PHILIPSBURG – Prime Minister William Marlin addressed members of the media during Wednesday’s, April 12, Council of Ministers Press Briefing.
He tackled the main issue of the Integrity Chamber and the appointment of the Quartermaster for St. Maarten. “What was making headlines was the Minister did not stick to his agreement, because rather than continuing with the meeting, we got a letter that the Kingdom Government had decided to send to the Kingdom Council of Ministers a proposal to give St. Maarten an instruction based on the agreement that goes back to 2015,” the Prime Minister began.
According to the Prime Minister, prior to the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting on April 7, in The Hague, his Secretary General had sent the Secretary General of the Ministry of Kingdom Relations an e-mail telling him that the Prime Minister of St. Maarten “is willing to come to Holland to continue the discussion. All he would want is an agenda as to what points we’re going to discuss since we could not reach agreement on St. Maarten…They never responded.”
“What happened was we got information that the instruction was sent to the Kingdom Council of Ministers and would be handled on Friday. I traveled to the Netherlands last week Wednesday, and I requested to meet with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte. I requested meetings, among others with Minister Plasterk. The meeting with Minister Plasterk was almost carbon copy of the discussions in Aruba, because they are hell bent to give St. Maarten an instruction, whether you like it or not,” the PM stated.
“When I met with Minister Rutte…for those people from St. Maarten who did not follow it, while I was in The Hague, the meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte was very short, about nine minutes, was very hostile. He was very angry and to quote his words, he said at the time, ‘he is sick and tired of the whining of St. Maarten,’” the Prime Minister informed.
“St. Maarten must agree to the Integrity Chamber, and whether we like it or not the Integrity Chamber will come, because they’re tired of it, and if we don’t agree, get out of the Kingdom. To that I responded, ‘I have absolutely no problem with that,’ and that was the end of the meeting,” PM Marlin said.
“Before I left Holland, when I attended the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting, I made it known that the Dutch are using the protocol of 2015 signed by between the Dutch government and the St. Maarten Government. Because we need to sometimes revisit things and look at the big picture of it. It’s an agreement between two governments within this Kingdom. It’s an agreement between the Dutch Minister and the St. Maarten ministers,” the PM continued.
“Contrary to what was reported in the editorial of the Herald newspaper, the Parliament did not ratify that draft integrity chamber law in its totality. It was not a unanimous vote. The National Alliance faction voted against. We opposed it from the very beginning. Because from the minute it was signed on that Saturday morning, I was in The Hague. I spoke out against it. I said it is wrong. You’re infringing on the authority of the Parliament,” PM Marlin explained.
“One must realize that when the four parliaments of the Kingdom came together several years ago, and they agreed on a draft for the dispute or regulation because one is called for by the Kingdom Charter that we must have a dispute regulation. We have rules that govern. If we have a difference of opinion, we can go to court and when the judge rules, we have to abide by that ruling. If we don’t agree, we can appeal, and we don’t agree, we can go farther, but at the end of the day when there is a final ruling, that’s it. Whether you agree with it, that is the ruling,” the Prime Minister stressed.
According to the Prime Minister, “They put aside the agreement made by four parliaments of the Kingdom and Minister Plasterk came with his own. When we have a dispute, put it before the Council of State, but in the end Holland reserves the right to disagree with the Council of State.”
“What happened is that legislation in St. Maarten is subject to review on request of the Ombudsman by our Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court took a long time and it is towards the second half of 2016, the Constitutional Court struck it down,” the PM went on to explain.
“That makes Holland angry, so now we fast forward to where we were in that meeting in The Hague on Friday. I told them it is clear Minister Plasterk and I cannot see eye to eye on the interpretation that they are giving to the protocol. They feel St. Maarten did not live up to the protocol,” PM Marlin said.
“My advice to the Kingdom Council of Ministers was looking at the provisions made chapter 7 on the Kingdom Law that governs the Commission of Financial Supervision, the CFT. Given the provisions of chapter 7 that are also applicable to the protocol, we can file an appeal to the Council of State,” the Prime Minister explained.
“The difference is that a Council of State in such a dispute is their ruling would be binding, like the Constitutional Court. Not one of them can overrule the other,” he said.
“The protocol of 2015 is on paper, and it is subject to scrutiny and review. If there’s a dispute about it, and I told him that is the way St. Maarten will move forward. So even before the Council of State looks at the draft instruction itself that’s based on an agreement made between the Kingdom Government and St. Maarten, it’s an agreement made between two governments in the Kingdom,” PM Marlin continued.
“Now the Dutch are telling us ‘we don’t care what your Constitutional Court said,’ because basically that is what they are saying. ‘We don’t care because you have an agreement with us and you are going to carry out that agreement.’ So that is where we are now,” the PM stated.
“I would say it again. The intention of the Dutch government to impose a measure of supervision on St. Maarten, to force St. Maarten to put on Integrity Chamber in place, is wrong. It is unconstitutional. Because what am I saying, when I say bring in the troops, if you are going to use ‘might over rights,’ whether we are wrong or not, that Integrity Chamber is going to come, and then for them that’s a law…And I say, ‘no you have to bring the troops.’ I didn’t say we going to war, because if you want the Integrity Chamber to work, you won’t get my cooperation, and with me, I’m not only saying the cooperation of William Marlin, the cooperation of all of us. You won’t get it, so for you to enforce your law that you’re imposing on me, you’ve got to bring your troops to execute it. But if tomorrow the Constitutional Court or the Council of State says we have reviewed and St. Maarten you’re actually wrong, we respect the law. I respect the law,” Prime Minister Marlin said emphatically.
“We have presented our budget, we have presented a governing program, now we are presenting plans on what each Ministry plans to do, and I don’t intend to spend all my energy arguing with what the Dutch Chamber thinks about statements I made,” the PM said.
“What the Dutch is doing is wrong, and wrong is wrong. So I will stick to my statement, if they want to force an Integrity Chamber down our throats, knowing that it is wrong, then they got to bring the troops,” Prime Minister Marlin concluded.