PHILIPSBURG:--- Gracita Arrindell states:‘it was just a matter of time before PM Mark Rutte’s government presented a ‘secret entity’' for the ‘countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. A proposal that given our Kingdom’s constitutional history spanning four hundred years should not be a surprise to anyone. The 57-page document was not written out of the blue!
A document rightfully rejected by our Parliament.
“Let’s be brutally honest with each other. Yes, we have failed our people miserably in too many ways. We have failed our people for far too long in terms of providing a quality of life and services necessary in modern civic society. We barely managed our public affairs in relatively prosperous economic times. During less affluent periods or following natural disasters, we muddled through. Our government’s liquidity position and financial future have been severely compromised by our completely irresponsible actions in the past. It doesn’t have to be bleak but our continuing approach to governance all but ensure a repeat of past mistakes. One of the textbook definitions of madness is repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting a different outcome. We have been stuck in this reel for far too long”.
“The Dutch government knows and can predict our behavior. We come unprepared to the negotiation table with their representatives and we repeat the same mistakes.
The “CFT” structure established and accepted without a counter-proposal in 2007 proved ineffective as an instrument to “guarantee” sound financial management for St. Maarten and Curacao, post 101010.”
“Arrindell continues; the manner in which the Dutch government seizes the moment under the WORLD COVID 19 Pandemic to strategically impose more conditions in return for yet another financial shot in the arm is nothing short of a renewed attempt to bring the former Netherlands Antilles back under one administrative rule in the Hague. We must reject that.
Future generations of public administrators acting in good faith and with integrity who are educated, able, and capable, should never be robbed of their future right to govern this island”.
“ Are we destined to choose from two choices as recently suggested by one of our own, drinking champagne or a soda. We must reject the notion that our only choices are between steak and chicken leg. How can the current Dutch government ‘IMPOSE’ a reduction of 12.5 % on the total package of employment benefits until further notice? By unconditionally accepting all of the above and more, we as a people give up our right to have aspirations, to do better, and to lead by example”.
“Arrindell further states; “ if indeed we have “fallen” before and failed ten times, don’t we have a right to succeed after the eleventh or the twelfth or umpteenth time and rise to the occasion as many nations have done before us? We firmly believe that there is a great future ahead of us. Many political leaders around the globe made terrible, horrific transgressions against their own citizens. In modern times, these transgressors are held accountable for their actions. We should hold our leaders accountable as well. Their administrations however were not taken over directly or indirectly, neither where they annexed nor have they accepted an outside entity to be imposed over their democratically elected Parliament”.
“The narrative by some local and Dutch entities of the past ten years states we are incapable of governing ourselves. This story-line culminated in the current stalemate between the ‘countries’ of the former Netherlands Antilles that are again in dire need of financial assistance. While there’s a great deal of truth to that story, it gives the Dutch administration no right to blanket us all as being incapable under the guise of stepping in for the poor people and resort via a backdoor policy of substitution of our representatives. Our democratic institutions including the High Councils of States, our General Audit Chamber, the Ombudsman office will be relegated to substations for the entities in the Hague.
These institutions have proven in the past ten years that they can do the job. We have nothing more than high praise and respect for those women and men who were appointed to manage these institutions with integrity and professional aptitude since 101010. It is time our citizens demand the same of our elected and appointed representatives. Give us that breathing space”.
Gracita further states; “we can rise to the occasion by taking a more professional approach especially in the case of bilateral meetings with the Dutch government. Bear in mind that PM Mark Rutte faced six ( 6) St. Maarten governments and 3 Parliaments in 10 years. He has been a constant and consistent factor as PM in the on-going constitutional- financial deliberations facing our local governments.
“In the meantime, St. Maarten continues to be under-prepared or unprepared for these important meetings.
For instance, one of our ministers recently lamented he was party to a testy video conference between our PM and State Secretary Knopps and it was Not RECORDED! Furthermore, when both our Prime Minister and President of Parliament traveled to the Hague to look Rutte squarely in the eyes in the aftermath of receiving the new and controversial proposal, they allegedly arrived in the Hague and went straight into these critical meetings together with the Min-Plenipotentiary.
Having a mixed team comprising of local and Dutch advisors would go a long way to assist our representatives during these difficult meetings”.
Arrindell continued; the current government faces three battles simultaneously on three fronts:
1. post-hurricane Irma, ongoing reconstruction, and allocation of the Trust fund monies provided by the Dutch taxpayers. 2. Current COVID 19 pandemic forced lock-down and as a result thereof social-economic fall-out.
3. Constitutional frictions between the Kingdom partners due to the Dutch government conditions for more financial aid resulting in serious social unrest for the citizens of the smaller entities Curacao, Aruba and St. Maarten.
“After their whirlwind trip, what is next? What is St. Maarten’s Plan B, C, or D?
A few suggestions; a. propose and thoroughly prepare a Round-Table Conference ( RTC) to evaluate the current constitutional structure. This was never done as agreed-upon after the deliberations following the November 2006 ‘Agreement’.
Most bottlenecks are identified in the new Dutch proposal. Why create an entirely new entity for six years, while adding Aruba to the mix. A camel with three humps, remains a camel.
b. CFT was destined to fail in its objective to guide us through sound financial management and balanced budgets. Because St. Maarten never started with a clean financial slate as promised by our local and Dutch political establishment at the time. CFT should be dismantled and its tasks incorporated into the regular government finance administration. This bottom-up approach can be more effective and less costly to operate than the current top-down structure.
c. Appoint a junior minister of Constitutional Affairs to deal with the ongoing discussions since 101010. The government including the PM can refocus its attention on the ‘going concern-‘ the daily management of our country. You have four years to do so. Use the Dutch proposal and execute the tasks as outlined in partnership as a legitimate government, and held accountable by the recently elected Parliament”.
Finally; “we have failed ourselves if we insist and continue to appoint friends, family, or persons whom we know are incompetent or incapable of doing their job paid for by the local or Dutch taxpayers. Nepotism and the like must stop at once.
“The footprints of our ancestors are covered by a pile of garbage in our city center.
Parliament is still located in an expensive rented building.
Constitutional history in our school curriculum keeps our students ignorant of current affairs. Our unfinished airport, our gateway to economic recovery is just a fistful of the proverbial rocks that are waiting to be transformed into diamonds.
“Until our citizens become better informed and responsible and demand proper and accountable representation, the gap between the wealthy and those who live on the margins of society will become wider with all consequences thereof.
We cannot always point fingers at Holland for that outcome and continue to suffer fools gladly at our own expense, concluded Gracita.