~ Motion to be sent to UN Decolonisation Committee ~
PHILIPSBURG--Members of Parliament (MPs) unanimously adopted on Wednesday a motion rejecting the instruction handed down by the Kingdom Council of Ministers to Governor Eugene Holiday for the execution of a boundless and limitless investigation into the backgrounds of candidate ministers, their families, friends, business associates and others.
Parliament is not in agreement with the instruction from the Kingdom Council, because the screening of candidate ministers is "not flawed. It has been applied and worked during every formation of a new government," according to the motion.
The United Nations Decolonisation Committee was listed among governments, organisations and agencies to which the motion officially will be sent.
Aside from rejecting the instruction from the Kingdom Government, the unanimously adopted motion also instructs the St. Maarten Government to establish a committee that will study, evaluate and recommend an action plan based on the findings and recommendations of the integrity report from the General Audit Chamber, the "Doing the right things" report from the Wit-Samson Committee and the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report commissioned by Governor Holiday based on another instruction by the Kingdom Council that was issued last year.
The outgoing government has indicated interest in applying recommendations expressed in the PwC report, and the incoming government is expected to cooperate in carrying out recommendations made in PwC's and other similar reports, the motion stated. "Therefore, we object to said instruction [of the Kingdom Government – Ed]."
The motion, signed by Dr. Lloyd Richardson and MPs Cornelius de Weever and Leona Marlin-Romeo, calls for an action plan on the integrity reports that must include a budget and a timeline to implement the recommendations.
The motion adoption came after closed-door deliberations among MPs of the various political parties represented in Parliament. The original motion was presented by United People's (UP) party MP Dr. Richardson, who had requested a suspension of the meeting to caucus with other MPs who might want to give their input. This took place after some lengthy talks that saw the public plenary session open and suspended several times by President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams.
MPs rejected the instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers based on the country's already established National Ordinance to Promote Integrity in Public Functionaries as the guide in the screening of candidate ministers. That screening of ministers "has worked to the satisfaction" of Parliament and Government thus there is "no need to adjust or expand on said ordinance," the motion stated.
The Kingdom Government's resolution of October 17, issued as a measure of instruction to the Governor, seeks "to restrict" him "from executing his tasks in accordance with the applicable regulations of the country."
Independent MP Marlin-Romeo had presented a draft motion, which she later withdrew, that condemned the instruction by the Kingdom Government. Her motion also called for Parliament to take all necessary actions to take the Kingdom Government before the UN Decolonisation Committee and to inform regional bodies such as the Caribbean Community Caricom, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Latin American Parliament Parlatino.
Fourteen of the 15 MPs were present for the urgent plenary session of Parliament that started on Monday, but was suspended after the first round of debate. Only National Alliance (NA) Parliamentarian Silveria Jacobs was absent due to a medical issue.
The plenary session resumed on Wednesday, at the start of the second round of debate. MPs generally called for unity against the actions of the Kingdom Government.
MP Maurice Lake (UP) called on the people of the country "to stand against injustice" and to believe in the people they had elected.
MP Johan "Janchi" Leonard (UP) said St. Maarten was capable of conducting its own affairs: "We will do this on our own terms with our own people." He said the Dutch were focused on St. Maarten with the catch-phrase of integrity, but the Netherlands – based on a 2013 study – was the country in Europe where the people were most fed-up with politicians. It is also a country that has seen 216 major integrity cases between 1983 and 2013.
MP Silvio Matser (UP) said the instruction from the Kingdom Council showed St. Maarten was not an equal partner in the Kingdom. He noted that the Dutch could not bring solutions to St. Maarten "when they don't know the culture."
"We need to get back some of our autonomy," said MP George Pantophlet (NA). "There is always a bigger picture to be seen when such instructions are handed down."
MP Tamara Leonard (UP) said the instruction was "a direct violation of our country. ... The Dutch Government is so confident we can't stand together based on how we attack each other's character. ... Let us prove to St. Maarten, to the Caribbean that we are capable."
MP Christophe Emmanuel (NA) said the call for unity in Parliament, although good, did not extend to outside the hall. He cited that he had been attacked by UP on the Internet for statements he had made in the first round of the debate.
Independent MP De Weever said it was one thing for the country "to stumble" on its own as it built, but quite another for it "to be tripped" on its road to progress. He labelled the instruction "a distraction" put out by the Dutch Government in light of that country's pending elections.
MP Franklin Meyers (UP) said MPs were the guardians of the Constitution. He called on MPs and residents to put aside party colours and take up the red, white and blue of the St. Maarten flag. He said, "The illusion that we are Dutch is just that – an illusion."
"We need to protect St. Maarten," said United St. Maarten Party MP Frans Richardson. As long as the country's higher organs and laws are functioning, there is no need to impose any further rules, he noted.
MP William Marlin (NA) called the instruction "premature," because the country has a functioning screening procedure embedded in law. He questioned whether the instruction from the Kingdom Government was a motion of no confidence in Governor Holiday.
MP Theo Heyliger (UP) said this was just the beginning of "a wave of instructions" from the Dutch Government. The next one targeting the Justice System is anticipated on November 7, and yet another could be possible if Parliament does not start the process to approve the 2015 budget.
Similar to the "three strikes and you're out" rule in baseball, the trio of (possible) instructions would result in the Dutch Government having "taken out the St. Maarten Government" by controlling the Justice System, the country's finances and lately the government itself, Heyliger said.
The Dutch Government has "been putting for the past 30 years a bit of poison into the body every day" with their consistent moves to take over key areas of the country, he said.
Heyliger acknowledged that Curaçao's Parliament had been proactive in warning off the Dutch Government from even attempting to force any similar instruction on that Dutch Caribbean island.
President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams said just before closing the meeting that the Dutch Government was "misusing" the legal instrument regulating the governor's position by not using it for its true intended purpose.