Voges seeks St. Maarteners

POSTED: 02/16/12 1:12 PM

GREAT BAY- St. Maarten’s Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges plans to advocate for there to be a distinction of St. Maarteners from the general Antillean population in the Netherlands. Voges said that he had enlisted the support of Aruba in this regard to speak with Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Minister Liesbeth Spies.
“My first step was to find out how many St. Maartener’s are there and they said they cannot tell you; everyone is Antillean. We tried to get them to make the distinction; they said it could not be done. We are looking now to discuss matters with Minister Spies.”
While stating that he received no official reason why the distinction could not be made, Minister Voges speculated that portions of the law may need to be changed to have the nation’s people counted differently during a census. He has premised his position on the fact that all autonomous countries within the Kingdom should be recognized in the civil registry and on the generalizations that are made of all Antillean people because of the absence of a distinction system.
His case became more urgent after he attended a meeting of all 22 Antillean municipalities. The meeting, he said had “to do with Antilleans that are there doing bad things.”
“I went to four of those cities (municipalities). I didn’t find not one St. Maartener living there. It is not a problem of St. Maarteners living in Holland it is a problem of Curacaoleans living in Holland.”
In his first official visit to St.Maarten since his appointment in The Hague, Voges admitted that it was difficult setting up an active, visible presence in Holland, via St. Maarten House.
“It was hard to start but I like challenges and I think we got things done. We are working very close to put St.Maarten on the map.”
The minister believes that the many Antillean organizations in the Netherlands are dominated by persons from Curacao. His cabinet therefore started the Soualiga Foundation to attract, identify, assist and unite St. Maarteners. Thus far, the foundation has been cooperating with the Caribbean Lagoon Foundation to find St. Maarteners.
“I want to know where they are or else I can’t cater to them,” the Minister reiterated.
On a daily basis, the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary deals with Kingdom matters such as treaties and laws, makes appointments for visiting ministers and actively recruits St.Maarten professionals who return home to take up governmental appointments. It also works closely with the Student Support Services (S-4) foundation and processes official documents.
Since leaving St.Maarten on December 14, 2010, Minister Voges said that he was glad to return home to have individual discussions with each minister so that he can accurately reflect their case at the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
He identified administrative hiccups among the list of issues that can be improved on the part of the Dutch government. He cited instances where official documents requiring St.Maarten’s input reached his office two to three days before an official response/decision has to be made.
“We have to speed things up,” the minister said.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams added, “It might seem like the Dutch administration is optimal but this is far from the case.”
More than one year after achieving separate status, mails from the Dutch government for St.Maarten are still being delivered to the Antillean House.
“I think it took very long for Holland to note that we have our very own St.Maarten house in The Hague,” Minister Voges said.

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