August 30, 2021 PHILIPSBURG—St. Maarten was well represented at the recently held Interparliamentair Koninkrijksoverleg IPKO by Faction Leader in Parliament for the United People’s Party and Member of Parliament Grisha Heyliger-Marten who used the opportunity to solidify the island's position on decolonization, education, and liquidity support for the people of St. Maarten.
She returned on the heels of a recent article released on dossierkoninkrijksrelaties.nl, which reported that the committee of the United Nations tasked with Elimination of Racial Discrimination(CERD) raised many questions about The Netherland’s handling of racism and inequality within the Netherlands Kingdom. After considering the report of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the UN Committee asked “How did the State party ensure that persons living in Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, and St. Eustatius and Saba were adequately represented and enjoyed sufficient autonomy and were able to take part in the decision-making regarding matters that concern them?
The fact that the committee was also critical of the conditions that The Netherlands imposed for its liquidity support during the Corona Virus COVID-19 pandemic and the refusal to give these islands their full autonomy, was a focal point of discussion during the recent IPKO Meeting in Bonaire.
In a press release issued Sunday MP Heyliger-Marten said “I was finally able to answer many questions that Dutch Parliamentarians asked about the decolonization and the urgent need for St. Maarten to receive its full autonomy. This has resulted in commitments from MP’s in attendance at IPKO to formalize a declaration to work closer with St. Maarten moving forward.”
She also used the opportunity to question Dutch Parliamentarians about what was causing the lengthy delay in forming a Government since The Netherlands held its elections in March this year. “It is important to understand how this delay will impact the COHO and dispute regulation laws, and to question why Knops continues to push for the COHO knowing nothing can move forward with a weakened caretaker government.”
According to the press release MP Heyliger-Marten reminded the MPs present at IPKO from The Netherlands that “afspraak is afspraak”. She said it was important to remind them that the Dispute Regulation as revised by The Netherlands was rejected by the Caribbean Dutch Parliamentarians because it did not meet the three original points of departure as initially agreed upon by all four Kingdom Partners.
Heyliger-Marten also took the opportunity to reiterate the sentiments of the Government of St. Maarten regarding the areas of reform that are the priority. “The Government of St. Maarten has identified which reforms are a priority and I repeated my position which is that I will not vote in favor of any reform that does not benefit the people of St, Maarten, including the proposed Land Tax.
Other subjects discussed at length were Education and the human capital deficit, along with Climate Change. Heyliger-Marten proposed a complete overhaul of the education system stating that English is the language of instruction in 85 percent of the schools but was still not the main local language. On the subject of climate change she said based on the Sendai Framework 2015-2030 as established by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, St. Maarten urgently needs to address hurricane resiliency, protection against flooding and rising sea levels, and erosion.
Ultimately her goal is that the discussions held at IPKO will yield positive fruits and decisive action by all stakeholders in the interest of especially the Caribbean Dutch territories.