Published On: Sat, Mar 27th, 2021

The Hague freezes liquidity support

THE HAGUE / PHILIPSBURG – St. Maarten needs 39 million guilders ($21.8 million) in liquidity support for the second quarter of this year but the Kingdom Council of Ministers is not going to provide these funds until there is unequivocal support from the parliament for the country package and for the trajectory towards the establishment of the Caribbean Entity for Reform and Development (COHO).

The Kingdom Council of Ministers took the decision to put liquidity support on hold for the second quarter on Friday. In a letter to the Second Chamber, State Secretary Raymond Knops explains the situation.

Knops writes that Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs informed him on March 17 that her government agrees with the implementation agenda that is part of the country package for St. Maarten. “This enables me to sign this document together with the prime minister.”

State Secretary Drs. Raymond Knops – Photo taken from DossierKoninkrijksrelaties.nl

But Knops discovered that the parliament had thrown a spanner in the works: “On March 10, I learned from media reports that the Choharis Law Group had submitted a petition to the special rapporteur racism and the working group of experts on people of African descent of the United Nations on behalf of the parliament and the people of St. Maarten. It is remarkable that the parliamentarians that have expressed support for this petition are mostly members of the coalition parties.”

Knops notes in his letter that the petition targets “alleged and persistent acts of racial discrimination and alleged violations of human rights by the Kingdom of the Netherlands against the population of St. Maarten. Specifically, the petition mentions the trajectory surrounding COVID-related liquidity support and the establishment of the COHO as a racist violation of international human rights.

Knops point out that the petition asks for the termination of the COHO-proposal and for a guarantee that the powers proposed in the COHO draft law and other executive and legislative authority remain exclusively with the elected island governments.

The petition “seriously amazed” the state secretary because its contents are not in line with the support St. Maarten expressed for the country package and the establishment of the COHO. “That support was expressed by a large majority of the parliament and it was on request confirmed in writing by the chairman of parliament of December 14.”

But the petition shows that a majority of parliament – among them the coalition parties – has turned away from the proposed kingdom law COHO and therefore from the country package, Knops writes.

On March 17, the government of St. Maarten reconfirmed its support, but parliament chairman Rolando Brison only delivered a letter to the state secretary shortly before the meeting of the Kingdom Council of Ministers on Friday. “While this letter states that a majority of the factions in parliament still support the country package and the trajectory towards the kingdom law COHO, it does not offer any clarity on how this support relates to the petition that was also supported by a majority of the parliament,” Knops writes.

Obviously, this triggered several questions: “How can there be support for the country package and for the trajectory towards the kingdom law COHO, but also for a petition that explicitly asks to put a stop to this process?”

This is reason for the Kingdom Council of Ministers to ask once more for clarification about the support from St. Maarten’s parliament for the country package and the COHO. “As long as there is no clarification about the situation and about political support for this trajectory, it cannot be expected from the Netherlands to continue with the provision of liquidity support,” Knops concludes.


Related articles:
Opinion piece by Hilbert Haar: “Now we’re in the dog house
Letter Knops sent to the Second Chamber
Adjusted COHO-proposal before the summer to Parliament
Jacobs and Marlin defend position on draft COHO-law
COHO draft law triggers questions about compatibility with Kingdom Charter