Sunday, May 19th

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Editorial Eye to eye

Today’s resumption of Parliament’s debate on the draft national ordinance to establish an Integrity Chamber (see Saturday paper) may be the last chance to avoid having such dictated by the Netherlands. Several Members of Parliament had requested changes, despite the fact that a protocol signed with Dutch Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk called for adopting the law proposal on the table at the time.

The latter also was supposed to be done by the end of June, which did not occur. However, the legislatures of both countries have been on summer recess since then, so the matter is being picked up again now.

On July 7 Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, who signed the protocol on behalf of St. Maarten, said The Hague was aware the legislation in question could not be handled until after the recess and that various amendments had been suggested.

The issue reportedly nevertheless was discussed in the Kingdom Council of Ministers on July 10, but although Plasterk had warned that Philipsburg would be held to its word, he remained mum on the subject after that meeting, saying only that it was better not to go into details because “this has to be done carefully.” It remains unclear whether that meant preparing a general measure of kingdom governance to impose an Integrity Chamber.

The process for such actually had started already, but the usual accompanying request for advice from the Council of State was withdrawn later in light of the agreement reached. The Rutte cabinet might very well be a bit hesitant to go back to that scenario, considering criticism regarding the recent use on the former colonies of relatively heavy constitutional instruments intended only as a last resort to guarantee basic rights throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It thus appears that how the adjustments requested are made could determine to a large extent whether the path followed from here on in will be one of confrontation or cooperation. For the island’s population the latter is obviously preferable, because that would at least ensure some degree of local involvement.

Richardson said last week that he would be willing to go to prison a few years in defence of his country, referring to the budgetary restrictions by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT and the need to invest in law enforcement. He expressed frustration about how the Dutch decide to make means available chiefly for what they consider a priority, namely combating perceived corruption.

Hopefully the two parties still can see eye-to-eye, so at least part of the 22 million euros to be spent on strengthening the Justice system and – even if it’s just a few of – the 50 Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST members being sent over could be used to tackle more regular, high-impact offences that affect the daily lives of citizens too. After all, one does not have to exclude the other, does it?