Today’s Opinion: Mr. Ten PercentPOSTED: 05/30/11 12:09 PM
Ronald van Raak kicked off the silly season by calling Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger a little mafia boss and Mr. Ten Percent. That was Socialist Party style retaliation for Heyliger’s off hand remark that St. Maarten’s situation under financial supervision compares to modern slavery.
In the Netherlands the impression has been created that Heyliger accused the Netherlands of acting as a slave master. But is this really true? Let’s take a step back and look at what our Vice PM really said.
On April 26 he held an impromptu press conference at the Claude Wathey Legislative Hall. He talked about the island’s budget restraints (“any deviation from the budget will cause a major problem”), about the plan to appoint under-investigation Tourist Bureau director Regina Labega as the airport’s managing director (“If she is found guilty, I am sure she would do the honorable thing”) and about St. Maarten after 10-10-10.
This is how we related his opinion: “We have achieved 10-10-10,” Heyliger said, adding pragmatically, “There are rules and now we have to live up to it. The only thing the Dutch still provide for us is supervision. The country has to continue facing the music until people realize the predicament we are in. Emancipation Day is coming up and I have said to our Minister of Culture, emancipation for what? To me it is more modern slavery.”
This makes clear that Heyliger talked about how he experiences the situation. There are rules and now we have to live up to it. With that sentence he expresses a sentiment similar to the one expressed by former Finance Commissioner Xavier Blackman. We once asked him how fair it is to demand from St. Maarten to have a balanced budget while no European country has a budget without a deficit.
“We just have to deal with it,” Blackman said.
That Heyliger is not happy with the restraints the budget rules put on the way the government is able to run the country is clear – and also understandable. Our Vice Prime Minister will always explore creative solutions that enable him to do what needs to be done. The alternative, following the rules to the letter and consequences for the population be damned, does not feature high on Heyliger’s list of priorities.
All the same, he is stuck with some major projects that do not seem to be moving forward. The sandpit in the Great Salt Pond is a caricature of the infamous ring road. Just behind it, the dump keeps growing (and burning on occasion) while the plans for a waste to energy plant are rotting in a drawer.
Against this background, Ronald van Raak’s characterization of Heyliger as a little mafia boss came out of left field for no apparent reason.
This newspaper has invited Van Raak to elaborate on his statement, but the Socialist Party parliamentarian has to this day not reacted.
We always thought that politicians base this type of accusations on something they actually know. But Van Raak’s refusal to elaborate and to at least explain in his own unfiltered words to the people of St. Maarten why he attacked Heyliger the way he did, speaks volumes.
Van Raak was speaking to the home crowd. St. Maarten is a country far, far away, and little Ronnie has no plans to spend his summer vacation here. So why not whack a random politician in the Caribbean? Could be good for the ratings in Maurice de Hond’s political poll.
St. Maarten is the world capital of rumors and evil gossip. If we went looking, we’re sure we could find plenty of people who will nod in agreement to the combination of Heyliger’s name with terms like little mafia boss and Mr. Ten Percent.
But the question is always: based on what? A couple of years ago the Dutch TV-program Nova visited the island and reporter Mirjam Bartelsman asked the editor of this newspaper: “Do you agree that there is a lot of corruption in St. Maarten?”
Bartelsman, a veteran journalist, did not get the answer she was looking for. Answering it one way or the other would have been the same as saying that all gypsies are thieves or that Radko Mladic is the ideal father-in-law.
Has Bartelsman asked: is so-and-so corrupt, our editor could have given a specific answer – though this played before this newspaper made the Buncamper-Molanus scandal public. The accusations now leveled at Heyliger bring to mind a question he asked our editor on April 26. The question was: Do you believe in the presumption of innocence?
We do. So as long as there is no hard proof of mafia activities by our Vice Prime Minister, or, say, a recording from real estate developer Luis Gioia that he took ten percent of the Blue Mall’s project value in exchange for a building permit, we’ll stay far away from sticking labels like little mafia boss and Mister Ten Percent to his name.
We’re not into giving advice, but we think this is an idea Ronald van Raak ought to consider.