St. Maarten News – Messages on social media suggest killing the prime minister, members of parliament and their corrupted friends, MP Frans Richardson said during a meeting of parliament about vote buying. While Richardson considered there threats far more important than the issue of vote buying, no other MP even reacted to his statement.
“I am going to protect myself and my family,” Richardson said. “I am not joking.”
Richardson said that Dutch parliamentarians Bosman and Van Raak entertain the individuals who are spreading these messages as their friends. “And they don’t condemn this. These are serious issues. You have to do something, or something is going to happen. This is not the St. Maarten we want for our people.”
As for vote buying, Richardson said that the issue is very simple: “You go to someone and say, vote for me and I will give you $300 or a phone. That’s vote buying, giving away tee shirts during the campaign is something else, that is not vote buying.”
Before Richardson’s statement several MPs had made a song and dance about the definition of vote buying. The meeting was requested by the opposition, consisting of the United People’s party and independents Cornelius de Weever and Leona Marlin-Romeo.
Especially the UP is angling for a definition that is narrower than the description in the criminal code. As “the poster child of vote buying” as faction leader Franklin Meyers later would say, the UP is now extremely careful, or so it seems.
At the start of the meeting, Justice Minister Edson Kirindongo gave a rather scholarly explanation about the Trias Politica, saying that the parliament is the legislator and that the minister should actually be asking the question what it wants with a policy on vote buying.
“It is important for the population to understand what vote buying is,” UP-leader Theo Heyliger said. “It is unfortunate that the Public Prosecutor’s Office is not here to present its interpretation.”
Heyliger asked for a precise description of the terms ‘gift’ and ‘promise’ in the criminal code.
He noted that being a Member of Parliament is probably “the only job where you have to pay to go to work. Every day someone stops me for help with some issue, but nowadays I have to be careful. How broad is this and does it cover the entire period you are in parliament? The article in the criminal code is too broad and leaves room for interpretation. I have never said to anyone: if you vote for me, I’ll give you money.”
Heyliger said that he wants to know the rules of engagement before the September elections. “Is giving away a tee shirt, throwing a party, or handing out chicken legs and Johnny cakes vote buying? With these things all eyes are always on green. I expect a policy from the minister that makes very clear what vote buying is.”