THE HAGUE–St. Maarten Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel of the National Alliance (NA), through his lawyer Roland Duncan, has summoned Dutch MP Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) to immediately withdraw his remark in a May 25, 2018, column in The Daily Herald and on ThePostOnline website about Emmanuel committing fraud with the issuing of land.
In a letter of summons dated May 28 which Van Raak only received last week, Duncan, on behalf of his client Emmanuel, informed Van Raak that his statement was “completely false and libellous” that it “must be withdrawn without delay.”
In his column, titled, “Half of St. Maarten’s Parliament is suspected of fraud,” Van Raak named various St. Maarten politicians. “The St. Maarten Parliament has only 15 members, but the list of suspects is much longer. Franklin Meyers wanted to be prime minister, but did not get through the screening, probably because of ties with gambling boss Corallo. Rolando Brison ran into problems due to misappropriation of money, while Christophe Emmanuel has committed fraud with the issuing of land.”
A member of the opposition who is always highly critical where it comes to integrity and social issues not only in the Dutch Caribbean, but even more so in the Netherlands, Van Raak also mentioned Maria Buncamper, Silvio Matser and Patrick Illidge in his column. Van Raak regularly publishes columns.
According to Duncan, Van Raak’s statement in his May 25 column “creates the wrong impression of my client, a prominent Member of the Parliament, and maliciously attempts to place him in a negative light with the public.” Duncan further noted that Van Raak’s words were “without foundation and untrue.”
The lawyer summoned Van Raak to retract his statement in this newspaper and all other media in which his column was published within five days, adding that if he did not do so, legal measures would be taken against him.
Obviously not impressed by what he referred to as “intimidation,” Van Raak made it clear that he did not intend to take his words back. Referring to the lawyer’s letter, he said he preferred to have a public discussion and not to have this issue dealt with in “this sneaky manner.”
Van Raak said he had gone down this road before when Atlantis Group owner Francesco Corallo, through his lawyer Gerard Spong, had demanded that the Prosecutor’s Office prosecute Van Raak because he had referred to casino owner Corallo as a “mafia boss” in his column. The Prosecutor’s Office at the time did not see a reason to investigate Van Raak and argued that he was simply carrying out his job as a member of the Second Chamber.
Van Raak said over the weekend that he was more concerned about the common method of St. Maarten politicians to intimidate and scare off anyone who is critical of them.
“This is the sort of intimidation that critical journalists and others who speak their mind about integrity issues in St. Maarten are subjected to. We should not allow this kind of politics in the Kingdom. Citizens, the press and also we as politicians should be able to address each other, to hold each other accountable and to be critical,” he told this newspaper.
In the recovery process after Hurricane Irma, a lot of attention should be paid to the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure, but also part of this process is a solid government and democracy, said Van Raak. “If being critical of each other is not possible, then we are apparently dealing with politicians who don’t have the intention of achieving good governance.”
Shortly after receiving the letter from the lawyer, Van Raak published another column in ThePostOnline titled, “Oh no, again a complaint from the Antilles.” In it, he referred to the earlier column and, after doing a Google search of his colleagues in St. Maarten, he concluded that half of the Members of Parliament were suspected of fraud and corruption, or had already been convicted of such.
He said Emmanuel also appeared on this list, based on news articles. “As a minister, Emmanuel handed out large parcels in long lease on the day that it became clear that government would fall, against the advice of the ministry which pointed out the conflict of interest. This handing out was very favourable for Emmanuel’s friends, but not for St. Maarten.”
Van Raak invited Emmanuel to write a public response. “If Christophe Emmanuel feels addressed by me, he can always engage in a political discussion with me. He can always write a response which I’m sure ThePostOnline would love to publish. I am very much looking forward to his contribution.”
Van Raak and eight other members of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations are arriving in St. Maarten on Wednesday for a four-day visit to the three Windward Islands.
Emmanuel’s attorney Roland Duncan said on Sunday that he plans to discuss the next step with his client. “We don’t plan to debate this issue in the media. At a later stage, a statement will be made concerning the way forward,” stated Duncan.
Bron: Daily Herald