Published On: Sat, Mar 23rd, 2024

Equal treatment remains a pipedream within the Kingdom

PHILIPSBURG – Drs. Raymond Jessurun is a strong proponent of equal treatment of all citizens in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Currently, citizens living in St. Maarten, do not get that treatment, even though they hold a Dutch passport.

Social benefits, pensions and wages are all lower in St. Maarten than they are in the Netherlands. Unemployment benefits? They do not even exist on our island.

Jessurun has repeatedly, and on many different forums, referred to the international treaties that actually mandate that the Kingdom treats all of its citizens equally but it simply does not happen.

This is, Jessurun says, due to unwillingness of the Dutch. He even labels their attitude as apartheid.

Jessurun, who chairs the Anti Poverty Platform, made clear that the Dutch are not the only ones to blame for this unfortunate situation. In a broadcast of News Café he also pointed the finger at local politicians. “They don’t have the guts to stand up for our rights,” he said.

Is it even possible to grant our citizens social benefits and pensions on a level with the Netherlands? Well, why not? Jessurun pointed to the French Republic. On the French side of the island the minimum wage is the same as it is in mainland France. Same for social benefits. So if France can do it, why is the Netherlands not doing it?

It should be noted that in other fields the Kingdom expects its overseas territories to stick to Dutch legislation. An example: a valid document signed anywhere in the kingdom is valid everywhere in the kingdom. This statement comes from a court ruling in or around 2007 and it dealt with same sex marriages. These marriages are (currently) not possible in St. Maarten. But if such a couple went to the Netherlands and got married there, St. Maarten is obliged to register them as married upon their return in its administration. So in this sense, equal treatment is not only possible, it has been confirmed by a court ruling.

“We are all born free with equal dignity and rights,” Drs. Jessurun said in the News Café broadcast. It sounds good and it also sounds reasonable, but the reality is that the Netherlands continues to refuse giving people living in St. Maarten certain rights.

What is then the role of our local politicians? To begin with, they could do something about unemployment benefits. We don’t have them and to put the system in place requires legislation. That’s a clear call to action for the government and the parliament.

If you become unemployed, you depend on onderstand, a measly monthly payment of something like 1,100 guilders ($615). After paying rent and utilities there is not a penny left to put food on the table.

Jessurun referred to article 73 of the United Nations Charter, a treaty the Netherlands is a signatory to. This article says, among other things, that signatories ensure their citizens’ political, economic, social and educational advancement, their just treatment and their protection against abuses.

By subjecting the citizens of St. Maarten to a lower standard of treatment than they grant inhabitants of the Netherlands, the country is violating this article, Jessurun says.

Jessurun also referred to article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The full text of this article is: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

Needless to say, the Netherlands also signed on to this treaty. It pretty much closes the door on any discussion about (un)equal treatment. But as Jessurun made clear, these rights will not come our way without a fight and without the political will to change the status quo.

Politicians always have their mouths full about fighting poverty – especially in the run-up to an election – but when push comes to shove they do absolutely nothing about it.

And politicians do have the power to change at least a few things. They can establish a reasonable minimum wage, and they can decide about the level of social benefits. In that sense, we are not completely dependent on the kindness of strangers or, in this case, the Netherlands.

StMaartenNews.com publisher and News Café host Terrance Rey has examined the options we have. Leaving the Kingdom is not even worth thinking about, he says. But there is another option: a free association with the Kingdom whereby St. Maarten would pay a contribution based on its carrying capacity. Jessurun adds to this the suggestion to use the French model to compensate, where necessary, for the cost of living.

Rey provided us with this position statement: “We have the right to self-determination. I just want to make sure it is understood that we don’t necessarily have to go independent. I want to create awareness that we can also achieve human rights equality across the board in all areas political, civil, economic, social and cultural. There is no majority for independence. But we can opt for a free association within the Kingdom on the basis of that same self-determination right starting by demanding, claiming and taking equality in all aspects.”

The right to self-determination is a given. We have it, but apparently we do not use it to our advantage. Claiming that right demands action from the body politics, and if that body remains silent, it is up to civic society to take action.

Independence is much talked about. Recently, National Alliance stalwart William Marlin said that he considered obtaining autonomous status in 2010 as a stepping stone towards independence. But in the past fourteen years, nobody has set a single step in that direction. It’s a no-go.

The alternative, a free association with the Kingdom, is a pragmatic path forward. To make it happen requires political willpower. The question remains: are our politicians up to it?


News Cafe broadcast with Raymond Jessurun
News Cafe broadcast with William Marlin
Column: Nederland is geen land