The Daily Herald writes today that a majority in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament backs the call of Members of Parliament (MPs) Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party to launch a criminal investigation against United People’s (UP) party leader Theo Heyliger.
Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk said it was not his authority, but that of the Prosecutor’s Office.
During Wednesday’s debate on the draft 2015 budget of Kingdom Relations Van Raak referred to the situation in St. Maarten as a fire in urgent need of extinguish ing through firm action of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. He said that when there was a fire, taking fire insurance was not enough. “The Dutch Government should send a fire truck to put out the fire,” said Van Raak. He wants an investigation of Heyliger’s reported vote-buying practices and of reports that the UP paid St. Maarten’s incumbent Democratic Party (DP) Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Cornelius de Weever to “jump ship” and to support the UP in Parliament, causing the UP now to have the majority. According to Van Raak, the measures proposed by Minister Plasterk to strengthen the Justice System in St. Maarten and place the sector under the supervision of the Kingdom Government were insufficient. “It is not enough. We have to prevent that the new leader of the St. Maarten Government, Theo Heyliger, becomes the boss. Someone is about to become the boss who is also the boss of the mafia on the island. The new government hasn’t been elected, but it has been paid
off. Taking fire insurance in this case is not enough. We need to extinguish the fire,” said Van Raak.
Minister Plasterk said that with his proposed measures, which include a special white-collar-crime unit at the St. Maarten Prosecutor’s Office, he was in fact sending a fire truck with water. However, St. Maarten would have to put out the fire with the additional capacity at the Prosecutor’s Office, he added. “But, then we ask a pyromaniac to put out the fire,” responded Van Raak.
Plasterk said that for this reason he would be sending a fire truck under the supervision of The Hague. The minister implied that he could not force a criminal investigation, as this was the authority of the local Prosecutor’s Office. “We have
to respect the separation of powers. Having a special team in place should be sufficient to take action,” he said.
Bosman said the “legal order in St. Maarten was under severe threat.” He said a criminal investigation of Heyliger was “really needed.” “People on the island feel that he is untouchable, that he is the man who arranges everything,” Bosman
Roelof van Laar (PvdA) said the vote-buying issue and the fact that the UP might have bought a seat in Parliament were a “serious case” that warranted an investigation. He asked whether there were ways to prevent a one-party government from getting in power. “This doesn’t benefit the necessary checks and balances,” he said. Van Laar repeated his call on St. Maarten to appoint a national unity cabinet or broadly-based business cabinet, at least until the investigation of vote-buying and the formation process had been completed. “We can’t have a government based on eight seats when we don’t know if the formation process was fair,” he said.
Gert-Jan Segers of the ChristianUnion (CU) said, “Hopefully, there would be a different solution than a one party government.”
Peter Oskam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA said his party surely would support an investigation if indeed the state of law was in danger. “We have to take action when there is corruption, but we should also offer help,” he said.
Van Raak tabled two motions on Wednesday evening to strengthen St. Maarten’s Prosecutor’s Office and tohave a criminal investigationof the relations between politicians and criminals.
Minister Plasterk said he could agree with the motion to strengthen the Prosecutor’s Office, as this in fact also was going to happen, but he rejected the other motion because it was “in violation of the separation of powers.”
Van Raak did not agree with the minister’s reasoning. “He can always give an instruction. There are many cases on the shelf that need an investigation. Something has to be done. People who engage in vote-buying practices should be prosecuted,” he said.
The Second Chamber will vote on these and other motions tabled during Wednesday’s debate on Tuesday.