Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak (left) and André Bosman. (File photo)
THE HAGUE–The decision of St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday to sign the amended decree to hold elections on September 29, 2016 is not ideal, but it is understandable that he chose to make a compromise.
“You cannot bargain with democracy, but I understand why the Governor decided to opt for a compromise,” said Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) said on Wednesday in an interview with this newspaper.
Van Raak said he was not in favour of postponing the St. Maarten elections, as he had indicated his preference to let the people speak as soon as possible. However, he added, “I am in The Hague and this is principally an issue of the St. Maarten people.”
Referring to the view of constitutional law experts Arjen van Rijn and Constantijn Kortmann who stated on an earlier occasion that reversing the national decree, signed by the Governor on October 28, to have elections on February 9, 2016 legally impossible, Van Raak said that this made clear that it was necessary to have a “good look” at the system and its implementation.
Asked for a reaction to the signing of the most recent decree, Prof. Van Rijn said that he found the situation “worrisome,” especially when considering that the St. Maarten Constitution was very clear on the dissolving of Parliament.
“The Constitution states that elections must take place in three months following the dissolving of Parliament. The decree that now has been signed by the Governor is evidently in violation with the Constitution. The Constitution has been pushed aside to serve other, politically motivated interests,” Van Rijn told The Daily Herald. He said that every respecting country should uphold its Constitution, even if it is a young democracy like St. Maarten.
Van Rijn was highly critical of the role of the Governor in this case. “He is putting himself in a vulnerable position. The role of the Governor is clearly stated in the law, and here he is playing a role that is not his to play. This is completely unacceptable.”
In Van Rijn’s opinion, the Governor has played a dubious role from the onset when the Marcel Gumbs cabinet submitted a draft national decree to dissolve Parliament following a motion of no-confidence that was adopted by Parliament on September 30. “The Governor should have signed that decree. He didn’t. The result is the current dilemma.”
Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party said it was a good thing that elections would be held, but questioned the delay and the reasoning behind the decision to hold the elections six months later.
“The issue is clouded. People ask why elections at a later stage, why not now, and what is the exact reason? People are guessing and speculating. A strange situation is created,” Bosman told this newspaper.
As for the elections in general, Bosman said that it was important to keep an eye on the aspect of good governance. “We have to ensure that no strange things will happen towards the elections.” He said he was a proponent of having independent observers on the island during the election time.
Ronald van Raak addressed the issue of ship jumping, which he referred to as “cheating on voters.” “I fear that a lot of money is involved in this ship jumping. For me it confirms that St. Maarten is plagued by corruption and nepotism,” he said.
According to Van Raak, it was up to the voters to punish ship jumpers in the next elections. He said that electoral reform to prevent ship jumping and other rules could help, but that it was ultimately up to the politicians to behave accordingly. “It is hard to enforce proper manners.”
Source: The Daily Herald Van Raak: Governor opted for compromise