PFP renews calls to end Parliament’s membership to Parlatino | SOUALIGA NEWSDAY

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Given Parliament’s recent decision to send a delegation of eight (8) Members of Parliament (MPs) to Panama to attend sessions of the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino), Party for Progress (PFP) has renewed its call to end Sint Maarten’s membership with the institution.

For PFP MPs Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson, Parlatino is an extreme waste of the country’s limited resources. Parliament, and by extension the country and people of Sint Maarten, spend US $30,000 in annual membership fees plus a travel budget of NAf. 497,700 per year.

“After more than 11 years as a member, there has not been a measurable return on this investment with regards to collaborative opportunities with other Parlatino member countries,” said MP Gumbs on Sunday. “I think we would be better suited focusing our efforts closer to home, instead of spending thousands of dollars to send another delegation on a useless working visit. We should be investing in collaboration with countries and territories in the Dutch Caribbean and with the other islands in the Northeastern Caribbean, where we share stronger and more pervasive cultural, social, economic, legal and family ties.”

With these financial and practical concerns in mind, MP Gumbs submitted a proposal in September 2021 to end Parliament’s membership with Parlatino. In this document, MP Gumbs proposed other ways where the funds could be better utilized, such as restarting collaborative meetings with the Territorial Council of the Collectivite de Saint Martin or to host more consultative meetings between the Parliaments of Sint Maarten, Aruba and Curacao. Additionally, Parliament could use the resources to join the parliamentary assemblies of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

“The avenues outlined in this proposal can be considered the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when considering expanding our relationships closer to home. St. Barths, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Anguilla are also potential doorways that we will be able to access if we take the approach outlined. As the saying goes, there is nothing wrong with living good and talking with your neighbors,” said MP Gumbs.

Two weeks after the proposal was submitted, the PFP MPs - along with MP Sarah Wescot-Williams of United Democrats (UD) and then-Independent MP Claudius Buncamper - requested a Central Committee meeting of Parliament to debate the proposal.

It has been four (4) months since this request, and no central committee meeting has been called. Instead, Parliament will send an 8-member delegation to Panama on Monday, February 7, 2022, while Aruba and Curacao have opted to send four and two representatives, respectively. The faction stated that it understands that size itself shouldn't determine allocated resources, but wonders if such a delegation is linked to a policy direction or is this yet again another trip at the expense of the taxpayer. PFP notes that in December 2021, several MPs wished the citizens of Saba a Happy Saba Day and lamented that they were unable to travel to St. Maarten's sister island to celebrate with them due to a lack of budget; the faction found this strange, considering the proximity of Saba when compared to Panama.

“For us to thrive as a country, we need to make better strategic decisions with taxpayers’ money. As representatives of the people, we should not be taking part in trips that are redundant, that have no benefit for Sint Maarten,” said MP Peterson. “There have been no tangible results from our membership to Parlatino so far, and I can only conclude that it has been reduced to a pleasure trip for our MPs who attend the sessions.”

“With the Collectivite holding an election next month, we believe that the Presidium of Parliament should begin making preparations to establish contact with the incoming Territorial Council of our neighbors to the North, by way of an invitation to Parliament, in the spirit of

developing that most vital relationship,” said MP Gumbs.

The PFP MPs urge Parliament Chairwoman MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten to schedule the requested Central Committee meeting as soon as possible, so that Parliament can finally begin the process of ending Sint Maarten’s costly and fruitless relationship with Parlatino.

Source: Souliga Newsday