No official start yet to integrity investigation of country St. Maarten

POSTED: 10/10/13 12:10 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Wescot-Williams and the Council of Ministers met this week with Governor Drs. Eugene Holiday and discussed the Kingdom instruction for an integrity investigation. Wescot-Williams said that she discussed the issue on Monday during her weekly consultation with the governor, and that on Tuesday there was the quarterly consultation with the Council of Ministers.

The PM declined to go into details of these discussions, but she said at Wednesday’s press briefing that she had not been approached or informed about the start of the investigation. ”The government will have to be informed,” Wescot-Williams said. “Once it is official we will know what we have to tell our civil servants.”

The PM reiterated that the government would prohibit civil servants from cooperating with the investigation.

Wescot-Williams said that there is “a feeling , a need, some desire, especially by the Minister of Kingdom Relations Plasterk and Prime Minister Rutte that is not reflected in the resolution they have drafted,. If they could explain to me what that is we might be able to move forward.”

The prime minister said she had forwarded an information package to the parliament wherein she indicates that there is “a clear signal in writing” from Plasterk that ”puts a pressure on the relationship.” That signal has to do with the turnover tax St. Maarten levies on goods that are exported to Saba and Statia; the Dutch government has been urging St. Maarten to no avail to remove this tax.

The PM said that civil servants working for the Dutch tax inspectorate had been instructed to create a “technical blockade” and not to cooperate with St. Maarten until the issues with the two smaller islands have been resolved. Finance Minister Hassink had asked the Dutch tax inspectorate for cooperation with the reform of the tax inspectorate in St. Maarten.

Wescot-Williams furthermore acknowledged that the contract with Transparency International for a National Integrity System assessment had not been signed yet. “I need to be mandated to sign that contract and that mandate needs to be formalized with the signature of the governor,” she said. The Transparency International investigation will cost the government approximately €200,000 (around $272,000).

The prime minister confirmed that Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges had not used the option of continued consultation (or internal appeal) in the Kingdom Council of Ministers to object to the max against the instruction to the governor in the meeting of September 27, though he was aware of the possibility to do this. “It was clear that this would not make any difference,” Wescot-Williams said. “The position of Minister Plasterk and Prime Minister Rutte on this issue was clear. In fact, even before the meeting of September 27 it all signals were that this resolution would come down no matter what. An internal appeal is a constitutional possibility, but it only makes sense if there is an opening to have a discussion, to sit down and listen to our opinion. You don’t have to agree with us, but at least hear us. That is totally lacking in the relationship with the Netherlands. We preferred not to get into that continued consultation but rather ask advice from the Council of State.”

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