PHILIPSBURG--A complete disregard for the St. Maarten Constitution is being displayed by the Chairpersons of Parliament, said Party for Progress (PFP) Member of Parliament (MP) Raeyhon Peterson on Tuesday.
Peterson’s comments referred to the petition backed by 12 MPs to the United Nations (UN) to investigate “systematic discrimination and racism perpetrated against the people of St. Maarten” by the Dutch state. Peterson, his fellow PFP MP Melissa Gumbs, and MP Sarah Wescot-Williams of United Democrats (UD) have opposed the petition.
“It is very alarming to see that the chairpersons are using the usual spin tactic and fear-mongering to deliberately give the public false information, just to defend the illegality of their actions,” Peterson said. “I find it hard to believe that the same persons who have been chosen to lead and guide this parliament do not understand the basics of our authority as members of parliament according to the constitution.”
Peterson fired back at MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten’s comments on Sunday that the MPs opposed to the petition are “victims of abuse.”
“This has nothing to do with being victims of abuse, as was suggested by one of our colleagues in her press release to justify this fiasco,” Peterson said. “This has to do with simply understanding the very constitution that we have been chosen by the people of St. Maarten to uphold.”
Heyliger-Marten on Sunday referred to Article 44 of the St. Maarten Constitution to remind the opposing MPs that their duty is to represent the general interest of the population.
Peterson on Tuesday pointed to the Constitution’s explanatory memorandum, which, he added, clarifies the intention of the legislator and helps judges to interpret and apply the law.
“The explanatory note on Article 44 of the Constitution states specifically: ‘Naturally, the provision that Parliament represents the entire populace of St. Maarten should not be interpreted in a private law sense. Parliament does not act on behalf of the people of St. Maarten in the way that a representative acts on behalf of the party that it represents. …
“The sole purpose of Article 44 is to make it clear that every MP represents the entire population, and not their respective political parties or their personal agendas.
“This, however, does not mean that we, as MPs, are allowed to take actions, such as petitions, in representation of the people of St. Maarten. This is strictly not the intention of the law,” said Peterson.
Contravention of the law is exactly what is happening right now, Peterson said. “This is not a matter of opinion, but a legal fact. The law speaks for itself, but the majority are attempting to fool the population into thinking otherwise.”
Peterson characterised the current situation as “emotional hijacking” and encouraged residents to read the country’s laws for themselves, including the explanatory notes.
“When a population is strategically being kept in the dark to keep personal agendas afloat, you get the regrettable situation we have now.
“Every time the majority is contradicted or questioned over their actions, they run to the same argument over and over again: ‘The Dutch are bullying us, the Dutch government fell too, this Dutch MP did or said this, and this Dutch Minister did or said that.’ Blame-shifting has become the order of the day.
“Yet we forget how we got here in the first place. Who has been in power for the last few decades? When will we have our moment of clarity and self-reflection? I personally am not interested in the Dutch local politics; I am too focused on my own island,” said Peterson.
Parliament should ask the people of St. Maarten what they want for the future, said Peterson, referring to the possibility of a referendum.
“However, under no circumstances should you go internationally and under false pretences ‘represent’ the people of St. Maarten, without even having the full mandate to do so. Representing the people in this manner is part of the executive role of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, not of the legislative role of Parliament.
“It’s funny that [Heyliger-Marten’s] press release [says] that the agreements that our Prime Minister is negotiating with Holland must not be in violation of any laws, be they local, kingdom or international laws.
“But the irony is that this same petition tramples on our most important local law, our Constitution, and, in doing so, on the rights of the people of St. Maarten,” concluded Peterson.