Wescot-Williams: St. Maarten must guard its autonomy

POSTED: 07/29/13 1:41 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams says that she is very concerned about recent statements by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that he has instructed Governor Eugene Holiday to launch an inquiry into integrity within the government. Rutte’s comments were made during a joint press conference as a he and a group of Dutch businessmen visited the Dutch Caribbean for a trade mission last week. While Rutte said that his statements reflected the wishes of the Kingdom government, the prime minister said that she is still to receive any official correspondence of an “investigation on St. Maarten.”

“What I have concerns about is his statement that he is going to ask the governor to do an integrity assessment. Some reports indicate that it is supposed to be an investigation into integrity breaches but I don’t know for certain. What I do know is that I need to see what they are going to be asking of the representative within the Kingdom. He is making that request on behalf of himself and Minister Plasterk but a decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers needs to be taken exactly there; in the Kingdom Council of Ministers where our Minister Plenipotentiary is. I need to get information because I am looking even beyond this statement and what is the Kingdom government going to expect of the governor based on whatever report is presented to them,” the  prime minister said.

Her comments were made during her weekly radio program ‘One on One with the Prime Minister’ on Friday morning on Pearl Radio 98.1 FM.

The prime minister said that her Dutch counterpart is well aware that St. Maarten has an integrity program.

“We have executed several elements of that program but it is clear and already mapped out of where we want to go and I don’t think enough attention to what we are doing here.”

The leader of government recalled that in April Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk wrote a letter outlining his concerns with the state of affairs on St. Maarten. She also received feedback from St. Maarten’s Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges who said that he was being badgered with constant questions and comments regarding integrity on St. Maarten.

In both instances, the prime minister said that her response was very clear.

“It is regretful when you have these kinds of cases popping up involving public officials, but we too have a system in place and we too operate within a state of law. So let our institutions function the way they are supposed to function as we continue our integrity program,” she stated.

With regard to the government’s integrity program, the prime minister reiterated that it’s a work in progress and change will not come overnight. She stressed that creating integrity awareness on various levels is a process.

And as for the matter of the governor being asked to have a formal investigation done, the prime minister opined that she’s unsure of its parameters, motivation or consequences.

“I am not sure nothing has been put in writing as yet, as far as I am aware, I anxiously wait to see how the request to the governor will be worded. We need to guard against that the autonomy is infringed in any way. Where will this report go to and what will be done with the results?” she questioned.

The prime minister went on to say that Dutch Ministers sometimes lose sight of  the fact “that you have a Dutch Cabinet of Ministers and once you have the meeting of the Kingdom then the Ministers Plenipotentiary of the three islands participate in the meeting.”

“It can’t be so that Prime Minister Mark Rutte who is the Prime Minister of the Netherlands and the chairman of the Kingdom Council of Ministers along with a Dutch Minister (Plasterk) agree to do something and then say it is on behalf of the Kingdom government. It doesn’t go like that, the Kingdom government includes the various Ministers Plenipotentiary,” she explained.


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