PHILIPSBURG–The Parliament of St. Maarten agreed on Thursday to request a copy of the Integrity Chamber law from the Dutch Government.
Parliament made the decision during a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament.
Parliament had asked the Government of St. Maarten to send a copy of the draft law to the legislative body. However, Prime Minister William Marlin informed Parliament that the draft has not yet completed the mandatory trajectory required by law before draft laws can be submitted to Parliament. Marlin said the law is not yet at a stage where it can be sent to Parliament and he prefers to await the conclusion of the process as prescribed by law before the document is sent to the legislature.
The Prime Minister’s decision to stick to the legal process provoked the ire of several Members of Parliament (MPs), who accused him of being insubordinate for not wanting to send the draft to Parliament ahead of the completion of the process.
Democratic Party (DP) MP Perry Geerlings said he understood that certain protocol has to be adhered to, but due to the current situation, cooperation between Parliament and Government is needed. He said it was “unfortunate” that Marlin did not send the draft law. He enquired whether Parliament can instruct the caretaker Government to present the draft to Parliament post-haste.
Chairperson of Parliament MP Sarah Wescot-Williams said that while an instruction can be given, because Government has taken the stance that it will not present the document until it is ready for formal handling in Parliament she does not know how effective an instruction will be. “Government has clearly taken a stance on how it will handle document,” she said.
United People’s (UP) party MP Claret Connor said Government’s decision was unfortunate. He said the Prime Minister should have acted in good faith. He said there is nothing in the constitution that bars Government from providing draft legislation to Parliament before it completes its prescribed process.
“Nothing in the constitution says this cannot happen. It shows that the Prime Minister has taken a stance for himself,” Connor said adding that it was a “shame” and “pity” that the people of St. Maarten have to deal with the “it’s my way or the highway” … “childish nonsense.” Connor said, “This does cross the line, in my opinion.”
Wescot-Williams said that while MPs have the right to see draft legislation, even in these cases, the legislation has to go through a procedure of receiving an advice from the Council of Advice and a response would have to be given to that advice.
She said also that laws, whether initiated by Parliament or Government, cannot go into effect unless Government co-signs the draft. Wescot-Williams said Parliament “could have been proactive in this matter, if Government was willing to cooperate with us.”
She alluded to the draft amendment to the 2017 budget that Finance Minister Richard Gibson had sent to Parliament even though it was not formally completed for handling by Parliament.
She suggested that Parliament request that the Dutch Government send a copy of the draft Integrity Chamber law “that seemingly carries the approval of our Government” and “see if we can quicker start and complete the process.”
“There is a draft that must be in possession of the Dutch Government,” she said noting that it would be good for Parliament to receive a copy of the draft even though Parliament cannot handle it officially until it completes the required process.
There were no objections to her suggestion and it was agreed that this will be done.