Saturday , December 2 2023


The following comment was published in The Daily Herald. The fibre optic cable from St. Eustatius and Saba to St. Maarten (see related article) is another example of an issue that led to much friction with The Hague, but apparently was resolved in the end. The prospect of a lawsuit scheduled for today, Monday, that now has been withdrawn no doubt helped do the trick, but the public is left wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place. Mind you, the request for a permit to allow such a connection from the National Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN goes back to June 2011. Then-minister in charge of telecommunication Franklin Meyers, but also his successor Romeo Pantophlet, was against the plan to use the so-called “landing site” of United Telecommunications Services (UTS).

Their main reasoning was that the latter would affect the competitive position of the local government-owned telephone company TelEm/ Smitcoms, despite the fact that St. Maarten also has a minority share in Curaçao-based UTS. The court denied RCN a temporary provision to land the cable at Great Bay in the vicinity of the two existing beach manholes or any other location pending the outcome of the case on the merits, which is no longer continuing due to the deal announced on Friday. The cable is to enter at the TelEm site, so there is no longer any fear it can be used to undermine the company’s future. However, all providers, including UTS, reportedly will be connected to the cable and have the possibility to sell bandwidth. That sounds like a reasonable compromise which perhaps could have been reached earlier had the matter been handled with less emotion.

Together with the current attempts to exempt products shipped directly to Saba and Statia from the five per cent turnover tax (ToT), the agreement regarding the fibre optic cable proves that these kinds of potentially explosive tensions in the Dutch kingdom can be diffused with the necessary goodwill and understanding for each other’s arguments. If such an attitude had been adopted more often in the past, St. Maarten might not be in its current predicament regarding the integrity probe instruction to the governor.

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