MP Wescot-Williams: “St. Maarten/St. Martin’s border closure has taken on an European context and should be elevated to a Kingdom level.”

MP Wescot-Williams: “With the announcement by the Préfecture of Saint Martin of another border closure “in agreement with the Ministry of Overseas France”, dubbed as a “traffic restriction” between the 2 parts of the island, we can no longer pretend that this is  strictly a local matter, left up to the authorities in Marigot and Philipsburg.”

To further exacerbate and move this away from the local authorities is the decision by the Préfecture of St. Martin to exempt certain categories of travelers arriving via Princess Juliana International Airport, with specific reference to those persons from “Shengen” countries.

The question therefore arises whether these decisions by and on behalf of the French State can be made or enforced without a discussion on a so-called 4-party level, between the Dutch Kingdom, the French State and both local authorities.

The decisions taken thus far regarding border closures on St. Martin are too one-sided, even if one  wishes to consider the reasons given for these unilateral decisions.

While discussions are going on regarding the (over)reach of the Dutch Kingdom -via assistance from the government of the Netherlands- into the autonomous affairs of the Caribbean countries, the matter of our borders and by extension any restrictions are clearly a matter of the Dutch Kingdom!

That one part of St. Martin can unilaterally restrict travel on our island is a frightening thought.

Today it is Corona-related. And tomorrow?

This is not about who is right or wrong. This is about taking decisions in the interest of the population of both sides at all times and it is  about coming to consensus with respect for the other and the St. Martin people in general.

By this move of the Préfecture of St. Martin and the observation by the Préfecture that “the health of the population is the only argument that guides our decisions”, the Préfecture is implicitly suggesting that our Council of Ministers is not doing the same for our population. If that was the case, decisions  with regard to the border because of the health of the nation would be joint decisions at all times.

Several months ago, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stef Blok, responded to Second Chamber member Ronald van Raak regarding the border dispute at Oyster Pond and the Captain Oliver’s saga. Minister Blok in his answers observed that the Treaty of Concordia does not address precise border demarcations on St. Martin. Again implicitly therefore the point of departure for the Kingdom government is the Treaty of Concordia. Border negotiations are taking place on a Kingdom level and the Oyster Pond border is only one part of these discussions.

Given the “new normal” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is high time that the matter of borders and border closures on St. Martin be regulated at the highest level.

If this closure has to take place by whichever side, at least the people of St. Martin can rest assured that it is not one-sided and their interests are paramount in any decision regarding restrictions of movement on this 37-square miles island.