Today’s Opinion: Friendship Treaty

POSTED: 06/8/11 2:02 PM

Is the American-Dutch Friendship Treaty directly applicable in St. Maarten or not? That is the question once again in a court case that plays out this afternoon.

Justice Minister Roland Duncan claims that this is not the case, but there are several court rulings that claim exactly the opposite. Even better, our Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said last year in answer to question from this newspaper that the treaty applies in St. Maarten.

The consequences of that position are that Americans are entitled to the same treatment in St. Maarten as European Dutch. In other words: they would not need a work permit here.

Wescot-Williams made her remarks when she was the leader of the opposition last year, but her statement was clear and unambiguous.

Duncan states in his plea memorandum that not the treaty but the national ordinance on admission and expulsion applies.

Wescot-Williams however, acknowledged last year that the Friendship Treaty supersedes any local legislation.

The government’s unwillingness to comply with the treaty is based on its fear for an American invasion – not the military kind, but the job seekers kind.

That may well be so, but it is of course not a valid reason to ignore a treaty the Kingdom signed off on in 1957 – more than sixty years ago.

But it is rather complicated to make a government listen to reason if it has no intention to do so. Minister Duncan has now found a flimsy reason – at least, in our opinion it is flimsy – to declare that the Friendship Treaty does not apply.

We challenge the Minister to show where in the court ruling of February 7 there is a reference to the Friendship Treaty.

We have read the ruling and we are therefore able to assure our readers one thing: there is not a syllable in that ruling that refers to the Friendship Treaty. The minister’s conclusion is based on quicksand.

To get a definite ruling on the question whether St. Maarten has to abide by the agreements established in the Friendship Treaty the Minister ought to go initiate a test trial and put the question on the line.

In February of last year Judge van Veen stated in his interim ruling that the Friendship Treaty  “is open for one interpretation only – Americans in St. Maarten are subject to the same rules as European Dutchmen.”

That legal opinion has not been challenged in court until now and we figure that the government has no interest at all in putting it to the test.

All this will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of Americans who feel shortchanged by an unwilling government.

As we understand it, Perez has also brought the stubborn attitude St. Maarten has chosen on this topic to the attention of the American consulate which in turn has contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about it.

 

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