No more guarantees for Curaçao and St Martin

9 April 2013

No more guarantees for Curaçao and St Martin

We pay for the maladministration, but the people have to live under it

Ronald van Raak is a Member of Parliament for the SP

A Minister of Justice looking to bribe a Member of Parliament in order to get into power, grant work permits to the prostitutes who work in his illegal brothel and raise money from another illegal brothel-keeper. Welcome to St. Maarten island. The MP is called Patrick Illidge, the minister Roland Duncan. They are both probably financed by Francesco Corallo, who has links with the Sicilian mafia and owns an empire of casinos used to launder drug money.

Corallo also funds politicians in Curaçao, including former Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte, on whose watch not only was the island’s treasury drained dry, but also the secret service, which meant that all kinds of classified information regarding traffickers in drugs, arms and people may have fallen into the wrong hands. This scenario would likely be rejected in Hollywood as too unbelievable. Yet this is our reality – and our responsibility.

On 10th October 2010 Curacao and St Martin became autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, since which time their executives have had control over their own islands. However, the Netherlands remains, within the framework of the Kingdom, responsible for ensuring good governance, a fact confirmed in a statute of 1954, in which the term 'waarborgfunctie' – guarantee function – was included. This leads in practice to a situation in which should a country become bankrupt, or the rule of law is under threat, or human rights are abused, the Netherlands must intervene.

In the run-up to October 2010, the SP, together with the centre-right VVD, then in opposition, warned that new diplomatic relations must be accompanied by a new Statute laying out and determining the responsibilities of the countries involved. Curaçao and St Martin were unwilling at the time to cooperate, nor were they obliged to do so, because the Dutch Minister responsible, Alexander Pechtold had already earmarked 1.5 billion euros in projected debt relief.

With this commitment the Netherlands lost its bargaining position. The booty had been pocketed, and the failed executive had once again been bought off. The interests behind the idea of staying under the political shelter of the Netherlands appear extensive: the United States doesn’t want independent mafia statelets in its back yard, multinationals want Curaçao and St Martin to be secure tax havens and the local governing politicians want to carry on lining their pockets.

Following Pechtold’s gaffe in 2005 his successor Piet Hein Donner made a further massive error five years later, failing to screen new ministers and thus allowing the new Schotte government to run Curaçao appallingly for two years, the Finance Minister George going around with a pistol in his pocket. In St Martin, meanwhile, there’s Justice Minister Roland Duncan, who receives Dutch politicians with a gun stuffed down his sock. Shortly after the debt annulation Curaçao was once again deep in debt, while St Martin has yet to make a start on good governance.

The absence of any real opposition on the islands means that the Dutch Parliament must fulfil this role. Following persistent criticism from the Netherlands, Schotte was last year kicked out and Curaçao has a temporary cabinet. Shortly, however, a new government will be formed and the whole kerfuffle can begin afresh. Helmin Wiels, the leader of the biggest party, is again demanding billions of euros. In St Martin the process of getting rid of ministers with ties to the underworld has only just begun.

The biggest victims are not the people in the Netherlands proper but those on the islands themselves. We have to pay for this maladministration, but they have to live under it. That is why I am not in favour of separation for the islands, which in fact would not be permitted under international law. The Netherlands is a certainly in a position to offer solid help to the people of Curaçao and St Martin – as well as Aruba – but we must, in order to do so, stop being responsible for abuses in their administration.

We have locked ourselves into the Kingdom, because while the islands can become independent, we cannot take that step. But that doesn’t mean we have simply to accept everything and anything. For a start Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch Minister responsible, should be advocating a new Statute, one with no guarantee function, and under which countries within the Kingdom would cooperate on an equal basis. That would demonstrate that the Dutch government is capable of learning from past mistakes.

This article first appeared on 5th April 2013 in the Dutch national daily De Volkskrant

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