PHILIPSBURG--"I am still a candidate...I am a member of the United St. Maarten (US) Party and there I shall stay. There is where the people asked me to be and that's where I am at." This was the firm statement from Member of Parliament (MP)-Elect Leona Marlin-Romeo at a press conference with her party leader, MP Frans Richardson, on Friday in Parliament House.
The press conference was held to curb "the innuendos and stories" being circulated from "living a life of their own" in the community, said Richardson. Those "rumours" about Marlin-Romeo leaving the party were widely circulated in the blogosphere and shared on Facebook throughout Thursday.
"The point is I have not jumped ship. The point is I am standing next to Frans Richardson...I am not going anywhere," Marlin-Romeo said.
She added: "I am a woman of my word. The people supported me to stay where I am and I respect that. There is no need for Leona Marlin to cross over to any other political lines. I gave my word to Frans Richardson. There is assurance there. I don't have to doubt myself. I am a person of integrity and I am not going anywhere after USP. You will see me here in 2018 as well."
She, however, pointed out "there is not a government as yet" as the pending National Alliance (NA)/US Party/Democratic Party (DP) coalition government only becomes official on October 10, when the MPs are sworn in and the ministers take office as of October 11.
To the 245 people who voted for her, Marlin-Romeo said it was her "responsibility" to assure them that the talks "about the jumping and about the money-taking, that was not true.
"I find it unfortunate that people would try to slander my name in public," she said, adding that the comments on social media are "not going to break me."
In Parliament, her stance will not change and she will represent not only those who voted for her, but the entire St. Maarten. "If something is not right in my opinion, I am going to voice my opinion...I am not going to [leave it alone – Ed.] because of party lines. If it is good for the country, the country will get my support at the end of the day...I gave my word to the people to represent them and give them proper representation, that is exactly my intention."
Marlin-Romeo said she was not personally approached "by any other party to run with them or to jump over." "Absolutely not, none of them came to me in person, because I would not entertain such."
She did confirm that her team members were "addressed by other team members." That, however, "does not make it that Leona is going to go...no!"
The MP-Elect said she did raise concerns with Richardson and party President Cecil Nicholas about the division of portfolios allocated to the party in the governing accord. She and Richardson declined to make public the content of those discussions.
Answering the question directed to Marlin-Romeo about the concerns, Richardson said, "As leader of the political party, I would not want to go into details. I think those details should remain within the party and the negotiation teams. Those are internal issues we want to keep internal."
When the question from the broadcast journalist was redirected to Marlin-Romeo, Richardson reaffirmed that "as leader of the political party, I will be the one taking that responsibility."
Marlin-Romeo: "And I respect his decision."
At the opening of the press conference, Richardson said the party remained "committed to doing what is right for the people." That commitment was formalised in the two agreements he signed with NA and DP.
"Nothing has changed so far as Frans Richardson is concerned," he said about his commitment to the agreements.
"Governance is serious for the US Party. We do not take it lightly and [will – Ed.] give content to in the coming four years...I have the support of the party board and candidates. As far as we are concerned, there is simply no room for any manoeuvring that will endanger us from moving forward," Richardson said.
Commenting to the feeling of US Party's coalition partners, Richardson said, in any coalition, there would be feelings of uneasiness if anything like what US Party is dealing with comes out.
"We have assured our coalition partners that we are here to stay. We have signed an agreement and we are going to work it out and we are going to make sure we have a government for the people of St. Maarten," he said.