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Sint Maarten

With a population of 42,083 (July 2017 est.), Sint Maarten is a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Full autonomy in internal affairs was granted in 2010, though the Dutch Government remains responsible for defense and foreign affairs. In 1648 Sint Maarten was peacefully divided between Holland and France, and today is the smallest landmass in the world to be shared by two sovereign states.

SX is the recently established Internet country-code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) for St. Maarten, which became an autonomous country in the Dutch Kingdom on October 10, 2010. The digraph .SX succeeds the retiring .AN country code for the former Netherlands Antilles. The registry of the .SX Top Level Domain (TLD) is managed by SX Registry SA.

Often referred to as the crossroads of the Caribbean, Sint Maarten is located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, approximately 150 miles southeast of Puerto Rico. The island is just three hours from New York City and two hours forty-five minutes from Miami.

The 37-square-mile island of Sint Maarten was first settled by the Arawaks and was discovered by Christopher Columbus on behalf of Spain in 1493. Columbus sighted the island on November 11th, the holy day of St. Martin of Tours, and so named the island after him. For the next 150 years the island was passed between Holland, England, France and Spain. The old stone forts that guard many of the island's inlets are proof of the island's turbulent past.

Although sighted by Christopher COLUMBUS and claimed for Spain, it was the Dutch who occupied the island in 1631 and began exploiting its salt deposits. The Spanish retook the island in 1633, but continued to be harassed by the Dutch. The Spanish finally relinquished the island of Saint Martin to the French and Dutch, who divided it amongst themselves in 1648. The establishment of cotton, tobacco, and sugar plantations dramatically expanded African slavery on the island in the 18th and 19th centuries; the practice was not abolished in the Dutch half until 1863.

The island's economy declined until 1939 when it became a free port; the tourism industry was dramatically expanded beginning in the 1950s. In 1954, Sint Maarten and several other Dutch Caribbean possessions became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as the Netherlands Antilles. In a 2000 referendum, the citizens of Sint Maarten voted to become a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The change in status became effective in October of 2010 with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.

The economy of Sint Maarten centers around tourism with nearly four-fifths of the labor force engaged in this sector. Nearly 1.8 million visitors came to the island by cruise ship and roughly 500,000 visitors arrived through Princess Juliana International Airport in 2013. Cruise ships and yachts also call on Sint Maarten's numerous ports and harbors. Limited agriculture and local fishing means that almost all food must be imported. Energy resources and manufactured goods are also imported. Sint Maarten had the highest per capita income among the five islands that formerly comprised the Netherlands Antilles.

Sint Maarten was among a number in the Caribbean chain ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, with many lives lost and the islands left without basic necessities such water. Approximately 70 percent of the infrastructure on the island was devastated by Hurricane Irma's passage in September.

The Netherlands was prepared to donate millions of euros for reconstruction on Sint Maarten, but did stipulate conditions. These include letting the Netherlands take over border controls on the island and setting up an integrity chamber to make sure that money from the aid fund is spent responsibly. Sint Maarten’s government must first agree to these conditions, before the Netherlands will provide this aid.

Government intervention in the rebuilding process was stymied by a motion of no-confidence in the then Government. Prime Minister William Marlin refused to accept the conditions, which resulted in the motion of no-confidence against him and all but one of his ministers. On 02 November 2017 Sint Maarten’s parliament declared no confidence against the island’s government and William Marlin himself due to his actions before, during and after Hurricane Irma. By not stepping down, Marlin was violating a basic rule of constitutional law, which states that a Prime Minister should leave when there is no trust in him.

The new majority in Parliament not only passed motions of no confidence against the now-outgoing NA and US Party ministers, but even demanded already-resigned Prime Minister William Marlin’s immediate dismissal. Since on November 10 another motion of no-confidence was adopted against Marlin, it was not an acceptable solution constitutionally wise that he would remain in office while an interim government was being formed.

St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday received an instruction from the Kingdom Government on 24 November 2017 to bring about the immediate resignation of Prime Minister William Marlin. State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops called the measure to dismiss Marlin “far-reaching, but unavoidable.” In the opinion of the Kingdom Government, Marlin’s decision not to resign has put the principle of good governance in serious jeopardy. As a result, the Kingdom Government found it necessary to intervene in light of the guarantee function of the Kingdom.

The prime minister (PM) of The Netherlands' Caribbean constituent Sint Maarten (or Dutch St. Martin), William Marlin, vacated the position 26 November 2017. He was replaced by his deputy and justice minister Rafael Boasman. The Rijksministerraad oversees the kingdom of the Netherlands; Aruba, Curacao and St Martin sit on a combined council.

Democratic Party (DP) leader Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams completed her task as formateur for the incoming interim Council of Ministers. The deadline Governor Eugene Holiday gave “formateur” Franklin Meyers was already changed twice, apparently because the screening of candidate ministers had not been completed. She delivered her final report on December 30, a dozen-plus days ahead of her 12 January 2017 deadline.

Questions were increasingly being asked about the snap elections scheduled for 16 February 2018. There have been indications that the next Council of Ministers, although officially transitional in nature, will try to move them back by several months. The elections were expected to give an indication of how many people have left the Caribbean nation since the hurricane that devastated the region in September. Officially 22,559 voters are registered in Sint Maarten, but it is unclear how many still live there.

Campaigning on the island has been low-key, with neither of the two largest parties, the National Alliance and United Democrats, publishing manifestos. The leader of the third largest party, Frans Richardson of the United St Maarten Party, was arrested in January 2018 over allegations of bribery and tax fraud. An international group of nine observers which consisted of representatives of the Organisation of American States (OAS), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the Civil Registries of Aruba and Curaçao, and Members of the Dutch Parliament Alexander Pechtold and Meta Meijer. Pechtold is leader of centre-democrat D66 party and Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber.

None of the four parties which earned seats 26 February 2018 obtained the majority of eight of the 15 seats in the legislature to steer the country’s recovery post Hurricane Irma alone. The United Democrats earned seven seats, one short of a full mandate. NA has five seats, SMCP one and US Party two.

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Page last modified: 10-03-2018 19:04:38 ZULU