Claude Wathey

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Claude Wathey (1984)
Statue of Claude Wathey in Philipsburg.

Claude Wathey (full name Albert Claudius Wathey; 1926–January 1998), was a prominent politician of the Democratic Party from the island of Sint Maarten. He was knighted by the Dutch Crown for his political longevity.

Wathey championed political independence for the island in 1989, but was later convicted on charges of perjury; however, many on Sint Maarten felt the trial was nothing more than a witch hunt conducted by his rivals and adversaries in Curaçao and the Netherlands in order to break his monopoly on political power in Sint Maarten and to destroy his credibility. Despite this, he remains a popular figure, even after his death.

Biography[edit]

The Wathey family is an old Caribbean family of Belgian origin, from the city of Tongeren. With the proclamation of the Islands Regulation of the Netherlands Antilles in 1951, the Dutch islands obtained greater political autonomy, in the wake of world wide de-colonization. Three years later, the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands was proclaimed, giving full autonomy to the federation of the six islands as a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Claude (as he was known) was elected to the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles in 1954, representing the three Dutch Windward Islands of Saba, Statia, and Sint Maarten. Under his administration, Sint Maarten was transformed from a neglected colonial backwater into a thriving tourism destination with one of the highest per capita incomes in the region. He won every election until 1990, dominating Sint Maarten politics like a colossus, making a triumphant personal comeback in 1991 after a brief setback.

After declaring that he was a "proud Caribbean man", he resigned from office in 1992 as a sign of protest to Dutch "higher supervision", a form of oversight and financial control imposed by the Dutch government to ensure "good governance", after allegations of the island's first coalition government fell and Wathey's main rivals found themselves in opposition again. In 1994 Wathey was charged with corruption, fraud, and being part of a "criminal" organization; however, he was never sentenced or convicted on any of the latter, but received a one-year prison sentence for perjury. In the duration of his trial Claude Wathey claimed serious health troubles that hindered him from appearing in court which delayed the painstaking trial. Claude spent his remaining days on his beloved island Sint Maarten and died in January 1998.

References[edit]

  • Edgar H. Lynch, Julian C. Lynch, Know Your Political History - Revised Edition (Philipsburg, House of Nehesi Publishers, 1999) 109-128.
  • Fabian Badejo, Claude - A Portrait of Power (Philipsburg, House of Nehesi Publishers 2008).
  • Fabian Badejo, Claude - A Portrait of Power (Philipsburg, IFE International Publishers 1989).
  • Lasana M. Sekou, ed., The Independence Papers - Readings on a New Political Status for St. Maarten/St. Martin, Volume 1 (Philipsburg, House of Nehesi, 1990) 11-13; 78-82.
  • Rob Gollin, 'Wathey wekte Sint Maarten tot leven', in De Volkskrant (12-1-1998).