Parliament goes all out against Attorney-General Schram “His remarks are as bad as the crimes he fights”POSTED: 10/1/15 3:49 PM
St. Maarten – Parliament unanimously make minced meat of the remarks Attorney-General Guus Schram made on September 11 during the installation of Judge Sander van Rijen and demanded his resignation (see related story on our front page).
“I do not want to get into a debate with the attorney-general,” National Alliance faction leader William Marlin said. “We have to make sure that his office can do its job. But it is unacceptable to sit around quietly and do nothing.”
Marlin said that the AG should be the top crime fighter for St. Maarten. “But we do not have our own attorney-general, someone who feels the pulse of this community. When his remarks go unchallenged by parliament, we will have missed the boat.”
Marlin quoted extensively from the speech AG Schram gave on September 11. “The top crime fighter basically says that it knows that the underworld and legitimate society are intertwined. But the parliament cannot prosecute crime. The AG insults everybody in St. Maarten and then tells us that they know – that every integrity report speaks about it. That is evidently not true.”
Marlin noted that the parliament “needs to send a message in a reaction to what he considers to be unacceptable statements. “The prosecutor’s office is to blame when crimes are not prosecuted.”
St. Maarten lost the fight for its own attorney-general in the run-up to country status in 2010. “That is one of the battles we did not win but now we have to put it to the fore again. We need our own attorney-general. That will hopefully avoid irresponsible statements that insult every citizen in St. Maarten.”
Democratic Party MP Sarah Wescot-Williams put her finger on the underlying mechanisms, when she put AGB Schram’s remark in a wider context with a reference to the visit of Gerard Bouman, the chief of the Dutch national police, who insulted Justice Minister Dennis Richardson saying that he did not need him. Bouman also said that he had so much information about St. Maarten that it did not warrant working together with anyone on the island.
“Where did Bouman’s audacity come from?” Wescot-Williams wondered. “He was here and he took these liberties with our minister of justice. There is a connection somewhere. You must know that you have backing if you make such statements. And there is no indication that the AG feels different now about his statements than he did when he made them, in spite of the harsh remarks of our minister of justice.”
UP-MP Johan Leonard mused rather cynically that “a lot of politicians are going to be behind bars soon” but he challenged the AG to present proof. “They want to create the perception that politicians are corrupt. How could he do this during the installation of a judge? If you have proof, go ahead, and then a lot of people will be behind bars.”
Leonard attacked the inactivity of the prosecutor’s office: “If you do not do anything you are not doing your job and then you should go home. If there are so many criminals walking around then the prosecutor’s office is not doing its job. If there is a crime, please, prosecute it, otherwise leave it alone.”
Independent MP Cornelius de Weever wondered about the motives behind AG Schram’s remarks. “Is the purpose to hurt us economically? Throughout history the modus operandi of the Dutch has not changed. They are recolonizing us.”
Independent MP Leona Marlin had dived into Wikipedia and served parliament a brief history of organized crime in the Netherlands, whereby she referred to the country as one or the largest exporters of ecstasy and other drugs in the world. “I haven’t heard about that type of crime in St. Maarten yet,” she said, apparently oblivious to the Vesuvius-investigation that put quite some local narco criminals behind bars for a very long time.
“In other countries, the attorney-general would have stepped down the next day,” UP-MP Theo Heyliger said, “This calls for his resignation. His remarks are as bad as the crimes he fights. He has done a crime to the people of St. Maarten.”
Heyliger described the effect of the remarks on the economy. “People are scared to invest in St. Maarten because of the AG’s remarks. This is a method to destabilize the country’s economy. Banks are even using this as an argument for not giving loans to politicians. You are destroying people’s lives, this is an atrocity.”
NA-MP George Pantophlet went back to 2008, when then Prime Minister Peter Jan Balkenende held a speech at the courthouse. Pantophlet said that he had been unable to find the speech back, but he noticed that Balkenende had given the country a tongue-lashing.
This is what Balkenende said in 2008 according to a report in this newspaper: “Foreign investors are queuing up; tourists experience a paradise-like vacation. I do not see a society in the hold of corruption and criminality, but a society full of hope and confidence.”
Where is the tongue lashing? That came later in his address when he referred to a report from the Scientific Research and Documentation Center, the infamous 2007 WODC-report. “The researchers conclude that due to a lack of checks and balances, there is a structure of opportunity that facilitates all kinds of criminal activities.”
Here is another Balkenende quote from that speech: “St. Maarten can only attract foreign investors and tourists through integrity, transparency, and a hard approach towards corruption and fraud. Without visible improvements, the constitutional reform process stagnates. Without improvement in the area of maintaining the law and good governance there is no country status for St. Maarten.”
“There is an agenda,” Pantophlet said yesterday. “A systemic agenda to bring this country to its knees, whatever the cost and these remarks will not be the end. The Dutch are meticulous, persistent and relentless. This is just the beginning. We have to show that St. Maarten is run by St. Maarteners, and not by the colonial powers.”
Justice Minister Dennis Richardson had not much to add, since his position on Schram’s remarks is clear. “I was admonished by an educator,” he said about his shut-the-hell-up reaction of September 14, “But there comes a time when you have to draw a line in the sand and make clear that they have gone too far.”
The minister said that “the Van Raaks and the Bosmans” speak for their own constituency in the Netherlands. “But the attorney-general has a heavy responsibility. His statements must be based on facts. And if he has the facts, he also has the instruments to do something with them. He has the authority to do what he has to do. Statements do not solve our problems.”
Minister Richardson said that the perception that emerges from AG Schram’s remarks also lives in the Netherlands with the Minister of Safety and Justice Ard van der Steur, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk.
The minister made clear that the attorney-general is appointed by Kingdom decree and that he can only be dismissed in a proposal submitted by the three ministers of justice of Curacao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands. “If the attorney-general has the support of the Dutch Minister of Safety and Justice then I can jump high and I can jump low, but then it won’t happen that he will be fired.”
Minister Richardson repeated his earlier position: “If you don’t have the fact, be still, otherwise go to court. If you scare away legitimate investors this way, who are left?”
Richardson said that he would have to be extra alert about future investigations and that he has to make sure that they are done within the confines of the law. “It should not be that perception becomes prosecution,” he said.