Published On: Wed, Jun 10th, 2020

A shopaholic

Hilbert Haar

By Hilbert Haar

MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten is on the decolonization warpath. She has called Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs to parliament asking whether she is prepared “for the process of finalizing decolonization and assuming more autonomy to govern.”

Heyliger-Marten is ambitious: she wants to finalize what she calls the decolonization process by July 1, 2021 – that’s, give or take, a bit more than twelve months from now. The way things go in St. Maarten (it took forever to change the rules of order for the parliament and becoming an autonomous country took ten years) this is obviously a mission impossible.

But the first question that comes to mind is: decolonization? What? To be decolonized you first have to be a colony and as far as I know St. Maarten is a constituent state within the kingdom of the Netherlands.

Before St. Maarten obtained this status on 10-10-10, it was part of the Netherlands Antilles and the territories were governed based on the Kingdom Charter of 1954. That charter is still valid today and it is also subject to discussion, not only in St. Maarten but also in the Netherlands.

Some Dutch politicians, like André Bosman, are simply fed up with the hassle while on this side of the ocean some politicians want to free themselves from the at times stifling supervision from The Hague. Fair enough.

Heyliger-Marten, in the background undoubtedly inspired by her convicted husband Theo, seems to be of two minds. She emphasizes that she is not looking for independence “at this time” but at a “fully autonomous St. Maarten that can finally act in the interest of its people and do what is necessary to protect our economy and way of life.”

The way of life the Heyliger’s consider normal includes accepting millions of dollars in bribes from contractors at the expense of the population.

I wonder about the difference between full autonomy and independence; after much thinking, I could not come up with anything but hey, I am not a specialist on decolonization.

I get the idea – and correct me if I am wrong – that Heyliger-Marten wants to do away with all supervision from The Hague without giving up the option to cry for help if things go south.

This requires getting rid of financial supervisor Cft and basically dropping any and all legislation that currently keeps local politicians in check. Not gonna happen.

There is of course a way to achieve all this but it is a good thing that this choice is not for politicians – the parliament or the government – to make. It is up to the people who live on our island.

However, the key to a different constitutional arrangement is in the hands of fifteen parliamentarians. They have the authority to call a referendum. While there has been a lot of moaning and whining about the (political) desire for independence no parliament since 2010 has ever taken the step to call a referendum.

Such a referendum could be about anything concerning St. Maarten’s constitutional status – not only about independence. But the politicians do not dare to put such a question to the population because they already know the outcome. A majority would vote in any scenario in favor of keeping the status quo: an autonomous country (a constituent state, if you will) within the kingdom that entitles citizens to a Dutch passport and guarantees not only proper oversight but also a form of protection in case of major disasters like hurricanes and the outbreak of healthcare crises.

I’m not claiming that the Dutch always get it right (on the contrary) but going for full autonomy or independence feels to me a bit too much like giving your credit card to a shopaholic.

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Related articles:
MP Heyliger-Marten calls PM Jacobs to Parliament on the subject of decolonization
MP Heyliger-Marten: “Round Table Conference (RTC) in June 2021 to finalize decolonization”