UD MP Sarah Wescot-Williams
PHILIPSBURG–United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams is at a loss as to why the timeshare protection ordinance passed by Parliament more than three years ago is still not ratified by government so that it can be entered into force.
The law is intended to give extensive protection to timeshare buyers by offering safety and comfort in one of the largest money-generating sectors of the country.
The draft law was formulated by former Democratic Party (DP) Member of Parliament Leroy de Weever in response to a series of mishaps in the country’s timeshare industry that left many buyers out in the cold. The initiative was then taken over by Wescot-Williams, who separated the timeshare ordinance from the Timeshare Authority.
The Timeshare Ordinance was eventually debated and approved unanimously by Parliament on February 22, 2017. Since then, Wescot-Williams has been asking the various Ministers who have held the position of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT) about the status of the law, to no avail.
Wescot-Williams sent a letter to sitting TEATT Minister Ludmila de Weever on September 21 enquiring about the status of the law. Wescot-Williams had also asked former TEATT Minister Melissa Arrindell-Doncher about the status of the law in letters dated July 12 and October 5, 2017.
In her letter to Minister de Weever, Wescot-Williams said her enquiries and meetings since her correspondence to the former TEATT Minister had not yielded any results.
“Given the economic realities of today, I am of the belief that our timeshare industry is one that should be buoyed in preparation for any industry shifts due to the global pandemic. One of the reasons for this ordinance was exactly to strengthen this industry,” she said in her letter to Minister de Weever.
“I hereby once again enquire about the ratification of the timeshare ordinance by the government of St. Maarten. What is government’s position on the timeshare industry in general? Does government intend to ratify this ordinance? If yes, when? If not, why not? What does the government plan (if not to ratify the ordinance) to do to buoy the timeshare sector on St. Maarten and by extension the tourism industry?”
In a letter dated October 12, 2017, former minister Doncher had told Wescot-Williams in response to her queries that an advice concerning the ratification of the revised timeshare ordinance had been prepared by the Department of Legal Affairs prior to Hurricane Irma.
“We are in the final stages and should be able to present the advice in the meeting of the Council of Ministers within a few weeks,” Doncher had said at the time.
Wescot-Williams told The Daily Herald on Tuesday that the ordinance is “stuck” in government and despite her numerous requests, there has been no progress.
“Government cannot hold back a law of Parliament without doing something with it. They don’t have to ratify it, but if not they have to let Parliament know that for whatever reason they don’t want to ratify it,” Wescot-Williams said, noting that this is the first law that had been drafted in the English language and passed in the English language.
All laws by Parliament must be ratified before they can be enacted. This process means that the laws are to be co-signed by government and the Governor before they can come into force.
“We have a situation where Parliament unanimously passed a law and over the years successive ministers of TEATT have not ratified it and have not signed off on it,” she said.
The initiative law has been going through the regulatory channels since late 2013. One of the first hiccups with the legislation, cited by the Council of Advice, was that it was written in English, not Dutch, the legal language of the country.
The need for the law to be enacted was highlighted recently in the case of Alegría Real Estate against the Timeshare Owners at Caravanserai Association (TOCA) and others. This case concerns claims of TOCA that Alegría must adhere to the timeshare agreements its members as tenants entered into with the lessor, the operator of the former Caravanserai Resort in Beacon Hill, which real estate was purchased by Alegría at a public auction in 2014 from the Bank of Nova Scotia.
The High Court in its ruling found insufficient grounds to anticipate the workings of the draft Timeshare Ordinance, noting: “Where the draft Timeshare Ordinance provides a rule that protects the timeshare taker, regardless of whether the selling or transferring party is the contracting party of the timeshare taker, this deviates strongly from the applicable law, while it is also unclear whether, and if so when, the Timeshare Ordinance will be established and come into effect.”
Wescot-Williams is hoping that the Timeshare Ordinance will be dusted off and handled once and for all.