Minister Richardson about looming instruction: “Administrative blackmail”POSTED: 04/23/15 6:40 PM
Minister Dennis Richardson at the Council of State on Monday. Photo Nico van der Ven
THE HAGUE – It does not look like the Netherlands and Sint Maarten will reach an agreement about the establishment of the Integrity Chamber, Pieter Hofmann reports on Caribisch Netwerk, based on an interview he had with Justice Minister Dennis Richardson yesterday morning. If there is no agreement, the country risks a General Measure of Kingdom Governance from the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
Justice Minister Richardson spoke with the Kingdom Council of State on Monday about the issue. Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk took part in this meeting.
Richardson is upset about the looming instruction. “Sint Maarten totally opposes that, because we were in the process of executing the recommendations from the integrity report of the Wit-Samson-committee and we already had a draft law ready.” This draft law offers legal protection to people who become the subject of an integrity-breach.
The Netherlands does not believe that St. Maarten has the self-cleaning power to tackle corruption. The Hague wants an Integrity Chamber that falls under the Kingdom Council of Ministers. Sint Maarten wants to stay in control, but Plasterk does not trust the country’s parliament.
The looming instruction is a form of “administrative blackmail,” Richardson says. “The General Measure gives an Integrity Chamber dominated by the Netherlands an enormous discretionary authority – in another country, would you believe. I am curious to know how people would react if France or Germany imposed that here.”
“A general measure is an option of last resort, when things threaten to go wrong and the country does not take any measures,” Richardson says. “That is absolutely not the case here. Plasterk sent his secretary-general twice to St. Maarten to negotiate. We have reached an agreement for 99.9 percent. There is only one issue the Dutch were less happy with.”
The minister defends the concept of the legal protection. “We cannot do this any other way. We are living in a constitutional democracy and you are innocent until proven otherwise. In a small community you are guilty until there is proof that you are innocent.”
Richardson emphasized that his country needs time. “I find the arrogance in the way the Netherlands speaks about this ridiculous. It took them 500 years to reach the level they are at now. Sint Maarten is entering its fifth year. The island has not been prepared for country status; it used to be some sort of municipality of the Netherlands Antilles. The democratic process still has to take shape.”
According to Richardson, Sint Maarten is doing its utmost to catch up. “Sint Maarten has made this a priority. If they had not wanted it, they could have moved the Integrity Chamber to the background, but Sint Maarten has pulled it forward. The report speaks about an Integrity Chamber within three years. We had a draft law in parliament within a bit more than six months.”
“The reports say that the architecture of the administration still lacks rules. They have to be established. The weak point is compliance. If someone breaks the rules, we are doing little about it,” Richardson says.
The Integrity Chamber has to put a stop to that. It will have the authority to investigate and to give binding advice. The parliament has not approved the legislation yet, but Richardson expects that it will give the green light for the establishment of the Integrity Chamber.