MP Johan Leonard: “Friendship Treaty works only one way”

POSTED: 09/21/12 1:10 PM

GREAT BAY – Unaware of the decision taken by Justice Minister Roland Duncan about admitting Americans by right to St. Maarten based on the Dutch-American Friendship treaty, members of the parliamentary committee on Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary Relations discussed the treaty’s implications yesterday during a meeting at the parliament building. (See our front page story: First American admitted under Friendship Treaty).

Independent MP Patrick Illidge said that he wanted “to get to the bottom” of the issue and he wondered whether the treaty is still in effect.

“We have to look into whether this works reciprocal,” Illidge said. “Anyone from the United States can establish himself in the Kingdom and work there.”

United People’s party MP Johan Leonard said that the treaty is “not reciprocal. It works only one way. We are not allowed into the United States,” he said.

Committee chair Roy Marlin (DP) said that the treaty is very old. “It stems from the days when the Kingdom wanted to stimulate development in this part of the Kingdom,” he said. “Now someone has pulled it out to make use of it.”

Marlin suggested to the committee to ask its advisor Ralph Richardson to write a position paper about the treaty and to then bring St. Maarten’s concerns to the attention of the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs.

National Alliance MP George Pantophlet considers the topic of extreme importance. “If this is allowed (admitting Americans to St. Maarten under the treaty – ed.) we are heading in the wrong direction,” he said.

MP Leonard added that previously investors would come to the island, while now Americans come here to work. “St. Maarten has become a paradise and the whole world wants to come in and work here,” he said. “We have to protect our own people against those who want to take their bread away.”

Independent MP Frans Richardson said he’d dealt with the treaty from the business end when he was a commissioner in the last Executive Council noted that St. Maarten has little to say about international treaties. “We are part of the Kingdom and we need to realize that if we want to carry our decisions we need to be independent. At this point I think it is more useful to look at the Franco-Dutch treaty.”

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