The alleged connections of Curaçao and St. Maarten with the mafia put pressure on relations in the Dutch Kingdom. If the countries want to do business with criminal elements, The Netherlands can no longer be responsible for them, said Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) on Monday. He hopes the people of Curaçao will make a wise decision when they go to the polls this Friday.
If people will elect the MFK party of dismissed Curaçao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte again into power, the Kingdom Government can no longer comply with the task to guarantee good governance as defined in the Kingdom Charter, according to Van
Raak. “A vote for Schotte is a vote for independence,” he said.
Last week it became clear that Schotte has ties with Italian businessman Francesco Corallo, who, according to Italian authorities is a member of the Sicilian mafia and has been involved in international drug trafficking and money laundering. “We cannot fulfil the task of guaranteeing good governance when the mafia is in charge. We cannot put right the deeds of the underworld,” he said.
Van Raak brought up the Schotte-Corallo connection in the Second Chamber after he received confidential letters showing that Schotte intended to give Corallo a top position at a Curaçao institute. Corallo is said to be the owner of the Atlantis Casino in St. Maarten. The link with St. Maarten also worries Van Raak. He said St. Maarten is a “crossing” for international crime, drug trafficking and human smuggling. Additional dilemmas are the fact that native St. Maarteners are a minority in their country, the relatively limited cohesion between the different groups in society and the poverty among immigrants, said Van Raak.
It is up to the St. Maarten Government to choose whether it wants to fight mafia practices and combat poverty. If Philipsburg is willing to do that, the Dutch Government is “most certainly” willing to support the young democracy in its efforts, according to Van Raak. But if St. Maarten doesn’t want to combat the mafia and poverty, The Hague can no longer stand guarantee for good governance, just as on Curaçao. “It makes no sense to support a government that is under the influence of the mafia, because our money will end up in the wrong pockets,” he said. Van Raak said that he was under the impression that the members of the St. Maarten Government were of good intention and that they worked hard to build up their country. But, he added, “The problems are big and a lot remains to be done.”
The Member of Parliament (MP) encouraged St. Maarten to do as Aruba does: seek cooperation with The Netherlands to develop their country. “The cooperation with Aruba is going very well. There are mutual benefits,” he said. According to Van Raak St. Maarten has two options: cooperate with The Netherlands like Aruba does or go in the direction of Curaçao where the Schotte Government has put relations in the Kingdom under pressure. “We are willing to help St. Maarten, but it is up to them to accept that help.” On Curaçao, where elections are held this Friday, people will have to make a choice what kind of government they want, to determine their future. “The people deserve an honest government that holds the principles of good governance high,” said Van Raak. The MP is happy with the move of Curaçao’s interim cabinet to draw up a law to screen candidates for the future Council of Ministers. He said Schotte should “never have been appointed Minister” and that he only managed to get into government because there was no proper screening. He criticised the Schotte cabinet for “emptying” the national treasury and the government owned companies.
Van Raak is not charmed about reports of fear and intimidation reigning on the island. He lamented that persons voicing their criticism against the MFK party and the Pueblo Soberano (PS) party, including journalists, were being threatened. “I say to people: go out and vote. Don’t be intimidated.” The second Chamber will keep a sharp eye on developments on Curaçao. The election process, the results and Curaçao’s future will feature prominently during the handling of the 2013 draft budget of Kingdom Relations next week, said Van Raak. (Suzanne Koelega)