Opinion: Serious work (Plastkerk’s Integrity instruction)

POSTED: 02/5/15 7:10 PM

Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk apparently has the Kingdom Council of Ministers in his pocket. Otherwise it is tough to explain why the council went so happily along with the idea to threaten St. Maarten with another instruction.

Well, there is one explanation possible: the other ministers in that esteemed company of Dutch politicians do not care about St. Maarten. They probably would be seriously challenged when asked to point out on a globe where exactly that little country of ours is located.

A couple of years ago, D66-leader Alexander Pechtold said it to us: St. Maarten is not on the radar of politicians in The Hague.

We were only on that radar in the early nineties with the airport scandal. We were on the radar when that video featuring Patrick Illidge – now a former Member of Parliament – and Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel showed how things are done on the Friendly Island.

On those occasions, suddenly everyone in The Hague and beyond has something to say about our country, but when it comes to extending a helping hand (for instance, to strengthen law enforcement) there is usually nobody home, or the only reaction is what that generous help is going to cost us.

We are all aware of the ills that hamper St. Maarten’s progress. How can we not be? The difference is that we now have a government that does not look the other way, we have a government that is determined to set wrongs right.

Yes, at Today we know that it is tricky to make such statements about a government that is still green behind the ears – but that expression only applies to the short time it has been in office. There is nothing green about the cabinet-members that are pulling the cart of the Integrity Chamber legislation. These people know their stuff and they are now – completely understandable – totally fed up with the Dutch attitude.

Plasterk said in an interview with the Antilliaans Dagblad that he will keep looking for consensus – something that is simply out of the question as long as his looming instruction is on the table.

One may well wonder what is wrong with Plasterk and his cohorts. Is our system not working? Former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto is entangled in a criminal court case. Former MP Patrick Illidge will soon be in court for bribery. In the somewhat distant past, former MP Louie Laveist was sentenced for bribery. Maria Buncamper-Molanus, a former Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, is on trial for membership of a criminal organization – together with her husband Claudius and a few others. Current MP Silvio Matser has been sentenced for massive tax evasion.

Do we bring up these examples to suggest that we live in a perfect world? Not at all. One could ask the same question in the Netherlands, where greedy bankers and stealing executives have made headlines for years. In St. Maarten, the buddies at the top of the pile can no longer expect to get away with their little schemes anymore.

The thing is, our government wants to make serious work of the recommendations from the integrity-reports. The proof is there: the draft ordinance for the establishment of the Integrity Chamber is at the Council of Advice for review.

And yes, the parliament will have to approve that piece of legislation, but after that it has nothing to do with the functioning of the integrity chamber – unless one of its members becomes the subject of an investigation.

One cannot say, as Justice Minister Dennis Richardson pointed out, that the Dutch lack information about the goings-on in St. Maarten. However, Plasterk, and with him characters like Ronald van Raak and André  Bosman, have a tendency to flavor that information with their own interpretation. More often than not, in doing so, they distort our reality.

Somewhere this has to stop. It is okay to call St. Maarten on its shortcomings. God knows we have them but then, who doesn’t? And if Plasterk or other politicians across the ocean find fault with our country, could they maybe also take the time to suggest solutions without forcing them down our throats via article 51 of the Kingdom Charter? That would be highly appreciated, for sure.

For now we foresee not a Mexican stand-off, but a pointless journey on the road to nowhere. If that instruction comes down in May – and we do not see how Plasterk would back down – what will our government do? Ignore it? In that case, what will Plasterk do? Send in the marines?

Before all this gets completely out of control we suggest that Plasterk gets off his high horse and gives the St. Maarten-style Integrity Chamber a chance. If it ever becomes obvious that it does not work at all, there is time enough to consider other measures. Article 51 is not going anywhere.

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