Non-attendance raises questions

Non-attendance raises questions

There was no quorum for a plenary session on Thursday (see related story) to examine credentials and admit incoming Members of Parliament (MPs) Richinel Brug of United Resilient St. Maarten Movement (URSM) and Viren Vinod Kotai of the Democratic Party (DP). They are to replace respectively proposed Prime Minister Luc Mercelina and Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Grisha Heyliger-Marten.

The latter two have already resigned from the legislature, so this latest development shouldn’t affect the Mercelina I Cabinet from taking office today, at least the five – instead of all seven – proposed members who came through a screening process, plus the plenipotentiary and acting plenipotentiary ministers. Only 13 of the 15 Parliament seats are occupied at the moment, but that can be rectified later and a meeting to do so is planned next Monday.

Having both Nation Opportunity Wealth (NOW) faction members as well as one of the two Party for Progress (PFP) representatives absent on Thursday, although in two of these three cases with notice, could place in some doubt how solid the current URSM/DP/PFP/NOW coalition is. NOW leader Christophe Emmanuel and former PFP MP Raeyhon Peterson are reportedly the two candidates who – so far – were not approved as respectively Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) and Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI.

That could still change, of course. Outgoing Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley last week recounted being kept from becoming a minister for 14 months until he challenged the outcome and was vindicated.

What seems clear is that St. Maarten can use a proper screening law like those in the two other Dutch Caribbean countries. However, that had already become obvious more than once since 10-10-10, yet little was done in practice to address the problem.

It’s no guarantee either that issues won’t surface. For example, when Curaçao politician Eduard Braam could not become minister because of a prior conviction as doctor, he went to court successfully because there had been no penalty in the form of a prison sentence, community service or even fine.

However, the High Court in The Hague has opted to review that verdict and indications are it may be reversed. Whether all this played a role in recent occurrences in Philipsburg remains unclear at this point.

As for Parliament, after the then PAR/MAN coalition in Curaçao lost its minimal majority because President William Millerson (PAR) died while in function and the opposition would not cooperate with approving credentials of his successor, faction member Shaheen Elhage, the dispute ended up before a judge. The court did not consider itself competent to rule in such a political matter, but during the proceedings “Movementu Progresivo” leader Marilyn Moses promised to assist if clarity was provided on a legal query and the judge ultimately held her to this.


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