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St. Maarten won’t cooperate to execute integrity probe decree

SATURDAY, 28 SEPTEMBER 2013

~ Council of State asked to give advice ~

THE HAGUE–St. Maarten is objecting to the legal grounds of the instruction that the Kingdom Council of Ministers gave to St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday on Friday to initiate an integrity investigation Philipsburg will not cooperate pending advice of the Council of State for the Kingdom.

St. Maarten’s Justice Minister Dennis Richardson told The Daily Herald on Friday that the Government of St. Maarten was not against the concept of having an integrity investigation as it has already asked Transparency International to conduct such an investigation. Moreover, St. Maarten has also proposed another, short-term investigation which would have a broader basis than the one ordered by the Kingdom Government on Friday.

However, St. Maarten is objecting to the legal instrument that the Kingdom Government used to issue a Royal Decree (“Koninklijk Besluit”) ordering an integrity investigation. According to St. Maarten’s Government, the Kingdom Government had no legal grounds to order an investigation through the Regulation of the Governor of St. Maarten.

Richardson and St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams are in the Netherlands.

Wescot-Williams attended Friday’s Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting, where she defended St. Maarten’s objections and presented an alternative proposal to conduct the integrity investigation together with The Hague. Her arguments were in vain and overruled by the Kingdom Government.

St. Maarten’s Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges voted against the proposal to issue an instruction, as did his Curaçao colleague Marvelyne Wiels. Aruba’s Minister Plenipotentiary Edwin Abath was not present, because he is in Aruba for the elections on his island.

Following the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers, the Government of

St. Maarten decided that it would request a formal opinion, as so-called “voorlichting,” from the Council of State about the use of the legal instrument to give the Governor an instruction. St. Maarten will not cooperate with the Royal Decree pending this advice, Richardson announced.

In Richardson’s opinion, the Kingdom Government itself was now guilty of improper governing. “The Netherlands that tells us how important good governance is has made use of an improper instrument. The decision is unlawful, because it involves the incorrect use of the law that regulates the position of the Governor of St. Maarten,” he said.

The Kingdom Government opted not to use Article 51 as the legal ground for an instruction. This article enables the Kingdom Government to issue a General Measure of Government, a so-called AMVRB, if the country in question fails to redress a situation. It is possible to appeal a General Measure. Besides, a General Measure has to go to the Advisory Council.

“The Charter prescribes that the Kingdom Government has to make clear that the local institutions have failed. The Hague has been unable to prove this and that is why they have resorted to issuing a Royal Decree based on the Regulation of the Governor of St. Maarten which provides no possibility for an appeal,” said Richardson.

By using the wrong legal grounds, the Kingdom Government is setting a dangerous precedent, said Richardson. “It sets the door wide open for the Netherlands to meddle in the autonomous affairs of the countries in the Kingdom without limitation,” he said.

Richardson said that St. Maarten has tried to find a compromise with the Kingdom Government in the past weeks. St. Maarten proposed to have the investigation by Transparency International carried out in conjunction with the Kingdom Government, making use of the possibilities of a Cooperation Agreement based on Article 38 of the Charter.

Apart from having the investigation by Transparency International carried out together with the Kingdom Government, the St. Maarten Government proposed conducting a broad, short-term, independent investigation based on a Ministerial Decree or National Decree.

This investigation would have a timeframe of six months at most with an interim report after three months. The committee carrying out this investigation would consist of reputable persons from the European part of the Kingdom and of St. Maarten, whose integrity is above reproach, Richardson explained.

According to Richardson, the Netherlands opted to reject or not respond to

St. Maarten’s alternative proposals. He said the move of the Kingdom Government to issue an instruction seemed for local political consumption aimed to please the parties in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament that are critical of the current construction of the Kingdom.

In the meantime, St. Maarten will continue with the process to have an independent integrity investigation carried out by Transparency International. This investigation covers a term of one to two years. It will also continue with a short-term, independent investigation as it has proposed to the Kingdom Government. “St. Maarten commits itself to take a decision on the findings of this committee within a month after the final report,” he said.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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