St. Maarten Census Office bureaucracy strangles catering business

POSTED: 05/20/11 12:54 PM

Caterer with valid papers unable to renew her driver’s license

St. Maarten – A bureaucratic anomaly threatens Sara Rosa Catering, the catering business of Onesima del Carmen Bakhuis. After four months of haggling the Census Office is still refusing to renew her driving license. On April 9, a months after her license expired Onesima was caught in a police control and she received a 200-guilders fine.

It is not that the lady does not have her paperwork in order. She has her residence permit, and she has her St. Maarten ID-card. But the Census Office discovered a detail on her residence permit that caused it to refuse the renewal of the driver’s license.

Just above the signature of then Acting Lt. Governor Reynold Groeneveldt there should have been the type written date representing the day the residence permit was issued. Onesima showed us an older document, her temporary residence permit, where there is indeed a date at that spot. But on her residence permit it is missing.

Still, that missing date did not prevent the same office from giving Onesima her St. Maarten ID-card on October 22 of last year. When she presented her residence permit for that purpose, there was no problem.

When the driver’s license trouble gained momentum, she took her plight to Justice Minister Roland Duncan who took one look at the residence permit and said that it was a valid document. Since it did not contain his own signature, the minister declined to add a date to it: it was also not necessary. But the Census Office stuck to its guns and refused to give Onesima her new driver’s license.

After she received her fine in April with an order to appear in court on Wednesday May 19, Onesima discovered the next snag: the date for the court summons was wrong, because Wednesday was not May 19, but May 18, so she missed the opportunity to present her case to Judge Mr. M. Keppels.

Exasperated, she went to the courthouse yesterday morning where she talked to court recorder Maritsa James, who advised her to take the matter to a lawyer. That she did yesterday afternoon. Now, she says, the Census Office is suddenly prepared to find a solution, and there is an appointment scheduled for next week Friday.

In the meantime, Onesima says that there are plenty of other people in the same situation – people who also have a residence permit signed by acting Lt. Governor Groeneveldt without the date of issue above his signature.

Onesima is until next week Friday caught between a rock and a hard place. To do her business she needs to be able to drive her car. And that is legally not possible as long as the Census Office does not step over that miniscule bureaucratic hurdle.

Ilja Beentjes at the Census Office was not immediately available for a comment yesterday.

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