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Subject: After 156 years of slavery-abolition-law Dutch cabinet officially recognize and regrets being accomplice but denies decolonization and right to self-determination to the descendants.

Honorable Parliamentarians,

We commend your cabinet’s recent historical declarations on July 1, 2019, in commemoration of July 1, 1863, 156 years after your government’s proclamation of the abolition law, finally a sign, a sprout, of compassion and humanity towards the descendants, the diaspora of our dehumanized ancestors, victims of your criminally inhuman economy.

The Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Mrs. Ollongren stated “that the government cannot turn back time, but deeply regrets that slavery is part of our common history” and the Minister of Social Affairs Mr. Koolmees confessed: “..that is not only the stories about the past that hurt, but that today's indifference can do that just as well”. These declarations have lit a flame of hope again in this deepest everlasting dark historical tunnel of Dutch unconsciousness about the racism part of their economy.

We all know that the abolition law of slave trade in 1814 and the1818 law that made participation a criminal offense led up to continued discussions in your parliament. For more than half a century, they debated not the humanitarian beliefs or feelings of shame about this form of commerce, but a defense of
the Dutch rationale of economic pragmatism, condemning slavery in theory, but allowing its continuation in practice up to 1863 and beyond. And up to now all your governments have kept yourselves and yours and our peoples in a state of cognitive dissonance through cultural, educational, legal, and colonial manipulation, denying the fact that your government was one of the cruelest colonizers in the world’s history.

In the light of the cabinet’s official recognition of the crimes against our ancestors and thus accepting the responsibility of being the continuation of your predecessors’ racist and economic crimes committed against us, the descendants of the victims, we would like to kindly request you the following:

As it took almost two (2) centuries for your government to recognize and regret that what you did to our ancestors was wrong, criminal and inhumane, we are afraid it may take a similar time-span, another two (2) centuries for your government to apologize, a natural logical human deed.

That as your government seems not to be in the state-of-mind to apologize due to the reasons mentioned above and we would not like to start a discussion with you on reparations as that is impossible in the current colonial occupation you hold us, we would like to ask you and your government that same simple question as your first chair of your first national assembly, during the Batavian constitutional debate, Pieter Paulus asked in 1796: “In which way all human beings can be considered equal?”.

Yes, the same question remains today 222 years later : “In which way – Are we, your so-called “Kingdom partners”, who were as recent as October 10, 2010, annexed, re-occupied, re-colonized, and embedded in your constitution under unequal rights against the our free will, - considered equal human beings?

 

We truly hope that the two honorable Ministers, same as Pieter Paulus was called “apostle of humanity”, they will be called the “apostles of decolonization” and not yet another modernized version of Piet Hein personified by colleague state-secretary and ex-military Mr. Knops who could be portraying Piet Hein, but now by terrorizing us all in the Caribbean with his WIC-VOC mentality and approach and who abuses his powers by unilateral legal actions with your approval.

We wholeheartedly feel that our wish to decolonize is not unrealistic and is as real as Mrs. Ollongren realization that time cannot be turned back as she declared. Born in the former Dutch colony Sumatra to Finnish-Swede parents, she possesses a diluted Dutch-ancestral-colonial DNA and her M.A. in history gives her all the possibilities to understand colonialism and its only cure: decolonization. The same miracle we expect from Mr. Koolmees with his doctoral degree in social and institutional economics and as researcher at The Dutch Economic Institute he surely must understand that the major part of the riches and wealth which he and his government inherited and benefit today, was acquired through the colonial-slavery-criminal-economy tainted with the blood, sweats, and tears of our ancestors. No wonder he clearly admitted that the indifference today is as cruel and painful as the past because as an expert he indeed knows.

Finally, we herewith kindly request you to cease being an accomplice to the continuation of Dutch colonialism, declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations and to follow up on your recent brave declarations. Our King Willem-Alexander, as a non-political symbol of Dutch colonial legacy, could lead the reconciliation and healing process by apologizing with humanitarian compassion and not matter-of-factly based on Dutch economic rationale. In this process, we advise you to reevaluate the role and actions of Mr. Knops. The damage he has done so far to your carefully fabricated humanitarian philanthropic world image can hardly be undone other than through a genuine declaration of remorse followed by an immediate resignation.

To summarize all the above: if you indeed recognize that colonialism is a crime and regret that your government is participating in and supporting it, then please follow up and respect our Bonerian 2015 and Sint Eustatius 2014 referenda, expressions of the voice and free will of our people that legally and democratically rejected the imposed colonial structure. And please, comply with your UN Charter obligations and resume the decolonization process by respecting and restoring our inherited and acquired sacred and fundamental human rights of self-determination and self-governance.

We thank you for your attention and look forward to your compliance, as hope is all we need, that, “one day, we shall overcome”,

Respectfully yours,
James Finies

 


A Call for Caribbean Governments to Tax Cruise Sector More and Tax Air Passengers Less.

Can tourism-dependent Caribbean governments learn something from oil producing countries? When relatively small and poor oil-producing governments sought to get a fair price for oil – their main source of national revenue – they banded together to negotiate more effectively with the multi-national oil companies and the larger developed nations, which were the major consumers of their oil. In 1960 five of these countries came together to found OPEC – the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries – and were later joined by nine additional member states. As a result of their joint stronger bargaining power, oil prices have risen relatively steadily from US$1.63 per barrel in 1960 to an average of around US$77 during the last ten years.
The weak negotiating position of individual Caribbean governments versus the massive cruise line corporations, relative to port taxes, poses similarities to OPEC’s situation sixty years ago and the same potential “rebalancing” strategy should now be pursued in the Caribbean. If governments across the whole region, including Central America, come together and form OTEC – the Organization of Tourism Economy Countries – they can negotiate as a cartel from a position of greater strength with the cruise lines. Currently, when individual countries try to increase port taxes, they are threatened with being dropped from cruise itineraries and can be picked off one by one by the powerful cruise lines.
From a better bargaining position, state or national governments with single destination cruise itineraries – Alaska, Bermuda, and Hawaii – have already negotiated higher cruise port revenues than those in the average Caribbean country. Cruise ships stay two nights in Bermuda and pay at least US$50 per passenger. For mainland United States and Canada cruise itineraries, an average of 33% of the cruise ticket price goes to port taxes, compared to an average 14% for a Caribbean itinerary. By negotiating together, governments in the Greater Caribbean region can achieve similar results to these destinations with higher port taxes.
A recent statement from the Government of Antigua & Barbuda summarized the history and current situation of regional cruise taxes, as follows. In 1993 Caricom countries initially agreed to impose a minimum US$10 port head tax for cruise passengers but this was never implemented because of internal disagreements. A range of today’s head taxes in the Caribbean is as follows: US$18 – The Bahamas and The British Virgin Islands, US$15 – Jamaica, US$13.25 – Puerto Rico, US$7 - Belize, US$6 – St Kitts & Nevis, US$5 – St Lucia, US$4.50 – Grenada, US$1.50 - Dominican Republic.
Imagine the economic benefit, if these cruise tax rates could be increased and standardized across the region at the higher levels listed. One directly relevant and current challenge could be addressed – the current sky-high airport and air ticket taxes in the region could be reduced to help increase the volume of stay-over visitors in the Caribbean.
Stay-over travelers, whether intra-regional or from outside the Caribbean, spend very much more than cruise ship passengers and generate considerably more local employment than today’s cruise ship business model, which is now highly exploitive of Caribbean countries. An increase in stay-over visitors drives the development of more hotels and marinas, as well as many other forms of real estate and tourism infrastructure investment. Reduced air ticket prices keep intra-regional airlines, like LIAT, flying and increase the number of airline seats into Caribbean destinations from the rest of the world.
The cruise industry business model has changed radically and aggressively in the last fifteen years and should no longer be viewed as an ideal “partner” for the countries of the Caribbean. There is a growing sense in the islands with the highest cruise ship volumes, like St Thomas and Sint Maarten, that today’s port taxes are not adequate compensation for the overcrowding of down town areas, the pollution from the burning of heavy fuel oil and the minimal spend ashore of today’s cruise ship passengers. The mega-ships now have multiple shops, casinos, restaurants, and bars offering all-inclusive packages that totally distract passengers from spending ashore. In the last twenty years, ships’ commissions on shore excursions have risen from 10% to 50%, discouraging passengers from going ashore at all and squeezing any possible profit margin for local tour operators. Today, over 80% of a cruise ship passenger’s DISCRETIONARY spend is on board.
Most cruise ships enjoy a double high season – Caribbean for less than six months and the balance of the year in Alaska or the Mediterranean – operating virtually free of corporation taxes and with very low wage bills. The largest ships cost less than US$300,000 per cabin to build, while new hotel rooms in the Caribbean cost double that figure per room to develop and have only one high season. The cruise ship’s highly competitive business model and the further recent growth of cruise tourism in the region might be viewed as a direct disincentive for resort investment and re-investment in the Caribbean.
The total number of cruise ship passengers was over 27 million worldwide in 2018, up nearly 10% from two years earlier. In the next ten years, 106 new ships are expected to enter service and, currently, over 50% of the world’s cruise fleet is based in the Caribbean for the Winter. The hugely profitable cruise industry can afford to absorb higher port taxes in the Caribbean and will do so, once faced with a stronger negotiating entity.
Do not believe any cruise line threats that they can pull out of the region altogether. The Caribbean is the only archipelago with natural beauty and sophisticated tourism infrastructure, located directly between the established feeder cruise markets of North America and Europe and the growth feeder market of South America.
Is it not now abundantly clear that, at the very least, there is an absolute logic to rebalance the tax burden between the Caribbean’s stay-over visitor and the cruise ship passenger?

Robert MacLellan
Managing Director
MacLellan & Associates

A shameful display by Sarah.

Dear Mr. Editor,

I wonder sometimes if politicians really wake up every day thinking that they lord over a community of fools. In some ways I understand why they could feel this way because the same “fools” keep electing them over and over again. But there are times when these politicians say and do things that literally make you feel ashamed for them.
Sarah Wescot-Williams put on a shameful and miserable display in defense of her Minister Emil Lee as he was being fired on Tuesday night during the budget debate. She got up and chastised members of Parliament for their “double standards.” I had to laugh at this point, and loudly. If there is anybody who should stay away from standing on the “double standards” soapbox it’s Sarah Wescot-Williams, she of the multiple breaks in government including the most recent William Marlin government in which she and her DP was a coalition partner.
You cannot be a politician of over 30 years and use the term “double standards” to disparage other politicians and then say this is the main problem in Parliament, as if you haven’t contributed vastly to such a reality. Really Sarah? Double standards are totally new to you? And you have never engaged in such behavior? Like….ever? Don’t insult us when your moral conscience appears to be largely dictated by your political loyalties, not your aversion to the double standard.
Even more shameful was her injection of race and xenophobia in her so call defense of Lee. She implied ever so slyly and indirectly that the MP’s voting to dismiss Lee was doing so with racial undertones. In other words, Lee was being fired in part because of his ethnicity. Sarah says this in defense of a man who has never associated himself with St. Maarten people via actions or initiatives.
Other than his business ventures and the luck of the devil to remain as Minister while Sarah maneuvered herself in every government, Emil Lee has always been about Emil Lee. He doesn’t attend local events, he doesn’t participate in anything cultural, and keeps to his people in his bubble. In five years as Minister of VSA we still have the same issues if not worse and he doesn’t have a single major accomplishment to show that benefits the people of St. Maarten. Not one.
And the best Sarah can come up with are double standards and accusing the MP’s, indirectly, of being racist. A Shameful performance from someone who should have said: “ok Minister, you had enough time, you failed my people, thanks for your service, next!”
She wrapped up her poor defense by saying that double standards in Parliament will “come back to bite us.” Well, yes. It finally bit you on Tuesday and now the DP has no Minister in the Council of Ministers. The better term to use is karma.


Raoul Nicholaas

Modern Day Slavery.

Dear community of Sint Maarten,

Certain things have been going on lately that need to share, my article is based on people who are experiencing these real-life matters at the moment.
Our justice system is being continuously tampered with, prosecutors are undermining and situations in our correctional facility are unhealthy.

Sinta Duro ( Sit Tight)

Sometimes we use the word but we rarely take time to understand what the word means, therefore, I took the time to look up the word " Justice". I found that Justice means; Fairness which mean; A just behavior or treatment. I followed with what is the "Purpose of a justice system" it is to deliver justice for
all meaning everyone, including a suspect in a crime. The judicial system of Sint Maarten, however, does not see it like that, it is usually you are innocent until proven guilty however in Sint Maarten you are guilty until proven innocent. The suspect is arrested and then the investigation begins, they serve you with 2 days in jail then you are set to appear in front a judge to see if the arrest was lawful if, in fact, it is the suspect will sit 8 days, 16 days, 60 days and then finally 30 days. This brings it to a total off 116 of imprisonment while they investigate the case within these days the suspect is lucky if they are even questions 4 times pertaining to their case.

Every court appearance the prosecutor asks the judge for more time in order to investigate the case. There are inmates that have been detained in the correctional facility for over 8 months without being sentenced due to the above-mentioned reason.

Examples Of Unjust Punishment

The chief prosecutor Mirjam Mol said: " We need to explain much more, that we cannot go by what a person is saying or posting on the internet."
However there are inmates facing up to 20+ years from the prosecutor's office with no evidence meaning; no weapons being found, no trace of DNA at the scene or even camera footage and yet this is what the prosecutors are asking for.

There is an inmate right now facing a 15+ year sentence for a crime that people allegedly stated that "he was the one who a shot after them."
The police arrested this young man, a weapon was found in his position however after testing they concluded that the weapon was not the same one used in the shooting. The fact that a group of friends stated that it's him, this young man is now facing this time. Another young man is serving 15+ years as well for robberies,
he admitted to the crimes that he committed.
His words were; " If I can do the crime I can do the time." The prosecutor saw this as an opportunity to add more crimes to this young man's rap sheet even though the young man said he had nothing to do with these added cases, the prosecutor added these cases due to the similarities and not facts after presenting it to the judge it was agreed upon and not questioned as he serves time for his case and others.

Our justice system is like a dictatorship and the judge is the dictator.

We have no one overseeing or a person to go to when the judge makes an unfair decision. The prosecutor will then say if you don't like the decision you can always appeal it however it is not mentioned that appeal takes up to 1 year before you are able to appeal your case in front of those 3 judges.

The judges are not allowing the lawyers to do their job meaning

 The lawyers are bringing forth cases where the prosecutor's office is making multiple mistakes and the judges are overlooking it.
They are stating that yes they may have made a mistake but due to the fact of the crime, they are going to overlook the law.
However, that is unacceptable because the law is the law and it should remain in fact that way whether it is a big crime or a small crime the law should never change.

Labeling Us

Chief prosecutor Mirjam Mol said in the daily herald on June 17th, 2019: " It hurts her that convicts have to be released from jail due to lack of detention capacity and
that this is bad news for Sint Maarten because this means that dangerous will end up on the streets again ." I must say it hurts me that the chief of prosecutors sees everyone behind bars as dangerous people. They are all humans some have made mistakes, some were protecting their lives and some were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, not all people behind bars are bad people same way not all prosecutors and judges that took an oath to give a fair trial gives one.

Just to help chief Mol out, on how these dangerous people as she would call them to get back into society they are evaluated by the correctional facility meaning they completed most of their time, most likely they had a job and some have never even gotten in trouble before. We ask that before Chief Mol labels us and give us names to take your time to know us, some of us are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts. To you, we may be dangerous but to some people, we are family members. It surprises me that chief Mol is not hurt by the living conditions in the correctional facility and the fact that they don't have a rehabilitation program for the so call dangerous people as chief Mol would call us are able to leave Point Blanche Prison on the right track into society and are able to help our island, when I say our island I don't mean yours because this is not your home because in the next 10 years you will pack your bags, jump on a plane and never look back.

Destroying Our Youth

The prosecutor office is sending one message to our local youth, it is that they want you to work hard, they want you to become successful but not too successful
because if you decide to own business, drive a nice car or own a nice home it can only mean one thing, money laundering. Looking at our local entrepreneurs go to jail for the same crimes over and over hurts. I am not here to point fingers but why can the Indians own the biggest homes on the island, own multiple jewelry stores on the island sometimes have no clients for months and they are still able to pay rent why are they not considered to be doing money laundering?
The Chinese can own up to 20 shops no problem, never a day do any of them end up behind bars
like our local men.

People of Sint Maarten wake up!!!
This letter may not do anything, may not change anything but I am surely bringing awareness to the unjust that we are living in on our island.

 Regards

Written by a Pointe Blanche Prison Inmate

Teachers at St.Maarten Academy angered and feels neglected by the FAVE BOARD.

Dear Editor,

On June 19th, 2019, the St.Maarten Academy P.S.V.E. Teachers refused to go back to classes and chose to wait on answers in the staffroom regarding the uncertainty of their vacation pay. However, the principal Mrs. Lavern Nelson refused to meet with her teachers to ease their concerns. This is nothing new as the principal has not have a staff meetings with her staff for the school year 2018/2019. There are constant tensions between the principal and her staff members for the past three years due to her antics and lack of leadership capabilities. This has caused a continuous deterioration of the working environment in which the schoolboard has refused to intervene. Unfortunately, this has created a toxic atmosphere which has now trickled down to the students on campus.
In a separate interview with a couple of exam students, they claimed that have received many conflicting information from the Principal, Mrs. Nelson pertaining their National Exam which left some of the students confused. They rely heavily on the other school managers of the school and their more experience homeroom teachers to guide them. The students also claimed that they are not encourage or motivated by the Principal as she does not attend assembly and is not a reliable source of information. The exam students do not feel comfortable coming to this school in such an environment where there is an obvious tension between the principal and the teachers. One student asked, will the minister of Education, honorable Wycliffe Smith intervene? They thought education and well-being of the students’ was first priority. One student, shouted, “We are suffering too because of her”. Another student asked, how to learn in an environment like this?

The teacher have been complaining about the Principal’s lack competence to manage the school and her inability to work with her staff. In one instance, due to the negligence of the principal, she jeopardized the integrity of the Spanish. This is has caused 121 students to re-do the National exam and delay graduation for some schools. Also, more information indicated that this is not the first time the principal has made such blunder which has caused her staff members to loose complete confidence in her leadership ability.
A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Nelson informally mentioned to the staff that the vacation pay might not be paid due to lack of funds. And to compound the fears of the teachers, recently, there was an article in the newspaper pertaining to rumors of non-payment of vacation pay. It would have been professional for our School Board and or school managers to communicate whether this is in fact true. A proactive leader would have demanded answers and seek information, so that the issue can be clarified. Now, the teachers are left with uncertainty which only opens the door of misinterpretations and confusion.
The teachers feel that they ought to be respected for their hard work, dedication, and willingness to go above and beyond. Furthermore, most teachers spend their own money; hundreds to purchase supplies for the classroom to create a positive learning environment.
Teachers of the St. Maarten Academy has had enough and this continuous roller-coaster needs to end. We are not just asking for vacation pay but we are asking for F.A.V.E School Board to be professional and to respect educators and to be sensitive to our cries.
As of now, teachers and staff have not received any vacation pay. They are aware that the vacation pay is to be paid from June 15thonward, however, nothing has been formally communicated as to if and when we will receive the vacation pay. In the past years, it is customary that it is paid out around the 15th-19th of the month. Unfortunately, using the newspaper is the only means of communicating with the board as they have not met with staff to provide clarity on the so-called “14” teachers being dismissed nor vacation pay.
The teachers would hate to think that the monies that are rightfully due on to them were used to buy gravel, sand and other building materials to build/rebuild the Academic section and leaving the teachers with empty-handed.
During the sit-in, the Chef du Cabinet of the Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Mr. Peter Gittens was at the school to listen to the grievance of the teachers. He was quite surprise to hear that the recommendation from the ministry during an early dispute had not been implemented by the schoolboard for the sake of the students. Mr. Gittens, informed the staff that the vacation pay was already paid to the schoolboard in a lumpsom payment. However, there is a possibility the schoolboard could have used the monies for other expenses. Teachers also expressed their concerns regarding the lack of communication from the FAVE board regarding their vacation and the removal of the Mrs. Lavern Nelson. Minister was informed of the ongoing situation during a press briefing. The teachers had enough and will continue their sit in on Thursday, June 20th, 2019 until their demands are met by the FAVE Schoolboard which are to receive their hard earn vacation pay and the removal of Mrs. Lavern Nelson.
Mr. A. Wilson


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