Coalition rejects decision to dissolve Parliament

PHILIPSBURG–The Coalition of Eight passed a motion in Parliament on Wednesday rejecting the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet’s decision to dissolve the legislature and call snap elections. The motion was passed eight to five, with the remainder of the United People’s (UP) party-led coalition not supporting it.

Nomination Day will be December 23, 2015. On that day all political parties desirous of contesting must submit their lists of candidates for the upcoming elections.

The motion, tabled by Coalition of Eight leader Member of Parliament (MP) William Marlin (National Alliance), stated that the decision “by the caretaker Government is predicated on the wrongful and misleading grounds that an election will fix political ship-jumping.”

The practice of switching allegiances commonly referred to as ship-jumping has been the catalyst for St. Maarten having four different governments at the helm to date since the attainment of country status on October 10, 2010. The same phenomenon is now responsible for yet another government to take office soon.

The motion stated that if the Cabinet “was serious about addressing the matter of ship-jumping, efforts to do so would have been evident, which is not the case. … Since this has not been addressed in any form or fashion by the Government until now, it surely will not come about by dissolving Parliament and organising a parliamentary election.”

In the view of Parliament, according to the motion, the decision of the Cabinet to dissolve Parliament is a “misuse of a constitutional authority and therefore a ‘detournement de pouvoir’ [French for ‘abuse of power’ – Ed.] and … the refusal until now by individual Ministers to tender their resignation is in breach of the constitutional legal system.”

Marlin stated via the motion that Parliament had engaged a legal expert to further work out the proposals for electoral reform based on proposals for such reform submitted to Parliament by the Democratic Party, which is a member of the Coalition of Eight.

The motion further called on the Ministers “collectively and individually, to do the right thing and tender their resignations immediately.” The Cabinet had indicated on October 23 that Ministers would tender their resignations yesterday, Wednesday. The motion was passed before the Ministers met with Governor Eugene Holiday to formalise their decision.

The resignation of the Cabinet and the decision to dissolve Parliament stems from a motion of no confidence passed against the Cabinet by the Coalition of Eight on September 30. Since then the country has been at somewhat of a stalemate between Parliament and the Cabinet.

After the September 30 motion and in spite of the Coalition of Eight informing the Governor it was ready to form a new government, the Cabinet invoked Article 59 of the Constitution to dissolve the Parliament of St. Maarten and presented the decision to the Governor for ratification.

The plenary session of Parliament was not without incident with independent MP Cornelius de Weever challenging Parliament Chairwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams several times about decisions she made on procedural matters.

One matter on which they went head-to-head was De Weever’s call for the meeting to be adjourned until he received answers to several questions. While his request was double-seconded, Wescot-Williams put the matter to a vote, the Coalition of Eight overruled his request, the meeting continued and two motions were tabled and passed by the Coalition.

Ministers accountable

The second motion tabled by United St. Maarten Party (USP) leader MP Frans Richardson and passed by the Coalition of Eight also called for Ministers to make their positions available to the Governor immediately.

   Via the motion, the coalition declared the Gumbs Cabinet “a caretaker government effective September 30 and therefore should have been acting as such ever since and until a new Council of Ministers is sworn in by the Governor.”

Based on the adopted motion, the current Ministers are “individually and/or collectively responsible” for decisions they have taken after the September 30 motion, especially those that have serious financial and/or administrative consequences for the country and/or one or more Government-owned companies.

The motion instructs the Cabinet “not to appoint to or dismiss any person(s)” from the management or board of directors of any Government-owned company and not to take any decision(s) that will bind the country or its companies in any Government long-lease land-swap, specifically near Kim Sha Beach, in exchange for property located at or near Princess Port de Plaisance.

The Cabinet also is instructed via the motion not to agree to the development and/or transfer of the Vorst Property to any entity, nor to grant any long lease for land on the ring road.

The Cabinet is instructed not to proceed with the expansion of the Pointe Blanche prison, the waste-to-energy plant, the awarding of new contracts for the collection of garbage or the extension of the present contracts, the conversion of utilities company GEBE generators from using heavy fuel to generators that run on liquid natural gas (LNG), expansion of St. Maarten Medical Center and the issuance of gaming licences, including a licence to operate one or more casinos.

Source: The Daily Herald Coalition rejects decision to dissolve Parliament