The motion of no confidence against Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Emil Lee submitted by his United Democrats (UD) party colleague Member of Parliament (MP) Luc Mercelina on Friday evening caught many by surprise. Co-signed by all seven opposition members, it has majority backing and, if passed, will leave the minister with little choice but to step down.
How the rest of the UD/SMPC coalition will react is not yet known. Particularly for Parliament President and deputy UD leader Sarah Wescot-Williams this must be a bitter pill to swallow, considering that she and Lee both came from the Democratic Party (DP) when it joined forces with Heyliger’s United People’s (UP) party to form the UD after Hurricane Irma.
Another no-confidence motion against Finance Minister Perry Geerlings, who is from the DP ranks too, was presented by United St. Maarten Party (US Party) leader Frans Richardson. However, it has so far been signed by only the seven opposition members and there was no indication Mercelina or anyone else from the coalition would lend their support.
Nevertheless, the Romeo-Marlin Cabinet appears to be on very shaky ground, considering that also Ministers Cornelius de Weever of Justice and Miklos Giterson of Public Housing, Spatial Development, Environment and Infrastructure were asked to resign after a recent meeting of the governing parties. The latter has meanwhile made his position available to Governor Eugene Holiday, who asked him to stay on until a successor is appointed, as customary.
A full-blown political crisis at this time could have serious consequences for the recovery process. It’s not just about changing ministers, because Mercelina also announced a “Constitutional Revolution” based on 10 points of departure that some are now jokingly calling his “Ten Commandments.” These include doing away with the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT and some other actions that would put the Dutch Caribbean country on a direct collision course with the Netherlands.
At risk is not only the unspent balance of the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund managed by the World Bank, but also much-needed liquidity assistance to cover the budget deficits, conditions for which include MPs taking a 10 per cent pay cut. If other requirements set for such by The Hague are not met, already-committed financing to build the new hospital and for the reconstruction of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) could be in jeopardy as well.
One does not have to be a rocket scientist to understand what negative impact further delay in restoring the island’s main gateway to its former glory would have on the local tourism economy that ultimately provides the livelihood for the entire population. Those involved in the most recent political developments are urged to proceed with great care not to make things considerably worse than they already are.