Opinion: Brooks Tower fiasco

POSTED: 05/28/12 2:32 PM

We’ll make a genuine effort to wrap our mind around the Brooks Tower fiasco. The court case against Evelyn H. yesterday made clear that what should have been a decent solution for the islands illegal residents has turned into an incredible mess.
Well, we knew that already, but the details that emerged in court yesterday suggest that this scheme was abused on some pretty high levels. At the heart of it all, however, is the flip-flopping by Justice Minister Duncan who apparently could not or would not blow the final whistle when the deadline expired.
To be fair to our Minister, the chaos must of course have started under the responsibility of the last Justice Minister of the Netherlands Antilles Magali Jacoba. She stuck like white on rice to St. Maarten during the execution of the program in 2010. At press conferences, Jacoba assured everybody that her team was doing a fantastic job and that everything went smoothly. Nothing to worry about.
When the file was finally transferred to St. Maarten, Brooks Tower became Duncan’s’ headache. And it should have been so simple. The idea was to grant temporary residence permits to two groups of residents. Those who received a 1-year permit under Brooks Tower-1 could apply for a 1- or 3-year extension (depending on the category) under Brooks Tower-2.
Category 3 was of course the group destined to cause the biggest problems: these are illegals that arrived in St. Maarten after December 31, 2005. They are (or maybe it’s better to say, were) not entitled to a permit. Not under BT-1 and not under BT-2.
The lofty purpose of the Brooks Tower architects was that the category-3 illegals would be obliged to leave the island. That this would be a mission impossible must have been clear from the get go to Minister Duncan, but he never made statements to that effect in public.
When all hell broke loose in early 2011 with some ugly arrests, the Brooks Tower files were scrutinized. Investigators found that 1,600 applicants were actually certified illegals. In other words: these were the people who were supposed to leave St. Maarten on the first boat.
Minister Duncan however made clear that he was not going to throw these people off the island. He said so in public this time. If that baffled a lot of people, it certainly escaped out attention.
Duncan knew of course by looking at the immigration situation in other countries that illegal citizens are not like decoded products you’re able to move to the market of your choice.
Americans whine a lot about the 12 million illegal Mexicans in their country, and there are few citizens in the land of Uncle Sam ready to admit that these illegals will never leave.
Same thing in St. Maarten: the illegals we have will stay here – at least, most of them. Even better: as long as St. Maarten’s economy tops that of surrounding islands, the number of illegals will increase, unless the government finds a way to plug the numerous leaks in the country’s borders.
Duncan’s instruction to his Brooks Tower project leader to help everybody, as she claimed he did in court yesterday, seems an almost logical decision. But Duncan should have made this instruction an official policy. He should have put the decision on paper and given his underlings clear explanations about what exactly he meant by that.
While the minister once claimed that his oral instructions are as valid as his written ones, Evelyn H. knows better by now. the badly explained instruction tricked her into doing something she never should have done – and no one knows this better that this defendant. She made a mistake – there are no two ways about this, but she also is, as she said in court yesterday, a victim of this whole sordid situation, while the minister washed his hands off it.

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