Published On: Wed, Apr 19th, 2017

MP Connor: “Sometimes you really get what you asked for”

Integrity Chamber back on the agenda

GREAT BAY – Integrity remains high on the government’s list of priorities, Prime Minister William Marlin said yesterday afternoon during a central committee meeting about the looming instruction from the kingdom to establish an Integrity Chamber, but not everybody in Parliament was convinced.

“Sometimes you really get what you asked for,” MP Claret Connor observed after noting that the government had not followed up on the motion of January 30 to present a plan of approach for tackling integrity issues.

“We have nobody to blame but ourselves,” MP Perry Geerlings noted. The ruling of the constitutional court (that downed the Integrity Chamber ordinance last year – ed.) gave us some pointers. “Why has the government put aside these issues? What prevented us from doing something instead of sitting still? Why did it go silent? The ruling was an opportunity to stay a few steps ahead of the Dutch. Why didn’t that happen?”

Geerlings said that he has his doubts about the effect of an Integrity Chamber. “But we all agreed to go along with it. You cannot just put it aside. It is better to sit with partners and to find a solution together.”

And what is the issue with the appointment of the Dutch quartermaster anyway? Geerlings wanted to know. “He just comes here to do what he has to do. That confuses me. And what also confuses me is the agenda of the Dutch. What is it? It has always been about economic advantages. If we all agree that we have integrity issues then let’s handle them.”

Not everyone was so critical towards the government. MP Frans Richardson spoke about the need for mutual respect, saying that the country has already checks and balances in place. He also criticizes the overpowering attitude of the Dutch: “We are supposed to be equal partners in the kingdom.”

MP Drs. Rodolphe Samuel suggested that the government goes back to the plans for the Integrity Bureau that were abandoned once the suggestion for the establishment of an Integrity Chamber emerged from the integrity report of the Wit Committee.

“We have to come with our own thing if we don’t like what Minister Plasterk wants,” he said. “But if we don’t put anything on the table all we have to talk about is the Integrity Chamber of Minister Plasterk.”

Samuel went on to express his doubts about the integrity reports. “I haven’t seen any of the authors of these reports in Parliament to answer questions. We should debate the contents of these reports, not just look at the recommendations,” he said. “Now we are dealing with an Integrity Chamber based on hearsay. Are these reports scientific, are they strong enough?”

As an introduction to the meeting, Prime Minister William Marlin recounted what had happened since his meeting with Minister Plasterk in Aruba in March.

Marlin said that St. Maarten had followed the agreement laid down in a protocol on May 24, 2015 to the letter, but when he asked Plasterk why the Netherlands had not appointed a quartermaster before the deadline of July 1, 2015, the minister told him that he did not know.

“His advisors were there,” Marlin said. “And they knew it all along. This was part of their game plan. They did not want to become an accomplice to the Integrity Chamber legislation.
Marlin said that the government does not feel that the Integrity Chamber is “something we have to rush into,” adding that “the Dutch are hell-bent on not helping us but on keeping the country hostage.”

Marlin revealed that his meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte ahead of the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting where the instruction was approved lasted all nine minutes.

“It was a hostile discussion, not a discussion between two prime ministers of the kingdom. He did not want to listen or reason. Basically he said, I am sick and tired of St. Maarten. The Integrity Chamber will come whether St. Maarten likes it or not. And if you don’t like it, get out of the kingdom.”

Marlin said that this ended the conversation. The first draft of the appeal against the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers is ready and the final text will soon go to the Council of State.

“It is not my call, but I have no problem leaving the kingdom if that is what has to happen,” Marlin concluded.