Published On: Sat, Mar 9th, 2019

Another missed opportunity

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

Parliament missed yet another opportunity to make clear where it stands on corruption and money laundering on Friday afternoon. It does not come as a surprise because every time “one of their own” ends up on the wrong side of the law, members of Parliament massively stick their heads in the sand. It sends an odd message to the community: breaking the law is okay but don’t get caught.

Parliament accepted Heyliger’s suspension in Friday’s meeting as a matter of fact and nobody had to say anything about it. Heyliger’s second in command, MP Franklin Meyers, even chose not to show up for the meeting.

So now we know – if we didn’t know this already – that the Heyliger-case will be handled with baby gloves on the political level. Even the opposition – where MP Frans Richardson hovers in the shadows as another suspect of criminal activities – had nothing to say.

Parliamentarians behave quite differently when they render unsolicited advice about the functioning of the prosecutor’s office. They want people to believe that this is, in fact, a tool of the Dutch government to re-enslave St. Maarteners.

MP Meyers recently created the impression that “they” are following “us” constantly and that “our phones are tapped” without substantiating such accusations. And yeah, law enforcement does have the authority to tap phones – under strict conditions and for a limited time – but structural observation for instance is prohibited.

Such rules have never stopped politicians to claim the exact opposite. It plays well to the home crowd and it turns politicians who broke the law – or who are seriously suspected of having done so – into poor victims.

Poor they are certainly not. While Heyliger enjoys the comfort of the prison on Bonaire he keeps receiving his remuneration – an expensive word for salary – as a member of Parliament. According to a report by the General Audit Chamber Members of Parliament receive each month 19,443 guilders ($10,862) – enough to fly Heyliger’s family up and down to Bonaire for as long as it takes.

My question remains: when will St. Maarten’s politicians become serious about integrity? When will they speak out against violations – like bribery and money laundering – even if those crimes are committed by “one of their own”?

MP Meyers said earlier this week that remaining silent is choosing the side of the oppressor. In the Heyliger-case, remaining silent equals condoning money laundering and bribery.


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