Theo’s suspension as MP automatic | THE DAILY HERALD

~ Urgent meeting of Parliament tomorrow ~

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten’s highest vote-getter in the last parliamentary election no longer has a seat in the legislature following his automatic suspension based on Article 50 of the country’s Constitution.

Suspended is United Democrats leader Member of Parliament and the country’s most popular politician Theo Heyliger, who is currently detained in Bonaire on charges levelled by the Prosecutor’s Office in the codenamed Larimar investigation.

Parliament Chairwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams confirmed Heyliger’s suspension this morning. She added her intention to call an urgent sitting of Parliament on the matter. Of particular focus will be the preparation of the letter to the Central Voting Bureau about filling the now empty seat. This is very necessary to return Parliament to its full complement of 15 seats. Since Heyliger’s arrest on February 19, Parliament has only 14 members, making decision-making precarious in the case of contentious topics.

Wescot-Williams told The Daily Herald that as the Prosecutor’s Office notifies Parliament via the Minister of Justice, Heyliger’s suspension “automatically goes into effect so no other action really needs to take place, because it is by law that it happens once Article 50 is applied.”

The prosecutor is the one who has to confirm the conditions of Heyliger’s arrest and the charges against him and whether those charges are in line with Article 50, said Wescot-Williams. The prosecutor “has done this.”

Article 50 of the Constitution, more specifically Article 50, Subsection 2, states if an MP is suspended by law: if he is being detained pending trial in connection with a criminal offence as referred to in paragraph 1(a), 1(b) and 1(c); if he is given a custodial sentence by a court for committing a criminal offence as referred to in paragraph 1(a), 1(b) and 1(c) of the same Article 50.

On the basis of the letter, an urgent sitting of Parliament will be called to officially inform the legislature of this action. The meeting will create the basis for the letter to the Central Voting Bureau about the appointment of a replacement.

The Constitution also covers the replacement of an MP. However, there are no specifics worked out in an ordinance how the “deputy” -as the Constitution puts it- will be appointed. The current theory is the seat will go to the next highest vote getter on the United Democrats slate; in this case former MP Jules James.

Although suspended, Heyliger will continue to receive his remuneration as an MP based on the Constitution.

This is the first time in the history of St. Maarten’s almost nine-year-old Parliament that an MP has been suspended although at least three others were detained on similar bribery charges in unrelated cases during the past five years.

Heyliger emerged yet again as the overall highest vote-getter a year ago with 1,289 personal votes, down from 1,429 in the 2016 election. He was the only parliamentarian to earn his seat outright as the seat

Source: The Daily Herald