Lenny Priest writes: Now or never

POSTED: 03/13/16 7:28 PM

Dear Editor,

Let’s purge St. Maarten parliament of all the vote buyers. The good name of St. Maarten once again has been dragged through the mud with the arrest of one of the Members of Parliament who is supporting the existing government. Most elected officials and others who were not elected but have bought votes are scared stiff and are hoping that nobody would come forward with proof that they paid for their votes.

No one could have expected an arrest for vote buying after a previous attempt to charge another politician was thrown out of the court. It still comes as a total surprise that this arrest is about voting buying. Everybody knows that vote buying has been going on in St. Maarten from the days of the late Dr. Claude Wathey and others who were part of his team.

In the 1990s I remembered many candidates on the Democratic Party list having a book and they were issuing bonds to people to pick up building material and equipment from many hardware stores for votes. The opposition didn’t have that luxury as they were not in office, therefore they could not match the red machine in those days.

The ironic thing was that those suppliers were being paid from the government coffers. Today it has moved from the government coffers to the coffers of the business community. And if that is not enough corruption has become the order of the day to buy votes from those funds. The Vorst Estate was purchased for 8.1 million guilders while all the appraisal reports are for much less; this is a clear example of corruption at the highest level. Somebody was paid off and handsomely at best.

The extension of the Checkmate Security contract is another one such corrupt deal with many persons including politicians having been paid off. All those reckless decisions are hurting the ordinary citizens while the elected officials are enjoying their high salaries and collecting big times on their corrupt deals. Those deals need to be investigated.

Over the years all the political parties and many politicians from the established political parties have been buying votes. In many cases they have been paying from $300 to $500 or even more for those votes. The phone has become the instrument to prove to those who are paying for the votes. Seven months later many of those voters are walking around with the pictures that they took of their vote. They use this to let those elected officials know that they voted for them in the event they are requesting some service from the government or the politician whom they voted for.

Now is just as good as any time for us to purge the entire parliament of St. Maarten and hope that those coming in would really work in the interest of the people. Today the Crime Fund should be used to establish a reward for those person or persons who still have proof that they were paid to vote. It is guaranteed that many of those voters who still have the proof in their phones would provide that proof for a fee of $500. Those voters that provided that proof must be granted immunity from prosecution this time around. But a stern warning should be issued for the next election that the vote buyers and the sellers would be prosecuted if caught. It is now or never.

Lenny Priest,

Leader One St. Maarten People Party (OSPP)

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