PHILIPSBURG–United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams said on Sunday that government should “level” with the Dutch Government on its position on decolonisation.
Wescot-Williams made her remarks in a press release after Prime Minister Silviera Jacobs seemed to lay blame on the decolonisation matter on Parliament in a recent letter. In that letter, Jacobs hinted at concerns from Dutch State Secretary for Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on the matter.
Wescot-Williams said it is “disturbing” that Jacobs would entertain concerns by the Knops and put the responsibility for “the decolonisation chatter squarely at the door of Parliament,” when the government of St. Maarten has been a more than willing and participating partner in these discussions.
“The least that can be expected is that the government levels with the Dutch government and bears the responsibilities for its own actions and views and re-sets its priorities based on the people’s interests.
“I also expect you to present government’s position on our current status and government’s view regarding same going forward in clear and unambiguous terms to the people of St. Maarten. This uncoordinated, free-for-all, hot-cold approach to a topic that involves our future cannot continue,” Wescot-Williams said.
She said Jacobs had informed Parliament via letter in November of her most recent contact with Knops about the third tranche of liquidity support for St. Maarten.
“I was pleasantly surprised to receive this update, given government’s lacklustre performance in keeping parliament timely informed. However, the conclusion of the letter gives away the true reason behind this letter to Parliament. Although the Prime Minister had earlier publicly alluded to her meeting with the State Secretary, she had not expressed the concerns of the Dutch government publicly. These concerns the PM did, however, relay by letter to the parliament of St. Maarten.”
The paragraph in question reads: “There has been much hesitation on the part of the Netherlands pertaining to how serious the negotiations are on our side, because of statements made on the floor of Parliament about the decolonisation process.
“However, I am assured that the progress made in the last two technical meetings has done much to ease their fears. That being said, it is important for all parties to be mindful of the aforementioned as we negotiate the best possible outcome in the interest of the people of St. Maarten.”
Wescot-Williams said “this admonishment” was quite surprising, given government’s own role in the decolonisation talks. “I had to remind the PM of her letter to Parliament dated October 6, in response to MP Heyliger-Marten’s questions on the topic of decolonisation.”
In that letter, Jacobs informed Parliament after an analysis of decolonisation that “based on the above, I am of the opinion that finalising the decolonisation can and should be started as soon as possible. It will both benefit the international reputation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and therefore St. Maarten and its sister islands, and allow for the sustainable social-economic development and prosperity of the people of St. Maarten.
“Seeing the initiatives by MP Heyliger-Marten, I therefore look forward to Parliament’s follow-up and support to the Council of Ministers with this process.”
Wescot-Williams said that to assuage the Knops’ concerns and secure Dutch liquidity assistance, Jacobs asks that Parliament restrain its “chatter” regarding decolonisation.
“The PM did not articulate government’s change of heart regarding pursuing decolonisation, as extensively outlined in her previous 10-page letter to parliament.
“In fact, the Prime Minister informed parliament that the delay in responding to the MP was due to extensive research on the matter. I had to ask the PM, in response to her letter to Parliament about Parliament’s handling of the topic of decolonisation, whether she had informed Mr. Knops of her findings, as elaborated on in her letter to Parliament in response to the questions by MP [Grisha – Ed.] Heyliger[-Marten].
“Given the PM’s boasting on the topic of decolonisation, I want to know if she informed the State Secretary that the government of St. Maarten is in support of a Parliament motion that, amongst other things, endorses a foundation that took the State of the Netherlands to Court and that has petitioned the UN to lobby on St. Maarten’s behalf.
“Madame Prime Minister, in my view, it is objectionable to ask that the parliament, the country’s representative body, now that State Secretary Knops has expressed hesitation with the liquidity assistance, practises restraint in their utterances regarding decolonisation after the (coalition) majority in Parliament expressed in no uncertain terms this governing coalition’s stance on decolonisation.
“Did you not foresee that? Did you not discuss this with the factions supporting the government of St. Maarten?”
According to Wescot-Williams, the latest letter from Jacobs makes one wonder what government is really busy with.
“Was this public support for decolonisation at the time only to keep coalition members happy? Or is the letter to parliament regarding Knops’ concerns one to put the blame at Parliament’s door if the decolonisation chatter gets in the way of liquidity assistance from the Netherlands?
“For the record, the UD faction voted against the infamous decolonisation motion. Also for the record, the UD was not in favour of a Permanent Committee for Decolonisation as proposed, and the name of the committee was subsequently changed.”
Wescot-Williams has asked Jacobs whether she is aware of Parliament’s motion dated November 5, endorsing “the initiative and legal actions of Foundation Pro Soualiga related to the decolonisation of the former Netherlands Antilles, as well as the private initiative in Curacao with a comparable objective?”
She also asks whether Jacobs is aware of the petition by the foundation to the UN that requests that “the Secretary General of the United Nations honours its commitment to the people of the former Netherlands Antilles and schedules a hearing with the foundation along with Curaçao ‘where we can together present our case against the Government of the Netherlands and urges the General Assembly to take action in order for the islands of the (former) Netherlands Antilles to meet the deadline set in UN Resolution 74/113 and complete their decolonisation before December 31, 2020.’
“Do you condone a non-government foundation representing the Country St. Maarten at a UN hearing? Has the government of St. Maarten mandated this foundation in any form or fashion? Has, according to your knowledge, the motion of parliament dated November 5, 2020, been received by the government of the Netherlands? Are you still as supportive of this motion as you were in the days leading up to the meeting and subsequent passing of the motion?
“Have you shared your ‘extensive’ findings regarding decolonisation with the State Secretary? What were the State Secretary’s specific concerns with parliament’s statements regarding decolonisation? How did you ‘ease their fears’? Can you ask the State Secretary to clarify the position of the Netherlands regarding decolonisation?
“How do you view the attainment of an ‘independent state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ as expressed by those in favour of the decolonisation of St. Maarten? Did you explain to the State Secretary the position indirectly endorsed by the government of St. Maarten to amend the Kingdom charter and delete the Articles 43, 50, 51, etc.? What was the response of the State Secretary? Was he found amenable to these ideas?” Wescot-Williams asked.