THE HAGUE--The recently established Decolonisation Committee of the St. Maarten Parliament resulted in an intense discussion during the opening of the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPKO on Wednesday.
Chairman of the Committee of Kingdom Affairs and Inter-Parliamentary Relations (CKAIR) of the St. Maarten Parliament William Marlin (National Alliance) in his presentation during the virtual opening of IPKO mentioned the establishing of the new committee and the main responsibilities that this committee would have, namely the overseeing and coordinating of the trajectory of decolonisation as per Article 73 of the United Nations (UN) Charter.
When Marlin concluded his presentation about the general developments in St. Maarten, he got several questions from members of both the First and Second Chambers. Senator Annemarie Jorritsma of the liberal democratic VVD party was the first one to seek clarity. “What does your country mean with decolonisation?” she asked, noting that for the Netherlands the decolonisation process has been finished.
Marlin explained that the new committee only looked at the decolonisation article in the UN Charter. He said the St. Maarten Parliament was of a different opinion than the Netherlands and that the decolonisation process has not been completed.
Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman (VVD) asked if the new committee meant that St. Maarten was going for independence. Marlin immediately put an end to this notion by explaining that the committee would merely oversee the finalisation of the decolonisation trajectory, and that the discussions on independence as yet had to take place.
“The committee was only recently established. It has not elected a chairperson and it has not met as yet. We are still in the early stages. We need to be cognisant of the fact that the people of St. Maarten never voted for independence in a referendum. So, the St. Maarten Parliament at this moment has no mandate to pursue or negotiate independence for the people. This committee merely carries out an exploration of a process that we believe was never completed,” said Marlin.
The next Dutch Member of Parliament (MP) to seek clarity was Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP). He said he was convinced that if the St. Maarten people voted for independence in a referendum, the entire Dutch Parliament would support this wish. However, a referendum must first be held. “I have nothing against establishing a committee, but what is the objective? To organise a referendum, or to only talk?”
Marlin again explained that the committee had only just been established. “Let us stick to the facts. Parliament carried out a request to establish a decolonisation committee. It has not elected a chairperson as yet and has not had a meeting. The word independence was not mentioned as a final option of this committee and it is not the responsibility of this committee to pursue independence.”
Marlin pointed out that in no earlier referendum was the choice of the St. Maarten people to obtain independence. He emphasised that independence was currently not a focal point. He called it “unfortunate” that so much time was spent on this issue during the IPKO opening, while there were other more pressing issues as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The work of this committee will not be a secret. It will not be swept under the rug and its finding will be made known to all citizens, not only of St. Maarten but throughout the kingdom,” he assured the Dutch parliamentarians.
Senator Ria Oomen of the Christian Democratic Party CDA was not satisfied with Marlin’s explanation and noted that the word decolonisation was “absolutely loaded.” “You criticise the Netherlands and say that we are not the best person to look after you, but can you give examples where we colonise your country?”
Marlin replied that the St. Maarten Parliament was willing to have a discussion any time about the relations within the kingdom and the decolonisation process, but that more energy should be invested in important matters such as a Kingdom Dispute Regulation which still, 10 years later, has not been established yet. He also mentioned the tough negotiations with the Dutch government in order to receive liquidity support. “It was a matter of signing here or receive no help.”
St. Maarten MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten of the United People’s (UP) party then spoke, saying that months ago she had sent a package with information about the decolonisation trajectory and the associated UN resolutions to everyone. She said if MPs wanted to receive her research, she was most willing to send it again.
“We just started the committee. We will start the meeting this month with simply pulling information together and in a couple of months we will have an annotated document that we will present to you. So, give us an opportunity. It is our right to do what we want to do for this country. It is not that we are seeking independence.”