Emmanuel says he remains in total opposition to COHO

MP Christopher Emmanuel


~ Calls it a divisive tool in the Kingdom ~

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel’s position towards the COHO remains the same as it has been from day 1: complete opposition to the entity which he says will obviously infringe on St. Maarten’s autonomy and relegate the government and Parliament to the sideline.

“There can be no talk of good faith from the Dutch government if they continue to seek control over the budgets of the countries while holding the “no liquidity support” ax over our necks. It is disingenuous and blatant political blackmail,” the MP said. “I will call it as I see it,” he added.

He said he is not impressed with vague statements coming from some Members of Parliament who supported the COHO full-throat, but are now apparently convinced that the entity is bad for the country. “I am not impressed because if they believe it is no good, then say so with conviction and act accordingly,” the MP said.

“We see the Parliament of Curacao passing a unanimous motion against the COHO in its current form. But we fail to understand that the Dutch government, through COHO, will not negotiate its way out of overall control of reform projects. Neither will they drop any measure that holds liquidity support over the heads of these islands.

“It is an exercise in futility and colonialism by a different name. It is a divisive tool within the Kingdom. Here we have a country, the Netherlands, that wants to pride itself on human rights, democratic principles and a united Kingdom. But they are dividing this same kingdom by implementing an entity on one group of people in the same Kingdom.
“Saba and Statia doesn’t have a COHO, not a single province in Holland has a COHO, but you choose the people of St. Maarten upon which to utilize this colonizing tool that is anchored in ‘do as we say or else’. That is exactly what this is. If the Netherlands cannot genuinely assist us in crossing the street to get to a safe place, then let us go,” the MP said.

He said he intends to once again express his position at IPKO as he had once before when he told MP’s of the Kingdom that COHO remains unclear and foreign to the people of St. Maarten. “As time has passed and State Secretaries change, COHO has not. This entity is entirely unnecessary if the government of St. Maarten allows the civil core to execute local governmental reforms without severe political interference.

The government, he said, has not presented an alternative plan, not even an economic plan, for this country. In the meantime, State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen and BZK is willing to take St. Maarten’s concerns about infringing on its autonomy and laws into account only after the COHO law is passed. “When translated this means never,” Emmanuel said.

“The government and Parliament will lose control over our national budget and this means we lose our country,” MP Emmanuel stressed. “The Prime Minister of St. Maarten will have to answer to BZK and even to a State Secretary.”

The CFT, already a restrictive body on St. Maarten, will be given more budgetary oversight powers including having to report to the COHO on whether or not there are obstacles included in the annual country budget that could hamper implementation of the country packages or other COHO projects. Should the COHO agree that such obstacles are clearly apparent, this will form the basis to decide whether or not to continue with liquidity support.

“The direct involvement of BZK with COHO is very worrisome because this is de facto the Dutch governments running the Caribbean countries through the COHO construct. If there are objections, it is the same COHO and BZK that ultimately decides what is in line with the execution agenda for the country packages. The will and intentions of local politicians will not be considered in our own country,” Emmanuel said.

To date he added, neither the State Secretary nor the Council of Ministers of St. Maarten can say otherwise to these facts. He said it is clear that the Parliament of St. Maarten will have no power as the COHO will draft the execution agenda for the country packages and nothing will move forward unless the COHO so approves.
“Keep in mind COHO also retains the power to initiate projects on its own accord. So as much as the government thinks certain measures will not be included, that is not up to government and Parliament. If the COHO and its handlers feel like proposing a land tax for example, it can do exactly that,” Emmanuel said.

“We have no cohesive, solid position towards the COHO. I have preached from the mountain tops about everything we see happening today. It was clear where their “trajectory” was heading; direct to an administrative body, constructed in the Netherlands by the Dutch government, with the intention to finally control these islands by controlling their budgets. Any protest would be met with no liquidity. This is the trajectory the government of St. Maarten followed and that this MP will continue to oppose alone for as long as I have to,” MP Emmanuel concluded.