Emilio Wilson ruling triggers animated debate “The court can never be above the people”

POSTED: 02/24/14 11:52 PM

St. Maarten –Friday’s decision by the Court in First Instance to sentence the government to purchase the Emilio Wilson Estate for $17 million from Henri Brookson and the Paas family triggered an animated discussion on Facebook this weekend.

“What a thing,” wrote Emilio Kalmera, the financial controller at the St. Maarten Housing Development foundation. “I guess the court did not consider “algemeen belang” (general interest – ed.). If it is not the best interest of the country due to financial reasons, the government can abandon the agreement or adjust the terms in the interest of sxm. The court can never be above the people. If that is the case, forget about democracy.”

Quite some Facebook-visitors agreed with Kalmera’s position – but not all of them. “Old people say, “when you don’t have you don’t have,” Cherryl Javois wrote. “So this is going to be an added burden for the island. Taxes going up anytime soon?”

Minelva Cocks: “A court actually ordering a country into deep debt. I smell corruption through and through. Lot of people’s pockets getting filled from this verdict.”

Sjaoel Shooz Richardson noted that this is “the third controversial verdict in a few days by this judge. I think it’s time he looks for employment elsewhere.”

Environmentalist Rueben Thompson had a question for Kalmera: ‘Tell me Emilio, I know you pay attention to these sorts of things. How much has the new government building cost the tax payers and how much does it cost us per month?”

Henry Lynch offered that the monthly cost is between $300,000 and $400,000, while Sjaoel Richardson wondered what the question has to do with the court order.

Thompson replied with a barrage of questions. “How much have we already paid and do we continue to pay for this new government building? How much schools could we have built for the amount spent? How much of our heritage could we have bought back for the amount spent for a building that is not yet in use? How much money would now have been available for projects such as the purchase of the Emilio Wilson Estate if government had established an Environmental fund supplied by revenue from the cruise passenger head tax as first recommended in the island council in 2006 or 2007? How much money would have been available for not only projects aimed at saving our natural or cultural heritage but other much needed projects of government would stop appeasing the cruise line industry and increase the cruise passenger head tax and subsequently allocate the funds to such projects?”

Apart from that, Thompson stuck to his guns: “You blame the judge, I say change the politicians. Has our leaders made enough effort to keep their commitments to the people over the years and to the estate owners since 2012 we could have saved some costs. A big brown bird suggested to me a particular government-owned company should step forward and help ease the burden of purchasing the estate. Seems they have enough funds.”

That argument did not change Sjaoel Richardson’s opinion: “Yes, I blame the judge. This means that any minister can sign off on whatever agreement and saddle the country with whatever consequence, because it is deemed irrevocable. (We can hold those who signed financially accountable according to the verdict). Yes, I blame the judge because law is not only for politicians. (…..) I understand the sentiments surrounding actions and repercussions when it comes to politicians, but this post is about “algemeen belang” versus a cowboy judge. This judge needs to go. The question arises: are there higher motives in play?”

Vasco Daal approached the situation from a different angle: “If contracts or an agreement with the sxm government has no more weight on Sint Maarten, then that is a much more dangerous precedent. By the way, if government does not have any money, why not do a land-swap deal?”

Rueben Thompson brought an argument forth that has also been expressed by this newspaper: “One could credibly argue that under the current system there is too much authority with the individual ministers and less collective responsibility. Is that the judge’s fault? Absolutely not. Did William (Marlin – ed.) make agreements with the landowners on his own? Of course not, the purchase was made public by both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. There should be continuity in government regardless of who is in power to guarantee the reliability of the government as a contract partner. What do you think would have happened if William had revoked the permits for the bridge? Had it come to court we would have had a similar verdict. The judge is not the problem at all.”

Thompson furthermore stated that the court can never be above the people. If that is the case then forget democracy.


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