Government wins case in “Over the bank” land issuance saga

Philipsburg, August 23, 2023 — On August 22, 2023, the Court in the First Instance rendered its verdict in the ‘Over the Bank’ case. In that judgment, the Court determined that Country Sint Maarten is not bound by the (draft) decrees issued by then Minister Meyers and/or that the Over the Bank group could not derive any legally justified expectation from the documents provided by then Minister Meyers due to the violations established with the public order and/or principles of good governance (including the principle of transparency). The Over the Bank group’s counterclaim submitted in the case, essentially to still receive the right of a long lease for the parcels located at Over the Bank, was denied by the Court. The Over the Bank group was also ordered to pay court fees for both the case filed by the Country as well as their counterclaim.

This decision marks the end of a long discussion on the matter of the validity and binding of the documents provided by the then Minister of VROMI, Minister Meyers, for parcels of land at ‘Over the Bank’. In January 2022 the Injunction Judge already provided their judgment denying the claims of the ‘Over the bank’ group (for the rights of long lease) and this recent judgment solidifies the previous Court ruling. The judgment also refers to discrepancies in the decrees issued by Mr Meyers; some of which are as follows. Minister Meyers made changes by hand to the decrees specifically where it pertained to the canon to be paid for the long lease land. The documents also did not have a cadastral description via the certificate of the measurement of the parcels in question. The note was also made by the Judge that certain lot numbers were written by hand.

“As Minister of VROMI, I have done my best to ensure that we do things in a structured manner. It has been quite the task, as for so long things were being done in the wrong way. It is even more concerning that at the highest level, that being a parliament, these practices were condoned and overlooked for political gain and ultimately played on the people’s emotions. This was evident as a motion of no confidence was tabled against me, spearheaded by the PFP faction, for doing what was right.” Said Minister Doran. Minister Doran previously presented a housing project that would have yielded over 150 homes in this area. This project was taken off the table due to no support by the parliament of Sint Maarten.

Despite certain differing opinions on the matter, we now see that the actions of Minister Meyers were contrary to principles of good governance and that Country Sint Maarten cannot be expected to honor decisions that violate public order including those that violate the principles of good governance.

As part of Minister Doran’s vision to better the process of land issuance, a policy has been worked on. This first-time issuance policy is currently under final legal review and should be finalized within a short. With this policy in place, there will be a transparent structure that will serve as a guideline for the issuance of domain land.

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