Scholar Julio Romney; “St. Maarten is not a country”

POSTED: 03/9/15 7:00 PM

GREAT BAY – “Sint Maarten is not a country.” That statement from political scientist Julio Romney during the presentation of his book St. Maarten: Our Constituent State Constituent Framework resulted in a heated debate with Acting Governor Reynold Groeneveldt, who strongly disagreed. Romney however, stuck to his position: “For Pete’s sake, you cannot even determine your own budget,” he said, slightly exasperated.

Romney’s 128-page book about St. Maarten’s governing system dives deeper into what Romney calls incorrect political terms, like ‘Country Sint Maarten,’ ‘dualism’ and ‘separation of powers.’

According to Romney – a scholar of comparative government and politics – these terms are “conceptually taken out of context.” His explanation in the book: “St. Maarten is not a country; it is a constituent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.”

He furthermore explains that a country is defined as a territory that is politically independent. “Respectfully, the territory should have sovereignty – no other state or country should have power over the country’s territory. This is certainly not the case with St. Maarten; it is a constitutional entity forming part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Proper defined as a constituent state.”

Romney notes that currently there are 195 independent countries in the world and the Netherlands is one of them. “You cannot have a country within a country.”

Groeneveldt contested Romney’s position with a reference to the conference of Montevideo. This conference set four criteria for a territory to be a country: it has to have a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

St. Maarten meets those criteria,” Groeneveldt argued. But Romney threw in a fifth requirement: that there should not be a higher authority. In the case of St. Maarten, the Kingdom government is obviously the higher authority and the island is under financial supervision.

“You could also say that about the Netherlands and all member states of the European Union,” Groeneveldt countered. “They are ruled by the European Union from Brussels.”

Not surprisingly, the matter of complete independence also came up during the evening.

“In the sixties, independence was the thing to do,” Romney acknowledged. “But things have changed and people are coming together. As a member of the Kingdom, we are part of the European Union, one of the largest economic blocks in the world. We are near another large economic block, the United States. Why should we want to step away from that? We are benefiting from the current status.”

Groeneveldt was not convinced: “I was on the committee of 26 experts that prepared the changes to the Kingdom Charter before 10-10-10. I would say that St. Maarten is a federated state, but saying that it is not a country is incorrect.”

Addressing the inequality in the Kingdom, an issue brought up by MP Leona Marlin-Romeo, Romney said: “You do not always get what you want; you get what you negotiate.”

Another term that came to life after 10.10.10 is dualism. It is used incorrectly to reflect the separation of powers between the legislative and the executive branches of government. “The principle definition of dualism exemplifies a state of mind, good and evil or the existence of two parts that are separate and distinct from each other (like mind and body),” Romney writes in his book.

He notes that the term political dualism is primarily used in Dutch politics to indicate that members of the executive branch of government cannot be at the same time members of the legislative branch. “Political dualism is more about public officials not being permitted to serve in more than one branch of government, with no reference to the concept or doctrine of separation of powers.”

Romney also dismisses the idea that there is a true separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. “This is not the case in a parliamentary system of government and certainly not the case with St. Maarten.”

During the presentation, Romney said that the executive branch (the Council of Ministers) is “an extension of parliament.” This is based on the fact that Members of Parliament appoint ministers to the Council of Ministers.

The book presentation took place on Wednesday evening at the university on Pond Island. Members of Parliament Silveria Jacobs, Leona Marlin-Romeo, George Pantophlet (a cousin of Romney) and Cornelius de Weever attended the presentation, as did Ombudsman Nilda Arduin and independence proponent Junior Lake.

St. Maarten: Our Constituent State Constituent Framework, by Julian Romney. 128 pages. IAAS Publishers, Hyattsville, MD. Printed in the United States of America. ISBN: 978 – 1 – 879893 – 09 – 2. Price $20.

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