THE HAGUE–Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) is critical as to why the negotiations to establish a precise demarcation of the St. Maarten/St. Martin border will only commence at the end of 2019.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dutch Kingdom Stef Blok’s reply on Friday to Van Raak’s earlier questions left the latter with more questions than answers. Van Raak submitted another set of written questions to the minister on Sunday.
Responding to Blok’s announcement that the land border negotiations, which will include the disputed Oyster Pond area where Captain Oliver’s restaurant and marina are located, will start at the end of this year, Van Raak asked how it was possible that the negotiations would only commence at that time while the border conflict had existed since 1996.
The Member of Parliament (MP) was also wary of the inspections by French authorities which reached a critical point late October 2016 when Captain Oliver’s owner Maggi Shurtleff and others working at the property were taken in by Gendarmes for questioning.
“Is it correct that the French raids continuously took place until 2017 and that they only stopped after Hurricane Irma completely destroyed the area in September 2017? Why have the people in this area not been protected in all this time?”
Van Raak questioned the minister’s clarification of last week Friday when he stated that the border dispute mainly concerned the Captain Oliver’s property. “Is my information correct that the French are also claiming other property area(s) in Oyster Pond, but also in other parts of [Dutch – Ed.] St. Maarten where very vital infrastructure is located?”
The MP further enquired about the rights and permits of the people working at Captain Oliver’s who had been harassed by French authorities. “Is it correct that the St. Maarten government in the past issued permits to the victims in question? Why does the St. Maarten government not take the responsibility to financially compensate the victims for the damage incurred, damage for which they cannot be blamed?”
Van Raak questioned the minister’s reassurance in his reply that “the St. Maarten government investigated possibilities to give the owner of the restaurant in question sufficient comfort in order to proceed with the reconstruction.” He asked what efforts the Dutch government was willing to make to give Captain Oliver’s sufficient comfort.
He had said on an earlier occasion that he wanted authorities to work with owner Shurtleff so the reconstruction could start as soon as possible. Shurtleff has been unable to reconstruct her property due to the border conflict, and selling has also proven impossible because of the contested ownership of the area by the French Republic and the Dutch Kingdom.