~ Illegal attainment of Dutch nationality ~
PHILIPSBURG--A total of 20 passports have been revoked since 2011 due to what Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams says are “administrative errors” and “the illegal attainment of the Dutch nationality.”
This information was contained in a written response dated April 14 from Wescot-Williams to Parliament on a number of questions posed on the issue by National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) George Pantophlet.
This is the first-time information on the number of persons affected by the passport debacle has been made public. Wescot-Williams said last week that it was not a “thunder load of persons” who had been affected. In her press release Sunday, she lashed out at Pantophlet, who said late last week that he was yet to receive a response to questions he had asked almost two months ago about the revocation of passports.
Wescot-Williams said in a release that she had provided written answers to Parliament in a letter dated April 14. She also provided a copy of the answers.
However, Pantophlet told this newspaper Sunday, while the PM did respond to questions he had asked following an NA press conference earlier this year, she has never responded to the critical questions asked during a Parliament meeting where the issue was raised. Pantophlet said he had asked what countries and nationalities were affected and what the specific reasons were for the revocation of the passports.
He had also asked to be provided with a copy of the agreement between the Department of Civil Registry and the Governor, which he said he never received.
In her April 14 response, Wescot-Williams said despite naturalisation, every subsequent passport application is screened according to the agreement (covenant) with the governor’s cabinet after 10/10/10. All applications that seem questionable are placed under investigation and all the required documents to provide authentication and/or to verify information must be presented.
She said too that there are some persons who had been naturalised, but their parents’ information had never been registered in the database. These persons were registered years ago with a passport and a valid permit, but never submitted their birth certificate. This, she said, appears as an error in the system. The laws stipulate that each resident must be registered with a birth certificate.
Wescot-Williams said according to article 28.1 of the Passport Law, the Governor must be sure that the identity and nationality of the individual are accurate. There should be no doubt, she noted. Should there be doubts, then article 28:2 states that the relevant documents must be supplied to complete the application.
On the issue of registration, Wescot-Williams said the Civil Registry Department has the responsibility to provide reliable and accurate information. She said all residents who are registered and intend to leave the island must write out of the Civil Registry as stipulated in the law.
In her press release, Wescot-Williams called on MPs to refrain from making political jabs and misleading statements for political gain. Alluding to Pantophlet’s statement, Wescot-Williams said serious issues should “not be politicised” in the run-up to the August elections. "I will continue to express my disappointment in those MPs who deliberately mislead the people with their insinuations and political jabs when dealing with serious issues.”
“MP Pantophlet alleged that the PM did not send clarification regarding questions related to the passport issue, while a clarification letter was sent to Parliament dated the 14th of April 2014,” Wescot-Williams said.
All matters related to passports, she added, are regulated by law, as she said, “Is clearly mentioned in the letter addressed to Parliament. The matter at hand is regulated by law. A law of country St. Maarten.”
The Prime Minister said she responded to eight questions posed by Parliament, giving elucidation on the Civil Registry having the responsibility of providing accurate information in compliance with the applicable articles; the cleaning up of the Civil Registry database; the necessity to amend the law with regards to St. Maarten students living in the Netherlands voting during elections; the screening of passport applications by the Governor’s Cabinet since 10/10/10, the need for birth certificates; the regulation as it applies to persons born in the former Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and the Netherlands and the revoking of passports due to existing issues.
MPs, she notes, have the right to initiate changes to the laws to reflect the needs of the people of St. Maarten. Politicising important issues amounts to political jabbing. “MPs have the right to initiate changes they deem beneficial to the people of St. Maarten. However, rather than initiate a discussion of this nature on, amongst other things, changing the law with government, cheap political jabs are thrown left and right.
“These I will deal with in a political context as well. Some politicians have an axe to grind with a particular department, civil servant or individual, others just the opposite. Too often questions to the responsible Minister reflect exactly these patterns. As political lists are being prepared this is becoming more and more evident,” she said.
“The final responsibility for the management of the Civil Registry lies with the Minister of General Affairs. And in that capacity I can always review and question the relevant department as to the implementation of the law. With the many questions in the community regarding procedures at the Census Office, it is my responsibility to investigate and evaluate, but also to educate. I do so in collaboration with the management and other stakeholders.”
Regarding the meeting requested by Parliament on the proposed merger of the TelEm Group with United Telecommunications Services (UTS), Wescot-Williams said Parliament had been presented with answers to the more than 100 questions asked on Thursday, June 12. “In its wisdom, Parliament has postponed the continuation of this meeting until Monday," she noted.
Wescot-Williams said more information on this topic and on the position of Government as shareholder of Government companies will follow.