Opinion: Confrontation (Cadastre Office and Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge)

POSTED: 07/20/12 12:31 PM

The story about the confrontation at the Cadastre office between director Clemens Roos, MP Patrick Illidge, his first cousin Roberto Richardson and MP Roy Marlin has triggered a lot of reactions.
Christopher Emmanuel took the role of mouthpiece for Patrick Illidge (with whom he was a candidate for the National Alliance in the September 2010 elections) by criticizing this newspaper for reporting accurately about Illidge’s choice of words during the heated encounter. Not a word about Illidge’s behavior, but to know the true meaning of a message, one has to know the messenger.
The web site sxmislandtime published a brief story about our article, though it misquoted our headline. Part of the headline read “Do not ** with parliamentarians” where the web site turned this into “Do not F*** with parliamentarians.” The site then posted a podcast containing Emmanuel’s criticism.
There were eleven reactions to the story on this web site and nine of them were supportive of our story and highly critical of the behavior of the MPs and of Emmanuel’s reaction to it. We’re not going into the nitty-gritty of these comments; anybody who wants to read them will find them in the July-archives of sxmislantime.
Then there was the reaction from Leopold James, the ageing founder of the St. Maarten Nation Building Foundation. James somehow arrived at the conclusion that this newspaper insulted the people of St. Maarten. It takes an extremely elastic brain to turn a newspaper report about improper behavior by MP Illidge into an insult to the entire population – and we sure as hell don’t have one.
Who insulted whom here? That’s not even the question because we figure that Cadastre director Roos is man enough to handle such a verbal attack. And how many people, apart from Leopold James, are now feeling insulted because we reported what Illidge actually said? We did not get any angry letters from readers and so far Christopher Emmanuel is the only one to rant about it.
More disturbing than this infantile quibbling about a four-letter word is the fact that all this diverts the attention from the real issues.
MP Roy Marlin, who made several attempts to defuse the tension in the meeting, while he made at the same time a point of the fact that the Cadastre director is not from here, said in a media report that he is now seeking the director’s dismissal, knowing darn well that hiring and firing at the Cadastre is the domain of its supervisory board.
The argument that Roos is “not from here” is rather silly. Marlin even called the director a “Johnny-come-lately,” a sobriquet oft used in a derogatory way and as a way to avoid a meaningful discussion about the real issue.
We are supposed to learn from our experiences. Out of everything bad, something good usually emerges. To get around the non-arguments the question the critics who use them should ask themselves is why they are doing this.
Since we are always happy to help the people, as Michael Ferrier would say, we have a couple of suggestions to offer. Mind you, these are just opinions and opinions are like you-know-what: everybody has one; we are not pretending that ours are any better than those of the next guy.
The “not from here” argument is a bit of a Pavlov-reaction. It is most often used to dismiss a point of view somebody does not like. Sometimes there are also racial undertones that suggest that black people have trouble accepting something as true or meaningful from somebody with a different skin color. Former culture Minister Rhoda Arrindell would probably argue that this is due to the colonial slave trade.
But most of all, we are confronted here with a hardcore insular mentality combined with a solid dose of stubbornness: we have always done things this way, do not come and tell us how to do them.
That sentiment is based on a form of foreigner-fear. It is not unique to St. Maarten: we have experienced the same attitude elsewhere in the world. It is, of course, a road to nowhere, if people refuse to embrace new ideas or to adapt to better ways of doing things. Standing still is a form of going backwards, though it is possible to turn this into an advantage for those who are prepared to wait long enough. That is a thought based on the following philosophy: if you stand still long enough, one day you’ll find yourself at the front of the pack again.
It is hard to see though how this would apply to the Cadastre. The office has implemented a digital registration system and it still has a truckload of work to do to correct the mistakes that have crept into the system over the years.
The new system does not allow for hanky-panky, or for cutting corners. From what we hear, this is how things were always done in the past. If you knew the right people, or you paid the right amount of money, you would always get what you wanted. That candy-store at the cadastre closed down for good when Kadsys was installed and now members of parliament have to play by the rules like everybody else.
That is the heart of the problem. Now there is a backlog at the Cadastre to deal with certain dossiers (we do not know whether this is the case), this may obviously lead to frustrations with people who want certain documents and are unable to obtain them. We get that. But flaunting the rules is not the way to solve these situations.
The supervisory board is in place to keep an eye on the Cadastre’s functioning. So far, the board has remained silent, a position from which it is not possible to draw any conclusion. The Ministry of Vromi also has not given any indication that it is dissatisfied with the Cadastre’s functioning. By next week Thursday the ministry is expected to react to the report the Ombudsman published about the Cadastre.
In the meantime it seems wise to keep our eyes on the ball and to examine the behavior of politicians who think it is okay to use four-letter words in their attempts to bend the rules for their first cousins to their advantage.

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