PHILIPSBURG–Chairperson of Parliament Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams said on Thursday that the Council of Ministers will be discussing how to proceed as it relates to the February 26, snap elections given the concerns that the November 12, election decree violates the country’s constitution.
Wescot-Williams told reporters at a press conference that just before the new cabinet took office, she had sent a letter, in her capacity as Chairperson of Parliament, to government querying whether the Council of Minister agreed with her position that the decree violates the constitution. She also asked new Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin to respond to her correspondence as soon as she takes office.
Wescot-Williams said the Prime Minister has since responded to her letter and has agreed with her position that the decree is in violation of the constitution. “In its letter government also makes mention of the fact that notwithstanding this conclusion, the process of election is ongoing and government faces that dilemma.”
She said the dilemma facing government is what should be done having concluded that the constitution has been violated, given that the process for election is ongoing. She said the Council of Ministers is expected to meet on the matter. “The Prime Minister in her letter has indicated that this will be discussed in the Council of Ministers.”
She noted also that government, in its response indicated that the only way the decree can be undone is through an annulment, but not disregarding the process that is continuing. In her letter dated January 17, the Prime Minister said since Nomination Day was Friday, January 5, it can be concluded the legislative process for elections is already in motion and political parties undertook necessary actions to participate in the coming elections.
“I can also inform you that in accordance with Article 22 of the Rules of Order of the Governor of St. Maarten, legislation approved in St. Maarten, which is in violation of either the Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, an international agreement or a Kingdom Law containing general measures or is in violation of matters relating to the responsibility of the Kingdom, like proper government, can be partially or completely annulled by the Kingdom Council of Ministers. Before taking a decision, the Kingdom Council of Ministers needs the advice from the Kingdom Council of State,” the Prime Minister said.
“…There is a possibility for annulment in accordance with Article 22 of the Rules of Order of the Governor of St. Maarten. However, considering that the legislative process for the election has already started and therefore that a possible annulment of the national decree of November 3, 2017, may result in a violation of the general principles of proper government; any decision taken by my government concerning this subject has to be in the interest of the people of St. Maarten,” Romeo-Marlin said in her letter.
Wescot-Williams wants to send a petition for advice to the Council of Advice on this matter. Before a petition can be sent to the Council of Advice, it first needs to be sanctioned by Parliament, which is still to be done. Sending a petition to the Council of Advice will give Parliament a legal advice on the matter outside of the political arena. “I think it is important (to know) whether we can do something about the election – yes or no…And the question we are seeking to get an answer to is: what does this mean for the process?… Could it have any other ramifications?”
She said if the legal minds indicate that the violation was an oversight and the process can continue, then the matter can be “put aside,” until someone else raises it in the future and makes an issue of it. “But in the meantime no decision has been taken about the elections not taking place, so all preparations for the elections have been taking place.”
The first national decree for the dissolution of Parliament was dated November 3, 2017, which at the time set the convening of the new Parliament for January 31, 2018. The second decree on November 12, establishes election for February 26, and sets the first convening of the new Parliament for April 2, 2018, which Wescot-Williams contends is a “gross violation” of article 59 of the Constitution. She maintains that the three month period as prescribed by the constitution has been exceeded by nearly two months, without explanation or motivation. This, she notes is a flagrant disregard for the highest law of the land and sets a dangerous constitutional precedence.