Door Hilbert Haar
Ronald van Raak did it again. In a column on The Post Online he devotes a column to the arrest and subsequent release of internet blogger Judith Roumou. Without thinking twice, Van Raak joins the Free Roumou chorus, comparing apples and oranges for effect, and seamlessly linking the blogger’s arrest to the investigation against UP-leader Theo Heyliger that did not happen, to casino owner Francesco Corallo - and so on, and so on.
To make his point, Van Raak writes that the blogger was arrested ‘for libel and slander - among other things’. Those other things are not mentioned because they do not fit Van Raak’s argument. Extortion, stalking and threats do not fit the image of an ‘intimidated’ blogger.
And so, handpicking the elements that make his argument look believable, Van Raak paints a dark picture of the powers that be in Sint Maarten. The blogger is ‘not safe’, this ‘seems to be a matter of intimidation’ and ‘I fear for the safety of this blogger’ are some of the statements Van Raak makes in his column. He also fears, really, that the information the blogger collected ‘about corruption and bad governance falls into the wrong hands’.
From there, Van Raak switches to his idea of Sint Maarten as the home base for several large criminals. Inevitably, the name of Francesco Corallo and his complaints against Knipselkrant Curaçao comes up, and Van Raak concludes, not hindered by any actual knowledge of the real situation, that ‘the way Roumou is attacked seems to fit in this pattern of intimidation’.
From there it is a small step to the election fraud case and the decision by the prosecutor’s office not to investigate or prosecute UP-leader Theo Heyliger. To give his argument the necessary couleur locale, Van Raak writes that Heyliger is ‘a good friend’ of Corallo.
Is this really so? Of course Heyliger and Corallo know each other. Where Van Raak gets the idea that the two men are good friends is a mystery. But it fits the picture he wants to paint and Sint Maarten is thousands of kilometers away, so who cares?
There is one line in Van Raak’s column that rings true: ,,As a member of the Second Chamber, I have to be careful where ongoing court cases is concerned, especially when they take place in another part of the kingdom.”
Bravo, we thought. At least this is something Van Raak understands. However, what follows shows that he does not want to be careful at all because he has a responsibility for good governance on the islands. That includes, Van Raak writes, the protection of the critics of politicians and other power brokers. Van Raak says that he will ‘quietly await the outcome of the trial against Roumou’ and he ‘wants to make sure that this is not a political trial’.
He wants to ensure that Roumou’s information does not get lost, and that the blogger is safe. How he wants to achieve this, we have no clue, but the words look nice on paper.
Van Raak wants Minister Ronald Plasterk to follow the situation closely and he urges the prosecutor’s office to come up with evidence as soon as possible (we think they have the evidence, otherwise they would not have arrested her and the Judge of Instruction would not have approved the actions against the blogger). Besides, evidence will be presented in court, not to politicians or to the media.
We’re not sure how familiar Van Raak is with the judicial system, but it seems to us that he could learn a thing or two. We have a Judge of Instruction who rules on the lawfulness of an arrest and on what should happen with confiscated items.
Check: the Judge of Instruction gave the arrest and the pre-trial detention the nod of approval, and even extended it by eight days last week. That the confiscated computers and cameras remain under lock and key also has the approval of the independent judge. Is Van Raak then questioning the integrity of the court?
The prosecutor’s office announced that day that it would let the blogger go as soon as all interrogations for the investigation were completed. That happened last Monday.
Maybe it has escaped Van Raak that the blogger has to cooperate with a psychological and psychiatric evaluation. Just saying.
,,Hands off from the freedom of the press in the kingdom”, Van Raak adds for good measure, as if that freedom is under duress in Sint Maarten.
Dear Mr. Van Raak, the media in Sint Maarten are not under any kind of duress. At Today, we should know. We brought down Public Health Minister Maria Buncamper-Molanus in 2010 with reports about speculation with the right of long lease on a piece of government land. We published extensively about the ties between (former) Justice Minister Roland Duncan and the prostitution business. We had the evidence to back up those stories, while your ‘critical blogger’ always writes that she can prove stuff, but she never does.
And guess what. Nobody arrested us, nobody threatened us and nobody put a bullet in our head.
Maybe next time you write something about how terrible it is in Sint Maarten you could do us a favor and put all the facts on the table, not just the ones that fit your argument.
Deze opiniebijdrage verscheen vrijdag in de Sint Maartense krant Today. Auteur Hilbert Haar is hoofdredacteur van dit dagblad. De column van SP-Tweede Kamerlid Ronald van Raak waar naar wordt verwezen, verscheen afgelopen week ook in het Antilliaans Dagblad.