Published On: Thu, Sep 19th, 2019

St. Maarten appeals dump-ruling

BZSE Law - Citizen Take Government to Court about Dump

PHILIPSBURG – St. Maarten has appealed the court ruling that orders the government to complete the Fire Suppression Plan for the dump by May 1, 2020.

On July 26, the court ruled that the country has to pay a penalty of 10,000 guilders for each day it surpasses this deadline with a maximum of 10 million guilders (more than $5.5 million). The country’s attorneys Aernout Kraaijeveld and Chris van Hees write in their statement of appeal that the dispute about the dump is not fit for handling in summary proceedings saying that the court should have denied the demands of the plaintiffs – law office BZSE, attorney Camiel Koster and citizen Barbara Cannegieter.

The attorneys contest the July 26 court ruling in a 30-page memorandum. “In a regular court procedure the plaintiffs’ demands would without any doubts have been denied because they can no longer prove wrongful harassment. By blindly staring at the idée fixe that there has to be a threat to the country, the court has lost all sight of the legal framework. The first judge has also unilaterally granted disproportionally high penalties.”

The key argument against the July-ruling is that the plaintiffs no longer suffer harassment from the dump. “The ruling is incomprehensible. There are no longer large and regular surface fires with big clouds of smoke.”

“The country has taken all reasonable measures to prevent harassment. In 2018 there were 32 large and medium fires. Due to the measures the country has taken that number was reduced to just one fire in May 2019 that was under control within a couple of hours.”

The attorneys write that execution of the Fire Suppression Plan –together with other measures to improve waste management –is funded with $25 million from the World Bank trust fund. This money only becomes available when St. Maarten abides by World Bank-requirements. This can result in lengthy procedures over which St. Maarten has no control.

The attorneys furthermore argue that the potential maximum penalty of 10 million guilders could bankrupt the cash-strapped country.