PHILIPSBURG--Party for Progress (PFP) Members of Parliament (MPs) Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson on Sunday criticised Pro Soualiga Foundation’s recent letter to Governor Eugene Holiday for being “disrespectful”, adding that the foundation cannot speak on behalf of the St. Maarten people.
Pro Soualiga sent the letter on Wednesday, December 8, and called on Holiday and his staff to stop using the “unlawful” application of the title of Governor.
“The confusion starts in Article 4 of the LMA [National Ordinance substantive civil servants’ law – Ed.], where the governor is mentioned as ‘het bevoeg’ gezag [the competent authority]. What is meant actually is ‘governor’ in the constitutional sense, or government. This nomenclature is a holdover from Antillean law, and it is evident your legal staff is not familiar with this,” the foundation wrote.
After citing two court cases, the foundation called on Holiday to “refrain from becoming involved in matters that lie outside your function as ‘governor’.”
“As a courtesy, may we suggest you offer a public apology to all those civil servants you have erroneously submitted to bogus procedures,” concluded the letter, which was signed by the foundation’s president, Denicio Brison.
The letter’s content and tone were concerning to the MPs, they said in a joint statement on Sunday. “We found the letter incredibly disrespectful towards Governor Holiday. … Such an attitude and tone towards a son of the soil, whose academic and professional record should not be called into question, is a perfect example of the ‘crabs in the bucket’ mentality that continues to plague us.”
They said the letter also shows a “lack of basic comprehension of our legal system.”
“The role of the Governor is simple. For Country St. Maarten you can find it in Articles 32 and 40 of our Constitution. … The Government is formed by the King, with the Ministers standing alongside him. In that regard, the Governor represents the King on a national level, and ratifies all National Decrees and National Ordinances. Without his signature, no official decree can be established.
“That’s why the Governor is the one who signs all national decrees to hire civil servants to work for Government. Aside from that, the Governor also has a role to play in the kingdom, as the official representative of the King, according to Article 2 of the [Kingdom] Charter. …
“The fact that a foundation is accusing His Excellency of overstepping his authority when it is clearly laid out in the law makes us wonder what their ulterior motive may be,” said the MPs.
Gumbs and Peterson also said they were concerned that Pro Soualiga claimed in the letter to have a “broad task of defending the political and constitutional rights of St. Maarten.”
“This external, allegedly non-profit organisation claims to own the task of defending the political and constitutional rights of St. Maarten. Who has given Foundation Pro Soualiga this ‘broad task?’ Where is their democratic mandate for this task? This mandate can only be given by the people of St. Maarten.
“Further to that, what are their credentials for issuing legal advice and opinions of a constitutional nature? Are they specialised in kingdom and/or constitutional law? We wouldn’t let a house doctor perform heart surgery, so why should the Governor, Parliament or any legitimate body of elected or appointed representatives take kingdom and constitutional law advice from someone not specialised in that field?” asked the MPs.
Gumbs and Peterson both voted against the Parliamentary motion of November 5 because its third point endorsed the “legal actions” of Pro Soualiga Foundation related to the “decolonisation of the former Netherlands Antilles”. The MPs believe this may have validated the foundation’s “ill-mannered communication to the Governor.”
“Whatever way it is twisted, endorsing someone’s message means to carry their words and reputation on your back. There is a reason athletes, actors, and others are dropped by big companies when they suffer from ‘foot-in-mouth syndrome’; the company can no longer endorse someone who acts in direct contradiction to their values.
“This is why, as a faction, we could never have agreed to that motion. We value clear, transparent and respectful dialogue and communication with whomever we are engaging, and it is clear that this alleged non-profit foundation does not remotely match those values,” said the MPs.
Gumbs and Peterson said Pro Soualiga should not “behave as though they speak for the entire Parliament of St. Maarten.”
“Only the people of St. Maarten can grant that mandate to a legitimately elected and/or appointed body or agency,” they concluded.