We have acted on integrity issues, Marlin tells Plasterk

PHILIPSBURG–The St. Maarten Government has shown the willingness to stick to agreements regarding the execution of the three integrity reports that were drafted in the past. The appointment by the Dutch Government of Hans Leijtens as quartermaster for the St. Maarten Integrity Chamber was not in conformity with the agreements.

St. Maarten Prime Minister William Marlin stated this in a letter that he recently sent to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk. Marlin’s letter was written in response to Plasterk’s letter regarding the appointment of Leijtens in January this year and St. Maarten’s stance on the establishing of the Integrity Chamber.

Marlin stated that his Government was “surprised” by the unilateral move of The Hague to appoint the quartermaster to prepare the establishing of the Integrity Chamber and the “threat” to establish this Integrity Chamber through a General Measure of the Kingdom Government (“Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur” AMvRB) if necessary.

According to Marlin, St. Maarten in the past two years continuously has shown the willingness to execute the agreements to improve integrity, including the appointment of a St. Maarten quartermaster for the Integrity Chamber Raymond Begina before the deadline of July 1, 2015.

While Begina has fully executed his task and submitted a report, the Netherlands, on the other hand, didn’t stick to that deadline by appointing a Dutch quartermaster more than a year and a half after that deadline, stated Marlin. “The question is also what this quartermaster would have to prepare at this stage,” he added.

Marlin reminded Plasterk that the St. Maarten Government complied with the agreement to draft a national ordinance to establish the Integrity Chamber, a law that was approved by the St. Maarten Parliament and subsequently thrown out by the Constitutional Court. The fact that this national ordinance didn’t make it, cannot be blamed on the input of the St. Maarten Government, Marlin noted.

The Prime Minister provided an overview of the actions that were taken, or are in execution, as a result of the integrity reports. He mentioned the improving of the integrity structure through new legislation and the adaptation of existing legislation, the oath taking of personnel in Government service, the drafting of a code of conduct for civil servants and security audits of persons with trusted positions in Government and government-owned companies.

Furthermore, the advice is sought of the Corporate Governance Council (CGC) on pending appointments at government-owned companies and Government foundations, the 2016 and 2017 budgets have been balanced and approved, the new director of the Princess Juliana International Airport has been screened and an independent Tourism Authority has been established.

Marlin further mentioned that the combating of vote buying has the “full attention” of the Electoral Council and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and that the phenomenon of seat theft in Parliament has been addressed in a proposal to amend the Constitution, but that this has “met resistance in the Council of Ministers.”

Government personnel who have committed integrity violations have been dealt with. “In the preceding period various Government officials who have committed integrity violations have been dismissed and/or received disciplinary punishment,” Marlin stated.

The St. Maarten Government has given priority to the execution of the recommendations of the integrity reports and has made important progress on this matter, contended Marlin. “The perception that St. Maarten didn’t commit to improve integrity within Government is in our opinion unfounded and completely rejected.”

The issues that currently have priority concern the narcotics trade and human trafficking, stated the Prime Minister. “These are primarily criminal matters for which we need your additional support,” he stated, noting that the increase in the number of investigations by the Public Prosecutor’s Office since mid-2015 has resulted in an increase of integrity awareness.

Marlin noted that in the opinion of the St. Maarten Government it should be considered to have local institutions investigate integrity violations instead of an Integrity Chamber. He closed off his letter by stating that Government would soon be presenting an action plan to execute the remaining recommendations of the integrity reports, which will be implemented following the approval by the Parliament.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/64409-we-have-acted-on-integrity-issues-marlin-tells-plasterk