photo: John Samson

THE HAGUE – The Netherlands will once again intervene in the autonomy of one of the Caribbean islands. The Council of Ministers wants to force St Maarten to implement a so-called integrity room, says St. Maarten’s Prime Minister William Marlin. Legal experts are concerned about the trend of receiving ‘instructions’ from The Hague.

If the Dutch ministers decide to implement this on Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, then these autonomous islands have no room to defend themselves. Professors Paul Bovend’Eert en Gerhard Hoogers (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen) spoke about this worrisome trend.

Unlike the autonomous Caribbean countries, the municipalities can appeal to the administrative court for a neutral stand pertaining to involvement of the Dutch government.

Tackling corruption
The Netherlands wants St.Maarten to firmly tackle administrative corruption on the island as soon as possible so as to give life to the ‘integrity room’. This means that an independent study has to be done on the criminality of individuals and organizations. But last year the Constitutional Court tested the legislation against the Constitution of St. Maarten: the fundamental rights of individuals and organizations are far from protected. St. Maarten wants the law to be adjusted and therefore ask for more time.

‘Never ever’
“In the Netherlands such an integrity chamber would never ever exist”, responds Professor Gerhard Hoogers. “In fact the integrity room forces individuals to condemn themselves. If this instruction is implemented, the Netherlands would be forcing St. Maarten to act against its own constitution. In the Netherlands we do not say: if the crime is bad, we put the law aside?”

St. Maarten Prime Minister: ‘Bring in the troops’
Prime Minister William Marlin left for the Netherlands on Wednesday in an attempt to convince Minister Plasterk not to implement the ‘instruction’ of the Council of Ministers. This was not successful. “Let them come,” said Prime Minister Marlin. “I am willing to clean up the mess here, but under no circumstances will I work under instruction. To campaign for the Kingdom to secure a seat in the United Nations I am good enough. But when we deal with each other in the Kingdom, we are again treated as a colony that you can trample on whenever you feel.”

What now?
The instruction about the integrity room follows the intense instruction that took place in Curaçao last Friday. The Netherlands wants to control the administration of the island in order to prevent the interim government from cancelling the elections.

Professor Bovend’Eert says it’s time that the islands have the right to appeal against such decisions. “The best is an independent committee such as the High Council, who can assess whether the Kingdom Government properly exercises its powers to intervene in the island’s governance.”

Last word
Professor Hoogers thinks it is also a task of the new Dutch cabinet to ensure that the islands can go to the Supreme Administrative Court to appeal an instruction. “The Netherlands does not want this under any circumstances. Unofficially: the Dutch government apparently does not want to give up the last word.”