GREAT BAY – The central committee sent a proposal for a code of conduct for Parliament back to the Ad Hoc Committee Integrity at the proposal of MPs Frans Richardson and Franklin Meyers. Members of the central committee asked for more clarification than the current proposal contains.
The current proposal contains rules for the registration of gifts, the disclosure of ancillary activities and the disclosure of travels. Absent in the code is the disclosure of the financial position of members of parliament at the beginning and the end of their tenure.
MP Frans Richardson said yesterday that it is unclear from the draft whether MPs have to report private travel as well. He also said it is unclear whether ancillary activities include for instance share holder ship and how this is going to be published on the Parliament’s website.
MP Chanel Brownbill wants more clarity about gifts. He wondered if dinner with friends who pick up the tab falls under the definition.
“Too much is unclear,” was also the opinion of MP Perry Geerlings. Are we Members of Parliament 24/7? Where is the line between being a public figure and being a private figure? Right now there is no distinction.”
MP Frans Richardson seconded that opinion. “I never asked for a diplomatic passport because you are only a diplomat if you travel as an MP. Is the code going to work like the diplomatic passport, or not?”
MP Tamara Leonard noted that MPs are free to continue operating a business and that some of those companies are doing business with the government. She also wanted more clarity about gifts, while MP George Pantophlet wanted to know when members are MPs and when they are not.
MP Sarah Wescot-Williams, the chairlady of parliament who also chairs the ad hoc committee Integrity and who submitted the draft code on behalf of that committee to the central committee noted that codes of conduct are “a common occurrence all over the world.”
While the ad hoc committee did not want to re-invent the wheel, it did take the small scale of the St. Maarten community into consideration. “Several reports have suggested to establish this code of conduct, not only for Parliament but also for instance for the Constitutional Court and for other High Councils of State.”
Given the small scale of the community, Wescot-Williams said that MPs “have to be concerned about their safety, but that there is nothing wrong with disclosing their ancillary positions. That is good for the public to know.”
MP Frans Richardson proposed sending the draft back to the ad hoc committee for further deliberation. MP Franklin Meyers supported this: “I don’t think anybody is against this, but we’re against it in its current form.”
Discussions about establishing a code of conduct for Parliament began on February 10, 2015. According to Wescot-Williams the ad hoc committee integrity met “on numerous occasions” to discuss the code. By now, 28 months have gone by since the process began.
On April 14, 2014, the Parliament approved its new rules of order. That process took 40 months to complete.
MP Wescot-Williams said yesterday that the intention is to be done with the code of conduct “as soon as possible.”
Photo Caption: MP Sarah Wescot-Williams: “Codes of conduct are a common occurrence all over the world.” Photo Today / Hilbert Haar