Parliament should address Kingdom Government concerning border conflict

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Wycliffe Smith Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party

We commend Prime Minister William Marlin, for insisting that the Oyster Pond border dispute be brought to our Parliament, which is indeed the direct representative of the people of St. Maarten.

After presenting the problem to Parliament, his proposal should have been to request parliament to invoke article 67 of the State Regulation (Constitution) as suggested by MP Sarah Wescott-Williams. Article 67 authorizes Parliament to “represent the interests of St. Maarten to the Government of the Kingdom and to the States General of the Netherlands.” As the Oyster Pond conflict is clearly a matter between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of France, the SMCP is of the opinion that a lasting solution to this problem must be sought at the Kingdom and Republic levels.

In the past, Prime Ministers Sarah Wescott-Williams and Marcel Gumbs, tried to resolve the issue at the local level by writing letters to the local French authorities of Saint Martin. On both occasions the conflict was quelled only temporarily. Since no permanent solution has been put in place the problem continues to resurface as French authorities reinterpret unsettled pond border demarcations.

Even though, in times like these, the St. Maarten Government and the people appeal to the Concordia Treaty of 1648 as well as to the Franco-Dutch Treaty, signed in 1994 and ratified in 2007 the border dispute has continued to raise its ugly head from time to time. Note that the Franco-Dutch Treaty is only aimed at improving border control through joint controls on the so-called “risk flights” at both airports namely the Princess Juliana Airport and L’Espérance Airport. This Treaty only went into force in 2013 when the then Minister of Justice Roland Duncan, installed the working committee as specified in the Treaty.

As the Oyster Pond conflict is not regulated by the Franco-Dutch Treaty it therefore requires a new land or pond demarcation regulation or treaty between the Kingdom and the Republic. Until this is finalized it behooves the local authorities on both sides of the island, namely the President of the Collectivité and the Prime Minister of St. Maarten to find a temporary solution at the local level until the Kingdom and the Republic have established a permanent solution for Oyster Pond and any other land and water disputes.

Under the former Netherlands Antilles, Parliament could have submitted grievances to the Governor as well as to the Kingdom Government and the States General. However, the State Regulations of the new countries (Aruba, St. Maarten, Curaçao) have omitted the governor and given Parliament the possibility to address its concerns and grievances directly to the Kingdom Government and the States General. In the matter of the Oyster Pond dispute, Parliament’s only recourse is to submit this case directly to the Kingdom Government and request that this matter be resolved post haste via negotiations between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of France.

Prime Minister Marlin is now the third prime minister dealing with this issue. Clearly a permanent solution is required. During the two-day presentation on the border dispute only the DP faction rejected the Council of Minister’s action to boycott the official ceremonies to be held on the French side on St. Maarten Day. We assume that Parliament, being a direct representative of the people, also received an invitation to attend the official St. Maarten Day ceremonies. We believe that if Parliament did not intend to accept this invitation then, out of respect for the voters, it should have informed the people that it was not going to represent them at the official ceremonies and give reasons of its absence.

Reading the message written by the Chairman of Parliament one could have assumed that he was going to be present. Are we to conclude that the chairman of parliament, by his absence, was boycotting the official celebrations?

It was also surprising to observe that even Governor Holiday, or in his absence the acting Governor, was blatantly absent from the official celebrations. Are we to conclude that the Governor’s absence is to be interpreted that the Kingdom Government, whom he represents, also supported the boycott?

SMCP is of the opinion that Parliament has a very essential role to play in bringing about a permanent solution to this dispute. In the motion that Parliament passed on November 10, mention was made to call on the Dutch Kingdom Foreign Affairs Minister “to promptly address this matter with his counterparts in Paris.”

SMCP believes that this motion must be followed up by a letter from Parliament, according to article 67, requesting the Kingdom Government to seek a permanent solution to the Oyster Pond border conflict together with their French counterpart. If this is not done, we will be faced with a similar border dispute again sometime in the near future. Let it be on record that the people of St. Maarten, exercised their right, via their elected representatives in Parliament, to have all land and water border issues resolved permanently via a Treaty between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of France.

Wycliffe Smith

Leader of the St. Maarten Christian Party

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