone that he didn’t accept Van Raak’s “gross insults” towards Curaçao.
Van Raak responded that in his opinion the Curaçao Parliament ditched its responsibility and looked the other way. “The Curaçao Parliament would rather remain sitting in the dark,” he said. He called on the Parliament to assume its responsibility and have the matter investigated.
Chairman of the Curaçao Parliament Mike Franco and Member Zita Jesus-Leito pointed out that the Parliament had asked for an investigation by the General Audit Chamber of the local telecommunications provider UTS which Van Raak says facilitates the online gambling sector.
“We were not allowed to have the Audit Chamber carry out that assessment because it concerns a company. We also have our limitations as a Parliament,” said Franco. Jesus-Leito added that an investigation of the online gambling industry would be a “good thing, good for the entire Kingdom.”
Jesus-Leito did object to what she called “finger-pointing” by Van Raak. Instead, she said, “We should remain calm and analyse things carefully. We will surely investigate if something is wrong.” André Bosman warned that strict supervision, and accompanying control by the Parliament was essential. “Otherwise you become very vulnerable as a country.”
Member of the Curaçao Parliament Elmer “Kadè” Wilsoe offered a hand to make peace. “We should solve this together. Things don’t get solved with accusations, because that never results in a solution. Cooperation does.”
In the end the Parliaments agreed to exchange information on matters relating to integrity. Wescot-Williams and De Weever remarked that St. Maarten had already taken various steps to regulate party financing and to improve integrity in Government in general.
Wescot-Williams said that in St. Maarten a lot of investigations had taken place in this area and that the recommendations of these reports were being carried out. “There is still a lot to do, but a lot has happened already,” she said.

Source: Daily Herald
Parliaments have candid debate on integrity issue