St. Maarten – “I leave it up to the minister if he feels it necessary to divulge any other information,” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said during Wednesday’s press briefing. The minister she referred to is Justice Minister Roland Duncan; the “other information” concerns Duncan’s ties to the prostitution sector.
The prime minister’s statement reveals a weakness in the integrity rules for cabinet members. The weak national ordinance designed to promote integrity differs on crucial points from the screening law the government in Curacao approved last year. St. Maarten’s legislation apparently leaves it up to individual ministers to put their cards on the table.
In Sint Maarten, ministers are obliged to submit certain information about their personal circumstances to the prime minister within thirty days after they accept their appointment. The screening law Curacao put in place requires a multifaceted investigation before a candidate is even nominated
Candidates have to undergo a judicial investigation, a state security investigation, a fiscal investigation and an investigation into unusual financial transactions. A medical examination focused on the use of drugs is also part of the screening exercise.
Curacao also keeps the screening away from politicians like the prime minister. The judicial investigation is delegated to the Attorney-General, and the state security investigation to the head of the National Intelligence service. The Inspector of taxes conducts the fiscal probe and the head of the MOT scrutinizes candidates on unusual financial transactions.
If there is anything amiss in a candidate’s background she or he will not even be nominated. A nomination also falls through for candidates who have been sentenced for a crime, who are a suspect in a current criminal investigation, or own a company that went bankrupt or applied for suspension of payment. Distancing themselves from business interests, not reporting side jobs and failing to make an agreement with the tax inspectorate about arrears are also reasons to ditch candidates.
The Curacaolenean screening law is becoming opportune for Sint Maarten due to the uproar about the Bada Bing bribery-scandal and the ties Justice Minister Duncan maintains with the prostitution sector.
Prime Minister Wescot-Williams considered reports about what she called “other activities” on Wednesday initially “allegations” before toning it down to “rumors” even though the stories Today published in March about Duncan’s involvement with Hypnotic Hotel and Entertainment – the company that manages the Seaman’s Club brothel in Sucker Garden – are meticulously documented.