Sarah: Government smartly secures unanimous support for AML/CTF legislation | SOUALIGA NEWSDAY

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Leader of the United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said in a press statement on Tuesday that: “The changes to the Criminal Code as submitted by former Minister of Justice, Cornelius de Weever were passed on Friday, October 11th.  

“On Friday, the Civil, Criminal and Criminal Procedure ordinances/amendments were tabled in a public meeting of parliament following extensive debates in Central Committee meetings and in the public domain.

“Much to-do was made about the fact that if the laws as presented by the government (read Minister of Justice) were not drastically amended, they could not count on majority support in parliament.  

“Fact is that following the lengthy Central committee meetings,  the  sometimes way-out proposals that came from the floor to the minister regarding same,  the many documents that  were had from the government to substantiate the government’s  proposals for these drafts laws,  no more excuses could be had  to delay the handling. 

“Part of the process during my tenure as Chair of Parliament was to request the Public Prosecutor’s  office,  the Bar Association and the Joint Court to provide their view regarding the Criminal Procedure Code,  and specifically the matter of  Crown Witness,  which is now taken up in that Code. 

“What we saw during the handling of these changes as presented by government to comply with the remaining CFATF recommendations was the blame game; why only now, who scheduled the meetings etc. etc.

“However  the most astonishing part of this particular meeting was the about-face by those members of Parliament who in previous meetings, publicly and  on social media,  exclaimed “over their  dead body”  that these laws would get their support;  and seeing how these members found arguments to now flip-flop on their  extreme position taken against the AML/CTF measures.  

“These members falsely claim that the draft laws were amended to suit those members of parliament who had serious objections.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The two laws (national ordinances) that have been passed up to now are the Civil Code and the Criminal Code.

“The government, based on discussions in Central Committee meetings and on the positions taken by the different factions made a small, yet significant change to the Civil Code, having  to do with the role of the Chamber of Commerce.  In the first proposal of the government, the Chamber was at liberty to dissolve suspected companies etc. This can only happen now, once the Court passes a verdict against the company etc. 

“The most remarkable turnabout was on the matter of the Criminal Code. The parliament received proposed changes to the criminal code from the government.  St. Maarten has a revised Criminal Code since 2015, so these changes the government proposed now have to do with the recommendations by the CFATF against money laundering and terrorism.  An amendment was presented to Parliament, so-called to save the day because if these amendments were not passed, these laws would not get the support of the majority in parliament namely USP, NA and two independent members of parliament.

“In a very nice and respectful way the government representatives, under the leadership of deputy Prime Minister Wycliff Smith explained that what the USP amendments actually suggested, was already in the draft law as presented by the government from the get-go. 

“In a very nice and respectful way, the representatives of Government concluded  to parliament that  the so-called amendment was superfluous and in what I believe was a face saving for the current coalition,  the government suggested to add to its draft law three words (“of te intimideren”).  Three words in order to make it appear that something was done with the amendment that was neither here nor there.  The amendment by the coalition had to be retracted!

“I think it was a good move   by the acting Minister of Justice to secure majority support for this very important law, and at the same time allowed a face saving for the NA/USP/Mercelina, Brownbill coalition in Parliament.

“The narrative should not go down as the government having drastically amended the Criminal Code to appease some members of parliament, as this picture would only further question St. Maarten’s resolve to legislate the necessary AML/CTF measures.”

Source: Souliga Newsday