PHILIPSBURG–No candidate Minister will agree to “a vague limitless investigation” on themselves, their families, third parties, friends and acquaintances without the parameters of vetting being known, United People’s (UP) party said on Friday.
UP’s statement was in reaction to the Dutch Government’s instruction to Governor Eugene Holiday for a thorough investigation into candidate-ministers from the UP-led coalition.
UP said the subjectivity created by a vague investigation would leave room for arbitrary vetting procedures without any guarantee of an equal treatment.
“It is quite obvious that this measure is designed against MP Heyliger and confirms … [that this – Ed.] is a blatant witch-hunt that simultaneously insults the people of St. Maarten and now the Governor. The Dutch government has now shown the world that without any credible, proven basis whatsoever it is capable of targeting elected representatives within the kingdom,” UP said.
It said the Dutch government had shown that it would “spare no measure in setting aside St. Maarten’s constitution and continue disrespecting St. Maarten’s Parliamentary democracy.”
UP said Holiday had been placed “in a complicated unenviable position,” as he had been given an instruction not to ratify decrees appointing candidate-ministers and the Prime Minister without an expanded vetting process that the Dutch want to set in place in addition to St. Maarten’s own investigative process.
“The Governor, who also has to keep St. Maarten’s best interest in mind, is being told that he has to rely on a team of Dutch appointees to tell him who is ethical enough to become Minister. They want the governor to guarantee integrity based on the instructions of Dutch appointees, not St. Maarten’s investigative process. This is a blatant insult to the Governor as well as the people of St. Maarten,” UP said in the release.
It said the Dutch government “cannot change the rules of the game after the match has started and we are 15 minutes away from half-time. In other words, the democratic process to elect a government started with our electoral process. … It continued with the holding of elections, forming of a coalition and now appointing of Ministers. The Dutch simply cannot change the rules after we are this far along and change them with such obvious malicious intentions.”
According to UP, the Dutch government is using as justification the findings of two integrity reports, one of which was commissioned by St. Maarten itself.
“The Dutch government has disregarded the fact that St. Maarten has, to its credit, undertaken several initiatives to enhance integrity throughout its system and the fact that the incoming government has pledged to seriously consider the recommendations and allegations in the reports as prescribed by law and if so warranted,” UP said.
The party said the Dutch government had issued “an unconstitutional instruction” aimed at UP leader MP Theo Heyliger, who it said had been the highest vote-getter in the recent elections.
“The Dutch government is not only thwarting democracy, but is making a mockery of it by giving an instruction to basically find something, anything on MP Heyliger to not only disqualify him as Prime Minister, but to use as a premise for possible prosecution. Think about the precedent this would set for any St. Maartener who sought political office, but whom the Dutch consider persona non grata.
“There has been no measure or action to date, not even their slanderous, unsubstantiated allegations of calling duly-elected representatives of the people ‘the mafia,’ that demonstrates more vividly that the Dutch do not view St. Maarten as an equal partner within the Kingdom than this latest instruction.”
According to UP, “the instruction shall be utilised in any form or fashion necessary to ensure that one man alone cannot pass the vetting. Any criteria can be created, without the vetting process to be verified in any form, and any advice can be formulated even if the findings of the vetting do not support same.
“No candidate would want to assume a Ministerial position where the political responsibility is theirs for actions to be conducted by the Dutch at their discretion without any form of communication to the Minister or knowledge of the Minister. The Dutch government in so many words has reminded the people of St. Maarten that St. Maarten is not an autonomous country, but a colony where the colonisers can decide for their colony on a whim.”
UP said the actions of the Dutch government continued to make clear that the people St. Maarten would have to decide on this colonial distinction much sooner rather than later.
“The people of St. Maarten and in fact the entire political establishment of St. Maarten and other Kingdom partners are now being told quite clearly that whenever the Dutch deem someone as unacceptable to them, despite the fact that the people voted for that person as part of St. Maarten’s Parliamentary democracy, they can step in and issue enhanced screening instructions to fit their motives.
“That they can manipulate our democracy and expect us to freely allow and accept it. This is not something St. Maarten will accept,” UP said.