~ VVD demands AMvRB measure for St. Maarten ~
THE HAGUE--The establishing of the St. Maarten Integrity Chamber is back on the agenda of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. The next meeting is on July 10 and a General Measure of the Kingdom Government ("Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur" AMvRB) is a real option.
Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk did not state specifically during a debate in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday that a decision would be taken regarding St. Maarten at the next Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting, as the agenda of meetings of the Kingdom Government are always confidential.
However, Plasterk confirmed during the debate with the Second Chamber's Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations that there would be one last Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting before the summer recess, next week Friday.
He stopped short of saying that St. Maarten was on the agenda, but made clear that there would be consequences for St. Maarten now that the Dutch Caribbean country had failed to meet the June 30 deadline to approve a national ordinance to establish the Integrity Chamber.
In an invited comment, St. Maarten Justice Minister Dennis Richardson told The Daily Herald via e-mail: "The Council of Ministers is preparing a response to suggested changes to the draft national ordinance on the Integrity Chamber as was done with the proposals of Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams."
Parliament, Richardson added, "will subsequently have to reconvene, debate the matters and establish a national ordinance. I have confidence that Parliament will eventually do this."
The St. Maarten Parliament has not only deferred the handling of the draft ordinance until after the summer recess, but also has proposed amendments to the law, which is against the agreement that the Governments of the Netherlands and St. Maarten signed on May 24.
"The deadline has passed; that is no public secret. We had an agreement which took a long time to materialise because I was convinced that it was much more effective to tackle integrity issues with the support of the local government. But there is an end to everything. No national redress has taken place. Let there be no mistake: St. Maarten will be kept to the agreement," stated Plasterk.
He did not use the term AMvRB as Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party did. Bosman pointedly asked Plasterk whether the Kingdom Government would impose an AMvRB to ensure that the Integrity Chamber would be established according to the wishes of The Hague.
According to Bosman, there was a "clear agreement" with St. Maarten. That agreement included a timeframe which St. Maarten has failed to stick to, he said.
"In the opinion of the VVD this is again an example of stretching things and failing to live up to agreements. Integrity is a big problem in St. Maarten, the local politicians know that and they are not doing anything about it. I presume that the AMvRB is on the agenda of the upcoming Kingdom Council of Ministers. For the VVD there is no more room for further negotiations," he said. He emphasised that follow-up action had to take place.
Member of Parliament (MP) Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) concurred with Bosman that swift follow-up was required to establish the Integrity Chamber as soon as possible. He concurred with Bosman that the St. Maarten Parliament was "stalling."
Van Raak also wanted to know how far Minister Plasterk was in the process to initiate a criminal investigation into the alleged ties between the underworld and upper world in Curaçao and St. Maarten with special focus on the (illegal) gambling sector. The Second Chamber recently almost unanimously adopted a motion of Van Raak and Bosman calling on the Dutch Government to initiate this investigation, if possible with the assistance of the two countries in question.
Plasterk replied that the matter had his "full attention" and that he was taking the wish of the Dutch Parliament "very seriously." He said it was essential to strengthen the entire law enforcement sector in the Dutch Caribbean countries; otherwise, a so-called waterbed effect could evolve with crime moving to other areas.
"It is a major exercise that requires the support and input of all four countries," said Plasterk, who clarified that the talks were not entirely concluded on this matter. He said "significant investments" were required and it was imperative that the effort stay out of the influence of politics. "We don't want to have a situation where local politics decides that a certain investigation has to be stopped," he said.