TUESDAY, 15 OCTOBER 2013
~ Sarah updates Plasterk on actions to set up committee ~
THE HAGUE–St. Maarten is going ahead with an integrity quick scan by an independent committee. In fact, the national decree to launch this assessment should be approved today, Tuesday, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams informed Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Monday.
St. Maarten’s Council of Ministers should approve the national decree (Landsbesluit) on Tuesday to clear the way for a short-term integrity assessment by a committee consisting of independent experts and representatives of organisations throughout the Dutch Kingdom, Wescot-Williams said in an interview after her meeting with Plasterk.
Wescot-Williams started her four-day working visit to the Netherlands on Monday.
The Kingdom Council of Ministers rejected on September 27 a proposal from St. Maarten to carry out a quick scan by this committee in collaboration with the Dutch Government. Instead, the Kingdom Government gave St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday an instruction to organise an integrity investigation of the St. Maarten Government and to report in six months. St. Maarten has objected to the legal grounds for this so-called instruction.
Regardless of this decision by the Kingdom Government, St. Maarten is going ahead with its own plans for a quick scan, said Wescot-Williams, who updated Plasterk on the status of this assessment. The meeting took place on her request.
The national decree that will go into effect right after the approval by the Council of Ministers will define the appointment of the committee, the task description and the formulation of a set of questions at which the committee will look.
Wescot-Williams updated Plasterk also on the investigation by Transparency International, for which she has already signed off the financial document, the so-called grant agreement. The National Integrity System Assessment by Transparency International will last more or less a year.
Transparency International will conduct the investigation according to its own standards, and as such it will be an independent, objective analysis that will assist the Government of St. Maarten to deal with integrity matters in a structural way, explained Wescot-Williams. “We need a structural approach regarding integrity,” she said.
St. Maarten will implement Transparency International’s recommendations and address the issues in the report, assured Wescot-Williams. “I am sure there will be deficiencies and we will work on improving them,” she said.
According to Wescot-Williams, the process to set up a committee to execute a quick scan and the in-depth assessment by Transparency International confirm that her government is taking action to address the integrity issue. “There is redress, so the Kingdom Government cannot throw the guarantee function, article 43 of the Kingdom Charter at us. We are convinced that the situation to call in article 43 doesn’t exist,” she said.
The monitoring of the Plans of Approach and the recent report of the Progress Committee headed by Ronald Bandell also was discussed during the one-hour meeting with Plasterk, which also was attended by Minister Plenipotentiary of St. Maarten Mathias Voges, Director of the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary Perry Geerlings and Senior Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister Ramona Thomas.
St. Maarten is making progress with the execution of the plans of approach and has made a big step with the extensive renovation project at the Pointe Blanche prison. “The plans of approach are a structural way to improve the areas of concern. That is the right way to go about improving things in St. Maarten, and not an instruction by the Kingdom Government which in our opinion lacks a legal basis,” the Prime Minister said.
Wescot-Williams said she hoped the meeting with Plasterk had contributed to creating more comprehension for St. Maarten’s situation. “There is always room for discussion in the relation between St. Maarten and the Netherlands,” she said.
Wescot-Williams closes off her working visit on Thursday with a meeting with her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte. She also will meet behind closed doors with the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.
Wescot-Williams did not want to anticipate on those meetings, but she said it was important to keep talking with The Hague. “The worst thing we can do is to close off communications. I think now is a good time to talk, two weeks after the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers,” she said.
The Prime Minister will meet with Vice President of the Council of State Piet Hein Donner today, Tuesday. St. Maarten has requested a formal advice from the Council, a so-called “voorlichting,” on the legal grounds the Kingdom Council of Ministers used for the instruction to conduct an integrity investigation.
Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten