A political billboard in a roundabout.
PHILIPSBURG--The Party for Progress (PFP) on Thursday raised serious concerns about the continued disregard for the election and campaign guidelines issued by the minister of justice on St. Maarten.
PFP said in a press statement that this issue not only questions the integrity of the electoral process but also poses safety risks.
“People have reached out to us, including candidates on other parties, regarding the placement of billboards and flags too close to or even in the roundabouts,” PFP Deputy Leader Marvio Cooks said in a press statement.
“The guidelines were verbally communicated to party representatives on November 13, and published a couple days before postulation day [Nomination Day – Ed.]. However, we see that legacy and even new parties have chosen to disregard the rule of not placing campaign material in the immediate area of the roundabouts.”
The published ministerial regulation specifies that materials can only be placed 10 metres before any entry point into a roundabout. This is done for safety reasons, as especially larger posters or moving items such as flags can cause a distraction for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
"If you cannot follow simple election guidelines, which is a small thing, how can people trust you to do the big things, right?" PFP Leader Melissa Gumbs asked. "The #2 candidate on the DP [Democratic Party] slate, the #1 and 2 candidates on the UP [United People’s party] slate and the #9 candidate on the URSM [Unified Resilience St Maarten Movement] slate should all know better. All candidates have political history and knowledge, and even after warnings were given in the specially created [St. Maarten Police Force] KPSM/party representatives election chat, we still saw even more posters being added inside roundabouts."
Gumbs and Cooks call on candidates to rectify their illegally placed billboards with haste. “It would not surprise me if party board representatives had communicated the order from KPSM to remove the billboards, but, of course, you’d have to be operating as an actual team to do things that are, in essence, teamwork,” Gumbs concluded.
David Salomon, PFP's #10 candidate, was quoted saying, "We cannot allow the desire to win at any cost to overshadow the need for safety and fairness in our elections. The people of St. Maarten deserve leaders who demonstrate respect for the law and the well-being of the community."
This is not the first time PFP has raised questions about this issue. In fact, prior to Nomination Day, they had already sounded the alarm that billboards were being placed in the dead of night, providing an unfair advantage to those parties while the ones observing the rules were left to wonder what was going on.
“This win-at-any-cost mentality is not something that we condone. Such tactics are not only unfair competition but also jeopardise the safety and integrity of our democratic processes. We urge KPSM, the Ministry of Justice and the public to be aware of and take a stand against such manipulative practices.”