SXM-MAFIA cartoon

The Telegraaf depicted St. Maarten a few weeks back as a Mafia state. Photo Telegraaf / Pluis

St. Maarten – Readers did not disappoint the editors of the Telegraaf with their answers to the question of the day: The Netherlands has to sever ties with St. Maarten. The predictable outcome: 88 percent agrees, 10 percent disagrees and 2 percent has no opinion. The Telegraaf published the survey-results yesterday; 4,986 readers took part. On an estimated circulation of 600,000 this is just 0.831 percent. Given the fact that each copy of the paper is read by more than one person, the participation goes even further down and this suggests that the interest in the Netherlands for St. Maarten is lackluster at best.

This is how Telegraaf editor Coosje Hiskemuller introduced the results to her readers: corruption is rife on the Caribbean island Sint Maarten, an autonomous country within the Dutch Kingdom. According to intelligence sources the island is controlled by the mafia. What ought the Netherlands to do with this, we asked. The participants in the Question of the Day have a pretty good idea: “Buss off as soon as possible, if necessary with a bag full of money. This is costing a lot more.”

And so the newspaper concludes that almost nine out of ten participants in the survey (which is something else than nine out of ten citizens in the country) want to get rid of St. Maarten on the double. The participants share the same sentiment about the Dutch government’s attitude. An overwhelming 87 percent does not expect that the Dutch government will take decisive action against St. Maarten.

Hiskemuller refers to Socialist Party MP Ronald van Raak who seems to have a bee in his bonnet where St. Maarten is concerned. Van Raak said that the Kingdom failed to make foolproof agreements about good governance when the island territory became an autonomous country inn 2010. But 75 percent of the participants in the survey say that this does not make the Netherlands also responsible for everything they perceive to be wrong.

There are of course exceptions: “The Netherlands should have put the house in order before the independence (sic) became a fact. With a good training for politicians by the Netherlands in would never have gone this far.”

Another respondent disagreed: “The Netherlands should do nothing at all. The Dutch have been unable to do something for hundreds of years so why would they be able to do something now?” The same respondent says it is “logical” that the Netherlands has been unable to put a stop to the corruption, but most others consider this scandalous.

Interestingly, only 13 percent thinks that St. Maarten is better off as an autonomous country than it was before October 2010 as Island territory. “You show little sympathy for the island and its inhabitants,” Hiskemuller notes. But there are also people who defend St. Maarten: “Leave those people alone. Everything is going to be alright. We have a lot to make up for.”

Asked what they associate St. Maarten with, almost none of the respondents chose the option “paradise on earth.” The sentiment among Telegraaf-readers is much darker than that. Half of the respondents thinks that the island “is rife with corrupt politicians” and almost a quarter thinks that it is impossible to root out criminality because the island is on a drugs route. For 18 percent it is clear “that the word integrity does not exist in St. Maarten.”\

Two third of the respondents says it is not necessary to give the island government another chance to put its house in order, Hiskemuller wrote. That remark makes little sense, given the quote that follows this sentence: “St. Maarten is an autonomous country. The island has to take care of its own affairs.”

But the dark mood prevails once more: 92 percent thinks that the island government will not manage to clean up the mess in the country.

Most respondents do not think that the situation in St. Maarten will ever change. Hiskemuller refers to a report by the national police service KLPD that stated last year that “corruption is the problem of the political elite,” and 94 percent thinks that this will never change.

“What we call corruption, they call a nice side-income. It is not possible to eradicate that just like that,” one respondent stated, while another offered an introspective opinion: “why would it be different there from here?”

The survey also addressed the remuneration for parliamentarians and this notion that has started to lead a life of its own: MPs work only one day a week. Respondents say that “this has to stop” and they think at the same time that that won’t happen.

A majority finds that the Netherlands has to freeze assistance to St. Maarten. That part of the survey yielded this remark” “An independent island state is relatively autonomous. Freeze money for Sr. Maarten.”

Only 5 percent thinks that this is a bad idea, because the country needs money to improve things.

“Keep supervising and training.”

The Dutch parliament demands tough measures, but the respondents to the survey don’t expect anything from those quarters. “It is necessary to intervene but given our politicians and leaders I expect that not much will change.” – TSXM