Published On: Mon, May 17th, 2021

Heyliger-Marten and Brison tackle Prime Minister Jacobs over airport and de-colonization

PHILIPSBURG — In an open letter dated May 14, Heyliger-Marten fires more than thirty questions to Prime Minister Jacobs. This letter addresses the airport reconstruction and the de-colonization issue. “The airport and its reconstruction are at the center of a dangerous and highly politicized process involving many stakeholders other than the airport itself,” Heyliger states, adding that two of these stakeholders “seem to be” the Royal Schiphol Group and State Secretary Knops.

The airport reconstruction project, the politically motivated de-colonization drive, and pressure from State Secretary Raymond, Knops, the Royal Schiphol Group and the World Bank seem to have culminated in a new political crisis in St. Maarten that might very well mark the end of the current government led by National Alliance-leader Silveria Jacobs.

The fall-out between coalition-partners United People’s party (UP) and National Alliance appears from a letter from UP-faction leader Grisha Heyliger-Marten to the Prime Minister. However, according to Heyliger-Marten in an interview with a Curacao-based radiostation, there is no crisis. Heyliger-Marten stated that she is simply exercising her right to pose questions. “I stated from the beginning, I will not be a rubber stamp for this government.”

Related link: Click here to listen to this radio interview

To add some more fuel to the fire, there is also a letter from UP-MP and President of Parliament Rolando Brison that focuses on the completion of the de-colonization process – an initiative promoted by the UP and its associated Pro Soualiga Foundation.

MP Heyliger boasts in her letter how the airport has been “of crucial importance to the development and prosperity of St. Maarten and its people for the last 75 years,” adding that local management and staff “were able to bring it back to where it is now.”

Heyliger then contradicts herself by stating that the reconstruction project “leaves much to be desired,” questioning the added value of the Royal Schiphol Group in the process.

The MP labels the deployment of pressure (by Schiphol and Knops) on the government as questionable and reprehensible. “They only reconfirm the fact that St. Maarten has not been fully de-colonized.”

Heyliger urges Jacobs to answer the questions contained in her letter and adds a clear warning: “I would like to remind you that PJIA ultimately belongs to the people of St. Maarten, who are represented by this parliament and to which the government is accountable.”

The MP questions the role of the Royal Schiphol Group and the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. Some questions seem rhetoric like this one: “Which entities are signatories to the reconstruction and financing agreements for PJIA, when was this first proposed, and what was the proposed role of BZK (the ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations)?”  

Heyliger even asks whether the government is prepared to consider alternative financing for the reconstruction project, while it is well known that any alternative funding will be much more expensive than the existing deal with the World Bank trust fund and the European Investment Bank.

From other questions, it appears that Heyliger considers the concerns that have been expressed by the Royal Schiphol Group as abuse of power. Schiphol announced recently that it will not extend its cooperation agreement if the government does not address corporate governance violations at the airport. Earlier, the World Bank has also expressed concerns about the airport’s corporate governance practices, in particular by the airport holding.

Heyliger furthermore announces that she considers “an inquiry and/or investigation at the parliamentary level” into the reconstruction and financing agreements for the airport.

On the same day, Heyliger-Marten sent her letter, President of Parliament MP Rolando Brison also addressed Prime Minister Jacobs in writing. In his letter, Brison “kindly requests” that Jacobs proposes to the Kingdom Council of Ministers “to initiate the finalization of the de-colonization process.”

Brison’s wrote that his objective is to organize at least one round table conference” with the six islands of the former Netherlands Antilles in the fall, followed by “one or more subsequent formal rounds of political consultations.”

Disraël Orphelin of the Fundashon Kòrsou Na Kaminda Pa Libertat, described by the Antilliaans Dagblad as the match for the Pro Soualiga Foundation, stated last week in that newspaper that the most recent court ruling against Pro Soualiga confirms that former Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Luns “paralyzed” the emancipation and de-colonization process of the Netherlands Antilles in 1955. Never mind that the court declared Pro Soualiga inadmissible in that ruling.

With Pro Soualiga, Orphelin hammers on the details from the UN-decision from 1955 when the organization took the Netherlands Antilles off the list of non-self governing territories. After the signing of the Kingdom Charter by the freely elected government of the Netherlands Antilles, the islands obtained “a full measure of self-government.” Orphelin and Pro Soualiga don’t want to hear about this: they emphasize that there is no resolution that declares article 73 of the UN Charter no longer applies to the Netherlands Antilles.

While this is in and by itself correct, it does not take away anything from the fact that the islands obtained their full measure of self-government in 1954, when they freely chose for an association with an independent state, namely the Netherlands.


Related links:
Open letter MP Grisha Heyliger to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs
Open letter PoP Rolando Brison to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs
Interview on Curacao radiostation with MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten