Published On: Mon, Mar 25th, 2019


Theo Cartoon - Hostage

By Hilbert Haar

The opposition is smelling blood. That much is clear after the opposition benches remained empty on Monday morning when the parliament was supposed to convene to examine the credentials of substitute MP Jules James and – let’s not forget that one – to take a decision about the national ordinance that regulates cross-border money transports.

Only six of the seven remaining MPs were present, including Christian Party MP Claude Peterson. The only MP to give notice of absence was Luc Mercelina, a member of the coalition party United Democrats (UD).

The National Alliance (NA) MPs – Silveria Jacobs, Christophe Emmanuel, Ardwell Irion, William Marlin and Jurendy Doran – and the United St. Maarten party (USp) MPs Frans Richardson and Rolando Brison did not show up; they did not even bother to give notice of absence.

It seems obvious that the opposition wants to prevent Theo Heyliger’s substitute James from entering Parliament, though I hear from within the opposition – to be fair – that “nobody has an issue with Jules James coming in.” There seemed to be no other explanation for the collective absence of the NA and the USp parliamentarians, though opposition MPs said that it was a “scheduling issue.” The additional absence of UD-MP Mercelina hints at a new disaster scenario – the fall of yet another government.

If the current stalemate continues, St. Maarten has a serious problem on its hands. Without Heyliger’s substitute in place the UD-SMCP coalition does not have a majority. At best, a vote on the budget would end in a meaningless draw of seven against seven. In other words: the government won’t be able to get approval for its 2019 budget.

By keeping the doors of Parliament closed for Jules James, the opposition is effectively holding the government hostage. It is a rather opportunistic scenario that will come at a high price – and the people our parliamentarians are supposed to represent will pay.

On the fringes of this political power play is the national ordinance that regulates cross-border money transports. It should have been approved by March 1 but the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force was lenient enough to extend that deadline to March 27.

The way things stand now, that deadline will not be met. Non-compliance with guidelines from the Financial Action Task Force will sooner or later place St. Maarten on a list where it should not want to be: the list of countries that are taking insufficient measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

It is too simple to put the blame for all this on the opposition. Sure, these parties are the architects of the current stalemate, but the root cause of all the troubles lies elsewhere – with the criminal investigation against UD-icon Theo Heyliger.

There is this saying that goes as follows: every country gets the government it deserves. Replace the word government with parliament and you have a pretty accurate picture of the mess local politicians have managed to create ever since the island territory obtained its so-called country status.

The political stability St. Maarten so desperately needs remains a pipedream; the history of the past nine years has made that abundantly clear. The island will never, ever become politically stable.

One could argue: yeah, wait a minute – that is democracy. But is it really? It is more like, when opportunity knocks politicians are never far away.


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Opposition prevents substitute Jules James from entering Parliament