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St. Maarten government requests meeting to inform Parliament of integrity instruction


PHILIPSBURG–Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams on behalf of government has requested President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell to schedule a meeting so Members of Parliament can be informed directly about the Kingdom Council of Ministers’ decision to instruct Governor Eugene Holiday to carry out an integrity assessment of government and government’s request to the Council of State for an advice on the situation.

Wescot-Williams said on television show Oral Gibbs Live on Monday evening that the situation was not about individual politicians, but about “the back door being forced open for the Dutch to conduct neo-colonialism and if we do not take our stance.”

“We believe a dangerous precedent would be set if the Kingdom Government could interfere in our internal affairs. We wanted to make our case very, very clear as it pertains to this,” she added.

If the instruction executed, Wescot-Williams said, “We will have reverted to the old days of colonialism and ruling the people indirectly. That is not what we fought for. The people of St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba did not leave their autonomy in the hand of the Dutch Government so that the Bosmans and Wilders out there can complain and say that [Dutch – Ed.] Prime Minster Rutte is not doing his job politically and using St. Maarten as political pawn.”

Government also has gained the support of the Curaçao government in the fight against the instruction labelled by Wescot-Williams and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson as a constitutional blunder forced by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Dutch Minister for Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk.

“We have the support of Willemstad, as it is in all of our interest. If we want to be a real autonomous country in the Kingdom we need to stand together to avoid this neo-colonialism,” Wescot-Williams said.

She and Richardson emphasised that the issue was not centred on the investigation, as several steps already had been taken by government to tackle integrity issues, such as an agreement with Transparency International (TI) to conduct a country-wide integrity assessment.

Richardson said, “Let it be clear to the people that we are moving ahead with Transparency International and others, but we will not cooperate with a Royal Decree that will leave the door open for any Dutch politician to interfere in the matters of the countries. We will not accept that.”

Both Rutte and Plasterk had been informed about government’s agreement with TI to carry out an assessment. “We believe that there was so much negative talk out there regarding St Maarten and we wanted to find out where the sensitive areas were where it comes to St. Maarten and where we could improve with regard to this,” Wescot-Williams said.

The situation facing St. Maarten is of “great importance” to Curaçao and Aruba, the other countries within the Kingdom, aside from the Netherlands. “If this precedent is set, the Dutch can subsequently use Article 43 [of the Kingdom Charter – Ed.] for any purpose to interfere in the internal handling of a country within the Kingdom,” Richardson said.

According to him, there is a procedure in place to initiate the guarantee function of the Charter which involves the use of Article 51. “The Dutch cannot justify that our system is not working. All allegations are in the Public Prosecutor’s system. So therefore we need to ask ourselves ‘what is it that the Dutch really want?'”

Wescot-Williams said Governor Holiday had “worked diligently” to secure the independent position of the countries in their internal matters and that work was now “in jeopardy by the unlawful actions” of Rutte and Plasterk.

“Our Governor is being put into a very awkward situation through coming with this decree,” stressed the Prime Minister.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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