Lieutenant Governor Franklyn Richards address for the Island Council Meeting August 13th 2009

(AUDIO AVAILABLE)I.C. meeting August 13, 2009

General Remarks by chairman EXCO/ I.C., F.E. Richards – public debates on floor of council

Members of the island council; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen…


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Allow me, today, to say a few words with regards to the applicable rules of conduct on the floor of this council.

For clarity sake, I do so, addressing all factions represented in the island council – thus each individual member of the council, duly elected by the people of this island to represent the general interest.

I feel called upon to do so, in view of what may have been construed as improper behavior at the last held island council meeting.

As chairman of the island council, it is my duty, occasionally, to share with you, some of my concerns, with an eye on contributing to the best possible functioning of the highest body of the island territory of St. Maarten.

It is my belief that as we continue en route to country status, we must, indeed, begin to act and behave in a manner reflecting our having matured to a higher level.

It cannot be so that intolerance of opposing views is condoned and that images of lack of political maturity is left behind in the minds of the public, whenever they choose to listen to their elected officials during public meetings.

Aspects of etiquette, adherence to the island regulation Netherlands Antilles, ERNA, respectability etc. should never be too far from our minds, whenever we choose to enter into public debate of topics at hand.

No one faction, no one group of individuals is above suspicion in this regard and we must, collectively, seek to address the shortcomings which this council is too often accused of.

We ought to lead by example, thereby inspiring younger generations of people’s representatives to want to become legislators in a new St. Maarten.

We have no choice but to strive to attain that level of understanding of political maturity – a level of understanding embodied in our strict application of rules of order, in even the most trying moments.

I, with all good intentions, submit to you the argument that the kind of posturing to which we are too often subjected to in this council, can also be construed as a blatant disregard for proper governance or even worse, an apparent rejection of good governance.

As such, that it is in the best interest of the people of this island, that we take some time and reflect on how we want to proceed, by the time you are ready to become senators and ministers of the country St. Maarten. I sincerely believe that it would benefit good governance, transparency in government and an organized continuation of the daily running of government affairs, if we – again, collectively, decide on how we are to conduct ourselves.

Well construed debate is something to be encouraged, not ridiculed; a healthy debate is nowadays a common practice within the framework of good governance.

In order to understand "Good Governance" one has to know the meaning of Governance.

Governance means: the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented).

I have, on at least one occasion noted that good governance has 8 major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.

Participation by all concerned is a key cornerstone of good governance. Participation could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives such as yourselves.

And here I wish to point out that participation needs to be informed and organized. This means freedom of expression on the one hand and an organized debate on the other hand.

With so much that has come our way in past years, transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available within the limits of the law.

Comprising this island council are 11 representatives of the people; so, in theory there could be as many as 11 view points which can be shared, debated and questioned during public gatherings of this dignified body. I say ‘dignified’ – since I am of the opinion that ever since the establishment of the ‘statuut’, it is the island council which has served as that place where local government on all island territories could play a decisive role in the development of these islands, in a manner which required that respect be shown for its decisions.

The island council remains accountable to the public and to our community stakeholders.

Ladies and gentlemen, ‘Good governance’ entails that the government of St. Maarten carries out policies in a democratic, just and systematic manner, delivering results which are in the general interest.

We can speak of a just policy and just governance when government takes into consideration legally prescribed regulations and guidelines pertaining to good governance, such as the principles of good governance, principles of equality and principles of integrity.

The citizen has a right to hear all sides of a debate in a manner becoming elected representatives of the people, even if he or she is in disagreement with government.

My appeal to you, all of you, members of the island council, is that we take responsibilities seriously; let us think before we speak; let us contemplate before acting.

Opposing views ought not to be a reason for deficiencies in ‘politesse’, no matter what the circumstance.

We are, after all, that island council which history will judge on the merits of how well we prepared for country status.

Let us rise to the occasion; make the people of St. Maarten proud.

Last but not least, I trust that you would have received the correspondence, signed by the chairman of the island council, and dated August 12, 2009, archive no. 4561, with regards to adherence to the rules of order.

I trust that the chair can therefore count on your complete and unequivocal support and understanding, as of the present island council meeting.

I thank you.