PHILIPSBURG–Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday did not get to vote on a draft letter to be sent to the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber because they could not agree on how to incorporate changes to the draft.
An emergency public parliamentary meeting was called on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a letter to the Dutch Second Chamber. In the letter, Parliament would request their counterparts in the Netherlands to request its Council of State, an equivalent to St. Maarten’s Council of Advice, to weigh in on the proposed Caribbean Reform Entity.
The meeting was deemed urgent because Aruba’s Parliament drafted a similar letter earlier on Wednesday and, in a show of solidarity, several MPs wanted St. Maarten to add its voice.
This is a different letter than the joint position paper that is to be drafted by the Parliaments of St. Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba.
Many MPs were in favour of sending the letter.
United Democrats (UD) MP Sarah Wescot-Williams said consultation should be had with Dutch MPs and senators. However, she suggested amending the letter to insert specific questions that they wanted the Second Chamber to pose to the Council of State.
MP Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper of United St. Maarten Party (US Party) supported the letter despite saying that it needed “more teeth.” He said the letter should not be seen as a “saviour letter,” but as a means to exhaust all possible legal avenues. He agreed with Wescot-Williams that specific questions should be added.
MP William Marlin of National Alliance (NA) also supported the letter, adding that adjustments can be made “here and there.”
Unlike their colleagues, several MPs did not support the letter.
NA MP Christophe Emmanuel said the letter has no weight. According to him, St. Maarten must “pull up its socks” and find solutions to its problems.
He lamented that MPs had yet to hear about alternative financing options from government. “What reforms are we doing for ourselves? … Why do we need external intervention to make changes? It takes years and decades to raise the minimum wage and AOV [general old age insurance – Ed.].”
MP Melissa Gumbs of Party for Progress (PFP) did not support the letter for what she described as “technical reasons.” She said the Council of State cannot issue advice on proposals. Since the Caribbean Reform Entity is not an official draft law that has been passed by the Kingdom Council of Ministers, asking the Council of State for advice would be futile, according to her.
PFP MP Raeyhon Peterson said he also cannot support the letter due to “technical reasons.” He said the letter would be “kicking the can down the road” as Parliament already rejected the entity as it was proposed.
MPs also used the opportunity to appeal for government to reveal its alternative financing options, what many of them termed “Plan B”.
Wescot-Williams said the letter should not be viewed as wasted energy because, in the meantime, government should present its alternative plans. Marlin said government should divulge its Plan B because “the money will run out eventually, whether in two, three, or four months.”
The meeting did not go to a vote because MPs wanted to wait until adjustments are made to the letter. The meeting was adjourned until further notice.