Opinion: Headaches

POSTED: 06/27/13 3:37 PM

If it was not clear yet, it must be clear now: the Netherlands will not meddle in political developments in St. Maarten. It will not dive into questions about the disputed integrity of candidate-ministers and it will also not interfere in any way in criminal investigations.

Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plaster said in answer to questions by VVD-MP André Bosman that he is not in a position to make statements about these issues. He showed some political elasticity though by stating that “in general” for instance vote-buying is not good for a democracy – any democracy.

Wow, we knew that already. But the fact hurts that the 2010 vote-buying scandal to our knowledge has never been investigated, even though the police force offered its own investigation into possible wrongdoing by a couple of its officers on a silver platter to the prosecutor’s office.

Reading the year plan the prosecutor’s office has laid out for 2014 we fear that there is more bad news underway in the field of corruption. That is, mainly, because this report does not even contain the word corruption. Murder and manslaughter, burglaries, youth criminality, drugs, domestic violence and financial crimes – to name a few from the top of our head – are the priorities when the New Year comes rolling around.

Nowhere in the year plan is the National Detective Agency mentioned. This is the office that investigates crimes committed by or against civil servants and politicians. Only the annual report of Attorney General Dick Piar refers in three lines to this agency, stating that in 2012 the Attorney General ordered it “several times” to conduct investigations.

It is a meager reflection on issues that usually generate truckloads of consternation mixed in with the inevitable gossip.

If fighting corruption within the government is not a priority of the Public Prosecutor’s Office then this decision is almost an invitation to civil servants and politicians to do whatever they want, to grab whatever advantage that comes along.

This is clearly wrong, because in the long term this will erode the quality and the credibility of our democracy. We should not expect eagerness from politicians in the field of self-policing, even though they have plenty of opportunities to clean up their own mess and to say to the electorate: see? We’re serious about staying on the straight and narrow.

Politicians are talking a lot about electoral reform. That sounds interesting, and maybe somebody will come up with a format that has some benefits, but it is not the issue here. Where is the politician that wants to tackle campaign financing? We mean: before the elections take place next year?

Where is the politician that wants to improve the screening process for candidate-ministers by taking it to the same level as Curacao?

We figure that such a politician has not been born yet. The people that favor such changes are not in politics and if they are clever, they will never go there. Because at the end of the day, politics is more about making deals and what’s in it for me, than it is about that popular hollow catch phrase: “working for the people”.

We wish André Bosman in the Netherlands lots of strength with the questions he will keep posing to Minister Plasterk. The answers will always be the same: the minister is aware of the situation, and he may even express some concerns, but St. Maarten will always have to deal with its own headaches. Plasterk just stops short of saying: not my problem.

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