St. Maarten Parliament is convinced that screening process is working: Motion will ask governor to reject kingdom instruction

POSTED: 10/22/14 9:44 PM

St. Maarten – The United People’s party announced that it would table a motion that asks Governor Holiday not to go along with the instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers to execute additional screening of candidate-ministers for the new government. However, parliament adjourned until Wednesday morning after the first round. UP-leader Theo Heyliger told this newspaper that he had not delivered his final report about the new cabinet yet, even though yesterday was the deadline for his task as formateur.

A one-man protest action by Etienne Toochie Meyers – a representative of the movement People United for True Democracy – preceded the first meeting of the new parliament yesterday afternoon. Clad in a white tee shirt with red handprints on it, Meyers entered the parliament building with several placards, reading ‘Forefathers blood is on your hands’, ‘Stop the insult’ and ‘True democracy under attack.’ Shortly after entering the building, Meyer was ordered to leave and he continued the protest on the street in front of the building.

The tribune in the Parliament was packed to capacity for what promised to be a fiery meeting and the number of viewers that followed the meeting on the Parliament’s website reached an unprecedented high of 345.

All Members of Parliament contributed their two cents to the debate about the instruction. At the end of the first round, it became clear that the opposition is prepared to support a properly worded UP-motion against the instruction. The outcome of all this will have to wait until Wednesday, when the Parliament reconvenes at 10 a.m.

The big guns among the speakers were obviously the embattled UP-leader Theo Heyliger and opposition-leader William Marlin, but rookie-MP Christopher Emmanuel also made his mark with his first address, while UP-MP Johan Leonard hit a new low with a rant about the quality of the justice system.

Heyliger said that the instruction to the governor brought to mind the difficult times from the early nineties when his grandfather Claude Wathey came under scrutiny and ended up in prison. While other members of his faction dismissed the PricewaterhouseCoopers integrity report as ‘melee’ – suggesting that they did not want anything to do with its content – Heyliger grabbed the bull by the horns: “This government intends to look at the report and to carry out the recommendations,” he said.

The UP-leader wondered why the Kingdom Council of Ministers had issued the instruction for additional screening. “We have a screening law and it works. Several candidates could not become ministers in the past because of the screening.”

“I have no problem with the screening,” he added. “You can take me through the wringer, because my body is already full of scars that have been inflicted by my own people.”

Heyliger noted that stories develop quickly in a small community in St. Maarten. “When I talk to people I have learned to always have two witnesses at hand,” he said, adding that from the time he grew up he never had the ambition to become prime minister. “So if I don’t make it this time that is not a problem for me.”

The UP-leader referred to statements made by Dutch MPs Bosman and Van Raak – from “the whole electorate has been bought” to “Theo is mafia” – and noted, “I have never been questioned about this. If I am guilty by association, simply because of with whom I sit down, then we have a big problem.”

Heyliger said that the next instruction will come down on November 7 – presumably after St. Maarten refuses to cooperate with the instruction – and he noted that the measure puts the governor’s integrity into question. He also suggested a system whereby the people directly elect the prime minister. He said that the Minister of Plenipotentiary in The Hague had asked in the Kingdom Council of Ministers why the intention for additional screening had not been announced before the elections.

“Right now the main question is how this instruction is to be carried out.”

Heyliger suggested inviting the Parliaments of Curacao and Aruba to St. Maarten for a pow-wow. “Let us discuss what is happening in the kingdom, because what happens now in St. Maarten will not stay in St. Maarten.”

National Alliance MP Christopher Emmanuel went all out: “We have a problem in this country with integrity and we all know it,” he said. “MP Leonard calls the PwC-integrity report melee, but the prime minister and the minister of justice signed the response to it and they stated that they are going to execute the recommendations. If it is melee, why execute it?”

Emmanuel emphasized that the Dutch are not the problem: “It is us, we have created the problem,” he said. He quoted former Island Council member Julian Rollocks who once labeled UP-leader Heyliger as mafia because “he swindled a crane from me.”

Emmanuel furthermore claimed that he was offered $80,000 before the elections of 2010, then $400,000 and in the end $2 million. For what, he did not say. “We have moved from buying votes to buying seats,” he furthermore charged with an apparent reference of MP De Weever’s defection to a coalition with the UP.

“We have a problem, Let’s look at ourselves. The harbor is run like a cartel. If you don’t like the instruction, get out, go for independence. If someone cannot get a bus or a taxi license, or a building permit, it is not the Dutch who are doing this to us, but we are doing this to ourselves.”

National Alliance faction leader William Marlin wondered aloud whether the instruction is “to some extent a motion of no confidence against the governor.”

While earlier rookie-MP Silvio Matser had wondered whether there are (Dutch) “traitors” in St. Maarten that feed politicians in the Netherlands, Marlin brought to mind a newspaper report from 2010 in which former Constitutional Affairs Minister Roland Duncan stated “that Heyliger is buying votes.” Marlin also referred to former MP Laville who once claimed that he had been offered $250,000 to $350,000 for his seat, and to Bada Bing-owner Jaap van den Heuvel who has said that he made a video of former MP Patrick Illidge at the request of MP Theo Heyliger.

“These are not Dutch stories, they originate here,” Marlin said, adding, “I agree that we need to be independent but we have to do that for the right reasons.”

Marlin emphasized that the screening system that is currently in place is working, “In 2013 MP Laville was nominated to become a minister. He was subjected to the screening and he could not pass it. If it worked in 2013, what makes the Dutch so worried that it won’t work now? We are confident that it will work.”

Marlin said that the Dutch instruction is premature and a form of colonial interference, even though he has concerns of his own. He said that he is looking forward to the UP-motion.

Earlier in the meeting, UP-MP Maurice Lake labeled the instruction as “a very dangerous type of interference” and he wondered whether the Dutch are preparing for the complete takeover of St. Maarten. “I condemn this illegal act. The right to have elections has no meaning at all this way. The governor should not yield to this instruction because this will open the door to other interventions.”

UP-MP Johan Leonard claimed that the Dutch government is “in full control” of the prosecutor’s office and corruption-investigations. He even claimed that “prosecutors are not doing their work and they are losing most of their cases most of the time.”

Leonard, a former police officer, claimed that thousands are spent on expensive travel for Dutch experts while they are not the one cracking the cases. “That money is wasted. They come here to enjoy sun, sand and sea. The Netherlands intentionally brings low-quality prosecutors here to serve their purpose and to gain full control of St. Maarten.”

Leonard was among the MPs to call the PricewaterhouseCoopers integrity-report “melee” and he feels that the instruction to the governor must be ignored.

Silvio Matser, another rookie-MP in the UP benches labeled the instruction as “an attack on our human rights and democracy.” He charged “that Van Raak and Bosman have a lot of friends in St. Maarten who inform them. A lot of them are former council-members.” Matser slipped in a reference to former DP-MP Roy Marlin, followed by the question, “Are we having traitors in St. Maarten?” He said that the bigger goal of the Dutch could be to make St. Maarten join the BES-islands.

“Do they want us to become the headquarters of the BES and pay for the other islands?” independent MP Leona Marlin-Romeo said, adding that the Dutch show a lack of respect for St. Maarten’s culture and values. “The Netherlands promotes international peace and the maintenance of law and order, but they don’t apply this to the kingdom-partners. They are using two different measuring sticks.”

George Pantophlet (NA) chose a different angle: “The Dutch are not coming, they are already here. The question is how we get them out. They are out for control.”

Pantophlet observed that St. Maarten has brought the problems upon itself, “but we should not let others do what we can do ourselves.” He said that he voted for independence in the 2000-referendum. “How do you determine your own future within the kingdom? That will not happen.”

Pantophlet pointed out that the decision about the instruction is up to the governor, not to the Dutch. “We have to look at ourselves and ask ourselves why the Dutch are so hell bent that this government is not installed. They are business people, and they have a good nose for where the money is.”

UP-faction leader Franklin Meyers said that he has no problem with screening, but he criticized the Dutch for putting the governor on the spot. “He has to choose between his job as the representative of the crown and his job as the representative of our people.”

Meyers attacked claims made by MP Emmanuel: “If they offered you $2 million and you disagreed, go to the prosecutor’s office. Immunity comes with responsibility.”

Meyers furthermore opined that the Parliament has to stand united against the instruction.

“We give them reason to interfere,” Frans Richardson (United St. Maarten party) noted. “We are our own worst enemies. We must stop bringing each other down. Let us not fool the people. We must shape up or ship out – change our attitude. We hope that the governor will take the best decision for this country.”

 

 

 

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St. Maarten Parliament is convinced that screening process is working: Motion will ask governor to reject kingdom instruction by

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