~ No vision in just-ended parliamentary year ~
PHILIPSBURG--No vision and little collaboration and respect for the needs of the people was how National Alliance (NA) faction leader Member of Parliament (MP) Silveria Jacobs summed up the just-ended 2018-2019 parliamentary year.
Jacobs said in a presentation on behalf of her faction that it is clear that government does not speak for itself, but merely “parrots what is allowed from the new leader of St. Maarten, [Dutch – Ed.] State Secretary [Raymond] Knops.” She said also that the NA faction is “seriously disappointed” in the manner in which Parliament is forced to function.
“It can no longer be hidden who is in control. Demands by the Dutch Kingdom Council of Ministers represented by the State Secretary are clear in the way the financial assistance promised to St. Maarten is being bartered with – pass this law as is stated or else; remove pre-clearance from the airport development plan or no financing; then weeks/months later, another demand is made – or else, and the pattern continues – until what?
“How much of our autonomy must we continue to sacrifice in the name of accepting aid from our so-called Kingdom partners? Where does the buck stop? How much further back are we expected to bend?”
She said Parliament is supposed to hold government accountable as well as approve and propose laws. She asked whether Parliament can honestly say that it is collectively and efficiently doing so. She questioned whether Parliament is functioning as intended, or whether it acts as a rubber stamp for government.
“How much longer will meetings be convened at the convenience of the government/coalition/Chair of Parliament and not according to the rules of order? How much longer will meetings of Parliament when called as requested in a timely manner, be postponed until further notice and not be reconvened for weeks and months, or promised to be reconvened within a week and we are still waiting.
“I am referring to urgent meetings – urgent meetings on topics whereby Parliament … is thwarted in any attempt to hold government accountable, meetings of direct interest to the people of St. Maarten: the lagging economy, the apparent non-movement of rebuilding projects, the horrible condition regarding the lack of repair of basic needs in public schools and the discontinuation of needed programmes, the meetings on the dump, hospital/Inso saga, the Shipyard NV fiasco and state of the prison, ‘rechtspositie’ [function book] of law enforcement employees, the FATF [Financial Action Task Force] laws, Civil and Penal Code changes for which answers remain outstanding, and the list goes on,” she said.
Jacobs said the NA faction is “seriously disappointed” in the manner in which Parliament is forced to function “without the due respect as elected representatives of the people, when we are constantly expected to provide the necessary quorum so that government can actually get meetings they request to handle legislation and other topics of interest to them, while we wait weeks for a response to requests for meetings, scheduling of field visits, and actual meetings.”
She said St. Maarten is challenged in many areas, including the fact that it has given up financial control, border control, control of its ports of entry, control of its judicial system and even control of Parliament.
“Can we even call ourselves a ‘country’ anymore? Were we ever? We are challenged by initiative legislation approved by Parliament being stagnated by government. We are challenged by the lack of commitment by coalition members to hold the government accountable.
“We are challenged by a coalition that scrambled to fill up and control committees and their apparent lack of interest to call committee meetings which are needed for investigation purposes, relegating all meetings to the Central Committee or public meetings firmly under the control of the chairlady.
“We are challenged by the manner in which the chair chooses to manipulate the affairs of Parliament to suit a coalition that can hardly field its majority on any given day to ensure support for government initiatives, as it’s obvious that there is no consensus, no collective political vision, no leadership in that area as well.
“And so, sadly, to the dismay of the people, government and its majority in Parliament continue to go along to get along, not for the people or stability, but for power and control, which they don’t actually hold,” Jacobs said.