By Suzanne Koelega
THE HAGUE–In what can be called a historic case, Members of Parliament Cornelius de Weever of St. Maarten and André Bosman of the Netherlands faced each other in court on Friday on allegations of slander.
De Weever took Bosman to court to have the latter retract his statements of bribery in a rectification in the newspapers.
Main reason for the court case, which took place in The Hague in De Weever’s presence, was an article of the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf published on September 29, 2014, headlined “Corrupt St. Maarten needs to be probed.”
In the article, Bosman, Kingdom Relations spokesman for the liberal democratic VVD party, was quoted as saying that De Weever was “simply bought” by United People’s Party (UP) Leader Theo Heyliger to leave the Democratic Party (DP) and support the UP so it would have a majority in the new St. Maarten Parliament, following the elections in August that same year.
Bosman later said that De Telegraaf had taken his words out of context as he had merely stated that “it appeared” that De Weever had been bought. De Weever’s lawyer Jairo Bloem, also present at Friday’s court case, summoned Bosman to voluntarily rectify his statement. Bosman didn’t do so, and instead told the media that the fact that they were “trying to shut him up” indicated that he was “on the right track.” Last month Bosman was summoned to court.
The big issue in Friday’s case was whether Bosman could use his immunity as a Member of Parliament (MP). According to Bosman and his lawyer Michaël van Basten Batenburg, the MP has immunity of prosecution, based on the Dutch Constitution, because he made his statement to the media within the building of the Second Chamber.
The Dutch Constitution specifically links immunity to statements made as part of a debate of Parliament. But in Bosman’s opinion it didn’t make much difference whether he made his statement in a debate or, as happened in this case, in the corridors of the Second Chamber building.
De Weever’s lawyer Annemarie Ludwig said Bosman had given a broad interpretation to his parliamentary immunity and that in this case his statement to the press didn’t resort under this law.
“Not parliamentary immunity, but proper media training would have been the answer to this,” she said.
Ludwig said Bosman’s statements had created a negative perception of her client as a corruptible, untrustworthy and incorrect person. “My client was characterised as a corrupt politician, who could be bought for a lot of money to form a new government,” added Bloem.
Bloem stated that De Weever was a young politician with a promising career and that Bosman’s statements caused him material and immaterial damage. He said that an “attack on someone’s integrity automatically meant an attack on the person in question.”
As a Dutch politician, Bosman should have been more aware of the effect that his words would have on a small community, where people tended to look up to people with authority and were quick to take the words of a Dutch politician to be true, Bloem said. He said Bosman was a well-known person in St. Maarten.
Bosman’s lawyer Van Basten Batenburg explained that a VVD spokesman for Kingdom Relations, his client had the right to make statements relating to developments in St. Maarten. He said that seasoned politicians, such as Bosman and De Weever, should be able to tone down criticism, even if it concerned fierce, personal criticism. He said it was the task of an MP to address wrongful issues.
“The question is why De Weever was so bothered by Bosman’s criticism. De Weever is angry over nothing. It is a tropical storm in a glass of water. He deserves a correctional slap,”
said Van Basten Batenburg, who added that De Weever instead should direct his energy towards improving governance and fighting corruption.
Van Basten Batenburg suggested that De Weever had political motivations to take Bosman to court.
“His attack on Bosman will impress others in the political arena. He wants to show his muscles, show that he has come all the way to The Hague to personally take Bosman to court.”
Lawyer Ludwig contended that criticism by a fellow Parliamentarian was acceptable, but that Bosman had “crossed the line.” Besides a rectification in De Telegraaf and the St. Maarten newspaper, De Weever also sought a NAf. 11,000 advance for his expenses. The Court will rule on April 3.