~ Govt. will dissolve Parliament if it gets no-confidence motion ~
PHILIPSBURG–Leaders of the four political parties in Parliament met on invitation of Prime Minister William Marlin on Wednesday to talk about the formation of a national Government for St. Maarten.
The meeting was a last-ditch effort by Marlin to bring parties together “in the interest of the people.” Marlin had invited the leaders of United St. Maarten Party (US Party), United People’s (UP) party and the Democratic Party (DP) for talks to form a national Government early Wednesday.
While it looked like the meeting would not take place, Chairperson of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams opened an urgent scheduled Parliament meeting at 2:00pm and adjourned it immediately afterward for the party leaders to meet.
Marlin told The Daily Herald after the meeting that parties had agreed to continue their discussions. He alluded to new State Secretary for Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops’ desire that all Ministers and coalition members in Parliament sign the joint regulation on border control and immigration and the draft Integrity Chamber, which are part of the conditions for Dutch recovery aid for St Maarten. Parties were informed of this.
“I informed them, but it was not necessarily an issue to agree on or not to agree on. Right now, several things are playing out and one is the way forward as Government. The proposal for a national Government is one that I would want to work out. That was a proposal made.
I am still, notwithstanding what happened today [Wednesday – Ed.], thinking if the meeting of Parliament was adjourned [for the discussions – Ed.] on whether we will or will not have a national Government, it would have avoided accusations. I firmly believe that we want to help the people of St. Maarten and we can put the party politics aside and truly work for the benefit and interest of St. Maarten.”
Marlin said his suggestion to form a national Government is also aimed at removing the political tension that exists. He suggested that the candidate for the Prime Minister’s post in the national Government be someone who is supported by all four parties, with good knowledge of the functioning of Government and someone who has been in Government.
“There is no difference in what I want and in what the leader of the DP wants and there should be no difference in what the leader of the UP party wants, because in the first meeting he said there is no time to play politics and that he wants to extend a hand to Government to help rebuild the country,” Marlin had said earlier in the day.
The meeting of the party leaders ended shortly after 3:30pm and the leaders then met with Governor Eugene Holiday.
The meeting of Parliament then reconvened at 5:00pm, where it was expected that a motion of no confidence would be tabled and passed against Government.
Marlin had told reporters earlier in the day during the Council of Ministers press briefing that if faced with a no confidence motion, Ministers would have met with the intention of coming to a decision to dissolve Parliament, maintaining a position similar to the one taken by the former Marcel Gumbs cabinet that ship-jumpers should be punished. Marlin had said Government would have made its decision based on the philosophy that the public should not be subjected to many changes in Government.
“The intention is for the Council of Ministers to meet this [Wednesday – Ed.] afternoon and, as would be expected, the Council of Ministers would continue with the philosophy that ship-jumpers should be punished and that the public should not be subjected to these constant changes in Government – not based on a political falling-out or a disagreement, but based on political parties wanting control of Government for other agendas,” Marlin said, noting that there was no falling-out with DP.
If Parliament passes a motion of no confidence against the Council of Ministers, then the Council of Ministers will dissolve Parliament and will give the mandate back to the people to be the judge and jury as to how the country will move forward.
“One can say we are creating more hardship for the people of St. Maarten. No, we are not. These are provisions that our system allows for and if this is allowed to continue we can place the blame on those who want to disrupt governance, because we never said we do not want aid. We never said we will refuse aid.
“We have accepted and we will continue to accept aid. We were having a discussion. It would look like more and more legal people are coming forward to say the approach of the Netherlands is not a justifiable one,” Marlin said.
He said the attempts to “break the government” have nothing to do with aid, as is being claimed, as discussions were held months before Hurricane Irma.
“The new majority … cooked up the story that it’s because of the situation following the hurricane that they have taken this decision, but records have shown that for months before the hurricane secret meetings and discussions have already been taking place with at least two members of the coalition because the DP was hell-bent on leaving and therefore needed one more to go with them – the same DP that said they are against ship-jumping and that ship-jumpers should be punished,” Marlin said.
“And you can recall when the [Marcel Gumbs cabinet – Ed.] fell, the then-Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs said we need to put an end to ship-jumping and punish the ship-jumpers, which resulted in early elections.”
Finance Minister Richard Gibson said he would resign if a no-confidence motion is passed against Government.
Against early elections
In the meantime, National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Ardwell Irion issued a statement on Wednesday saying that given the current state of affairs, he is not in favour of new elections.
“It is unfortunate that the former coalition could not dialogue and make things work, as the decision to form a new Government also costs the people of St Maarten money and time,” he said. “The people of St Maarten are still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Irma and believe that calling for new elections is not the best approach at this time.”
Irion said he hoped Government would look at “all other options available in the interest of the people.”
According to Marlin, the draft legislation to curb ship-jumping recommended that persons who jump ship will retain their seats and all rights as MPs, including the right to vote their consciences, but could not participate in forming a new government.
The draft was met with resistance by the Netherlands, which indicated that it was against free mandate.
“We have to make legislation based on our reality, not based on the reality of somewhere else. Today, we see the same thing is happening,” Marlin said, noting that he was being blamed for everything from causing the hurricane and the looting to putting the containers at the border and causing the hurricane destruction at a resort.
“The PM is [being blamed for causing – Ed.] everything under the sun and the people of St. Maarten will know that this is not true and today we realise why there was all this attack on the Prime Minister. It was being built so that when the time comes for them to make their move, the minds of the people of St. Maarten, and by extension the Kingdom, with support of the media would be formed.”
He said it was the Parliament of St. Maarten that in January voted unanimously against establishing the Integrity Chamber the way the Dutch wanted it.