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MH17 prosecutor: trial could start within months

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch prosecutors may be ready to start the trial of those accused of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 within months, the head of the investigation team has told a Russian newspaper.

Senior public prosecutor Fred Westerbeke told Novaja Gazeta a number of suspects were in the frame but Dutch law prevented him from naming names. ‘We will disclose everything when this investigation is over, and we will give the names at the trial,’ he said.

‘If we want to have someone arrested, we will turn to Interpol,’ he added. ‘We have procedures to follow. This stage is yet to come, but we will do it, if any arrests are required.’

All 298 people on board flight MH17 were killed when it was struck by a missile on July 17, 2014, and crashed into fields in eastern Ukraine. Two-thirds of the passengers on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were Dutch.

The JIT’s preliminary investigations concluded last year that the plane was shot down from Ukrainian farmland by a BUK missile ‘controlled by pro-Russian fighters’. That conclusion has been disputed by Russia, which claims that Ukrainian fighters were responsible.

Westerbeke said the investigation could be tied up within weeks if ‘a number of witnesses’ contacted his team and gave a full account of what they knew, but a timeframe of several months to a year was more likely.

He added that there was no question of bargaining or a diplomatic quid pro quo to bring the suspects to court. ‘Our sole mission is to establish the facts,’ he said. ‘In case somebody missed this, I repeat: the truth is [a] non-negotiable issue.

This kind of approach does not work in the Netherlands.’ The case will be brought in the Dutch courts after Russia blocked an attempt to take it to a United Nations tribunal.

Westerbeke said he had achieved ‘some form’ of co-operation from Russia but questioned why it took two years for the Russians to release radar data from the area where the plane was brought down. (DutchNews)


Sick and Tired

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - I’ve lived on this island my entire life. Sint Maarten is the only place I call home. From attending school, being a “good” Methodist, exploring different beaches, watching and admiring the hills, hearing ‘You Thelma granddaughter right’, this is the island I know.  However, this country (Sint Maarten) has been driving me crazy for the last month and change. 

In a previous post on my blog –, I spoke about how natural disasters bring out the different colours in people.

Post Irma showed the true colours of every politician, high governing board and persons who consider themselves as “high and respectable” in the community. 

As a holder of a Dutch passport, coming from a country within the Kingdom of The Netherlands, I am grateful for all of the support the other countries and the Dutch government gave to us post Irma with help from the Royal Dutch Marines to help with security and the rebuilding process. 

As a Dutch national, I do not appreciate how our lovely outgoing Kingdom Affairs Minister, Plasterk, wants to manipulate the small man. When I heard about the proposal, that the relief money from The Netherlands would arrive but needs to be implemented through the integrity chamber, I laughed to myself. 

“My country isn’t going to be so foolish to agree with this plan.” 

Let us talk about the problem with the integrity chamber. 

The Dutch wants to establish an integrity chamber on Sint Maarten, to do investigations and make sure that our government isn’t corrupt and is functioning fair and square. 

Okay, we have corruption on Sint Maarten, I’m not going to lie. But there is a problem. The Constitution Court of our country has already ruled that key provisions in the initial regulation to establish this chamber are unconstitutional.  So it’s back to the drawing board to meet the constitutional test. The Dutch cannot come down and open an entity that we didn’t ask for, which is in direct violation of our constitution. 

It is against the laws of the land. 

IT IS ILLEGAL... spell it out with me. 






Boom. Illegal. Wouldn’t that be a form of corruption?

Now let us go to present day. 

Our Prime Minister, Mr. William Marlin, said that we would refuse to accept the proposal from the Dutch as he doesn’t want them to undermine his country. Here is the problem, nobody is listening to William Marlin. Why? Well the main problem is communication. 

Our current cabinet has some serious communication issues, which has transpired into a lot of problems and setbacks pre- and post-Irma. There appears to be a lack of communication between the ministers and parliament; between the various ministries; and even within the Council of Ministers. This has resulted in everyone showing true colours and they aren’t pretty what so ever. 

Our prime minister has lost (I personally think he never really had it) the skill to communicate effectively with his people and our other ministers do not seem to know how to give out proper instructions. 

Another problem, is the serious show and tell immediately after the hurricane. Ministers and Parliamentarians felt that they needed to be everywhere doing the heavy work. I get it, photo ups are cute and everything, but don’t you have legislations, policies and ordinances to go over and analyze and plans to deal with? No? 

Another issue is our Parliament. Both sides are not helping our situation. They call the ministers in, ask a couple questions and the minister gives an answer, they nod their heads and don’t put on a serious debate on the issue. 

After the meeting these same parliamentarians go on every radio station, write articles in print and social media, talking and giving their input on what they think should happen. Isn’t that what the floor of parliament is for? Effective Debate! I will say it here and I will say it now… Our Parliament is soft. SARFFF. 

I’m not asking for quarrels over political matters in the House of Parliament, what I’m asking for is proper discussion so that we can get somewhere as a country. It has been seven years and I feel that we are going backwards. 

Back to the integrity chamber and relief fund story.... 

It is obvious that we need the money in order for us to function properly. Tourism is our main industry and our product is our Island. That is what we are selling. Sun, Sand, Sea and Sex. 

Unfortunately many of our major hotels got extremely damaged, which means less tourists will be staying on the island. Our airport is damaged, so our hub function is impaired. But that doesn’t mean we cannot bounce back and that relief fund to help rebuild from the Dutch is a stepping stone for us to reach to our goal. 

Now I understand where the Dutch is coming from, you don’t just give anybody money of such great quantity without monitoring it. I mean I wouldn’t give this government or any of our previous governments such large funds and not monitor it. 

Where I have the problem is the integrity chamber. That is not the tool needed to monitor development funds. In fact, our Governor, Ombudsman, General Audit Chamber and Council of Advice have proven to be effective counter-corruption tools. It is up to us as a people to use them more effectively.

Unfortunately, our President of Parliament and our Opposition leader don’t seem to see the whole issue here. Or maybe they do, and are just playing the politics game to make sure they win the next elections. 


It is not the time to be playing mind games with vulnerable people. The people of Sint Maarten are in a state where they believe and agree with any and everything that they THINK works in their favour. Stop using vulnerable persons for your advantage. It is morally wrong and it makes me sick. 

This why I am scared for “The Dutch To Come In”. 

  1. 10/10/10. The day we became Country Sint Maarten, isn’t going to make sense anymore. Why? We aren’t going to be in charge of our own nation anymore. All that hard work that went to achieving this status is going to go down the drain. 
  2. We are going to suffer economically. Irma already damaged our industry and added the Dutch putting their regulations can make things worse. A prime example, the BES Islands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba). The currency change from Antillean Guilder to The US Dollar messed up their entire economy and cost of living. For such small populations, they are struggling to keep everything afloat. Cost of living is higher than before and people are suffering. To make things worse, the local governing powers and the Dutch government could never get along. 

Imagine our local government who can’t get along with each other, trying to negotiate with a higher body. We aren’t going to reach anywhere. 

Also, to the SHTA, did you guys really sit down and talk about the potential effects of the Dutch conditions before you sent out that article agreeing with the Dutch? Do you not remember basic high school Economics?

So here is my advice to the government of Sint Maarten. 

  1. Learn how to communicate. Everyone has a smart phone. Go on WhatsApp and talk to your colleges, no matter what side you are on. Talk out the issues. Write down discussion points. Bring them to the floor and discuss them properly. Find proper and adequate solutions. Speak with persons in your ministry and always have proper reasons for the orders you send out to prevent any more confusion. 
  2. Think about the people and not yourself. You are in government to represent the PEOPLE of Sint Maarten. Not to give them promises, not do things that are going to benefit you and your supporters. Do things that is will benefit, EVERYBODY. This isn’t the National Alliance, United Peoples Party, United Sint Maarten Party or The Democratic Party soap opera (and even if it was, I wouldn’t stay up to watch it, Basketball season is starting), this is about making our country better. 
  3. UNITY. For two political parties with United in their names, our government isn’t united at all. We need to stop playing “Oh I don’t like he, Oh I don’t like she” and start working together. UNITY is yelled and chanted every time we talk about how great our nation is but our political leaders cannot work together. It is a shame. 
  4. Work diligently. We are all human and we can mess up sometimes, but that doesn’t give you the excuse to mess up every time. Unfortunately our first four years focused on which cool kids I should sit with (ship-jumping) that all our legislations that were “implemented” have way too many cracks in them, since so many persons had a say. Please. Analyze. Use adequate critical thinking when coming up legislation for this country. 

Now after reading this, you must be thinking to yourself, “She really came and ripped off everyone’s head.” Well you are right. This isn’t a nice post or feel good story. This isn’t me trying to be friends with anyone, support any party or government official. This is me giving everyone a wakeup call. 

And if this call doesn’t wake you up, must I waste my breath yelling to stubborn persons who refuse to listen? Man I have an education to get and an island I have to help rebuild. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I’m honestly just sick and tired of this madness. 

By Kamilah Gumbs

COMMENTARY: The comments made in this oped are the sole responsibility of the author.


Climate Change is a threat to rich and poor alike

COMMENTARY - From Miami and Puerto Rico to Barbuda and Havana, the devastation of this year’s hurricane season across Latin America and the Caribbean serves as a reminder that the impacts of climate change know no borders.

In recent weeks, Category 5 hurricanes have brought normal life to a standstill for millions in the Caribbean and on the American mainland. Harvey, Irma and Maria have been particularly damaging. The 3.4 million inhabitants of Puerto Rico have been scrambling for basic necessities including food and water, the island of Barbuda has been rendered uninhabitable, and dozens of people are missing or dead on the UNESCO world heritage island of Dominica.

The impact is not confined to this region. The record floods across Bangladesh, India and Nepal have made life miserable for some 40 million people.  More than 1,200 people have died and many people have lost their homes, crops have been destroyed, and many workplaces have been inundated. Meanwhile, in Africa, over the last 18 months 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with major displacement taking place across the Horn region.

For those countries that are least developed the impact of disasters can be severe, stripping away livelihoods and progress on health and education; for developed and middle-income countries the economic losses from infrastructure alone can be massive; for both, these events reiterate the need to act on a changing climate that threatens only more frequent and more severe disasters.

fire apartmt Orient Beach

A (shocking) sign of things to come?

The effects of a warmer climate on these recent weather events, both their severity and their frequency, has been revelatory for many, even the overwhelming majority that accept the science is settled on human-caused global warming. 

While the silent catastrophe of 4.2 million people dying prematurely each year from ambient pollution, mostly related to the use of fossil fuels, gets relatively little media attention, the effect of heat-trapping greenhouse gases on extreme weather events is coming into sharper focus.

It could not be otherwise when the impacts of these weather events are so profound. During the last two years over 40 million people, mainly in countries which contribute least to global warming, were forced either permanently or temporarily from their homes by disasters.

There is clear consensus: rising temperatures are increasing the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, leading to more intense rainfall and flooding in some places, and drought in others. Some areas experience both, as was the case this year in California, where record floods followed years of intense drought.

TOPEX/Poseidon, the first satellite to precisely measure rising sea levels, was launched two weeks before Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Florida 25 years ago. Those measurements have observed a global increase of 3.4 millimeters per year since then; that’s a total of 85 millimeters over 25 years, or 3.34 inches.

Rising and warming seas are contributing to the intensity of tropical storms worldwide. We will continue to live with the abnormal and often unforeseen consequences of existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for many, many years to come.

In 2009, Swiss Re published a case study focused on Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, which envisaged a moderate sea level rise scenario for the 2030s which matches what has already taken place today. If a storm on the scale of Andrew had hit this wealthy corner of the US today, the economic damage would range from US$100 billion to US$300 billion. Now the estimates suggest that the economic losses from Harvey, Irma and Maria could surpass those numbers.

Marigot apartments and hotels

Reduce disaster risk now; tackle climate change in the long-term

Miami is working hard on expanding its flood protection programme; US$ 400 million is earmarked to finance sea pumps, improved roads and seawalls. Yet, this level of expenditure is beyond the reach of most low and middle-income countries that stand to lose large chunks of their GDP every time they are hit by floods and storms.

While the Paris Agreement has set the world on a long-term path towards a low-carbon future, it is a windy path that reflects pragmatism and realities in each individual country. Thus, while carbon emissions are expected to drop as countries meet their self-declared targets, the impacts of climate change may be felt for some time, leaving the world with little choice but to invest, simultaneously, in efforts to adapt to climate change and reduce disaster risk.   The benefits of doing so makes economic sense when compared to the cost of rebuilding. 

This will require international cooperation on a previously unprecedented scale as we tackle the critical task of making the planet a more resilient place to the lagging effects of greenhouse gas emissions that we will experience for years to come. Restoring the ecological balance between emissions and the natural absorptive capacity of the planet is the long-term goal. It is critical to remember that the long-term reduction of emissions is THE most important risk reduction tactic we have, and we must deliver on that ambition. 

The November UN Climate Conference in Bonn presided over by the small island of Fiji, provides an opportunity to not only accelerate emission reductions but to also boost the serious work of ensuring that the management of climate risk is integrated into disaster risk management as a whole.  Poverty, rapid urbanization, poor land use, ecosystems decline and other risk factors will amplify the impacts of climate change. Today on International Day for Disaster Reduction, we call for them to be addressed in a holistic way. (Op-ed by Achim Steiner, Patricia Espinosa and Robert Glasser)

Marigot Waterfront Yachts onshore

International Day for Disaster Reduction (13 October 2017)


Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (

Patricia Espinosa is Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change (

Robert Glasser is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (


Online supermarket sales in the Netherland set to top €1bn this year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Roughly 2.9% of the estimated €35.54bn spent in Dutch supermarkets this year will be online orders, which means that internet sales will top the €1bn mark for the first time, market research group GfK reported on Friday.

The market research group said one in six Dutch households has made at least one online order this year. Supermarket sales rose by 4.4% to €2.71bn in September, while nine-month revenues have increased by 2.7% to €26.39bn (€25.68bn), GfK said.

The average spend was 5.6% higher at €23.63 (€22.36) per visit. The company is forecasting 3% revenue growth in the supermarket sector for 2018. (DutchNews)


First hydrogen-powered train set for northern Netherlands in 2018

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The northern provinces of Friesland and Groningen and rail operator ProRail are hoping to test run a train powered by hydrogen next year, the Volkskrant said on Thursday.

The parties involved want to determine whether a hydrogen-powered train will prove to be a cheap and sustainable alternative for the diesel trains now operating from the provincial capitals of Leeuwarden and Groningen.

Most trains in the Netherlands run on electricity but there are no electric overhead lines on the rail network in Friesland and Groningen where the trains are powered by diesel.

To switch to electric trains would cost hundreds of millions of euros, hence the potential move to hydrogen. The hydrogen-powered train is a realistic alternative for tracks without overhead power supplies, said Wouter Wiersema of engineering consultancy Arcadis which is conducting a feasibility study of the new train.

But major changes are needed if the diesel engines are to be retired. Storage facilities for hydrogen – a very light, flammable fuel – will have to be created on trains and in stations.

Strong safety measures are vital, said Wiersema. The French train manufacturer Alstom is experimenting with a hydrogen-powered train in northern Germany. Once this train, called the Coradia iLint, has been given full safety clearance, it will also be able to travel on the Dutch rail network and the trials can take place, the Volkskrant said. (DutchNews)


The new coalition loves him, so just who is the ‘normal, ordinary Dutchman’?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Who is that ‘normal, ordinary Dutchman’ prime minister Mark Rutte and the new coalition keep talking about and who stands to gain from the new government accord?

The papers have been on his trail but he is proving to be elusive. The normal, ordinary Dutchman, or NOD, is first of all a tried and tested ‘right-wing trick,’ says professor of public administration Hans de Bruijn in Trouw.

‘He is the ‘silent majority’ of Richard Nixon and Donald Trumps’ ‘forgotten’ Americans, and Rutte’s own ‘hardworking’ Dutchman of a couple of years ago all over again,’ he told the paper. It is also ‘a rhetorical device’, and it works.

‘The clever thing about it is that it is undefinable: everyone can say he is a NOD. Besides, everyone likes to belong, or at least not be regarded as the opposite of hard-working and quiet – ie lazy and loud-mouthed.

It also feels right to hear someone say he is doing his best for ordinary folk. No one could be against that,’ the paper quotes Bruijn as saying.


CDA leader Sybrand Buma said in a recent lecture that the NOD is an ‘angry, frustrated citizen whose job has been taken by an immigrant or Eastern European and whose children’s schools teach too much theory.’

It was a statement which generated much criticism at the time. According to historian Jos Palm in Trouw, to both Rutte and CDA leader Sybrand Buma the NOD does indeed represent the political middle ground.

He has been neglected by all parties as they ‘focused on the civilised, thinking part of the nation, the people who don’t grumble about the Netherlands no longer being the Netherlands,’ Palm said.

But singling out NODs is not a good thing because it promotes dividing the population up into groups, Palm told the paper. ‘As long as the political elite doesn’t rise above this the situation the normal, ordinary Dutchman finds himself in is not going to improve one bit,’ Trouw quotes him as saying.

Are you a NOD?

The paper then went out into the street and asked a random selection of people if they consider themselves NODs. ‘Political bullshit,’ said pensioner Leontine Groothorst (62), ‘the normal ordinary Dutchman doesn’t exist.’

Cora van Ark (49) and unemployed ‘is Dutch because that’s what it says in my passport. But the politicians are not standing up for pensioners or people who haven’t got a pot to piss in.’

According to builder Stefano Losada (28) ‘you can be green, yellow or purple. If you act normally, you’re a normal Dutch person. That includes me. Of course! But criminals and scum, no.’

‘The term conjures up people who only eat cheese, take their kids to school and eat at six. It would have been better if Rutte had talked about all citizens, just: everyone,’ 18 year-old journalism student Nina Stefanowski told the paper.


The Volkskrant thinks Rutte means the NOD to represent ‘families with children on middle incomes’. This prompted a number of its readers to have a go at the prime minister.

‘In a society such as ours the government shouldn’t worry about the normal ordinary citizen: he will be fine. The government should look after the vulnerable,’ Marcel van der Poel wrote tersely.

‘Shame on you, Mr Rutte,’ wrote G. Geukes. ‘I find the use of the term ‘normal, ordinary Dutchman very discriminating. As queen Máxima once asked: is there such a thing as the average Dutch person? As far as I can see the government agreement doesn’t consider the infirm and pensioners to be normal, ordinary Dutch people.’ (DutchNews)


Ministers to be present for Plenary Session of Parliament about disaster management on Thursday

PHILIPSBURG – The House of Parliament will sit in a plenary public session on October 12. The Minister of Justice will be replacing the Prime Minister.

The plenary public meeting which commenced on September 25 and continued on September 28 and October 4 will be reconvened on Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 9.00 hrs in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda point is State of preparedness hurricane season, Disaster management hurricane Irma, Reconstruction following the devastation by hurricane Irma.

The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, the Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure and the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication will also be present to answer questions posed by Members of Parliament.

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. 

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.


Prime Minister & Minister of Tourism welcome back 1st Commercial Flights to Sint Maarten

SIMPSON BAY -  On Tuesday 10-10-17, Prime Minister William Marlin and Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication Melissa Arrindell Doncher welcomed the 1st commercial flights to Sint Maarten marking the re-opening of PJIAE / SXM Airport.

The two Ministers were present 7:50 am in the morning to welcome the first flight, WINAIR that arrived from Saba beginning the historic day that saw 6 flights land with one cancellation.

Around midday a festive welcome ceremony was organized that included live music, ladies in beautiful carnival costumes, give away items, finger food snacks & cold beverages. The special welcome was put together by SXM Airport, SXM Tourism Bureau and Toppers Restaurant for the arrival of Delta Airlines, American Airlines and the remaining flights for the day.

PAWA Airlines completed the final flight of the day, arriving from Santo Domingo with residents and visitors to the island. The Commercial Director of PAWA Sebastian Garcia upon his arrival presented Prime Minister William Marlin with a replica model of a PAWA airplane.

Written on it were the words, “Together we fly higher even under the strongest storms”. Prime Minister Marlin in turn presented Mr. Garcia with a plaque indicating Sint Maarten is open. “We are very grateful and thankful for the support and your arrival is a sign of confidence in the recovery of Sint Maarten,” he said.

The Prime Minister also recognized PAWA as the airline that flew in the most relief goods during the period when only humanitarian flights were allowed following the passing of Hurricane Irma.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Commercial Director of PAWA Sebastian Garcia, and his PR Director, Prime Minister William Marlin & SXM Station Manager at PAWA Johanna De Windt.

inside first flights


Global unemployment passes 200 million in 2017, UN labour agency reports

SINT MAARTEN/INTERNATIONAL, 9 October 2017 – More than 200 million people are out of work around the world – an increase of 3.4 million since last year, the United Nations labour agency said Monday, calling for policies that can recharge “sluggish” growth of small and medium-sized businesses.

In the new addition of its flagship report, World Employment and Social Outlook 2017: Sustainable Enterprises and Jobs, the International Labour Organization (ILO) warned that small and medium sized enterprises has “stagnated,” the impact of which is worst in developing economies, where more than one in two workers are employed in small and medium-sized firms. 

According to the report, private sector enterprises accounted for the bulk of global employment in 2016; they employed 2.8 billion individuals, representing 87 per cent of total employment. The sector, which also covers medium-sized firms, accounts for up to 70 per cent of all jobs in some Arab States, and well over 50 per cent in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. 

But ILO research revealed these companies are struggling to grow. The latest data from more than 130 countries shows that small and medium business had faster job growth than larger firms before the global financial slump in 2008. 

From 2009 however, job creation in the small and medium sector was simply “absent”, according to the ILO report, which calls for government intervention to reverse the trend. 

“To reverse the trend of employment stagnation in [small and medium enterprises], we need policies to better promote SMEs and a better business environment for all firms, including access to finance for the younger ones,” said Deborah Greenfield, ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy. 

The ILO research shows that full-time female permanent employees in the formal sector are more likely to be found in small and medium enterprises than in large firms. On average, and across all regions, around 30 per cent of full-time permanent employees in these businesses are women, compared with 27 per cent in large enterprises. 

As such, greater numbers of women in enterprises may therefore have a positive impact on growth and development, because micro-enterprises and small businesses often offer women an entry point into the formal labour market. 

Another aspect of the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook report is on how people’s working conditions can play a role in sustainable development. It says that providing training for staff can lead to 14 per cent higher wages and almost 20 per cent higher productivity. 

Conversely, relying on short-term contractors tends to be associated with lower wages and lower productivity.


Are we Ready? – Part One

COMMENTARY/SINT MAARTEN - A few years ago when I was a student at the University of St. Martin (USM) I was fortunate enough to do two political science classes. One with Khalilah Peters and another with Arjen Alberts. Both classes were very insightful: Khalilah’s class was an introduction to political science and Arjen’s class focused on politics in the Caribbean and examined governance in various non-independent and independent Caribbean countries. These classes allowed me to see the big picture and develop an informed opinion on Independence. This opinion is that neither side of the island is ready or will ever be ready for the responsibilities that come with Independence.

Most people believe that Independence means freedom but in reality, it means responsibility. The government of an independent country has three primary responsibilities to its citizens: sovereignty, authority, and legitimacy. Sovereignty deals with a government’s ability to protect its citizens not only from one another but also from outside attack. To provide sovereignty some countries build great walls and develop large armies. Others strategically use landscape to their advantage and build towns in areas protected by high mountains, wide rivers or vast deserts.

Authority deals with the power to create and enforce rules (laws). This is why we have the three branches of government: the legislative branch (parliament) who creates laws, the executive branch (ministers and law enforcement officers) charged with the execution and enforcement of laws and the judicial branch (judges and courts) who is responsible for the interpretation of laws. 

Legitimacy is the degree to which people accept the authority of the government. A government that rules justly and wisely may enjoy a great deal of legitimacy, as long as their authority is accepted. In the case of dictators, their legitimacy may be acquired through fear. As long as the feared ruler is seen as bringing about prosperity or protecting the lives of his citizens, it is entirely possible that his people will be happy.

These responsibilities are interrelated. To ensure sovereignty you need authority and to maintain authority you need legitimacy. Currently, the Dutch side has its own constitution. However, the Netherlands provides our sovereignty and has involvement in our authority and legitimacy. We have control in who we elect to parliament/government and we have some autonomy in the laws we enact. However, due to the lack of local resources, we rely on personnel from other countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands to fill certain positions (prosecutors and judges) in our judicial system.

Comparatively, on the French side there is far less autonomy. The French side is an Overseas Collectivity which is considered an “integral part of France that happens to be in the Caribbean,” as such it is covered by the Constitution of France. Being considered part of France means that France provides our sovereignty, authority, and legitimacy. There is a locally elected senator, deputy and government (Territorial Council). The senator and deputy represent us in both houses of the French Parliament and the Territorial Council is responsible for taxation, regional planning, economic development, and social affairs in St. Martin. However, France retains control of foreign affairs, security, and immigration laws. A state representative (prefet) is also appointed by France.

To be Independent would mean our 37 square mile island has to leave the umbrella of France and the Netherlands and take on all these responsibilities. Quite frankly, neither side of the island has the resources to provide and maintain sovereignty, authority and legitimacy. Additionally, both sides of the island rely heavily on tourism and there are no plans to diversify the economy. Our lack of resources is increasingly evident during disasters. Hurricane Irma devastated both sides of the island and in the aftermath, there was widespread looting and chaos. This was partially due to telecommunications being brought down for the entire island for several days. Nevertheless, both sides were unable to maintain authority and relied on the Dutch Marines and Support Law Enforcement from France to regain control of the island.

This is just one example of what happens if we can’t meet these responsibilities and just go independent anyways. There are many other examples in the Caribbean, countries that have gone this route struggle in the face of globalization and accrue debt to the point that most of them have become dependent on foreign investors such as China and the USA. China’s relationship with Caribbean countries has been seen as a form of modern day colonialism. To be clear, China does not provide these nations with sovereignty, authority or legitimacy. They practice “cheque book” diplomacy which affords them influence in the region.

This could happen to St. Maarten, we already have Chinese investors making lavish promises on St. Maarten and when speaking about Independence our leaders have a tendency to focus on political conflicts or our colonial history. They often highlight the benefits that come with a change of status while neglecting to mention the additional responsibilities the country has to take on. This was apparent when the Dutch side changed its status on 10-10-2010 and the French side on 15-07-2007.

In recent years, Independence has been actively discussed on the Dutch side. During the most recent election campaign, the Independence for St. Martin Foundation (ISMF) organized a debate where most political parties agreed that it is the right of the people but the country isn’t ready. They all stated that instability in government was a major issue. Realistically speaking an unstable government poses its problems but in the context of Independence, it’s not our primary concern. Sovereignty is of utmost importance, this determines whether or not we will be able to defend ourselves and the future generations of St. Martiners.

Ramzan Juman

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