THE HAGUE--St. Maarten was portrayed as a country with corrupt politicians, a growing national debt and a playground for criminal groups, in a short background news report on Dutch national TV on Thursday evening.
Interviewed in the five-minute TV item of the news programme “EenVandaag” (One Today) were Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party and Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP), and former Head of the St. Maarten Finance Department Bas Roorda.
“St. Maarten is a fantastic tropical vacation destination, but there is a dark side,” it was stated in the introductory text of the TV item by journalist Marc Belinfante. “The government finances are a mess: the island has a debt of 125 million euros. Human smuggling is thriving.”
The report mentioned the visit of a delegation of the Dutch Parliament to the island in early January this year. “It has been known for years that things are not going well. However, it came as surprise how bad things really were.”
Van Raak said that corruption was intertwined in local politics. “It isn’t that a number of politicians are sometimes corrupt or that many politicians are often corrupt; corruption is in the system,” he said. Van Raak also mentioned words such as nepotism and abuse of power to describe local politics. “The situation appears to be even worse when you talk with the people on the island.”
Bosman associated St. Maarten with brothels, money laundering, drugs and weapon trade and human trafficking. “They are all present.” He said that the local politicians seemed “uninterested” in their people, and that they mostly acted out of self-interest and that they were out to secure (more) power and money for themselves.
Mention was made in the TV item of the pending large-scale criminal investigation into the ties between the underworld and upper world, demanded by the Second Chamber based on a motion of Van Raak and Bosman. According to the report, the Sicilian mafia is active on the island.
The finances of the St. Maarten Government was the main issue in the TV report. Bas Roorda, Head of the St. Maarten Finance Department from 2009 to 2011, anticipated that the country’s debt would increase by NAf. 50 million per year if the financial management continued in the current manner.
“Budgets have not been balanced year after year. Ultimately, this will result in bankruptcy when St. Maarten can no longer comply with its obligations,” said Roorda, who warned that the Dutch tax payer would end up paying the bill. That is because the Kingdom Charter states that the Netherlands is responsible for the overseas countries.
Bosman too was critical of St. Maarten’s financial management. He said that the government was making the wrong decisions to get the budget balanced by cutting in the funds for the justice sector. He said that the justice sector was precisely important in a solid governmental system and for the confidence in government.
Van Raak did not mention the financial situation. He was clearly more worried about corruption. “The Netherlands and the US have to ensure that the underworld, the mafia disappears. St. Maarten has a vulnerable population, a small government, but very big criminals with a lot of bad money that is paid to politicians. Bad money brings bad government policies. St. Maarten must be rid of the underworld to give the people a better future,” he said.
At the end of the report, EenVandaag anchor Pieter Jan Hagens stated that St. Maarten Prime Minister William Marlin, who was in the Netherlands on a working visit, “naturally” had been invited to come to the studios for comment, but that he had declined because he did not have time.