Published On: Wed, Mar 24th, 2021

Dead or alive

By Hilbert Haar

Reactions in St. Maarten to the negative Council of State-advice about the draft kingdom law COHO were jubilant and that is understandable. But the COHO, the Caribbean Reform and Development Entity, is far from dead, and therefore it is too early to uncork the champagne.

Related article: Council of State criticizes COHO draft law, but supports its objectives

That the draft law needs some work is clear. The kingdom cannot continue with legislation that, according to its higher advisor, violates the Kingdom Charter. You’d think that this is obvious but weirder things have happened in the past. Think about the way former Minister of Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk interpreted an advice about the dispute regulation.

But in this particular case ignoring the advice would be counter-productive because the execution of the sorely needed reforms in St. Maarten cannot be successful if it lacks public and political support.

So in my opinion, the following is more likely to happen. State Secretary Knops will analyze the advice and then take steps to overcome the objections brought forward by the Council of State. Knops does not strike me as a guy who is going to throw a tantrum and do whatever he had in mind anyway. He wants results and the only way to get them is through legislation that is in line with the Kingdom Charter.

What surprises me is the reaction to the advice by clubs like Pro Soualiga. They create the impression that the COHO is already on the scrap heap and announce in their enthusiasm that they have terminated the court procedures they initiated in an attempt to stop the establishment of the COHO. Not so fast guys. Lets’ wait for a reaction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers first.

Then there is the complaint from one politician that the prime minister already had a copy of the advice on Friday, March 19, but that she kept mum about it. So what? One can hardly expect a prime minister to divulge the contents of a confidential document.

And make no mistake: the advice is still not public. That a journalist managed to get access to it is of course a different story and a highly commendable achievement. But politicians who take themselves seriously have to play by the rules and that is what PM Jacobs has done so far.

The advice will become public once the kingdom government submits the final draft of the law to the parliaments of the Netherlands, St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba. You don’t have to like it, but this is simply the way it works.

Only then will all the details of the advice become accessible to politicians and the public alike. Only then will we be able to see what State Secretary Knops has done to save his initiative. And only then will we be able to pass judgment and to conclude what the COHO’s fate really is: dead, or alive.

[Publisher’s note: René Zwart informed StMaartenNews.com that he has managed to make a copy of the advice and has published portions of it on his website at dossierkoninkrijksrelaties.nl.]


Related articles:
Council of State criticizes COHO draft law, but supports its objectives
Raad van State: Rijkswet COHO strijdig met statuut
Review of the advice of the Raad van State (in Dutch)
Emmanuel on COHO: I told you so
Press statement Pro Soualiga Foundation