Published On: Mon, Jun 29th, 2020

Pettifoggery

International Mail

By Hilbert Haar

If I understand the letter from Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte correctly she prefers to have discussions with her “colleague” Rutte or with the Minister of Home Affairs, Kajsa Ollongren. This, after a meeting with the State Secretary for Kingdom Relations, Drs. Raymond Knops, did not go according to Jacobs’ wishes.

Jacobs did not mention the term respect in her letter to Rutte but it was bubbling under the surface due to the use of expressions like an “unpleasant tone that we do not appreciate.” Apparently Knops was rather blunt and Jacobs could not take it. (Knops later said in a meeting of the Dutch parliamentary Kingdom Relations committee that he did not recognize his behavior in the claims made by Jacobs). Nobody made a big deal out of it in The Hague.

But Jacobs has now expressed her desire to step away from the state secretary and speak with Rutte or Ollongren. That is, of course, not going to happen and I suspect that Jacobs knows it.

Why? Because kingdom relations are the sole responsibility of Knops; Rutte and Ollongren are not going to deal with it, so that is where this discussion should end.

It is rather worrisome that our prime minister is unable to have discussions with her responsible Dutch counterpart on a level that becomes grown-ups. Yeah, discussions can become heated and emotions can run high. So what? Get used to it and deal with issues that really matter rather than baring your bruised ego to the world. Who cares?

Maybe Jacobs does not fully understand where responsibilities belong within the Kingdom Council of Ministers. (If that is not worrisome, I don’t know what is). In that case, it is time for a wake-up call. Hello? Kingdom Relations are the sole responsibility of Raymond Knops and whether you like it or not, you will have to deal with him. Walking away from inevitable and at times painful discussions is not beneficial to the people who live in St. Maarten.

This brings me to another topic: Jacobs’ sudden concern about the “new entity” that is going to handle the spending of further liquidity support. If I recall correctly, the Council of Ministers accepted the conditions for liquidity support unconditionally. The establishment of this new entity was part and parcel of the conditions from the get go so getting suddenly worried about it now feels a lot like what the Dutch like to call spijkers op laag water zoeken. The French call this couper les cheveux en quatre and a related though rather mystifying English expression is pettifoggery.

Remember how former Prime Minister William Marlin railed against Dutch conditions for help after Hurricane Irma and how that story ended?

The discussion about the new entity is of course also another opportunity to make pointless references to colonialism and neo-colonialism. Wait for it. But the reality is that this new entity will come into being, staffed with Dutch civil servants who will keep a keen eye on how all that money is going to be used.

Does this infringe on St. Maarten’s autonomy? Sure it does. But let’s not forget that over the past decade subsequent governments and a long line of decision-makers have been playing a game with our country’s autonomy for their own benefit. And the kingdom has finally had enough.

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Related articles:
PM Jacobs complaints about State Secretary Knops fall on deaf ears
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs concerned about “New Entity” being proposed