PHILIPSBURG--The Democratic Party (DP) said Sunday, “A speedy resolution locally” should have been exhausted before escalating the border conflict at Oyster Pond by Government officials boycotting the official St. Martin/St. Maarten Day celebrations.

DP Member of Parliament Emil Lee said in the press statement: “DP feels that not enough emphasis on finding a local solution was made. Up to November 11, no meeting between local stakeholders was held to try to discuss, understand and find a compromise to this conflict. … Since the futures of St. Maarten and St. Martin are tied together, the DP believes that maintaining open dialogue and an atmosphere of cooperation is important to the future of our island.”

The opposition party is now calling for Parliament to amend a motion for which the two DP parliamentarians Lee and Sarah Wescot-Williams voted on Thursday, “to include an instruction to Government to open the channels of dialogue with the local French authorities, such as Préfète Laubies, President Hanson, Senator Arnell and MP Gibbs.”

“The wording of the parliamentary motion passed on Thursday last, without some form of dialogue with our local French counterparts, will only add oil to the fire,” said Lee about the motion tabled by MP Silveria Jacobs.

Lee had pointed out in Thursday’s meeting before voting for the motion that there was an inconsistency between the comments of Prime Minister (PM) William Marlin and those of the motion.

“Marlin referred to ‘maintenance’ of the docks, while the motion referred to ‘upgrade.’ Although the comment was disregarded, it now becomes clear that this point was actually a critical point,” said Lee. “It was also asked if a building permit was requested and/or issued. According to the PM, inquiries were made, but what was subsequently done remains unclear. The PM brushed aside the question whether a permit was necessary and whether such was requested.”

Nobody in Paris or The Hague was impacted by the boycott, he said, adding, “The only people impacted are the very people we have sworn to protect. Despite a personal request from President of the Collectivité Aline Hanson to participate, the St Maarten Government refused to participate.”

The dispute between the French and the Dutch regarding ownership of Oyster Pond has been raging for many years. The Dutch side claims full ownership of the pond while the French claims half of the pond.

The border conflict came to a head two weeks ago when Captain Oliver’s Restaurant and Marina was blockaded by French-side authorities due to work being executed on the marina and the non-payment of French-side taxes. However, the business is based and licensed on the Dutch side.

“The reported heavy-handed approach of arresting the owner and staff of Captain Oliver’s was unnecessary, and therefore condemned by the DP. A simple stopping of the work to allow for clarity to be obtained would have been sufficient,” said Lee.

He calls for more synchronisation and cooperation with French St. Martin in areas including tax reform, health care and environment. “Actually all efforts should be made to increase and improve cooperation. A long and drawn-out fight will ultimately only damage the interests of the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin,” said Lee.