Published On: Mon, Jun 15th, 2020

MP Buncamper defended St. Maarten’s position during virtual IPKO meeting

MP Buncamper, Claudius Toontje Buncamper - 20200610

PHILIPSBURG — There are always fireworks to be expected during the IPKO sessions. Last week, it was the ‘war of words’ between MP Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper and MP Andre Bosman that sparked some fireworks in this year’s IPKO meetings, held virtually on June 10th and 11th, 2020.

After the opening presentation by MP William Marlin, St. Maarten’s Chairman of the Committee of Kingdom Affairs and Interparliamentary Relations, MP Bosman spoke about Marlin’s statements and how in 2017, the St. Maarten government was hostile after the hurricane. That is why the Netherlands chose to go the way of the World Bank/Trust Fund instead of using the rebuilding method used in 1995 after hurricane Luis. Then the funds were entirely controlled by the Dutch.

‘War of words’

MP Buncamper addressed Bosman on those remarks leading to what observers called a ‘war of words.’ In an invitation to comment about this, MP Buncamper stated: “I didn’t have a war of words with Mr. Bosman. I expressed my feelings about how we were treated regarding the aid and about the role of the whole CFT.” He explained that he made a statement in reference to the control CFT has on the islands’ governments and their finances.

Unprofessional language

According to reports, Buncamper closed with the statement, “Holland, please take your knee off my neck; we cannot breathe.” This incensed MP Bosman, sending him into a diatribe wherein he expressed himself in rather vulgar terms. In what was considered “unprofessional language,” Bosman spoke about the islands needing to get their shit together. He also brought up past issues surrounding the justice chain and the rebuilding of the prison, which were no longer relevant to the discussion at hand.

Treaties affecting islands

Aruba and Curacao expressed similar sentiments as St. Maarten regarding the treatment and the conditions imposed by the Netherlands. The kingdom government has the habit of following the advice of the CFT without taking the opinions of the local counterparts into consideration. The countries in the Dutch Caribbean also wanted to be heard when the Netherlands signed treaties that affected the islands. “We see treaties being signed off not looking into the ramifications for the autonomous islands,” Buncamper stated. “In the future, new treaties need to be reviewed first for them not to be disadvantageous towards the islands.”

Learning experience

MP Buncamper said he considered his first IPKO meeting a learning experience. He got the opportunity to meet seasoned politicians, even though it was in a virtual setting. The three sessions that were held comprised of small groups. Everyone had the chance to speak. Buncamper felt he got the opportunity to send a very rational and non-emotional message. For the long term, Buncamper explained that his message was to decriminalize marijuana for both social and medicinal usage.

Funding for agriculture

Buncamper said they discovered that funding is available for developments in agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry. St. Maarten just has to submit paperwork to request this. “Teach us to fish. Don’t just give us fish.” Buncamper said in regards to learning to write proposals to get these funds. St. Maarten presented its case as to where it stands now with the COVID-19 crisis and what it wanted to achieve in the long term.

Diversification

St. Maarten needs to seek diversification instead of just relying on tourism. Buncamper believes opportunities exist in alternative energy. He pointed to the landfill that still needs to be tackled. Further possibilities were to be found in the financial services sector. St. Maarten is now FATCA compliant and should be allowed to offer services in the areas of offshore business and online gambling.

Future meetings

The suggestion to host more discussions via virtual meetings was put forward by MP Rolando Brison in the closing session. Buncamper agreed that regular work meetings could be held online between the countries. This would foster more understanding and improve joint cooperation when dealing with the various issues affecting the kingdom partners. Having all the technocrats involved in these virtual meetings as well would be cost-efficient and effective, Buncamper said. Face-to-face meetings will still be necessary, especially when it comes to signing the relevant documents. Being able to look into a person’s eyes and seeing their body language is just as important, Buncamper concluded.

###

Related articles:
MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten to the point in first IPKO meeting