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MPs unanimously reject instruction

~ Motion to be sent to UN Decolonisation Committee ~

PHILIPSBURG--Members of Parliament (MPs) unanimously adopted on Wednesday a motion rejecting the instruction handed down by the Kingdom Council of Ministers to Governor Eugene Holiday for the execution of a boundless and limitless investigation into the backgrounds of candidate ministers, their families, friends, business associates and others.

Parliament is not in agreement with the instruction from the Kingdom Council, because the screening of candidate ministers is "not flawed. It has been applied and worked during every formation of a new government," according to the motion.

The United Nations Decolonisation Committee was listed among governments, organisations and agencies to which the motion officially will be sent.

Aside from rejecting the instruction from the Kingdom Government, the unanimously adopted motion also instructs the St. Maarten Government to establish a committee that will study, evaluate and recommend an action plan based on the findings and recommendations of the integrity report from the General Audit Chamber, the "Doing the right things" report from the Wit-Samson Committee and the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report commissioned by Governor Holiday based on another instruction by the Kingdom Council that was issued last year.

The outgoing government has indicated interest in applying recommendations expressed in the PwC report, and the incoming government is expected to cooperate in carrying out recommendations made in PwC's and other similar reports, the motion stated. "Therefore, we object to said instruction [of the Kingdom Government – Ed]."

The motion, signed by Dr. Lloyd Richardson and MPs Cornelius de Weever and Leona Marlin-Romeo, calls for an action plan on the integrity reports that must include a budget and a timeline to implement the recommendations.

The motion adoption came after closed-door deliberations among MPs of the various political parties represented in Parliament. The original motion was presented by United People's (UP) party MP Dr. Richardson, who had requested a suspension of the meeting to caucus with other MPs who might want to give their input. This took place after some lengthy talks that saw the public plenary session open and suspended several times by President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams.

MPs rejected the instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers based on the country's already established National Ordinance to Promote Integrity in Public Functionaries as the guide in the screening of candidate ministers. That screening of ministers "has worked to the satisfaction" of Parliament and Government thus there is "no need to adjust or expand on said ordinance," the motion stated.

The Kingdom Government's resolution of October 17, issued as a measure of instruction to the Governor, seeks "to restrict" him "from executing his tasks in accordance with the applicable regulations of the country."

Independent MP Marlin-Romeo had presented a draft motion, which she later withdrew, that condemned the instruction by the Kingdom Government. Her motion also called for Parliament to take all necessary actions to take the Kingdom Government before the UN Decolonisation Committee and to inform regional bodies such as the Caribbean Community Caricom, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Latin American Parliament Parlatino.

Fourteen of the 15 MPs were present for the urgent plenary session of Parliament that started on Monday, but was suspended after the first round of debate. Only National Alliance (NA) Parliamentarian Silveria Jacobs was absent due to a medical issue.

Unity

The plenary session resumed on Wednesday, at the start of the second round of debate. MPs generally called for unity against the actions of the Kingdom Government.

MP Maurice Lake (UP) called on the people of the country "to stand against injustice" and to believe in the people they had elected.

MP Johan "Janchi" Leonard (UP) said St. Maarten was capable of conducting its own affairs: "We will do this on our own terms with our own people." He said the Dutch were focused on St. Maarten with the catch-phrase of integrity, but the Netherlands – based on a 2013 study – was the country in Europe where the people were most fed-up with politicians. It is also a country that has seen 216 major integrity cases between 1983 and 2013.

MP Silvio Matser (UP) said the instruction from the Kingdom Council showed St. Maarten was not an equal partner in the Kingdom. He noted that the Dutch could not bring solutions to St. Maarten "when they don't know the culture."

"We need to get back some of our autonomy," said MP George Pantophlet (NA). "There is always a bigger picture to be seen when such instructions are handed down."

MP Tamara Leonard (UP) said the instruction was "a direct violation of our country. ... The Dutch Government is so confident we can't stand together based on how we attack each other's character. ... Let us prove to St. Maarten, to the Caribbean that we are capable."

MP Christophe Emmanuel (NA) said the call for unity in Parliament, although good, did not extend to outside the hall. He cited that he had been attacked by UP on the Internet for statements he had made in the first round of the debate.

Independent MP De Weever said it was one thing for the country "to stumble" on its own as it built, but quite another for it "to be tripped" on its road to progress. He labelled the instruction "a distraction" put out by the Dutch Government in light of that country's pending elections.

MP Franklin Meyers (UP) said MPs were the guardians of the Constitution. He called on MPs and residents to put aside party colours and take up the red, white and blue of the St. Maarten flag. He said, "The illusion that we are Dutch is just that – an illusion."

"We need to protect St. Maarten," said United St. Maarten Party MP Frans Richardson. As long as the country's higher organs and laws are functioning, there is no need to impose any further rules, he noted.

MP William Marlin (NA) called the instruction "premature," because the country has a functioning screening procedure embedded in law. He questioned whether the instruction from the Kingdom Government was a motion of no confidence in Governor Holiday.

Three strikes

MP Theo Heyliger (UP) said this was just the beginning of "a wave of instructions" from the Dutch Government. The next one targeting the Justice System is anticipated on November 7, and yet another could be possible if Parliament does not start the process to approve the 2015 budget.

Similar to the "three strikes and you're out" rule in baseball, the trio of (possible) instructions would result in the Dutch Government having "taken out the St. Maarten Government" by controlling the Justice System, the country's finances and lately the government itself, Heyliger said.

The Dutch Government has "been putting for the past 30 years a bit of poison into the body every day" with their consistent moves to take over key areas of the country, he said.

Heyliger acknowledged that Curaçao's Parliament had been proactive in warning off the Dutch Government from even attempting to force any similar instruction on that Dutch Caribbean island.

President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams said just before closing the meeting that the Dutch Government was "misusing" the legal instrument regulating the governor's position by not using it for its true intended purpose.

Swimming prohibited at French-side beaches

MARIGOT--The ban on swimming and nautical activities at French-side beaches until further notice following the passing of Hurricane Gonzalo may be lifted at the end of this week if water tests taken by Agence Régional de Santé (ARS) show the water quality is good. The results are expected Friday.

The ban was imposed by the Collectivité immediately after the storm as a precaution in the interest of public health. Water quality can be polluted by a run-off of soil from hillsides caused by heavy rain, as well as debris, sewage and the opening of ponds to reduce water levels.

Water sports operators on Orient Beach have been frustrated by the time it is taking to get the results. All want to get their businesses up and running as quickly as possible. Another side effect of the ban was that water sports operators had organised activities for schools during the All Saints holiday, but these had to be cancelled.

Director General of Services (DGS) at the Collectivité Pascal Averne said the ban is a "normal procedure" after the passing of every hurricane to protect public health.

Curaçao Parliament discusses instruction

WILLEMSTAD--The Parliament of Curaçao added an additional agenda point to its meeting on Tuesday to discuss with Prime Minister Ivar Asjes (PS) the recent instruction from the Netherlands to the governor of St. Maarten regarding the screening of candidate ministers. The majority spoke out strongly against the measure.

Especially some opposition members were quite vocal in their objection to this latest move by The Hague. MAN-leader Charles Cooper said "we have to stop the Dutch the hard way."

He added that fundamental rights of the people were being trampled. "Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte thinks he can decide what happens on the islands, if he tries it here blood will flow," he threatened.

PAR-member Armin Konket said the instruction not only violates the autonomy of St. Maarten as written in the Kingdom Charter, but has also set a dangerous precedent. According to him, if Curaçao's Minister Plenipotentiary Marvelyne had been told by the government in Willemstad "wash her hands in innocence," then the Council of Ministers will not be able to act if the Netherlands instructs the local governor to interfere with the autonomy of Curaçao.

The PAR-fraction wanted to know from Asjes whether he agrees that this use of the governor by the Netherlands is in conflict with Article 15 of the Rules of Governor. They asked how the prime minister interprets the actions of the Dutch on St. Maarten, with Konket emphasising that the appointment of cabinet members is a matter of the individual countries and not he kingdom.

PAR also requested the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to see what position Wiels took. The Minister Plenipotentiary of Aruba was apparently instructed to vote against the decision.

However, fraction leader Zita Jesus-Leito warned against seeking an all-out war, as "hotheads in the Netherlands but also on Curaçao are going in a direction the people didn't choose." She also emphasised that all kingdom partners should carry their responsibility and stick to agreements."

The PS-fraction announced a motion condemning the instruction. The coalition party does not agree with "Holland deciding who becomes prime minister" and wants the function of governor to be changed to a purely ceremonial one," just like with the Dutch king."

MFK-leader Gerrit Schotte said the screening law in the Netherlands itself is not as strict as that of Curaçao. He told his colleagues in the legislature it's high time to choose whose side they are really on.

PNP-leader Humphrey Davelaar said all these things could be avoided if a veto right for the islands in the Kingdom Council had been demanded when discussing topics directly affecting them.

Independent (former PAR) parliamentarian Omayra Leeflang pointed out that it's the governors who are executing these instructions. "They can judge for themselves and have plenty of advisors, so something must indeed be wrong."

Eleven guns handed in to Stop, Drop and Go

page3a131PHILIPSBURG--Eleven illegal firearms were brought in to the Attorney General's Office in just one day, yesterday, Tuesday October 21.

"The Public Prosecution Service and the police are very satisfied with the cooperation of the people of St. Maarten," announced Prosecutor's Office spokesperson Tineke Kamps in relation to the successful day of the Stop, Drop, and Go campaign.

The firearms included revolvers and other pistols of various calibres. This brings the total number to 17 so far.

Kamps advised that persons wishing to submit a firearm should put said firearm into a brown paper bag and transport it in a plastic bag, with its bullets removed.

The campaign was created to encourage those in possessions of illegal firearms to turn them in to authorities voluntarily without fear of prosecution. It began Wednesday, October 15, and will continue until October 31.It is aimed at reducing the number of illegal firearms on the streets, thereby reducing gun crime.

Following the campaign, authorities on both sides of the island will clamp down on persons in possession of illegal firearms. Stiffer punishment also will be sought for persons found with illegal guns.

Illegal firearm holders can take in their weapons voluntarily to the Attorney General's Office on the third floor of Puerto del Sol building in Simpson Bay in Dutch St. Maarten or the Gendarmerie in French Quarter or Concordia in French St. Martin between 8:30am and 4:30pm during the campaign period.

MPs denounce Dutch gov’t instruction to Governor

page1a130~ Motion to be presented Wednesday ~

PHILIPSBURG--Members of Parliament (MPs) across party lines firmly denounced the Dutch government's instruction to Governor Eugene Holiday for a more thorough screening of incoming ministers from the United People's (UP) party-led government, during an urgent plenary session of Parliament on Monday.

A motion on this issue is expected to be presented when the meeting, which was adjourned Monday evening, reconvenes on Wednesday at 10:00am.

UP leader Theo Heyliger proposed that St. Maarten invite the various fractions in the Parliaments of Curaçao and Aruba to come to St. Maarten to discuss "what is happening in the Kingdom." He proposed that part of the Parlatino budget be used for this.

"What starts in St. Maarten does not end in St. Maarten. It will not end in St. Maarten, it will continue into the other islands of the Dutch Caribbean," Heyliger said as a basis of his proposal.

He said St. Maarten had been at the forefront of establishing rules and laws. The country was one of the first in the Kingdom to establish screening laws passed by Parliament. If there were no reasons for these laws to have been broken, why is there now an instruction to the governor? he asked.

Heyliger said St. Maarten's screening process had worked in the past with proposed candidate ministers being turned down. He said UP was not opposed to screening, as it had nothing to hide.

"You can take me through the wringer. My body is full of scars and bites, so a few more it isn't going to make a big difference to me, but those scars have been inflicted by my St. Maarten people and I have no problem with them being inflicted by my St. Maarten people," Heyliger said.

He added that he would have a problem with the violation of the current laws as the Dutch Government was attempting with this latest move. He started his presentation in Parliament by saying that this was how the process had started when his grandfather, the late Dr. Claude Wathey, had been incarcerated.

He said the additional screening process would mean that the Dutch could use "melee" to deny someone the opportunity to become a minister. He said if the screening to become a minister or Prime Minister would affect his socialising with persons in the community, he did not want the position.

Heyliger said he never had aspired to become a minister or Prime Minister growing up, so not having any of these positions was "no problem" for him. However, he said his parliamentary seat had been given to him by the persons who had voted for him.

Gave life

National Alliance (NA) leader MP William Marlin said it was persons in St. Maarten who "gave life" to the discussions in The Hague regarding integrity issues in the country.

He said it was former minister Roland Duncan who had accused "Heyliger of buying votes" in a media publication in September 2010 and that the Dutch had picked up on it a few days later, seeking clarity on vote-buying in St. Maarten.

"It's not a Dutch minister who said this. It was an Antillean minister who said this about St. Maarten and the Dutch picked it up," Marlin said.

He said too that it was a St. Maarten MP who had accused a political party of bribing him with US $250,000, then $300,000 for his parliamentary support which had led to a formal complaint being made to the prosecutor in 2013.

Marlin also alluded to the "Bada Bing tapes," noting that when the tapes had been released, the club owner had indicated that it was "the leader of a political party" who had approached him to record the tape to blackmail an MP into supporting his political party.

Marlin said these were not "Dutch stories made up in De Telegraaf, they were things said here by us about us. They were allegations made by people here; they were not stories fabricated in Holland."

Marlin said there was talk that democracy in St. Maarten was under siege, but democracy could be under siege only if in a democratic society where elections were supposed to be free they were not.

Regarding the screening process, Marlin said the process had worked in the past by failing candidate ministers and he was confident that if the same process was applied today, St. Maarten could take care of its own screening.

"It is only if Dutch MPs or the Kingdom Council of Ministers has information that we don't have that we can see a justifiable reason for them to bend the governor's hand behind his back," Marlin said.

He said he had his concerns about the process. He believes the Kingdom Government has instructed Holiday prematurely, because "if the system worked in 2010, 2012 and 2013 it can work now again."

Marlin said NA looked forward to the motion and, depending on how it was phrased, it would have the party's support.

Hidden agenda

UP MP Silvio Matser said it appeared as though Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman and Ronald van Raak had "the heat" for St. Maarten and this bothered him.

He said if these Dutch MPs were so concerned they should "write out of Holland and write in to St. Maarten," contest an election and see whether the electorate would endorse them.

He said Dutch MPs had "a lot of friends" in St. Maarten who were feeding them information about St. Maarten. Matser questioned whether some persons were "traitors." He alluded to a photo he had seen with former DP MP Roy Marlin with a Dutch MP and said he would not be captured in such a photo, as he only took such photos with friends.

Matser said it appeared as though there was some hidden agenda behind the instruction to Holiday and said while it was not known now, in time it would be revealed. He said he had received many calls from concerned persons after the instruction was issued.

He urged people not to be fearful, even though the Dutch could use "scare tactics" and threaten to put persons in the Pointe Blanche prison since they "control the justice system."

Unconstitutional

Former United St. Maarten (US) Party MP Leona Marlin-Romeo, who said Sunday that she would declare herself independent, said she found the instruction unconstitutional.

She said screening could not be done in a secretive manner without the candidate knowing the details. St. Maarten's constitution, she added, must be respected. No one is obligated by law to give permission to anyone to violate their fundamental right to privacy.

Heyliger becoming Prime Minister, she added, was miniscule in this process and there must be another agenda. According to her, the new government should be given an opportunity to work on recommendations.

She also questioned why the Netherlands was using two measuring sticks. She said she supported screening and vetting, but it must be conducted by competent professionals in St. Maarten. Romeo-Marlin said she would be submitting a motion in the second round.

Melee

UP MP Johan "Janchi" Leonard said the PricewaterhouseCoopers integrity report was based purely on "melee." Several other MPs alluded to the report being based on melee.

Distracted

However, in his remarks later in the meeting National Alliance (NA) MP Christopher Emmanuel said if the report had been based on "melee," why was St. Maarten so determined to execute its recommendations?

He said when the integrity report had been completed the Dutch Government had requested a response. The response bears the signature of Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson.

Emmanuel said St. Maarten had an integrity issue. He said, "We can go on and on and say what we want about the Dutch ..., but the issue is not the Dutch the issue is us – we. We have the problem. We created the problem, not the Dutch."

He said that with respect to the use of the term "mafia," as MP Theo Heyliger said he had been as called, former Island Council member Julian Rollocks, who ran on UP's slate in the August 29 election, was the one who had called Heyliger a mafia "trying to swindle the crane from us."

"No one from the Dutch voted for anyone in here, so don't divert the attention from the real issue," Emmanuel said, noting that when someone could not obtain a business licence or building permit it was not "the Dutch doing it, it's us doing it to ourselves. And here we are in the hall of the people and it's the Dutch. If the Harbour bidding is done like a cartel it's not the Dutch."

Emmanuel said if MPs did not like what was taking place they should "get out" from under the Netherlands. However, he said, many persons had been complaining, about the Dutch, but were "still holding on to the frock of the queen."

Already here

National Alliance (NA) MP George Pantophlet said St. Maarten was faced with many problems that it had brought upon itself. Pantophlet said he always had maintained as a former Island Council member that St. Maarten should not let "others" do things that it could do for itself.

He said he agreed with sentiments that the instruction placed Holiday in an awkward position, but Holiday had to decide for himself how he would handle the matter. He said while many were saying that the Dutch were coming, the Dutch were already here.

"Look at judicial system: they are here. Look at finances: they are here," Pantophlet said. "The issue now is how do we get them out of here?"

He said the Dutch seemed to be "hell-bent" on ensuring that the incoming government would not be installed and questioned whether they had an agenda. "They always have an agenda. They are businesspeople and they have a good nose for where money is."

He said St. Marten was in a precarious financial situation with many issues facing the people and questioned what MPs were doing as representatives to help the people.

Stand for something

UP MP Tamara Leonard aid the instruction was a direct violation of St. Maarten's constitution. She said if the country did not take a stand for something, it would fall for anything. St. Maarten, she noted, has a screening process that was used to approve and deny ministerial candidates in the past and she questioned what was wrong with the process now.

Pay

UP MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson questioned whether St. Maarten would have to pay for the instruction. He said St. Maarten was a young nation, just four years old, while the Netherlands was 200 years old. He said the parameters of the screening process were not known.

Separation of powers

United St. Maarten Party MP Frans Richardson said St. Maarten had urgent issues that needed to be addressed. He is concerned about the MPs who were sitting in Parliament while holding the function of ministers. He alluded to Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Ministers Cornelius de Weever and Maurice Lake, who were MPs and ministers at the same time.

"This can't continue," Richardson said, noting that there was supposed to be a clear separation of power between the executive and legislative branches of government. He questioned what would happen if he were to call one of the ministers with dual functions to Parliament.

As it related to the instruction, Richardson said Holiday had accepted the job and he had to execute what he thought was best. He said while he would support the still-to-be-presented UP motion, he would not be happy with a motion that had "no teeth." He also called for MPs to "stop bringing down" each other in public.

Beginning of the end

UP MP Maurice Lake urged MPs to take a stand against the instruction to Holiday, as it represented what he said was "the beginning of the end" of St. Maarten if allowed. If the instruction is accepted, the Dutch Government would be able at any time to instruct the governor against signing any other national decrees.

He said the country had reached a point where its autonomy was at stake. The vetting process for candidate ministers is regulated by law and changing this process goes against St. Maarten's constitution and rule of law, he said.

St. Maarten has capable people to perform screening, he said, adding that if there was corruption in the country the relevant laws could be used to investigate and prosecute.

"We have an independent legal system that can do it, but we want to come through the back door and break your own constitution, which is totally wrong."

He said Heyliger was "just an excuse for the Dutch to come in and take over St. Maarten." Lake said Holiday should not follow the instruction and that he should instead "be there for our people."

Violation

Democratic Party MP Cornelius de Weever said the instruction was unconstitutional and a human rights violation. He said while St Maarten had been battling Hurricane Gonzalo it appeared as though Holland had chosen to create its own storm. "But just like we were able to battle and weather the storm of Gonzalo we will weather this storm together as well," De Weever said.

Also speaking at the meeting was UP MP Franklin Meyers. NA MP Silveria Jacobs was unable to attend the meeting due to medical issues.

New President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams chaired the meeting.

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