NTR/NPO T.V. Interview last night. It is not easy translating these glib, duplicitous, Dutch politicians.
INTRO TO VIDEO: The corona crisis has hit the economy of Sint Maarten hard. People, companies and the government are all generating very little income, because there is no tourism. After months of negotiating at the Binnenhof, Sint Maarten received millions in loans. Now State Secretary Knops has decided to temporarily halt the money supply from The Hague. Is this a good decision?
At the table: Sylvana Simons (Bij1) and André Bosman (VVD) https://www.npostart.nl/
HOST OPENS: The corona pandemic has hit the St Maarten economy, the industry and the people in general very hard. There is little to no income being generated, because (of the pandemic) the tourists are staying away. At the same time for months St Maarten has been receiving millions in loans from the Netherlands, then this happened….
(NOS)BACKGROUND NARRATOR: “The State of St Maarten wants the United Nations to investigate claims of racism and human rights violations against the Dutch (Netherlands) government who they believe are behaving in a Neo-Colonial manner by using Corona assistance as a way to force reforms in St Maarten..”
FEMALE HOST TO KNOPS IN PRETAPED INTERVIEW: Were you surprised by this?
KNOPS: Yes, I was very surprised we are doing so much, so many loans therefore we would want some reform as conditions to go along with that. The St Maarten parliament are the best paid in the Kingdom as their people live in poverty. There has to be tax reforms, wage adjustments, yes the same conditions you would get from a bank in order to get a loan, that is what this is about better management, steering St Maarten in the right direction.
HOST: (Congratulates Simmons on seat in Parliament )
SYLVANA SIMONS: Thank you (They exchange pleasantries about the still in formation, Dutch Government )
HOST TURNS TO BOSMAN: Bosman has been in the Dutch Second Chamber / Parliament representing VVD for 11 years. “Do you think that it is a good idea to lend St Maarten money. Why do you think that’s a good idea?”
BOSMAN: If there is a crisis within the Kingdom, if it is critical there should be assistance. The Kingdom should be there for each other.
HOST: But under certain conditions…?
HOST: Which conditions? Why under specific conditions?
BOSMAN: There are four countries within the Kingdom, so if we are going to help each other, it should just be based on helping each other. But if there is money involved, then there must be conditions to help manage Aruba, Curaçao, in this instance Sint Maarten.
HOST: St Maarten is a developing country, it is not a municipality of the Netherlands like Bonaire. It is not completely independent, what exactly is it? For the first time I’m reading that it is not independent what exactly is it?
BOSMAN: It is a country within a Kingdom. Within that Kingdom there are four equal, autonomous countries.
Then you have Bonaire, Saba and Statia, they are special Dutch municipalities of the Netherlands, and we have a certain responsibility to them. But the Kingdom overrules the individual countries.
HOST TO SIMONS: St Maarten will run out of money in about a month How will that play out?
SIMONS BJI: We must not over simplify the complexities (of the issues) within the Kingdom. I still call the islands colonies because there is still that colonial vibe in the relationship between the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean islands. Holland in the relationship has Kingdom rule (the upper hand). I wonder why there are no representatives for example in the Tweede Kamer someone from the islands to directly speak for the islands. They say equal in theory, but in practice there isn’t any real equality.
HOST: So, that would be up to the Kingdom…?
SIMMONS: The Dutch Government, you can also say is the Kingdom Government…yes, no, maybe. It’s all about equality. That is the relevant word, equality. There are supposed to be four equal countries, that is the theory, but the practical reality is that The Netherlands still has hegemony over the Antilles. Holland is the biggest and strongest in the Kingdom. Holland has the power, is better managed. So you cannot call the relationship equal. I know very well that these people (Antillians) are not physically in the chambers every day, but there should be ways that they can also be represented in the chambers.
(HOST STEERS SIMONS TOWARDS THE TOPIC OF SINT MAARTEN)
SIMONS: The ‘St Maarten Question’ , and Mr Bosman knows better than I… The Netherlands and Sint Maarten cannot be compared side by side, there is historical context. It is normal, for a small municipality to try to take bit of control, to empower itself. Everyone plays their role within the Kingdom.
HOST TO SIMONS: About the financing what is wrong with conditions?
SIMONS: There is nothing wrong with adding conditions to a loan. And yes, loans need conditions. If I loaned you money, there would be repayment conditions, well maybe not you (joke) It has to do with the timing, and what exactly the conditions are. As soon as there is a crisis, then conditions take on a different meaning. Conditions applied under regular times are different than when there are crises e.g. conditions applied during a hurricane or a pandemic
HOST TO SIMMONS: Do you believe that the Corona crisis was used as a weapon to make St Maarten more pliable to newly imposed Dutch reform?
SIMONS: Now Mr Bosman can better explain these conditions better than I can, and he can explain when these conditions caused a fracture in the relationships between the governments within the Kingdom. I have yet to attend my first meeting on Kingdom Relations. What I do know is that crises should not be used as a way to coerce others into abiding by forced conditions. It was used to coerce, force turn the screws on islands under pressure. (They) had no room to manouevre / negotiate.
HOST TO BOSMAN: Now one of the conditions that the islands have issues with is COHO. A tool implemented by the Netherlands to assist in reformation and development of the CAS islands. The Financial assistance given to Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma in 2017, already came with strict conditions that tightened the noose around Sint Maarten. Now with COHO, the conditions are even stricter, so there are complaints about the conditions being too austere. Lowering of pensions, salary cuts, new taxes…
BOSMAN: It’s logical, it is a small country in the middle of a crisis, where just a few are enriching themselves. (Former Government Leader) Theo Heyliger is on his way to prison, and has to pay back $17million dollars, they were running things, it is worrisome. So It’s more than the Netherlands sending money to Sint Maarten, it’s about the money reaching the people that it is meant for.
HOST TURNS TO SIMONS: Does that sound reasonable?
SIMONS: Yes, It does all sound very reasonable, but the fact remains, left leaning or right leaning it is the people who are getting the short end of the stick.
BOSMAN: (Nods in agreement)
SIMONS: That is what really irks me the most. If you tie a knot too tight, it will be difficult to unravel.
HOST: What’s wrong with the conditions that were suggested…
SIMONS: Nothing is wrong if it’s just about better governance. You say you want better management, you want to work on getting rid of corruption, you want the country running as a working democracy.
But the factual reality is, the island (Sint Maarten) was hit by a terrible natural disaster, then the pandemic comes along and all income dries up, because there is no tourism. Yes, there needs to be conditions, but you have to ask yourself if this is the time, if this is the place to impose these conditions? You could also say this (misfortune) could be used as a new means to assist, we can send people. Defense is always ready to assist. So we can ensure that as we are assisting as we integrate reforms. Reforms won’t happen in a week. The process will be ongoing. You have the complicated relationship between St Maarten and The Netherlands, but in the mean time hungry people in St Maarten will be going without food or assistance.
HOST TO SIMONS: The reforms are a sensitive issue, (Sint Maarten) Rolando and Grisha retained an American attorney and accused The Netherlands of racism, filing a complaint with the United Nations. And then Holland’s response was to tighten the screws. You call it ‘a ‘colonial’ reaction to a complaint about Colonial ways’. Big words
SIMONS: Yes, let it be said… we can say that we are rid of colonialism, but that is simply not so. It is not fact. It is not normal for a Kingdom to have ‘countries,’ on the other side of the world, that they were linked with in colonial historical context. There has always been a colonial element and certainly a colonial feel to the relationship.
HOST: Asks Bosman something unintelligable…
BOSMAN: Yes, Ms Simons is talking about what she ‘feels,’ but basically, this is about appointments. Not letter appointment, appointments made by Parliament. Reforms, already signed off on, that Parliament already agreed to. Then later we receive a letter. Then they are saying “But, we don’t want reforms, just the money”. So then the State Secretary (Knops) asks, do you want reforms, or not?
BOSMAN: The problems were there before Corona, it is a years long, ongoing problem. For ten years I’ve been in (political office), there has always been financial mismanagement. My Parliament colleague, Ronald Van Raak and I ensured an investigation. These people, Schotte,Theo went/are going to prison. They are/were enriching themselves at the (expense of the common man). So as Holland is sending the money they have to oversee the management of it. There has been a lot of criticism, if you want the money you need to enact the reforms. It is a choice. They don’t are not obliged to (accept money/conditions) .
SIMONS: Then you have to question whether there really are four equal countries. With loans there is interest there are conditions. You can ask the question… Does one country have the right to oversee the reforms of another country.. can they impose demands? If a country says, we need help, you can oversee the loan, yes, but does it give you the right to enact and control reforms as a part of the conditions(to the loan)? You can control where the funding money is going, yes. But the presumption by the Netherlands, although with good intentions is that, yes we are loaning money and as a condition for accepting the loan, you will abide by our reform conditions. There has to be a question mark…
HOST: Every year in the Second Chamber there are debates about the islands. Look at this footage from 2019
CHRIS VAN DAM (CDA) ASKS BOSMAN IN 2019: There are new generations in the islands that want something different, what will the VVD’s story be, to abandon them?
BOSMAN RESPONDS TO VAN DAM: It’s a bit ‘colonial thinking’, and that’s the past. We have to give people the power. There has to be solutions to the problems on the islands, and the ones responsible for those solutions are the islands. It’s the same as giving an alcoholic liquor.
VAN DAM: If Mr Bosman is going to compare our compatriot islands to alcoholics, I am ending my argument here.
HOST TO BOSMAN: In 2019 you compared the islands’ to alcoholics.
BOSMAN: You ended the clip too early, because in my reaction, I let it be known that it was figurative speech. If you are unable to stop, if there is no cut off point, you will always be taking a hand out. Research has shown…
HOST (interrupts): To compare assistance to alcoholism is so painful, whether the video clip is short or not..
BOSMAN: But if you are holding on to colonialism, to the past where you are getting handouts. Independence. And if you are talking about the future of a country like St Maarten that’s calling it colonialism, if you take the steps in developing your own identity, own country own choice.
HOST: So independence from colonialism?
BOSMAN: Then the moneystream has to stop. There is enough money in St Maarten, I’m convinced. We are talking about the cost of the de-colonization, that they themselves want
HOST: I don’t get it, So where is this money?
BOSMAN: In hotels, casinos, the harbor, unpaid taxes. Curacao is still owed, one billion in taxes in just the past ten years. They would NEVER have to ask for money if they were collecting taxes…
SIMONS: It irks me that it is all a bit true. I agree a time should be set aside for full de-colonization, it has to do with infrastructure, and a whole lot of other factors, also about defense. A lot of different things. What got me, was the timing. The moment that they(the CAS Islands) were down, Holland really put the screws in them.
HOST: Time is up, this should be an interesting topic for the new cabinet.
THE HAGUE – The Dutch political party BIJ1 supports the petition of St. Maarten accusing the Netherlands of colonialism and racism. This is stated in a statement that BIJ1 published today on their website.
The statement of BIJ1 proves St. Maarten right: the relationship between the Netherlands and the Caribbean islands is allegedly based on institutional racism. BIJ1 cites various examples of racism in the Netherlands. For example Zwarte Piet, the benefits affair and discrimination in schools, the workplace, and the job market.
BIJ1 agrees with the Parliament of Sint Maarten that the United Nations (UN) is obliged to assist the islanders and all other victims of institutional racism within the Kingdom.
The political party calls on the Dutch government to resume liquidity support. In addition, BIJ1 wants the Netherlands to cooperate with international organizations such as the UN and St. Maarten for “a society without racism.”