Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs in Parliament on Tuesday.
PHILIPSBURG--If a draft law proposed by Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs is passed by Parliament, high councils of state in St. Maarten will be able to recruit members who are up to age 75.
The current maximum age for members of high council of state is 70. The objective of the draft law is to raise the age limit for members of the General Audit Chamber, Constitutional Court, Ombudsman, and the Advisory Council.
Jacobs presented the draft law in a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament on Friday last, and returned to Parliament on Tuesday to answer questions posed by Members of Parliament (MPs).
In presenting the draft, Jacobs had said as a result of the consultation with representatives of the Advisory Council, it appeared as though it had been difficult to find experienced citizens to fill appointments as members while the ones who are already appointed must vacate at their posts at the age of 70.
“Considering the advancement in the medical world and the fact that we are living longer and staying active and productive longer, it is a logical step to raise this maximum age as well,” Jacobs said. “Since this is a maximum age, it does not mean that members have to stay until that age of course. In the national ordinance regulating the functioning of the mentioned high councils of state, it is also regulated when a member can resign or be dismissed other than for disciplinary reasons, for example at their own request or if they become permanently unable to perform official duties due to illness or any type of disorder.”
One of the criticisms against raising the age is that the adjustment can potentially be taking away opportunities for young professionals. Jacobs said, however, that members of the high councils of state should be experienced in their field. “So, it would be that a build-up of years of experience is part of the job description in the first place as described in the respective national ordinances, so that takes away that discussion. Some even after they retire from their daily job, take up this responsibility and that is not just in St. Maarten, but throughout the Kingdom and the world.”
The prime minister said persons are being sought with “tons of experience and knowledge,” which they can still put to use in the development, support and service to the country. Over the past year, difficulties had been encountered in being able to find persons. She said several “younger persons,” were approached, but their schedules and family and career obligations, did not permit them to take on the additional responsibility, not even for an interim period. “So, I must reiterate that we have attempted throughout the year, especially where the Raad van Advies [Advisory Council – Ed.] is concerned to find members, and have found it quite difficult to do so.”
The high councils of state are institutions that maintain checks and balances in a democratic state and are responsible for advising government and Parliament. Jacobs said as the high councils play an important role where checks and balances are concerned, it is therefore important to ensure that they are equipped with members.
On Tuesday, Jacobs responded to many of the questions that MPs had posed on Friday, as well as Tuesday’s requests for clarification.