photo: Sharina Henriquez

PHILIPSBURG – “We are still slaves.” “Let our leaders lead.” “Go away the Netherlands.” The silent protest ‘Stand for SXM’ for a stronger Sint Maarten on Wednesday, proved to be a loud protest against Dutch meddling in Sint Maarten.

“The Netherlands is known to be one of the biggest drug countries on the planet. I find it odd that they are telling us what we are doing wrong here”, so says protester Josianne Fleming-Artsen, who was the minister plenipotentiary in the Netherlands from 2014 to 2015.

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By Tim van Dijk

According to the police about 250 protesters showed up, a combination of politicians, and concerned citizens. According to Rhoda Arrindell from the organization I Stand Up for St. Maarten Foundation, more than one thousand people also signed the petition.

More self-governance
The signees hope that parliament leaps to action on 4 issues. These issues mostly blame the Netherlands for withholding self-governance from the island.

“The inhabitants think that the Netherlands is way too involved here. We work together on defense, citizenship, and foreign affairs. The Netherlands has to leave the rest up to us, that’s why we are autonomous”, says Elton Jones, also a member of the organization. Arrindell, and Jones are also politically active on the island.

The petition calls for the organization of the referendum on the constitution to be continued. The new constitution also has to be more modern, according to the signees. They want the government of the Netherlands to stick to the right of self-determination as determined by the UN Charter, and resolutions.

The protesters who chanted ‘Enough is enough’ and ‘Let our leaders lead’, and sung the national anthem afterwards visited more than just parliament. The representation of the Netherlands, the Public Prosecutors Office, the Governor, and the last cabinet all got a copy of the petition, accompanied by the various chants. “We want to make sure that they also know what is going on”, says Jones.

Public Prosecutor prosecutes ‘selectively’
The Public Prosecutors Office is an important target of the protester’s anger. The petition also demands an inquiry into the functioning of the Justice Department. Especially into the methods used by the Public Prosecutors Office, which ‘selectively’ investigates, and prosecutes crimes.

With that the protesters mean the prosecution of United Democrats leader Theo Heyliger. Last week the Joint Court of Justice decided that Heyliger, who’s party won the last elections, may be prosecuted. The charges include bribing a fellow parliamentarian 6 years ago.

Theo Heyliger is walking towards the back of the protest, a bit hidden from view. This to avoid the impression that he organized the march himself. Photo: Sharina Henriquez

As such the protest was also organized to show some support for Heyliger. And to accuse the Netherlands of hindering local leaders abilities to do their jobs. They were especially needed after hurricane Irma to get the island back on its feet.

Sint-Maarten could have done it on its own, without the ‘Worldbank-construction’, according to Heyliger. With this he means the 470 million euros the Netherlands parked at the World Bank destined for the reconstruction of Sint Maarten after the hurricane.

Theo Heyliger, leader van United Democrats