Integrity Chamber meets resistance from coalition

POSTED: 04/10/15 12:17 PM

St. Maarten – The draft ordinance for the establishment of St. Maarten’s Integrity Chamber met with unexpected opposition from within the governing coalition yesterday. Members of the opposition also expressed their doubts. Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs said that he is facing a May 5 deadline. On that date, the Dutch Council of State renders judgment on the advice the Kingdom Council of Ministers has requested about a looming instruction for St. Maarten. That measure would force the Integrity Chamber-concept Minister Plasterk (Kingdom Relations) has in mind upon St. Maarten.

Executing recommendations from last year’s integrity reports is part of the governing accord the United People’s party signed off on together with independent MPs Leona Marlin-Romeo and Cornelius de Weever. Part of these recommendations is the establishment of an Integrity Chamber. But yesterday it appeared that Members of Parliament across the board have a problem with such an institution.

Even UP-leader Theo Heyliger has issues with the concept, but he said in the pressroom that in the end he will not be able to vote against the legislation. What others in his faction will do remains to be seen.

UP-MP Silvio Matser, the only parliamentarian with a criminal conviction to his name (for tax evasion) spoke even of “a Gestapo-mentality” coming down on St. Maarten with the establishment of the Integrity Chamber.

Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs said at the beginning of the Central Committee meeting that the draft-law is not what the Dutch want. “We have set out to present a law in the interest of the people in St. Maarten.” He said that the Dutch government is being unfair with its attempt to issue a general measure of kingdom governance (AMvRB) on St. Maarten, based on article 51 of the Kingdom Charter.

“They will have to go through the Council of State for advice and the Council of State will have to consult with St. Maarten. I am confident, once we proceed, that the Council of State will tell the Dutch government that they are wrong.”

Gumbs said that an eventual AMvRB means “higher supervision on all of us.”

Independent MP Cornelius de Weever attacked the integrity of the authors of one of the integrity reports, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and noted “that we cannot just swallow what they want.” He wondered “why we are doing this to ourselves,” and asked whether “the government wrote the draft-law or that it used a template provided by Dutch technocrats.”

UP-MP Silvio Matser also wondered whether the draft is a duplicate of what the Dutch government wants. “What are the consequences of this law for the life of people in St. Maarten?” he asked. “Ninety percent of the articles are like establishing a Gestapo-mentality on this island. I am not able to live with this.”

“You are doing this because the Dutch are forcing it down our throat,” Christopher Emmanuel (National Alliance) said. “We are here because of rogue politicians who are doing what they want with this country. The Dutch government has a problem with this government, not with the people of our country.” Emmanuel suggested going after the individuals that are responsible for integrity-breaches instead of throwing the Integrity Chamber like a blanket over the whole country.

Sarah Wescot-Williams (Democratic Party) said that the draft ought to be available in the English language “so that the people are able to discuss along.”

William Marlin spoke of interference from The Hague and said that the government had succumbed to pressure from the Dutch Second Chamber. He referred to the Bakhuis-report and the Pourier-report. After these reports “nothing was done to fix things.” However, the result of the Pourier-report was higher supervision.

The Bakhuis-report dates back to the seventies of last century; it dealt with abuses in the Netherlands Antilles, including St. Maarten. The Pourier-report, dealing with the decision making process in St. Maarten, appeared in 1992.

UP-MP Theo Heyliger had just a few questions for the government, the most interesting being “What will happen if we do not pass this law?”

He furthermore asked how people would be able to defend themselves against accusations of integrity-breaches. “There should be a defense-mechanism,” he said.

Heyliger also asked what would happen if the Netherlands and St. Maarten disagree about the appointment of the third (joint) member to the Integrity Chamber.

At 7.30 p.m., parliament took a break to give the government the opportunity to prepare its answers.

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