PFP MP’s Raeyhon Peyerson and Melissa Gumbs
PHILIPSBURG – In a media release dated 31 August 2020, Party for Progress members of Parliament Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson expressed their disappointment and agitation at what they call the ‘horse-leading’ of Parliament and the country to a conclusion dreamed up in the minds of the governing coalition, which they say is made evident by the fact that the 28 July 2020 advice from the Council of Advice has not been provided to Parliament due to being “missed” by the Prime Minister’s office.
“It is totally and completely unacceptable,” Gumbs said, “that Government has had this advice since the beginning of August and that the reason given is that the e-mail was ‘missed’ by the Council of Ministers’ Secretariat and any other staff included in the e-mail. It is even more aggravating that we learn of its existence via a media article, considering the urgency of these times.”
Gumbs is referring to the fact that the Council of Advice issued two advices related to the ongoing discussion over the proposed Caribbean Reform Entity (CRE) and the proposed draft consensus Kingdom Law; an ‘urgent advice’ of July 9 th , which the Prime Minister utilized on her trip to the Netherlands, and a ‘full advice,’ which the Council issued later in the month. Members of Parliament began requesting early last week that the Chairman ask the Prime Minister to provide any advice(s) issued by the Council; several of the opposition members made mention of this request on the floor of Parliament. On Thursday, 27 August 2020, MPs finally received documentation in the form of an advice dated 9 July 2020 and self-termed a ‘pre-advice,’ due to its urgent nature.
“Parliament was asked to approve a letter,” Peterson said, “pushing to request the Council of State of the Netherlands to issue an advice on the CRE and law. But this advice from our own local institution was missed, in such critical times as this, by everyone who would have received it and thus not sent to Parliament. So how could Parliament, in good conscience, have sent that letter requesting advice from the Council of State? This is why we have stated that having all legal advices on hand is important but it seems the idea is that we all run blindly to the cliff, like lemmings, and anytime it’s mentioned that we’re going to fall, everyone says ‘shhhh’ and we keep running. Well, it’s time to stop.”
“Other members of Parliament and myself inquired if this advice of July 9 th was the only advice received,” Gumbs continued, “considering it was a pre-advice. We were told by both Parliament and Government that it was the only one, and that a ‘full advice’ was being requested as of 28 August 2020. To see The Daily Herald article and publication of the advice today, and to note the date it was signed off was 28 July 2020 has left a sour taste in our mouths. Amazingly, we have been provided with an apology that the second advice was received by Government on August 3 rd , but it was ‘overlooked’ in the hecticness of that week. I find it very hard to believe that every person working in the Cabinet who
would have had access to this e-mail completely missed it. Was it a month’s worth of emails overlooked, or just this one in particular? Was this negligence or deliberate? Either option raises uneasy questions about what has been communicated to the country and to Parliament.”
The faction made mention of the August 31 article in The Daily Herald, which outlined in some detail the contents of this mystery advice. It noted the fact that the Council of Advice concluded that continued consultations with the Netherlands was in the best interest of the country, because as the article states, “autonomy as stated in the Kingdom Charter is not of a higher order than, for example, securing fundamental human rights and freedoms, legal security and good governance, which are also defined in the Charter.” In the article the Council continues to state that “without sufficient funding, these important elements for good governance will quickly get into hot water.”
“We have mentioned, countless times, that we need to weigh the true impact of Government’s decisions now,” Peterson said. “When we signed onto the motion of 8 July 2020, it was with the belief that Government would operate in a transparent and constructive manner, including continuing to negotiate with the Netherlands. The rhetoric has been that we’ve been told to “take it or leave it,” but this does not explain how the Government of Aruba is still in discussions with the Netherlands. For two months, it has been a parade of finger-pointing and dwelling on ‘the way’ things have been done, which
we all agree has been counter to the concept of “discussion and collaboration” that is required for a consensus. Great; we all agreed, the process has been mishandled. Move on: what next? And that answer has been lacking.”
The MPs noted that they could definitely appreciate the difficulty of managing COVID-19 and its cascading effects, however, they stated that it is imperative that Government be more mindful of communication within their apparatus and with Parliament in the future. The faction concluded that it was now awaiting the provisioning of this second advice to Parliament, and expressed their hope that it was received no later than Tuesday afternoon.