Today’s urgent meeting of Parliament (see related story) promises to be interesting. It regards a letter by Attorney General Ton Maan to Chairlady Grisha Heyliger-Marten and Justice Minister Ana Richardson.
In it, the head of prosecution for Curaçao and St. Maarten states that Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius Buncamper should be suspended because of his recent unconditional prison sentence. Elected representatives can only be removed from office with an irrevocable criminal conviction, but St. Maarten’s Constitution allows for suspension in case of pre-trial detention or a “custodial” court sentence.
It’s not the first time this has occurred. Theo Heyliger underwent the same fate after being arrested in February 2019 and was substituted for by the next candidate in line of his party at the time United Democrats (UD).
The term “suspended” should not be misinterpreted, because it’s more like non-active duty. The MPs keep their full salary until all appeal options within the Kingdom of the Netherlands have been exhausted.
What makes the current case even more intriguing is that Buncamper recently became an independent parliamentarian. He thus has no party or – remaining – faction to designate a substitute.
Does this now fall to his former United St. Maarten party (US Party)? There will in any case be nobody to argue such on behalf of US Party during this morning’s debate, because their only other legislator Akeem Arrindell also left.
In Heyliger’s case then-chairlady Sarah Wescott-Williams consulted the Central Voting Bureau on the substitution procedure. That might be a good example to follow.