Sint Maarten MPs adopt anti-corruption law; prerequisite for Dutch hurricane relief

Sint Maarten during Hurricane Irma, 6 Sept 2017
Sint Maarten during Hurricane Irma, 6 Sept 2017Photo: @C_ZMCARIB / Twitter

On Wednesday the Sint Maarten parliament adopted a law on establishing an Integrity Committee. The establishment of this authority is one of the conditions the Netherlands set to provide money for the island's reconstruction following the devastation left by Hurricane Irma in September, ANP reports.

The Integrity Committee's goal is to detect possible corruption within Sint Maarten's government. The Netherlands set this condition to make sure that money provided for the island's reconstruction does not disappear into the wrong pockets. The Netherlands earmarked 550 million euros for this. The money will not be transferred directly to the island, but through the World Bank, according to the news wire.

Nine of Sint Maarten's 15 members of parliament voted for the law, three voted against. 

State Secretary Raymond Knops of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, who visited the island himself late last month, said that he is "satisfied" that the parliamentarians decided to implement this law. He added that this is "an important step to get started with the reconstruction of Sint Maarten and to help residents rebuild their existence". 

The decision must still be confirmed by the governor and the acting prime minister on the island. The local Ombudsman could also still decide to submit the law to the Constitutional Court. As soon as these steps are complete, "the conditions are met and we can really get started with the reconstruction", Knops said.

Opponents in the island's parliament called Wednesday "a very sad day for the country", ANP reports. According to Frans Richardson of the party USM, the proponents were persuaded to give up their own ideals and the autonomy of Sint Maarten in exchange for a bag of money from the Netherlands.

Knops previously warned that every vote against the Integrity Committee will be "a very bad signal". According to him, such resistance will only result in the Netherlands insisting on more guarantees against corruption. 

The Netherlands set two conditions for providing hurricane relief to Sint Maarten, which forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. These were that an integrity committee be established, and that the Koninklijke Marechaussee - a policing force that works as part of the Dutch military and is responsible for border control in the Netherlands - takes over border control on the island.

Former prime minister William Marlin's refusal to accept these conditions led to his parliament passing a vote of no confidence against him and most of his ministers, and his eventual resignation


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