Opinion: Voting rights for overseas citizens

POSTED: 04/8/14 1:02 AM

Dear Editor,

When the cow drowns than we cover the well. It surprises me to read in the newspaper that our honorable parliamentarian is complaining about taking away the right of our citizens residing overseas to come home and vote. When I formed part of government during the term in office of the N.A. 2012 to 2013, I approached this same parliamentarian amongst others, to lobby for the rights of our citizens residing overseas to vote in our parliamentary elections. My proposal was to facilitate voting in the respective countries of residence of our citizens.

I also wrote a letter to the editor at that time concerning this same issue. My proposal was not considered a wise one because it might provide undesired results. I believe that if I work for the development of our country, my chances of getting votes from citizens of our country residing overseas can only improve. I was very glad to read an article send in some time later by the Honorable Chairlady of Parliament, in which she to, championed this cause.

I knew then that I did not stand alone and I am sure that many citizens residing in Holland, Curacao and Aruba agree with the Honorable Chairlady and me. Before I continue my article, I have to refer to an article in the newspaper of the integrity committee, in which Judge Bob Wit mentioned that it is part of our political culture for those who are better off to help the less fortunate. I do agree with the Honorable Member of Parliament, that depriving politicians and candidates of the right to fly-in their supporters during election time to vote for the candidate of their choice, is an unfair and selfish act. I too have my 2 children who look forward to the opportunity to come home and vote for their father.

Am I therefore now also considered a vote buyer? The people that are flown in to vote are doing so of their own free will and in support of their candidate of choice. Our relatives and friends residing in Holland do not get this opportunity. Some might say that because these groups of citizens do not reside here, they do not deserve the right to vote in local elections. My question is, are these groups of citizens less of a citizen than the ones residing here.

Are these groups, some of whom are born here St. Maarteners less of a citizen than those whom acquired the Dutch rights? A person born in Holland and residing elsewhere in the world, has the right to vote in elections of their country. We should embrace the concept of having our citizens residing overseas, especially those who cannot vote because they are not registered in our census office, and grant them the right to vote in our local elections. Let us seek equal rights for our citizens as the Dutch do for their citizens. This is taking a step in the direction of showing Holland that we truly care and provide for the rights of our citizens.

Louis R. Engel


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