22 May 2011

PM of Sint Maarten Responds to Dutch MP's 'insalubrious' comments



Daily Herald

PHILIPSBURG--"It is with disbelief that the Government of St. Maarten took note of the personal name-calling by some members of the Dutch Parliament directed to the Prime Minister and Vice Prime Minister of the country St. Maarten," said Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams on Thursday.

She said government had become accustomed to the oftentimes critical remarks from members of the Dutch Parliament's Second Chamber, but a few members had "clearly overstepped the boundaries of decency," during the May 18 meeting.

"Little mafia boss, Mr. Ten Per Cent." That is how Second Chamber Member of Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) referred to Deputy Prime Minister Theo Heyliger at the meeting in The Hague. And Member of Parliament Eric Lucassen of the Party for Freedom PVV referred to Wescot-Williams as a "conceited diva."

Wescot-Williams expressed appreciation for the handling of the issue by Dutch Minister for Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Piet Donner and Acting Chairman of the Second Chamber's Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Jeroen Recourt, but condemned the statements by members Van Raak and Lucassen in the strongest possible manner.

Donner said, "That doesn't fit in the manner we talk about other governments and ministers. It is not conducive to a fruitful cooperation." He added that he had "felt the urge to leave the room" while Van Raak spoke.

It is "a public secret" that some members of the Second Chamber had opposed St. Maarten's new status up to "the very end," the prime minister said. "No reason, however, for the disrespectful display by these same members. Let it be made abundantly clear that the Parliament to whom the government of country St. Maarten is accountable sits in Philipsburg.

Wescot-Williams said, "Dutch legislation, like our own legislation, describes the political relationship between the Parliament and the government. Now maybe, locally we make too much fuss about what individual members of Parliament say about St. Maarten. Perhaps even there are just a regular few who make the St. Maarten dossier their preferred pastime."

"However, it needs to be said and it needs to be said clearly that the Dutch Parliament's concern and supervision, if you wish, is on the Dutch government and these direct and subtle threats towards St. Maarten serve no purpose and have no place in our constitutional system."

The counterpart of the Dutch Parliament is the Parliament of St. Maarten, as far as St. Maarten is concerned, and not because St. Maarten is now a country the Dutch MPs have been granted a new responsibility for the country, she added.

"Let's keep the constitutional lines clear. In fact, not any more than any other citizen of the Kingdom, the members of the Dutch Parliament can ask any question they feel like, but they should not be showering their Minister of Kingdom Relations or any other minister with questions that regard the internal workings of the governments of the other countries in the Kingdom. If we overstep our bounds in the area of foreign relations and international relationships, then by all means. If we engage in actions that compromise the interests of the Kingdom, then by all means."

Wescot-Williams continued, "But someone would need to explain us the Dutch Parliament's role with respect to St. Maarten's budget and St. Maarten government-owned companies. Better yet, explain the Parliament's role regarding a meeting between the government of St. Maarten and the CFT [Committee for Financial Supervision-Ed.]."

Government has gone "to great lengths" to establish institutions to provide the necessary checks and balances, not because the Dutch Parliament said so, but because it is good for St. Maarten.

"And mind you, if the criticism and the subtle threats are levelled with the objective of helping find solutions for whatever perceived misgivings, then again, by all means. Until then, we demand respect from members of the Dutch Chamber and in fact from all partners in the Kingdom," she said.


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