THE HAGUE--The Dutch media reported on Monday that there is majority support in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament for intervention through a large criminal investigation of "St. Maarten's corrupt government." Dutch politicians are especially worried now that the United People's (UP) party of Theo Heyliger is about to take power.
Two major Dutch newspapers, De Telegraaf and Trouw, reported on Monday morning on PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC's) Integrity Inquiry report on St. Maarten that was ordered by the Kingdom Council of Ministers late September last year, via St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday. The report was made public on Friday.
"Corrupt St. Maarten has to be investigated," was the headline in De Telegraaf, while Trouw's article was headed "Action necessary against corruption St. Maarten."
The news website NU.nl published an article later that morning based on the letter of St. Maarten's incumbent Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte headlined "St. Maarten asks the Netherlands for help to combat corruption." The Daily Herald reported on this letter in Monday's edition.
According to De Telegraaf and Trouw, a Parliament majority of the liberal democratic VVD party, Socialist Party (SP), the Christian Democratic Party CDA and the Party for Freedom PVV wants Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to take action after the PwC report concluded that "the entire government is soaked with nepotism," stated De Telegraaf.
"The report shows that corruption is in all layers of the St. Maarten Government. The Dutch politicians are even more worried about the controversial Theo Heyliger taking absolute power on the island last week," De Telegraaf stated.
Both newspapers referred to the recent vote-buying case that involved three police officers and members of the UP party. The Judge dismissed the case and concluded that the Prosecutor's Office had committed "class justice" by not investigating the UP top, including Heyliger, as there were clear indications that they were involved in vote-buying.
De Telegraaf mentioned the move by incumbent Minister Cornelius de Weever to join the UP party. According to VVD Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman, De Weever was "simply bought" by Heyliger. Bosman said he especially noted in PwC's integrity report that there was "much corruption at the Harbour where Heyliger does business."
"Everything is going wrong there," said Bosman, who called for a criminal investigation together with his colleague Ronald van Raak of SP. Van Raak said he wanted the Netherlands to provide technical support to enhance the investigative capacity on the island.
"We are still responsible for good governance within the Kingdom. Heyliger bought votes, Members of Parliament and as such, government. The entire Kingdom will be worth nothing more than paper if we do nothing now," Van Raak told Trouw.
According to Van Raak, Heyliger is being backed by the "same dubious persons" who earlier stood behind former Curaçao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte. "All bad politicians need to leave the islands," he said.
Bosman repeated his wish to have a so-called Kingdom Officer ("Rijksofficier") for St. Maarten, a suggestion that he already made in March 2013. This officer, who would operate directly under the responsibility of the Kingdom Government, would be able to intervene and institute criminal investigations autonomously. Bosman will bring up his proposal during the handling of the 2015 Kingdom Relations budget in the Second Chamber this Wednesday.
Member of the Second Chamber Madeleine van Toorenburg of CDA supports the call for action by the minister. She pointed out that together with the Democratic Party D66, her party has been requesting active support for St. Maarten's judicial sector, which she said is severely overburdened.
"We are watching St. Maarten slipping away, but we don't act," Van Toorenburg told Trouw. She said a decent criminal investigation also was needed of Heyliger's and his party's vote-buying practices; otherwise, "he will walk off laughing in the end."
PVV Member of Parliament Sietse Fritsma said he supported the call for action by Justice. He repeated the mantra of his party as the solution for corruption and nepotism on the Dutch Caribbean islands: get rid of all of them.
Van Raak suggested in an interview with Radio 1 on Monday evening that the Kingdom Government should give Governor Holiday an instruction to order a criminal investigation. "We can give the Governor an instruction for such an investigation," he said.
According to Van Raak, using the guarantee function, article 43 in the Kingdom Charter, which states that the Kingdom is responsible for guaranteeing proper governance in the Kingdom, is "very [much – Ed.] needed at this time."
In the radio interview, Van Raak stated that there was "much influence" from the mafia on the island. "St. Maarten is the washing machine of drugs money. It is at the crossings of the drugs trade. Much of that bad money is also ending up in politics. We have to catch the criminals and get rid of the bad money and bad politicians."