Parliament demands that AG Guus Schram resignsPOSTED: 10/1/15 3:57 PM
St. Maarten – The parliament unanimously supported a motion that asks Attorney-General Guus Schram to resign and that urges the government to demand that the attorney-general of St. Maarten lives and works here. This newspaper asked the AG whether it is still possible for him to do his work on the island. “It is not up to the prosecutor’s office to react to this motion,” was the reaction.
The opposition National Alliance and Democratic Party had requested the meeting of parliament to discuss remarks Schram made on September 11 during the installation of Judge Sander van Rijen. The AG said on that occasion, with a reference to the integrity-reports, that there are “sufficient indications that the underworld and the legitimate society in St. Maarten are structurally intertwined.”
It soon turned out that the integrity-reports of the Wit committee and Transparency International explicitly state that they found no evidence of such structural intertwinement. “Justify your claims or shut the hell up,” was the angry reaction of Justice Minister Dennis Richardson in a meeting of parliament on September 14.
Five days after Schram’s remarks, King Willem-Alexander said in his annual Troonrede: “The government has to be a role model for disseminating shared values. The integrity of the public administration may not be put in doubt. The government sets rules and enforces them to guard the public order and safety. Where under- and upper world become intertwined, this will be tackled. There will be extra money available for this purpose.”
This is a clear reference to the €22.1 million Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk has made available to investigate border-crossing undermining criminality in St. Maarten.
The considerations in the opposition motion refer to AG Schram’s hotly disputed remarks, saying that he “accused teachers, nurses, bank employees, bus drivers, construction workers, hotel employees, parents and church goers – the whole legitimate society of St. Maarten of being mixed up with the criminal underworld.” At least, legitimate society is depicted as supporters or of being tolerant towards criminal activities.
“The Parliament of St. Maarten cannot stand by idly and silently when someone in authority who lives abroad and who does not know our community makes statements that implicate the legitimate society is accommodating or tolerating criminal activities,” the motion states.
It furthermore points out that none of the three “independent extensive blue-ribbon reports” about integrity support “the irresponsible statements made by AG Schram.”
The motion labels AG Schram’s statements as “insulting, degrading and unacceptable to the people of St. Maarten.”
The motion also points out that the numerous reports from the Financial Intelligence Unit (MOT) about unusual financial transactions have never been investigated by the prosecutor’s office. “It is the non-action by the office of the attorney-general to investigate suspicious crimes that perpetuates rumors of criminal activities in St. Maarten.”
The motion furthermore asserts that by accusing legitimate society as being intertwined with the underworld is designed to hide the failures of the AG to investigate rumors that reflect negatively on the entire society. “This is despicable and unacceptable and makes it impossible for Mr. Schram to continue being the top crime fighting authority in St. Maarten.”
“St. Maarten has been clamoring for an AG who lives in St. Maarten, who is part of the community and who has the best interest of St. Maarten at heart and would therefore lead to a better functioning prosecutor’s office,” is the motion’s last consideration.
The motion “strongly condemns” the contested remarks and calls on the competent authorities “to invite AG Schram to resign from his position.”
Justice Minister Dennis Richardson said that the dismissal of the attorney-general would have to be a joint decision by the ministers of justice of Curacao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands. “If he has the support of the Minister of Safety and Justice of the Netherlands, Ard van der Steur, then I can jump high and I can jump low, but then he will not be fired.”
The last demand in the motion is a renewed call for an attorney-general based in St. Maarten. The motion calls on the government “to take the necessary steps to demand that the attorney-general of St. Maarten lives and works in St. Maarten as a member of its legitimate society.”