Published On: Thu, Sep 22nd, 2016

Figment of the imagination

As we point out in our editorial today, the witch hunt UP-leader Theo Heyliger speaks about (see article on page 3) is a figment of his imagination.

On one count the UP-leader is correct: the court acquitted the suspects in the Masbangu election fraud case. But how innocent were these defendants really? In court Roy H., an uncle of the party-leader freely admitted that he had paid money to the police officers who came begging for money in exchange for their votes. One of the police officers freely admitted that he had taken the money.

All this took place right before the elections in 2010, at the party headquarters of the United People’s party. In the meantime, a second vote-buying scandal is in the pipeline against former UP-MP Silvio Matser. This time it was about the 2014 elections, whereby inmates in the Pointe Blanche prison received bribes in exchange for their vote. Of the 67 eligible voters behind bars, 48 voted for the UP.

Heyliger now speaks of a witch hunt by the prosecutor’s office, happily ignoring the fact that the court system includes the right to appeal. That right does not only belong to defendants, but also to the prosecutor’s office.

It is also understandable, from a legal point of view that the prosecution has appealed the verdict, because it wants to know from the higher court what it thinks about the definition of election fraud.

In the Masbangu-ruling, the court ruled that there was no explicit commitment to vote a certain way as a condition for the payment of the bribes. But should that let people who fiddle with our democratic system of the hook? We don’t think so.

The ruling opens the door as wide as possible for more election fraud and that is not what the doctor ordered for our young country. If we want fair and honest elections these practices ought to be squashed.

Apparently, that is not on the agenda of UP-leader Heyliger, otherwise he would have stood up after the first allegations surfaced in 2010 and cleaned up the mess in his own house.

Lest someone forgot, the UP is not the only party that has some cleanup to do. The United St. Maarten party of Frans Richardson is also not squeaky clean.

Ahead of the elections in 2014, Richardson came out strong in favor of reforms during the 2013 budget debate that included a ban on buying votes. But when he launched his party in December of that year, he gave away tablets and cell phones to all who wanted to join him. Maybe that’s not vote buying, but it is at least a form of buying sympathy.

Currently, Richardson has a serious problem with his list of candidates. MP Silvio Matser, already sentenced for tax fraud with his construction company Energizer, is a suspect in an election fraud case dating back to the 2014 elections.

Another US-candidate, Maria Buncamper has a conviction for tax fraud to her name and a third candidate on the list Louallar Rog scored a 2-year prison sentence in the Netherlands ten years ago for involvement in the kidnapping of millionaire-daughter Claudia Melchers.

Last but not least, the list of the National Alliance features Louie Laveist, who has a sentence from 2012 for bribery to his name.

Is this part of a witch hunt? We don’t think so, we just think that voters have the right to know whom they are voting for. After everything is said and done, the voters are the ones who decide about the country’s future. And remember: every country gets the government (and the politicians) it deserves.