Opinion: Vote-buying humor

POSTED: 10/8/12 2:42 PM

Okay, we know that politicians have a tendency to reward people who are ready to give them their vote. Politicians call this helping people, while prosecutors may have a word like bribery in mind. Some consider it a cultural thing, a bit like cock fighting. Our forebears have done it for ages and nobody ever made a problem of it, so what is suddenly wrong with it now?
The sad thing is of course that vote-buying is not a priority for law enforcement; otherwise the police officers and the VKS-er who sold their vote to the UP party of former Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger in 2010 for a measly $300 would have met their fate in court a long time ago. People may be forgiven for forgetting all about this case or for thinking that the culprits will never be prosecuted anyway.
When we asked Louis Duzanson in 2010 whether it is illegal to buy votes (or to sell them) he said that this is not so because there is no transaction, only a promise. It’s more of a moral issue, Duzanson said.
DP-leader and now Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams however disagrees with this opinion and referred in 2010 to a couple of articles in the criminal code.
And indeed, article 132 of the Antillean penal code, like article 126 of the Dutch penal code states the following. “He who on the occasion of a by legal decree called election through gift or promise bribes someone to exercise his or someone else’s voting rights in a certain way, or to not exercise this right, will be punished with a maximum prison sentence of six months or a fine of the third category.”
The same penalty applies to those who let themselves be bribed.
The maximum fine in the third category in the Netherlands is currently €7,600 or close to $9,900. The fine under Antillean law is negligible: 300 guilders, or a bit more than $165.
Someone who is found guilty of vote buying or selling could also lose active and/or passive voting rights.
Vote-buying became a topic this week after the Dutch newspaper the Telegraaf reported about possible vote-buying by ousted Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte. But while there was abundant proof for the 2010-case in St. Maarten, the reports about Schotte seem to be based on rumors and innuendos. In typical Telegraaf-style, reporters Edwin Timmers and Alex de Vries write about rumors that are becoming more persistent, about the offering of cash, smart phones and laptops to young voters, before switching into high gear and turning their rumors into alleged practices. Who is accusing Schotte remains unclear, but according to the Telegraaf the rumors are the top of the iceberg.
The reference to links with the Italian mafia seem to be a hidden hint at Schotte’s contacts with the Atlantis World Group, Francesco Corallo and former central Bank board candidate Rudolf Baetsen though apparently even the Telegraaf thought it a bit too wild to write this down. Robbie’s lottery owner Robbie dos Santos – true, a suspect in the Bientu-investigation – becomes a dubious gambling boss in the Telegraaf story.
After all these trumped up rumors, Timmers and de Vries note that members of Schotte’s MFK-party have started a smear campaign against former MFK-faction leader Dean Rozier.
We’re not making any claims for or against the vote-buying schemes in Curacao (mainly because nothing surprises us anymore), but the Telegraaf-journalists who first mow down Schotte with rumors and then point out that there is a smear campaign against Rozier sure have a weird sense of humor and a remarkable approach to that profession called journalism.

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