Court sides with Americans in Friendship Treaty battle – Minister Duncan ordered to take new decisions within five weeks –

POSTED: 09/12/12 1:56 PM

St. Maarten – Justice Minister Roland Duncan suffered another defeat in the administrative court yesterday, when Judge René van Veen ruled against him in three identical cases of American citizens who ask to be admitted by right to St. Maarten based on the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation.
Tina Marie Abbott, co-owner and director of Michael’s Day cruises N.V., Claire Lorraine Talmi-Zarrelli and her husband Shai and Ricardo Perez, manager of the Oyster Bay Beach Resort and his family, all have been entangled in legal procedures with the minister to obtain their residency based on the treaty.

On August 27, attorney Amador Muller, asked the court to postpone the case for six weeks to give the Justice Ministry the opportunity to complete a new policy it is working on. Minister Duncan intends to write narrower definitions for two terms in the treaty with the apparent objective of making it more difficult for American citizens to call on it.
Yesterday the administrative court denied that request. “The defendant has had enough time. First of all the defendant has been ordered by a court order of July 25, 2011 (in the case of Perez – ed.) to take a new decision on the request within eight weeks.” That decision only came in November of that year, so much later.
In the new decision– contested by Perez – the minister considers “that the limitations mentioned in the treaty do not leave space to grant residency by right.” Judge van Veen wrote in his ruling that this is “incomprehensible.”
“The equalization for admittance of American citizens with European Dutch makes admittance by law the rule.”

The treaty grants equal treatment for Americans who want to do business in the Kingdom, who want to make significant investments in a company and who want to stay in the Kingdom for other purposes. Minister Duncan wants to make a definition of these “other purposes” part of a new policy.
But according to the court ruling the term “other purposes” includes all reasons for staying on the island. The limitations the minister has in mind are irrelevant for the cases at hand, the court ruled: Those measures are not there now and the request by the plaintiff has to be checked against the current legislation, not against future and completely unknown regulations. The Friendship Treaty is more than 50 years old and the defendant has therefore had more than fifty years to take measures.”

In the case of Perez, the court ordered the minister to take a new decision within five weeks, because it is the second time the court voids a decision by the minister; it imposed a penalty of 200 guilders for every day he does not comply with the ruling. The maximum in penalties is 20,000 guilders (a bit more than $11,000).
In the cases of Abbott and Talmi the court arrived at the same conclusion, though these parties had not asked it to impose a penalty.

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Court sides with Americans in Friendship Treaty battle - Minister Duncan ordered to take new decisions within five weeks - by

Comments (1)


  1. Ricardo Perez says:

    Dutch American Friendship Treaty decision why it is GOOD for St. Maarten!

    First of all I would like to express how pleased and grateful my family and I are with the latest decision of the Courts regarding the enforcement of the Dutch American Friendship Treaty. Hopefully, it means that we are getting closer to the end of what we feel was an unnecessary legal saga and it will provide my family with some peace of mind in this regard.

    Additionally, I would like to point out why I believe that if you have the attitude to look at the “glass half full” you could clearly see why the application of the Treaty will be a very positive thing for St. Maarten for the following reasons:

    -St. Maarten 1956 vs. St. Maarten 2012: When the treaty was entered between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United States in 1956 the spirit and the intent of the agreement was to facilitate and incentivize foreign investments into the Kingdom and its territories at a time when the economic situation was grim and it was much needed. Unfortunately 56 years later St. Maarten finds itself in a similar situation where foreign capital, entrepreneurship, and certain skilled labor is hard to find. Why not embrace and facilitate that investment from a country that is geographically close to St. Maarten and that has demonstrated over the years its support, love and enjoyment of the island?

    -Marketing the benefits of the Treaty: St. Maarten receives an estimated 70% of its guest flow from the U.S. per year, what an opportunity to demonstrate to our major market source how we appreciate their business. U.S. tourists would now be able to stay up to 6 months without the necessity of any paperwork extensions or interference to their enjoyment. All tourists destinations are always searching for ways to extend their guest stay, since longer stays means more financial influx to their economies. Here we have an opportunity staring us right on the face, let’s take advantage of it and give it a positive spin.

    From the Real Estate side what a marketing tool this could be for showing prospective affluent U.S. purchasers t one of the benefits on owning in St. Maarten is the easiness of staying on the island up to 6 months without the need of any paperwork besides your passport? Since we now live in a global community where our local publications are followed by people all over the world I have already received numerous emails from people that are looking forward to spending more time on the island based on this “new” development of the Treaty.

    -Volunteerism and public service attitude of U.S. Professionals: Most U.S. professional living abroad are known for their community service attitude towards the places that have embraced them as their temporary or permanent homes. St. Maarten has not been the exception. Literally dozens of Americans donate countless hundreds of hours per year in St. Maarten side by side with local professionals providing their knowledge, education and expertise for the benefit to the community and the island as a whole without asking anything in exchange. I have no doubt that the Treaty if properly marketed will serve as an invaluable tool to attract some more investors and professionals of this caliber to the island, which in turn should result in additional employment opportunities for the community.

    I sincerely hope that this will be the last stage of this case. I also hope that the relevant authorities “look at the glass half full” and embrace the Treaty as quickly as possible as an opportunity for the overall improvement of St. Maarten socially and economically which we all know is badly needed.

    Ricardo Perez