Critical blogger imprisoned and intimidated
Mafia figures can have their way, politicians seem to get away anywhere, but a critical blogger gets intimidated and put in prison. Judith Roumou says what she thinks. And that’s not good — for politicians and other leaders in St. Maarten.
Sometimes rash, rarely nuanced, but always with conviction and humour, she sketches the abuse of power in this part of our Kingdom. Now she is possibly herself the subject of abuse of power. Roumou was arrested last Tuesday for libel, insult and slander. Monday she was released from custody. But she is not safe. Her phone and computers are taken, her home is ransacked — and her door is removed, leaving her scared at night.
Here there seems to be intimidation. I fear for the safety of this blogger. And I’m afraid that information she has collected about corruption and bad governance is in the wrong hands.
St. Maarten is a small island, but also home to some major criminals, among whom Francesco Corallo. He’s a big casino and gaming boss and, according to the Italian Government, connected with the Sicilian Mafia. After kkcuracao.info made revelations about the funding of politicians in St. Maarten and Curaçao through Corallo, this Curaçao blog was directly sued for libel, slander and insult by the lawyer Gerard Spong – who also sent me a warning.
The way Roumou is tackled seems to fit into this pattern of intimidation, thereby enabling the police and judiciary in St. Maarten remarkable priorities. A big case of vote- buying by Theo Heyliger, a major politician on the island – and a good friend of Corallo – continues for years on the shelf. But a critical blogger gets thrown into prison.
HANDS OFF JUDITH ROUMOU
As a Member of Parliament in the Second Chamber, I have to be cautious when it comes to ongoing litigation, especially when playing in another part of the Kingdom. But as an MP, I also wear a responsibility for good governance on the islands. This includes the protection of people who criticize politicians and other leaders.
How the trial will proceed further and Judith Roumou or sentenced for something, we just wait. But in the meantime I want to make sure there is no question of a political process, be assured that the information collected from Roumou does not get lost and to make sure that this blogger remains safe.
I have therefore asked Minister Plasterk to keep a close eye on the situation and the Chamber of Parliament closely informed. Let the Public Prosecutor in St. Maarten quickly come up with evidence. Otherwise: Hands off Judith Roumou. Hands off the freedom of press within the Kingdom.
The work of Judith Roumou and other critical bloggers on the island also seems to have effect. More and more people of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten dare to speak out. For example, the imprisonment of Judith Roumou led to a beautiful Calypso ‘Free Judith Roumou!’ by two well-known musicians in St. Maarten.
Ronald van Raak
Member of the Second Chamber of The Dutch Parliament For the Socialist Party