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Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs Responds to BZK letter

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs sent a terse response to State Secretary Raymond Knops’ letter of May 12th, with regards to the delays of the 5th tranche NAf 39 million liquidity support expected by St. Maarten since the week following the decision made on April 23rd in the Kingdom Council. In responding to the May 12th letter, Prime Minister Jacobs drew reference to the events leading to the delays. 
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Prime Minister Jacobs indicates that in the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR) decision on March 26th, Knops was given the authority together with Prime Minister, Mr. Mark Rutte, Minister of Finance Mr. Wopke Hoekstra and the Minister Plenipotentiary Mr. Rene Violenus to enter into discussion to clarify the position of the Parliament of Sint Maarten on the trajectory for the COHO law. Additionally, Knops was also given the authority to give approval if the clarification which was given was sufficient.  On April 15th this clarification was given by the Parliament of Sint Maarten and on April 16th approval was given, on behalf of the above-mentioned Ministers. In addition, the RMR decided in the meeting of April 23rd (after 1 month delay) to provide the liquidity support of ANG 39 million to Sint Maarten and St. Maarten received notice from BZK staff that the loan agreement would follow within short. To date, BZK has not lived up to its responsibility to do so. 

Knowing that the decision was finally taken in the RMR after a full month delay, which the government felt was also unwarranted and not related to the agreements made, Sint Maarten had no reason to doubt Knop’s execution of the decision in his capacity as State Secretary of Kingdom Relations. However, on May 12, 2021, the very insulting and overreaching letter was sent to the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten and made public, informing that once again the requested liquidity support granted on his advice to the RMR, would be further delayed, or suspended on the indication of Knops citing reasons not based in facts, and easily refutable. This letter continues to fuel negative feelings within the St. Maarten community.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs highlighted that it was inconceivable that the demissionair State secretary could take it upon himself to make such an arbitrary decision without proper authority. It is clear that the RMR closely follows his advice as well as that of the CFT in all financial matters related to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. It is also evident that as such the State secretary feels empowered to make these decisions, however, it is not ‘behoorlijk’ behavior and serves to further erode the trust and deteriorate the relationship between St. Maarten and the Netherlands.

St. Maarten reached out repeatedly for two weeks to the State Secretary before forwarding concerns to the RMR. That the RMR chose to send St. Maarten back to BZK for the long-awaited response shows that the democratic deficit continues to be flagrantly demonstrated. Without a dispute regulation, and without a willingness on the side of the RMR and BZK to listen to the reality of the St. Maarten situation, even after the technical agreement, and take consideration for the SIDS status these islands have, we continue to struggle in this Kingdom to be treated with some level of equity and respect as ‘self-governing countries’.

Facts are, Prime Minister Jacobs and State Secretary Knops have already signed the implementation agenda which was the condition for the 5th tranche liquidity support. These delayed actions by Knops are disrupting the vital processes of government and making it difficult for government to live up to its obligations. Government started its process to address concerns at the airport before the May 6th letter of the Schiphol group and before the May 12th letter of BZK. The government of St. Maarten strongly believes that these two separate agreements should not be thrown together. It is clear that Mr. Knops is very well aware that he has no authority to make such decisions on his own.

“Your letter shows that you are attempting to suspend the liquidity support provided without a mandate until you can once again submit it for decision making to the RMR. This confirms that you were not legally authorized to do so. It is also clear that you want to attach additional conditions to the 39 million already granted, which was requested to cover the costs that are currently not covered, while this has not been discussed or decided in the RMR. It is a disturbing fact that you once again link the agreements made via the trust fund to this country package, while the country package does not cover these agreements,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs emphatically.

The letter further elucidated the facts as related to some of the allegations and accusations being made towards the government of St. Maarten. The technical teams, civil servants within Government organization have been working diligently on the agreements to achieve necessary reforms in order to ensure St. Maarten is able to receive liquidity support until we are able to sustain ourselves, even as they accepted that they too had to give up a little. It is an insult to them, to come with new conditions after they have worked so hard and the agreed-upon conditions have been met.

Seeing the current work being done to adjust the COHO law, as it was very heavily criticized by the Council of State for usurping government and parliament’s authorities, as well as going too far, it is uncanny that BZK continues to behave in this same manner every time there is a dispute in order to push their agenda.

The government of St. Maarten expects to have further discussions with the teams including the State Secretary in the coming week aimed at ensuring that St. Maarten is treated equitably and that the livelihood of the people who are depending on the government of St. Maarten to meet their needs are not put in jeopardy based on the heavy-handed moves in The Hague. St. Maarten also looks forward to BZK State Secretary Knops living up to agreements made in RMR of April 23rd, and expects this to be resolved by May 21st, 2021.
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