TUESDAY, 14 MAY 2013
~ Legality of meeting called into question ~
PHILIPSBURG–The “new coalition” pushed forward with a meeting of parliament on Monday morning and passed a motion of no confidence against four ministers of the current National Alliance (NA)-led coalition with independent Member of Parliament (MP) Romain Laville chairing the meeting. This meeting took place after President of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel postponed the meeting until Friday due to some Members of Parliament heading to Curaçao for the funeral of Curaçao MP Helmin Wiels.
The continuation of the meeting was not without hiccups as there were several issues with the broadcast of the meeting and the availability of a general secretary of parliament to record the minutes.
The country is now in a state of further limbo as the public waits to see whether Ministers William Marlin, Roland Tuitt, Silveria Jacobs and Romeo Pantophlet have to immediately vacate their office based on the motion or if the meeting can be considered null and void by Governor Eugene Holiday.
The new coalition, comprising the eight MPs of United People’s (UP) party, Democratic Party (DP) and Laville, consider the motion as duly passed and that all procedures were followed when they opted to continue with the meeting after the postponement notice was sent out.
Laville said after declaring the motion passed that he “would have loved” to have the matter dealt with “in a professional and democratic manner” and that the country did not find itself in a similar position as happened in Curaçao the latter part of last year. However, a similar situation has occurred here.
However, Samuel (NA), who followed the proceedings from the public area, considers the meeting “a gathering” and not in accordance with the procedures of the Rules of Order. He plans to seek an audience with the governor on the way forward (see related story).
The no confidence motion was presented by MP Roy Marlin (DP) and accepted “unanimously” by Parliament as no individual voting took place. Marlin said it was the constitutional right of the MPs to pass no confidence motions. The call for early elections is not justified, because the Constitution states that Parliament represents the people and there is no crisis as a majority has already decided to form a new government, he said.
MP Sylvia Meyers (UP) also echoed Marlin’s sentiments as did MP Jules James (UP) before the motion was passed.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, James added that the NA and independent MP Frans Richardson want “to circumvent democracy” by their move to have the meeting postponed until Friday.
With the motion passed, the governor has to follow the instruction from Parliament, James said, pointing out that if the governor has challenges he doesn’t have to look far for examples of similar occurrences and there are examples from Curaçao and The Netherlands.
NA is “playing for time” and “acting like crabs,” James said. They should “be men and face” the loss of the majority like UP did in May 2012.
Upon learning that the meeting was postponed until Friday, the new coalition MPs gathered in the General Assembly Hall of Parliament House to work out a strategy to move forward. Laville assumed his role as deputy president of Parliament and attempted to get one of the general secretaries to come to the hall to record the meeting. His request was met with refusal, Laville stated when the meeting got underway.
Laville proposed the appointment of Edwin Gumbs, a former member of a provincial council in The Netherlands, to act as a recorder for the meeting in the absence of a general secretary of Parliament. That proposal was approved by the MPs.
The next hurdle to the meeting was getting the audio recorded and for it to be broadcast live on St. Maarten Cable TV.
Sound technician Alvin Prescod was told by several MPs from the new coalition to broadcast the meeting, while he was instructed by Samuel not to continue broadcasting, because the meeting was postponed. Prescod continued the recording for some time before he left the sound booth. This resulted in the television broadcast only showing Laville in the seat of the president of Parliament and the voices of the various MPs being heard as they took turns to speak. The meeting was also carried live on Pearl Radio 98.1FM.
Explaining why the new coalition was pushing forward with the meeting, Laville said there was no reason for the second agenda point of the motions not to go ahead because the MPs who requested the meeting and the first agenda point wanted a postponement until Friday. He said when the meeting was postponed the second agenda point was not taken into consideration. A discussion to this effect was held with Samuel in a “presidium meeting.” However, Samuel says no such meeting took place.
“I am saddened that we have come to a situation on St. Maarten where democracy doesn’t have a day in its own court,” Laville said, adding that the majority of Parliament was being hampered in their attempts to get this meeting. It is “extremely unfortunate” that the meeting was plagued by “sabotage,” he said referring to the broadcast and recording.
At the end of the meeting, he said, “We live in a democracy” and based on that the meeting took place “whether or not there is more sabotage.”
A sizable gathering of people gathered in the public seats to follow the proceedings, including UP leader Theo Heyliger who has not been to the Parliament Building for a meeting since May 2012, when his then governing coalition lost its majority in Parliament.
Source: The Daily Herald
Controversial parliament meeting sends five ministers home
St. Maarten – In a controversial parliament meeting the new majority of UP, DP and Independent MP Romain Laville passed a motion of no confidence against Ministers William Marlin, Roland Tuitt, Roland Duncan, Silveria Jacobs and Romeo Pantophlet. Parliament President Drs. Rodolphe Samuel considers the meeting invalid and said he will take his concerns to Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday.
The controversy began already last week when the new majority requested a meeting to be held on Friday. Samuel asked for a clarification, and as a result no convocation for the Friday-meeting went out. Then, the new majority sent another letter on Friday, asking Samuel to add their agenda-point to a meeting requested to be held yesterday by National Alliance members Frans Richardson, George Pantophlet and Louie Laveist. While Samuel honored that request, the three NA-MPs sent another letter on Sunday, asking to postpone yesterday’s meeting because they were traveling to Curacao to attend the funeral of Helmin Wiels.
However, yesterday morning Frans Richardson and NA-MPs Hyacinth Richardson and Dr. Lloyd Richardson were all spotted in the parliament building, while Richardson announced a press conference for later in the afternoon.
Samuel was present in the parliament building, as was second general secretary Vandijk Bell. Samuel refused to preside over the meeting the new majority wanted to convene, and he ordered Bell not to cooperate. The parliament then met under the presidency of Romain Laville and appointed Ed Gumbs as its secretary.
Samuel attempted to prevent a broadcast of the meeting, but MP Leroy de Weever apparently convinced the operators of the equipment to do otherwise.
In the audience attending the meeting were DP-President Michael Ferrier, UP-leader Theo Heyliger, Prime Minister Wescot-Williams’ son Andy, environmentalist Rueben Thompson (holding up a sign that read “New elections”) and MP Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce’s husband Toochie.
The motion tabled in the meeting refers to the governing declaration UP, DP and Laville signed on May 6 and sent to Prime Minister Wescot-Williams and Governor Holiday. “The signatories to this declaration have declared that the Council of Ministers no longer enjoys the majority support of parliament,” the motion states, adding that this situation requires of ministers to immediately surrender their offices.
Laville, in his role of acting president of parliament, overruled Samuel’s decision not to hold the meeting.”The majority of parliament decides,” he said. “In the absence of the secretary who refused to be in the meeting we have put in place Ed Gumbs. Any objections?”
When no objections were put forth, Gumbs was accepted as the parliament’s secretary.
Laville said that he was ‘saddened” about the situation.
DP faction leader Roy Marlin said that elections are only called for if Members of Parliament are unable to form a majority.”If the majority decides that a government is formed and it falls again tomorrow- that is within our constitutional rights,” he said.
Before giving the floor to UP-interim faction leader Sylvia Meyers, Laville remarked that it is “extremely unfortunate that sabotage takes place to prevent us from having this meeting. We live in a democracy. Whether or not there is sabotage, democracy must rule.”
MP Meyers-Olivacce referred briefly to articles in the constitution to underline that the course of action taken by the majority is the correct one. UP-MP Jules James spoke of experiencing growing pains.”
Parliament passed the motion unanimously.
Afterwards, MP Jules James came to the press room to make a statement in which he labeled the ritual dance with the parliament meetings as a political move. “Appointed ministers sending home elected representatives, this cannot happen,” he said. “The governor must honor this motion. There is no need for elections. Don’t think that the UP did not have the same sentiments last year. But there is a time and place for elections. The system should not be circumvented. The National Alliance is only playing for time. William Marlin and the others know very well how it works. Now they are hiding and acting like crabs.”
Parliament President Samuel said later yesterday morning that he had handled all correspondence about the meetings last week by the book. “I deal with all correspondence the same way. It is extremely unfortunate to read somewhere that I handled some letters more swiftly than others.”
Samuel has strong doubts about the validity of yesterday’s parliament meeting. “It is unusual that this meeting took place,” he said. “There was no convocation and the president and the secretary were in the building. This does not have my blessing. It was wrong. If you are responsible you do not do this. The reason why this took place? I don’t know.”
Samuel said that he was going to call the governor to inform him about the situation. “I do not believe we can do this,” he said, referring to the meeting the eight MPs held. “This was not a meeting of parliament. There are rules and they have to be respected.”
Source: Today Newspaper St. Maarten
TUESDAY, 14 MAY 2013
PHILIPSBURG–“Something unusual” is how President of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel described the “new coalition” moving ahead with a meeting and sacking four ministers on Monday after he had postponed it until Friday. He intends to seek an audience with Governor Eugene Holiday about the procedure followed as he considers Monday’s proceedings “a gathering” and “not a valid” meeting of Parliament.
The session “does not have my blessings” and was “terribly wrong” in the way the matter played out, he told the press after the session concluded. “This is not what you do with a parliament. If you are responsible as a parliament, you don’t do this.”
Speaking to the press after the session concluded, Samuel pointed out that he and Deputy General Secretary of Parliament Van Dyke Bell had been present all day in Parliament House, yet the new coalition of parliamentarians from United People’s (UP) party, Democratic Party (DP) and independent Member of Parliament (MP) Romain Laville had opted to go ahead with a meeting with Laville chairing in the capacity of Deputy President of Parliament.
Samuel challenged the legality of Laville chairing the meeting while he was present in Parliament House.
He further pointed out that the session had no general secretary to record the meeting. However, before proceeding with the agenda points, the new coalition appointed Edwin Gumbs, a former provincial legislator in The Netherlands, as recorder for the meeting.
The meeting was carried out without a convocation being sent to MPs, Samuel said.
He also does not recognise Gumbs as a recorder for the meeting as he is not a staff member of Parliament.
Samuel also said because the “gathering” was not a meeting of Parliament it should not have been broadcast live. He considered the new coalition’s instruction to Parliament’s sound technician Alvin Prescod, to record and broadcast the meeting, bullying.
The new coalition conducted the meeting not as a new session, but as the convening of the meeting Samuel had postponed until Friday, stating that a majority of the MPs were present thus the meeting could continue.
Samuel said he had “no idea” how the new coalition had decided on the process in the way they had, especially after he had postponed the meeting on the request of National Alliance (NA) MPs. “Whatever took place in the hall is to the responsibility of those who did it.”
Samuel said he had answered every letter submitted by the new coalition as well as from the National Alliance (NA) and independent MP Frans Richardson on time and according to the Rules of Order. He took offence to an article in this newspaper that stated he had not set a date for the meeting requested by the new coalition.
While Samuel was referring to answering letters, the article specifically started that no convocation for the meeting requested by the new coalition on May 7 was sent out, unlike his immediate setting of the meeting on the political developments as requested by NA and Richardson. This fact that the request for an urgent meeting of Parliament to deal with the no confidence motion was not honoured was pointed out in a letter from the coalition to Samuel dated May 9.
That letter referred to “… the fact that the undersigned parties requested that the meeting be kept on Friday, May 10, 2013, and that no convocation for the meeting was received up to Thursday, May 9, 2013, in the evening. We hereby request you to have our request dated May 7, 2013, added as an agenda point to the meeting convened for Monday, May 13, 2013.” That letter was signed by DP MPs Leroy de Weever and Roy Marlin and UP MPs Gracita Arrindell and Johan Leonard.
Samuel added the point from the new coalition as the second agenda point for Monday’s meeting and informed MPs of Friday afternoon.
In his press conference, Samuel referred to the new coalition’s first letter of May 6 as one that just pointed out the five ministers who no longer had majority support in Parliament, thus it was not a basis for calling a meeting. He communicated this to the new coalition and asked for clarification.
That clarification from the new coalition came in the letter of May 9 that explained that the first letter of May 6 (booked in on May 7) only establishes that five ministers no longer enjoy majority support from Parliament. The second letter dated May 7 was the request for the urgent meeting.
Source: The Daily Herald
TUESDAY, 14 MAY 2013
~ Calls on people to voice opinion ‘loud and clear’ ~
PHILIPSBURG–”This is no time for playing musical chairs with politicians who do not know how to put you first in their government’s programme,” independent Member of Parliament (MP) Frans Richardson told the press on Monday, May 13, as he called for the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of an early general election “to restore confidence in government.”
“If we are to remain true to our constitution, the will of the people must never be taken for granted and it is the people who should have the final word. As such, a fresh election is the answer to resolving the present impasse and returning government to normalcy,” Richardson said.
He called on the people of the country to voice their opinion “loud and clear” regarding the situation facing government. He also supports a petition circulating in the community calling for new elections. “We must call for new elections.”
He said there were no indications that functions had not been going right in the coalition prior to last week’s political shakeup that saw fellow coalition members Democratic Party (DP) and independent Member of Parliament Romain Laville pull their support from the current government led by National Alliance (NA). DP and Laville have formed a new coalition with the United People’s (UP) party.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams (DP) never said there was a lack of cohesion within the Council of Ministers or a lack of professionalism as claimed by DP parliamentarians as their reason for breaking from the coalition, Richardson said. Issues over the planned Justice Park were not enough to break the coalition. “Those are flimsy excuses [from DP – Ed.],” he said.
Richardson said Laville never had indicated that he had any problem with the Council of Ministers or any particular minister. In fact, Laville’s many requests for bus and taxi licences for “his people” were honoured by Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Romeo Pantophlet, as was his push for the Tempo Turns Seven event, he added. Laville “got more” than any other member of the coalition.
MP Roy Marlin (DP) also was able to have his requests honoured by the NA-led coalition, in particular the issuance of a letter of intent for the establishing of a stock exchange in the country by “his people,” Richardson said.
“By disrupting government with a very narrow majority of one member in Parliament, the UP/DP coalition is gambling with your trust by once again going down a path of uncertainty and political instability.”
The DP parliamentarians “lied” when they stated that they had not been consulted on motions tabled during the budget debate in April, he said. Richardson said he had shared his motions with the DP members, but they merely had read them and had no additions.
He pointed out that he “wholeheartedly” had supported the formation of the NA-led coalition in May 2012 because he had been convinced that the previous UP/DP government had “continuously failed” to address the many serious issues plaguing the community.
“Much to the dismay of many, after governing the country with the NA-led coalition, we are now being asked by members of the same UP/DP coalition to refrain from maintaining the support of the NA-led coalition,” he said.
Richardson is “strongly of the opinion” that the UP/DP coalition “was never interested in serving the needs of our people.” Just when the NA-led coalition was “beginning to put meaningful policies in place” to restore confidence in the economy, moves were made to break the coalition.
“They are doing so under their false pretence that the NA-led coalition lacked cohesion and professionalism. This is, of course, another one of their unsubstantiated excuses to justify their personal motives and lawless agendas. … I cannot, under any circumstance, support such excuses or condone such irresponsible and reckless action.
“Our young democracy can no longer support or maintain politicians who are hell-bent to continue ignoring our people’s needs for the narrow self-interests of their favoured few. If members of the UP/DP coalition want to be honest with you, the electorate, they should come clean and tell you why they want to be in control of the remaining months of this government’s term,” Richardson said.
He said he was “committed to doing everything possible to enable you to live a better life in St. Maarten, while ensuring that St. Maarten remains an ideal place to invest in. Working for you, the people, is my only priority.”
Richardson chided DP parliamentarians for not suggesting solutions, as he had done, for the still-to-be-completed “new” government administration building on Pond Island, a project that falls in the portfolio of Wescot-Williams. They also did not look into the issue at the Post Office, another responsibility of Wescot-Williams.
The people have been waiting for electoral reform for three years, but all that is happening is “lip talk … and if it is not lip talk, it is zumba,” he said, referring to the Prime Minister’s weekly zumba sessions at the Government Building.
Commenting on the new coalition holding a Parliament meeting on Monday despite its being postponed by Chairman of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel, Richardson said they were creating new procedures and if they wanted their agenda point to be dealt with, the new coalition should have requested their own meeting and avoided requesting that their agenda point be added to one called by MPs of the incumbent NA-led coalition. “It was very disgraceful to see what transpired.”
Source: The Daily Herald