PHILIPSBURG--President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams has made her position as head of the legislature available to the United People's (UP) party-led coalition.
This move by Wescot-Williams comes a month and two days after she was appointed to the post on October 10. It also comes amidst her Democratic Party (DP) evaluating whether to continue supporting the current coalition.
"I believe I should make the position of President of Parliament available," she said. This declaration comes after DP Member of Parliament/caretaker Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA Cornelius de Weever submitted his own nominations for two ministers in the new cabinet, one of whom is his uncle Leroy de Weever.
Although, the post was not part of the agreement DP had with the current coalition, Wescot-Williams believes "it is the right thing to do. ... In our opinion, even in politics there are or should be some ethics."
Wescot-Williams will continue as President of Parliament until her formal letter stating that she has made her position available has been booked into Parliament and is accepted by MPs.
After that, the coalition can appoint a new President of Parliament. If the coalition accepts her position, it is speculated that the person next in line for the post is UP Parliamentarian Dr. Lloyd Richardson.
Wescot-Williams made her announcement at a press conference held in the Prime Minister's office – a post she also holds – on Wednesday afternoon. The briefing to the press came after she informed her party's board and candidates who contested the August 29 parliamentary elections of her decision to make her position available and to try to obtain answers from formateur UP leader/Member of Parliament Theo Heyliger about the process followed.
As for the coalition, the continued support of DP will rely on Heyliger's answers. "Then my official position regarding the coalition will be taken ... a final decision on our support for the coalition will be taken and communicated to the formateur. For right now, he has been informed that I will be making the position of President of Parliament available."
De Weever factor
The DP will send Cornelius de Weever, who was its number two candidate, a letter calling on him to explain his position after he independently submitted nominees for the two minister posts. He submitted the names of his uncle, former MP Leroy de Weever, as minister candidate for VSA and M. Genevieve de Weever Primary School Principal Rita Bourne-Gumbs as candidate minister for the ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports.
The letter to De Weever is in keeping with DP's articles of incorporation asking him to react on his nominations. His response will determine the party's next move regarding his membership.
De Weever's nominations were contrary to those submitted to Heyliger by Wescot-Williams "on behalf" of DP. DP's candidates were hotelier Emil Lee for VSA and Ministry of Education Exams Division head Yvette Halley for the Education Ministry. The name of current director for the Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague Perry Geerlings was suggested by DP for ministership in The Hague.
De Weever "unannounced and unexpectedly" signed a governing declaration with the UP on October 3 giving UP a majority in Parliament. Following that, Wescot-Williams said she had had "several discussions" with the two De Weevers about "the DP as a whole" supporting the existing coalition of the UP's seven MPs and MP De Weever. Those discussions, Wescot-Williams said, led to the declaration she signed on behalf of DP with Heyliger as formateur.
It was "informally agreed" that with DP's support of the existing coalition, the party would nominate two ministers and the position of President of Parliament also would go to the party. Negotiations were ongoing for the post in The Hague.
Wescot-Williams said she originally had been told then by Leroy de Weever that DP was to nominate minister candidates for the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, and the Ministry of VSA or Education.
Those allocations "seemed not to be true" after DP signed on. Heyliger informed DP that the party was allocated VSA and Education, because "in the word of the formateur 'DP joined the bandwagon late,'" said Wescot-Williams.
Break in communication
Following through on the allotted ministries and after discussions with Heyliger and the De Weevers, Wescot-Williams submitted the DP's three minister candidates to Heyliger and copied to Cornelius de Weever on October 28. This was followed by two weeks of silence from Heyliger, who did not respond to e-mails, phone calls or text messages, according to Wescot-Williams.
On November 10, Wescot-Williams received at her office a copy of a letter submitted by Cornelius de Weever to Heyliger outlining his minister candidates. In response to this, "several futile attempts" to contact Heyliger were made. Heyliger responded via e-mail on the night of November 11 saying, according Wescot-Williams, that Cornelius de Weever's submission was in line with the agreement of the original eight coalition partners.
Heyliger said he hoped that she and Cornelius de Weever could discuss the matter, she added.
Wescot-Williams said this scenario did not reflect what she had signed off on as the representative of DP with Heyliger. The agreement was for DP "to have a say in the direction of the country" and in the appointment of persons who would govern the country.
By supporting the existing coalition after it was formed, Wescot-Williams said, "My opinion is I somewhat compromised my own position and that of others." She said the party had faced much criticism for the move.
"I took it all in stride with the conviction that even with our small part as a party, we could co-steer our island as we face a multitude of challenges and when the need for men and women of good will and character is so great," she said.
It is time for DP "to take a step backwards to observe and analyse" the situation, she said.