THE HAGUE/PHILIPSBURG--The Government of St. Maarten has informed the Kingdom Council of Ministers that it will adopt many of the recommendations by the Wit-Samson Integrity Committee, but not without reiterating its objections to the way The Hague imposed an integrity audit via the governor of St. Maarten and the "continued blurring of norms on the Kingdom level."
In the letter dated August 21, 2014, St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson informed Chairman of the Kingdom Council of Ministers, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the position of the St. Maarten Council of Ministers on the report of the Wit-Samson Committee. The letter was also addressed to President of the Parliament of St. Maarten Gracita Arrindell and St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday.
Wescot-Williams and Richardson reiterated St. Maarten's position on the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to order an independent integrity audit by Kingdom Decree of September 30, 2013. According to Wescot-Williams and Richardson, that decision was "untimely, imprudent and disproportionate." The governor sent the audit report in question to the Kingdom government on Monday.
The chosen method to order this audit via the Regulation of the Governor was also "unconstitutional and illegitimate," stated Wescot-Williams and Richardson. The course of action remained regrettable since the governor of Aruba, in July this year, had to order an investigation of Aruba's 2014 budget via the "same illegitimate construction."
Wescot-Williams and Richardson stressed that, together with the Dutch Caribbean partners in the Kingdom, St. Maarten would keep trying to realise an independent form of dispute resolution within the Kingdom. So far, The Hague has not cooperated to realise such. The three Dutch Caribbean Parliaments recently agreed to join forces on this matter.
About the stance of The Hague, Wescot-Williams and Richardson stated: "This continued blurring of norms on Kingdom level has to stop to avert a possible complete hollowing out of the autonomy of the countries and the weakening of the solidarity of the countries in the Kingdom."
Wescot-Williams and Richardson warned that St. Maarten will appeal to the Governments of Aruba and Curaçao to object in any legal way against measures and decisions of the Kingdom government taken in an unlawful manner, and to declare these null and void as long as no dispute arrangement has been established.
The governors should not execute illegitimate decisions of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. "St. Maarten is willing to give the governors all support that they need and will appeal to [the Governments of – Ed.] Aruba and Curaçao to declare to do the same."
Regarding the report of the Wit-Samson Committee "Doing the Right Things Right," Wescot-Williams and Richardson announced that a plan of approach will be drafted to further work out and implement a number of recommendations of the committee. A progress committee will be established that will supervise the process and inform government.
In the letter, Wescot-Williams and Richardson elaborated on the lack of capacity at the National Detectives, which was one of the committee's findings. The committee pointed out that the support of The Hague in the further strengthening of the justice sector and help from outside was essential, but that this demanded a "positive attitude" of both St. Maarten and the Netherlands to cooperate.
"The Council of Ministers agrees with this and has already confirmed the partners in the Kingdom several times that this will for cooperation exists. The Council is thankful for the assistance from the Netherlands by the Royal Marechaussee and the assistance from Aruba for the National Detectives. The St. Maarten Police Force has assisted Saba and St. Eustatius several times in 2014."
Wescot-Williams and Richardson did call it "incomprehensible" that requests for operational assistance for the National Detectives and the Prosecutor's Office were dragged for a long time, especially in light of the critique of The Hague where it came to integrity.
The cooperation with the Netherlands in this aspect has not been flawless, stated the ministers. Requests for temporary additional personnel support for the operations of the National Detectives so far have not led to results. "This process has been ongoing for more than eight months – this in contrast to the immediate support that St. Maarten gave to the Caribbean Netherlands and Curaçao. Aruba has offered it immediate operational support where possible."
It was announced that the capacity of the National Detectives in St. Maarten would be strengthened with four additional detectives this year and another four next year, which would bring the capacity to 17 full-time units. The ideal capacity has been put at 20 full-time units.