Published On: Wed, Mar 17th, 2021

Emmanuel: Prime Minister must explain her position on petition

PHILIPSBURG — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs must explain her position on the petition submitted to the United Nations and added that the Chairperson of Parliament Rolando Brison as well as the initiator of the petition Grisha Marten-Heyliger, is busy undermining their own initiative.

MP Emmanuel reminded all Parliamentary factions that he had forewarned that they were playing a dangerous game with the Dutch government. He said the Prime Minister of St. Maarten will now have to explain how or if government will proceed with the Caribbean Reform Entity (COHO) after the same entity is being used as a central piece in the petition against the Netherlands.  “She has to say if she supports the petition yes or no, simple,” the MP said.

MP Emmanuel said that since some MP’s are of the opinion that the Prime Minister represents the people internationally and not the duly elected Parliament, then the PM must speak to the people. He said in 2015 former Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs questioned the Netherlands regarding decolonization for St. Maarten. “He spoke at the time for the people, so the PM has precedent. Speak to the people on the issue,” Emmanuel said.

He noted that on Wednesday during the Council of Ministers Press Briefing the PM said that government has reached a far-along stage on the implementation timeline for the country packages. “This is the same country package that is part and parcel of the COHO. The same COHO that the petition says is discriminatory and should not be imposed on St. Maarten,” the MP said. “So what is the position of the Prime Minister,” MP Emmanuel repeated.

He also pointed out that Chairperson of Parliament Rolando Brison as well as the co-initiator of the petition Grisha Marten-Heyliger stated on Wednesday afternoon that the PM should continue her negotiations and work with on the establishing of the COHO because the petition is Parliament’s responsibility not hers.

“If the PM emerges and says well the petition is Parliament’s business and not the Executive branch, them she might as well dissolve Parliament and call new elections. What is going to happen down the road when and if the petition comes out in favor of St. Maarten? Is Parliament going to say ok PM, roll back everything? How can government proceed without knowing if the legislative support for many of the aspect of COHO is there? What happens when the COHO law gets to Parliament? Are we going to say that’s not our responsibility?”

“Pick sense out of this nonsense for me please. So through one side of your mouth you are telling State Secretary Knops in writing that COHO has majority support in Parliament. Through the other side of your mouth you are telling the United Nations that the same Parliament does not support the implementation of the COHO, but the PM can continue implementing something that further erodes St. Maarten autonomy. This is a dangerous, disingenuous and infantile game that is being played. They have to stand somewhere. It can’t be both places,” the MP said.

Though the MP is signatory to the motion of November 2020 authorizing the initiative to pursue St.  Maarten’s decolonization status, he said some of the language in the petition did surprise him and the “suddenness that it was sprung on Parliament.”

“My stance has never changed. I remain against the implementation of the COHO.  I am not sitting on the fence waiting to see which side the ball will fall on. I am against the COHO, plain and simple.” he said.

“In case anyone forgot, allow me remind you. I was the lone MP that warned my colleague MP’s and the sitting government, not to sign the agreement with the Dutch that, among other things, demanded salary and benefit cuts, an unrealistic country package and the establishment of a Caribbean Reform Entity (COHO) that strips St. Maarten of its autonomy and basically all administrative control.

“State Secretary Raymond Knops as well as Dutch MP’s also warned about decolonization efforts vis-à-vis liquidity support and other aspects in the agreement. I asked the government and my colleague MP’s how can you give the Prime Minister the green light to sign the agreement with the Dutch with decolonization still on the table. I said it was a dangerous game to sign now, accept the money and then put the same money at risk later by continuing with the UN process after the Dutch clearly said it could be a problem.”

The MP said he will not let the government or the MP’s who support the government off the hook when it comes to COHO. He said the Prime Minister still has to return to Parliament to answer and face more questions and it would be interesting to see how the COHO is handled now that the petition has been submitted.

With regards to COHO the petition reads: “The discrimination by the Dutch government against its own island citizens becomes undeniable when the COHO’s scheme of recessionary, balanced-budget policies that will ensure the islands’ ongoing indebtedness to the Netherlands, coupled with the Dutch government’s imposition of neo-colonial authority over the islands, are contrasted with the Dutch government’s actions towards its European citizens and those of other EU nations.”

“The COHO is a central part of the petition. How are you going to reconcile supporting the PM and this nonsense of an entity, and still push for an investigation into the same COHO concept via the UN? And how will the PM continue to advocate for this Dutch control mechanism knowing that it has been used it as motivation for the UN petition? Does the PM support the petition yes or no?”