The Netherlands has temporarily suspended COVID-19 support to Sint Maarten which was previously promised. The suspension is as a result of a petition that several members of the parliament of Sint Maarten, including coalition parties, has submitted to the United Nations (UN).
In the complaint to the UN, the parliamentarians described the conditions for Dutch support as ‘racist’ and ‘neo-colonial’ and called for the support package to be stopped under these conditions.
In a letter dated March 26, 2021, State Secretary Raymond Knops, (Kingdom of Relations), wrote to the Sint Maarten Parliament stating that he wants clarification about whether Sint Maarten is for or against the agreement the country had previously agreed to a deal worth more than 18 million euros.
Knops stated that, “On March 10, however, I had to learn through the media that the Choharis Law Group “on behalf of the parliament and the people of Sint Maarten” submitted a petition to the Special Rapporteur on Racism and the Working Group of experts on people of African Descent to the United Nations (UN);” adding that, “it is striking that among the parliamentarians who have explicitly expressed their support for this petition, mainly are members of the Sint Maarten coalition parties.”
“The content of this petition, as well as the language used in it, are incompatible with the previously expressed support for the country package,” said the State Secretary who has taken the petition with “great amazement.”
Because the measures to improve the economy and the living environment of Sint Maarten, according to the Kingdom’s State Secretary, can only be implemented with sufficient support from Parliament, Knop asked the Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Parliament Speaker of Sint Maarten for clarification.
A critical point in the agreement was the establishment of the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO). In an advisory report, the Council of State was also critical of this COHO, which would take over certain powers in Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten. According to the Council, it was not sufficiently clear which autonomy the islands would have to give up and which conditions they must meet. The Netherlands considers the COHO a necessary condition to make the Caribbean countries long-term resilient to economic failure. The confidential advice of the Council of State was partly leaked to Caribbean media last week. Knops says that he regrets this and that he felt compelled to make the entire advice public.
Knops said that the, “the petition targets alleged ongoing acts of racial discrimination and alleged human rights violations by the Kingdom of the Netherlands against the residents of Sint Maarten. Specifically, according to the petition, the process surrounding the COVID-related liquidity support and the establishment of the COHO is seen as contrary to international human rights and also racist.
The petition requests, among other things:
1. Terminating the COHO proposal and ensuring that no new Dutch entity or person (s) assumes similar powers; and
2. Ensuring that the powers proposed in the COHO legislation and other executive and legislative authority remains exclusively with the elected island governments.”
The content of this petition, as well as the language used in it, cannot be reconciled with the previously expressed support for the country package and the establishment of COHO. As you know, this support was expressed by a large majority of the members of Parliament at the time and, when requested, confirmed in writing by the President of the Parliament on 14 December 2020. With this statement, it was clear that there was support in the States for the country package and the conditions set for the third tranche of liquidity support, which was of crucial importance to the signing of the mutual arrangement on 22 December 2020.”
Knops has once again asked the Sint Maarten parliament to take a position before the Netherlands transfers the aid promised.