~ A very necessary move, says majority ~
THE HAGUE--The liberal democratic VVD party, the Labour Party PvdA and Socialist Party (SP) representing a majority in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament fully support the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers last week Friday to order a more thorough screening of St. Maarten's candidate ministers.
The instruction that the Kingdom government gave to St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday to hold off on the signing of the appointment of the members of the new Council of Ministers until an additional integrity screening has been completed with the assistance of Dutch experts, was "highly necessary," said Members of the Second Chamber André Bosman (VVD) and Ronald van Raak (PvdA).
Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar said that during the handling of the draft 2015 Kingdom Relations budget on October 1, he already called for an in-depth investigation of the indications of vote-buying in St. Maarten before the appointment of a new government. "The St. Maarten people need our help to promote integrity and to combat corruption," he said at the time.
"Integrity, or rather the lack of it, is a severe problem in St. Maarten. The recent integrity report showed that ministers have not acted in good faith. It should not be tolerated that people like that are automatically appointed. It is a good thing that additional requirements are being set," Van Laar told The Daily Herald on Sunday.
"The Kingdom Council of Ministers is protecting the interest of the Dutch taxpayer against the corrupt St. Maarten politicians. It has nothing to do with colonialism. Damage is being done to the Kingdom and it is our task to protect it. We will not tolerate that the Kingdom is hijacked by St. Maarten. The politicians should not be surprised that this instruction was given," said Bosman in an interview.
Van Raak said the strict screening of the candidate ministers was needed so St. Maarten would get a proper government. "You cannot leave the people to be governed by a team that has links with the mafia. We have to prevent St. Maarten from going down the drain. I want the people to have a future and that is not possible with a government that has been bought and with corrupt politicians," he said.
Bosman, Van Raak and Van Laar were not impressed by statements of caretaker Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and the United People's (UP) party that they would not cooperate with the instruction of the Kingdom government.
"If they don't cooperate, it means that it is time for a referendum so the people can express what they want and decisions can be taken how to proceed," said Van Raak. "Higher supervision is not far away; it can be arranged in a heartbeat," said Bosman.
"If St. Maarten doesn't cooperate, their ministers cannot be appointed. It is that simple. But we can't have a prime minister who has been accused of vote-buying. We need a new government with people who comply with the requirements of integrity and of whom it is certain that there are no conflicts of interest," said Van Laar.
The three Members of Parliament (MPs) said that the Kingdom government had every reason to intervene. The charter dictates that it is the responsibility of the Kingdom government to safeguard good governance in the Kingdom.
"We are not doing this for fun. The islands should comprehend for once and for all, whether it is Aruba, Curaçao or St. Maarten, that there are rules in the Kingdom that they have to stick to. St. Maarten wants to be part of the Kingdom, St. Maarten knows the responsibilities that it carries. They signed for it," said Bosman.
"Buying votes is apparently a normal thing in St. Maarten. There is a report that states that members of government are not taking integrity very seriously. We have to prevent this from happening again. These things are intolerable. St. Maarten has to acknowledge that integrity and good governance are a top priority and take serious action," said Van Laar.
"It is the task of the Kingdom government to intervene when things go wrong as long as St. Maarten is part of the Kingdom. The Hague is saying that a decent screening is needed. What we are saying is not that strange. It counts for every democracy," said Van Raak, who called the response of the UP on Friday "predictable." "They are moving towards independence with this attitude."
Bosman said the "tone" of the UP reaction showed that "they don't really comprehend the seriousness of the issue." He pointed out that there is no majority in the Second Chamber that wants to keep the islands in the Kingdom at all cost. "This is the Kingdom new style. If you think you can do all you want, then you can expect an instruction. If you want to be independent, then that is fine too. Then you can do your own thing."
Bosman and Van Raak submitted a position paper in July 2013 in which they made a case for a commonwealth construction in the Kingdom whereby the countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten would have looser ties with the Netherlands. A debate in the Second Chamber on this position paper is scheduled to take place on December 1, 2014.