Dissolving Parliament is autonomous competence

THE HAGUE–Dutch State Secretary of Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops is not inclined to have the Kingdom Council of Ministers revoke the decision of the St. Maarten Government to hold snap elections. “Interfering is a heavy measure that requires a solid motivation,” he said on Wednesday.

  The decision to dissolve the Parliament is part of the autonomy the country St. Maarten has, explained Knops during the second day of the handling of the draft 2018 budget for Kingdom Relations in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday.

  The possibility to dissolve the Parliament is an important competence of the St. Maarten Government, just as the St. Maarten Parliament has the competence to send the Government home, said Knops in response to the call by Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party for the Kingdom Government to take action in the interest of the people and to prevent a further delay of the Reconstruction Fund as a result of the elections.

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  “I want to emphasise that intervention in the autonomy is an exceptionally heavy measure, especially when it concerns the execution of the competence of the St. Maarten Government to dissolve the Parliament. Doing so would require a profound motivation,” stated Knops, who announced his visit to the Windward Islands in two weeks.

  He said he would await the information he has requested from St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday regarding the practical possibilities and impossibilities of holding elections on January 8, before passing his judgement on the situation.

  The practical and legal objections expressed by the Central Voting Bureau will play an important role. “The importance of fair and free elections, which are not doubted because they were not properly organised, is great,” said Knops. 

  He confirmed that the Dutch Government will work with any government that is willing to cooperate and has accepted the Dutch conditions to establish the Integrity Chamber for supervision on the spending from the Reconstruction Fund and the strengthening of the border control with Royal Dutch Marechaussee and Customs.

  “What counts is that the Government in power sticks to the agreements and conditions, because we cannot permit ourselves to make a political game of that, and wait until a stable government is in place. The only ones who would be duped are the inhabitants of St. Maarten,” he said.

  Knops informed the Second Chamber that the Governor had started consultations to assess the possibilities of an interim government. However, he added, “This situation should not result in waiting with the start of the reconstruction.”

  Member of Parliament (MP) Liesbeth van Tongeren of the green left party GroenLinks called on Knops to have a Plan B, an alternative to ensure that the common men and women would not be left without aid.  

  MP Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) wanted to know whether it was correct to assume that the finances for the reconstruction had been reserved and that the fund was ready to go, but that the waiting was on a signature by the St. Maarten Government.

  “Who has to put that signature today so that tomorrow we can start with the reconstruction?” he asked. He reminded Knops of the responsibility the Kingdom has to care for its people in need.

  Knops said he truly wanted to start with the reconstruction and that it would be a good thing if current caretaker Prime Minister William Marlin would formally accept the Dutch conditions. He said that in this way there would be a commitment from both the Government and the Parliament.

  Once the St. Maarten Government has given the green light, the Dutch Government will take a formal decision to establish the Reconstruction Fund with associated funds. This should be soon and will involve a “hefty amount,” said Knops, adding that details would be released at that time.

  The Dutch Government will always maintain the right to cease the reconstruction operation if St. Maarten were to pull back on agreeing to the Dutch conditions, Knops warned.

  “Whatever we will do, and we want to move on with the reconstruction, will always be conditional. If the new St. Maarten Parliament or Government should reverse the agreement, change its mind, there can be no other consequence than that the Netherlands will postpone, temporise or cease the assistance. I cannot give a blank cheque,” he said.

  He said he hoped the St. Maarten people understand the willingness of the Dutch Government and Parliament to start the reconstruction under certain conditions. “I hope they understand that the choice of the people determines how things will proceed. The people will decide their own fate.”

  The Dutch Government started providing emergency assistance immediately following Hurricane Irma, with the input of Aruba, Curaçao, Dutch Defence, many relief workers, civil servants and volunteers. “I am proud of this efficient and fast assistance and I want to express my deep appreciation for everyone who contributed,” said Knops.

  The emergency relief is being phased out and will cease December 1, even though relief workers will remain active and relief goods are still arriving, he said. A lot of work has already been done by Dutch Defence personnel, but additional work is still needed in a number of sectors, such as the complete repairing of the airport and the prison, as well as management of the enormous amount of debris.

  The most vulnerable persons in society have been a focal point during the emergency relief period and this group will remain such in the reconstruction period. Knops reassured the Dutch Parliament that the local work force and companies would be utilised as much as possible during the reconstruction.

  He reiterated that the Dutch financial contribution to St. Maarten’s recovery should benefit the people, “because that is who we are doing this for.” The spending of the funds has to take place in a transparent and responsible manner, he stressed.

  Talks with the World Bank to contribute to the Reconstruction Fund will take place at the end of this week.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/70819-dissolving-parliament-is-autonomous-competence