Sarah cancels meeting, new coalition says Knops not accountable to SXM Parliament | THE DAILY HERALD

~ State Secretary was ready to address MPs ~


PHILIPSBURG–Acting Chairperson of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams on Tuesday cancelled today’s meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament with Dutch State Secretary Raymond Knops due to “confirmed non-attendance of a majority of factions.”

  Her move to cancel the meeting sparked a reaction from the new parliamentary coalition of nine, which said its decision to not attend the meeting was because this would ignore the rules of order regarding correct parliamentary procedures. The coalition also accused Wescot-Williams of putting a “spin” on the issue.

  Wescot-Williams said in a press statement announcing the cancellation that “to avoid any embarrassment in front of the State Secretary, due to a lack of quorum to hold the meeting, I have called off the meeting.”

  She said the meeting was scheduled as a Central Committee meeting and having a guest (Knops) present, a quorum could have been formed with half of the current factions (three of the six), if these represent the half plus one of the members. She said Member of Parliament (MP) Chanel Brownbill has not yet formally declared himself independent.

  “In order not to face a no-show, I asked all factions in advance to indicate their participation in this meeting. MP Rolando Brison, on behalf of the US Party (United St. Maarten Party), the NA (National Alliance) and the two independent Members of Parliament have declined. Hence, I had no other option, but to cancel the meeting with State Secretary Knops,” the Acting Parliament Chairperson said.

  Wescot-Williams said she found this unfortunate, “because those MPs who have declined are in my opinion exactly the ones who should have welcomed the opportunity to, as they like to put it ‘put the State Secretary in his place’.”

  “They could have used this meeting to tell the State Secretary, ‘thanks, but no thanks’ for the Trust Fund money and find a way to return the money already received from the Netherlands, including the liquidity assistance provided to government. This would have been their perfect opportunity to put their words into deeds, because they are now in the driver’s seat. So, the question remains: what is the stance of the coalition of nine on the Dutch-financed Trust Fund, managed by the World Bank?” Wescot-Williams asked.

  The meeting had been requested by St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) MP Claude “Chacho” Peterson; United Democrats (UD) MP Jules James and independent MP Franklin Meyers.

  In the meantime, Knops is on the island, and The Daily Herald understands that he was ready to go to Parliament and prepared to address Parliament.


No issue meeting with Knops

  In a press statement, the new coalition stressed that it has no issue meeting with Knops once correct procedures are followed, not in an ad hoc manner or where they are directly put in a position to bend or break the rules of order of Parliament.

  The coalition said it also took note that Wescot-Williams had already informed Peterson, Meyers and James that their request for Parliament to meet with Knops was against procedures. “Now the former chairlady is already spinning the issue as if the new coalition missed some sort of opportunity and she had no option, but to cancel the meeting. The truth escaped the former chairlady once again,” the coalition said.

  According to the coalition, in her letter dated September 18, Wescot-Williams informed Meyers, Peterson and James as follows (verbatim): “I would like to point to Article 32, paragraph 3, of our constitution which stipulates the following: The ministers are answerable to the Parliament. Aforementioned article focuses on the so-called ‘ministerial responsibility’ which is crucial in our Parliamentary democracy.   

  “This means that each minister is responsible and accountable individually for his or her actions or lack thereof to Parliament. This responsibility only exists for St. Maarten ministers towards the St. Maarten Parliament. Ministers or state secretaries from other countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands are not legally accountable to the Parliament and as such cannot be called to give account to Parliament.”

  The new majority coalition said: “The former chairlady instead saw an opportunity to use a political line of attack after she herself informed the MPs who requested the meeting that it was not legally possible.”

  “This type of behaviour is typical of the former chairlady who bent or broke the rules of Parliament at a whim and often when convenient. The new coalition does not want to follow in the footsteps of the previous chairperson of Parliament with breaking or bending rules of order. We have rules that we have to follow and the request to meet with State Secretary Knops was incorrect procedure as, again, the former chairlady herself confirmed.

  “The prime minister [PM – Ed.] of St. Maarten is who answers to Parliament and we don’t want the PM to feel like she can simply pass the buck to Knops to answer to Parliament – a responsibility that belongs to her. We would like to stress that the new coalition has no issue meeting with State Secretary Knops in a proper setting, once correct procedures are followed.”

  The new coalition indicated that the UD/SMCP imploded due in part to its MPs not being able to obtain information from their appointed ministers which, among other things, led to infighting that persists to this day and caused the crisis they have thrown the country into.

Source: The Daily Herald