Political parties violate permit-conditions of campaign material along public roads

POSTED: 07/14/14 11:47 PM

Chief Commissioner De Witte calls on common sense

St. Maarten – Political parties across the board pay no heed to the guidelines issued by Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, it appears from the way parties have placed their campaign billboards and other political propaganda material along public roads.

The Justice Ministry issued its guidelines in a letter dated July 9 – two days before Postulation Day. The letter addresses amongst others the places where political parties should not place billboards or other campaign material.

Article 2 of the general permit for political parties states: “In the interest of traffic safety it is prohibited to place promotion material on or around roundabouts on the island.”

Article 3 states: “Placing political promotion material may not hinder or endanger traffic by placing it on traffic provisions (traffic signs, traffic fences, traffic lights, road blockades) or other road furniture and bridges.”

It is reasonable to assume that for instance streetlight poles fall under the definition of “road furniture.”

The campaign for the August 29 elections is still young – actually, it has hardly started – but already parties have committed numerous violations. At the One Tete Lokay roundabout near Learning Unlimited in Cay Hill alone, the United People party, the United St. Maarten Party and the Democratic Party are completely ignoring the rules. On a lamppost on the One Tete Lokay roundabout there is a red banner reading Vote Sarah Wescot-Williams #1.

That’s not the only lamppost the DP used as a carrier for its political message. Elsewhere on the island there are also plenty of DP-banners clinging to streetlight poles.

Opposite that lamppost on the One Tete Lokay roundabout next to the Antek-building are billboards from the UP and from US-candidate Leona Marlin. They are obviously placed for the convenience and readability for motorists coming down Link 1. Further to the left, against the background of the St. Maarten Medical Center, the UP placed yet another billboard near the roundabout – this one proclaiming that the party is ready for the new medical center.

Near the Salt Pickers roundabout in Philipsburg, the UP and the US also have billboards, accompanied by a tiny sign from National Alliance’s number 6 candidate, Rodolphe Samuel.

The former president of parliament also ignores the ban on placing campaign material on bridges. Yesterday, Samuel’s white flags appeared on the Prince Bernhard Bridge in Philipsburg – a clear violation of article 3 of the general permit or political parties.

Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte said yesterday that the first line of action for the police force is to report possible violations to the Ministry of Justice. Furthermore, the police relies on consultation with the political parties. “First we want to talk to give common sense the opportunity to prevail,” the Chief Commissioner said.

Theo Heyliger’s United People party has yet another issue to deal with: the placement of a political billboard in a foreign country. On Sunday, there was a UP-billboard erected along the Route Nationale 7, between French Quarter and Belle Plaine. It features party leader Theo Heyliger and the text A United People – We Ready.

A spokesman for the gendarmerie said he did not know whether it is allowed for Dutch-side political parties to make propaganda on the territory of the Collectivité d’Outre Mer de Saint Martin. A phone call to the Collectivité’s director of communications Richard Malvasio went unanswered  and Malvasio did not immediately return an emailed request for clarification yesterday.

So far, the UP has been the most active with erecting campaign bill boards. The Democratic Party has placed some wooden structures of which it is unclear whether they are the only message to the electorate or that they will later on function as support for posters. Candidate Emil Lee has already placed his placards at several points along the public road.

The National Alliance still has to kick its billboard campaign into gear. Only the party’s number 6 candidate, Rodolphe Samuel has been active by “hoisting the white flag” on the Harold aJack Hill and by placing small placards with his name. On the Pondfill there is one placard that shows Samuel’s picture. Billboards of party leader William Marlin were no up yet yesterday.

Frans Richardson’s US Party is also off to a slow start. Number 2 candidate Leona Marlin has her billboards up (though two are near roundabouts which is not allowed according to the Ministry of Justice’s permit) but party leader Frans Richardson is still absent. The party has however erected a frame along the Pondfill near Air Lekkerbek that will probably soon feature Richardson’s mug shot.

Jacinto Mock’s Social Reform Party and Lenny Priest’s One St. Maarten People Party have not erected any billboards or other propaganda material at all.

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