Population in need

Population in need

It was a hopeful sign to take note of at least one Senator in The Hague saying St. Maarten’s inhabitants should not become victims of an impasse between their Parliament and the Netherlands over the United Nations (UN) petition that led to halting coronavirus-related liquidity support (see related story). These words coming from a First Chamber member of D66 made them even more encouraging, because that party’s role in any possible new Dutch cabinet it is part of will likely be substantial based on the favourable recent Second Chamber election result. As pointed out when suspending the soft loans in question for this reason was first mentioned, two wrongs simply do not make a right.

Mind you, the message about “punishing the people” who were “caught by surprise” will probably not change the position taken by the Kingdom Council of Ministers and in particular State Secretary Raymond Knops. They understandably find accusing the Netherlands on an international level of practising racism and neo-colonialism against islanders using financial assistance – after the government in Philipsburg signed an agreement including conditions to receive such – unacceptable.

In addition to oppression and discrimination complaints, the petition literally asks to review and stop the proposed Caribbean Reform and Development Body COHO that is to supervise implementation of a “country package” with restructuring measures as requirement for continued monetary aid. This obviously goes directly against the agreed-on way forward.

At the same time, the Council of State in The Hague had strong reservations of its own regarding the draft Kingdom Act to establish the COHO that include some of the objections among St. Maarten’s elected representatives. It would behove the latter, as the intention is now to adjust the law proposal in consultation with the four kingdom countries, to pull back the controversial and potentially very damaging petition pending the result of these efforts, to see whether the outcome addresses their concerns.

After all, based on the same advice even Pro Soualiga Foundation – which had been mentioned in the motion leading to the controversial petition – announced in the newspaper of March 25 that it would end court action against the Dutch state to block the COHO. Halting the petition under those circumstances offers the legislature an opportunity to break this highly undesirable deadlock without losing too much political face, for the benefit of a population in need.