While most things can be left to the regular Council of Minister’s Press Briefing, and as much as I will stick to the rules of the confidentiality of what is handled in the Council of Ministers meetings, I believe that these are extra-ordinary times and the people deserve to hear from me as Prime Minister, especially when we have seen what we have seen during the last couple of days with the Prime Minister of this Country being attacked as not upholding the Constitution of St. Maarten.
As I have mentioned in several occasions, meetings of the Council of Ministers are confidential in accordance with the Rules of Order unless dispensation is given or if the execution of decisions or circumstances of these decisions warrants such. Then you can issue a dispensation of the confidentiality rule that governs decisions of the Council of Ministers.
Before I go in to actually what I want to, which is to give an elucidation regarding the political developments I wanted to react, also taking into consideration the confidentiality rule, to what I refer to as Minister Duncan’s last and desperate salvo with reference taken by the Council of Ministers with respect to the Justice Park. The Minister is quoted as stating that this particular project was approved twice by the Council of Ministers and, not wanting to overshadow the next point I want to come to, I would like to be brief, and also indicate that the records will show, that finally after discussions back and forth in the Council of Ministers the lease or the acquisition for this particular project it is a recorded fact that the letter of the Minister of April the 6th for the Council’s Approval for the letter of intent of the Justice Park, was sent back by the Prime Minister of St. Maarten for Judicial and Financial Advice. That advice came in on the 18th and was sent to the Minister of Justice and has to this day not come back to the Council of Ministers.
Another desperate salvo of Minister Duncan was pertaining to a letter sent by the Prime Minister to amongst others himself and several other Ministers regarding the Controls that are taken place on St. Maarten at different businesses. Sometimes you could tell a lie by not telling the whole truth and by making this particular Remark the Minister suggested that the Prime Minister Issued a directive or more regarding the controls that have been taken place on St. Maarten. In fact, the email, not the letter which was erroneously reported, that the Prime Minister sent to several Ministers following a discussion by several Ministers in the Council of Ministers on the topic is there for anyone who wishes to read it.
Speaking of the matter at hand; the resignation of Minister Roland Duncan has become public and the point that I would like to make with respect to his resignation is that, at the basis for the Minister’s resignation as he put it in his letter, is the same contested letter of the Eight Majority Members of Parliament pulling their support and I would like to emphasize that; in Minister Duncan’s Letter for his resignation he outlined that the reason why he resigned is the pulling of support from the Parliamentary majority.
Going forward I would like to go over to the occurrences since May 6th , the date the two letters by firstly the three and then eight members of Parliament were received. These letters were received on May 6th and, like I did before in receiving official letters and this is the way I am required to handle, I presented an Advice to the Council of Minister on the seventh of May. According to the Rules of Order of the Council of Ministers, advices submitted to the Council of Ministers need to be done via a certain format. This advice which I presented to the Council of Ministers was that we have these two letters dated May 6th by a Majority of Parliament and the conclusion for me to those two letters would be to tender the resignation of the Cabinet of Ministers.
I submitted that Advice on the 7th of May during the meeting of the Council of Ministers. The response by five of the Ministers was that they do not agree with submitting their resignation on the basis of these letters. It is for this reason that I signaled out Minister Duncan’s Resignation because eventually it was on the basis of that same letter that he resigned.
Nevertheless, rather than give their support or agree to us tending our resignation, the five members of the Council of Ministers came with a proposal which reads that the Ministers bring forth a proposal for the decision of the Council of Ministers. The proposal continues to ask that this decision be taken up in that decision list in the meeting of May 7th and charged the Prime Minister with the execution of this particular proposal. According to the Rules of Order proposals or advises coming to the Council of Ministers must be in accordance with a particular format.
The Rules of Order is a Public Document and one would understand what the procedures are for handling something by the Council of Ministers. On the Basis of this Document I indicated that this is not a reaction to my proposal, this is a proposal that is not ready to be handled by the Council of Ministers and I, in my capacity like I did with amongst other things the Justice Park, will send that proposal for legal advice. This was the recorded discussion on May 7th . The decision of the Council on May 7th reads as follows; the decision of the Council of Ministers reads that one; on the advice of the Prime Minister to have the Cabinet submit its resignation, five Ministers are not in agreement with submitting their resignation. It also reads that with respect to a proposal that was not ready for handling in the meeting yet to dissolve Parliament the Prime Minister indicated that she would be seeking legal advice and would be indicating when it would be ready to be placed on the agenda of the Council of Ministers. This was on the Tuesday before Ascension Day. So on the same Tuesday I received a request for a meeting of the Council of Ministers to deal with that matter. I now therefore ask that if the decision was taken to dissolve Parliament on May 7th , why would I have received a request for a meeting to handle the proposal to dissolve Parliament? I understand that for the public of St. Maarten these are a lot of procedures and rules and regulations but the fact remains that I did not receive the legal advice regarding that proposal that was put to the meeting until the twelfth of May, which was a Sunday.
Looking at the entire affaire the legal advice that I received read that I should await the outcome of the meeting of Parliament on May 13th . On Monday we all know what transpired as far as the meeting of Parliament was concerned.
Now low and behold: on Tuesday I am made aware of a letter sent to the Governor by the Deputy Prime Minister, who is only supposed to act as Prime Minister in my absence as there is no function of Deputy Prime Minister, on a letterhead of the Deputy Prime Minister of St. Maarten if you please, which function does not even exist if I am on-island, submits to his Excellency the Governor a resolution to dissolve Parliament. And stating in the meeting of May 7th a decision was taken to dissolve Parliament, and then says that as proof of that decision attached is a copy of the Decision taken and recorded on May the 7th . Along with that letter, the Deputy Prime Minister sends in a National Decree to the Governor.
The one responsible according to the Rules of Order to Submit a Letter or a Decree to the Governor would be the Prime Minister of St. Maarten. Not only that, but the draft of this National Decree to the Governor was sent in along with the letter of the Deputy Prime Minister and mentions amongst other things the dissolution of Parliament is to go into effect on the 15th of August, that the new Parliament will first convene on the 15th of August, that the date for elections will be established on the 26th of July and that the postulation for elections would be on the 14th of June. This is the resolution which was sent by the Deputy Prime Minister to the Governor of St. Maarten under the mum of a decision taken on May 7th . That decision clearly states what the state of that proposal was, namely that legal advice would be had on it and I have indicated what that legal advice entailed.
Subsequently, now that the meeting of the 13th of May by Parliament went the way it went, legal advice was again sought as to what now, and the legal advice clearly indicates that the responsibilities of the Prime Minister are clearly outlined in the Rules of Order.
Furthermore, the electoral law of this country establishes who decides on the date for election and more importantly on what needs to happen before this country can be thrown into elections. So to hear how both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chairperson of Parliament now take this whole thing and turn the focus on the decision of the Prime Minister I will indicate what I indicated in the Council of Ministers; if there is any indication that this Prime Minister acted against any law, or is misusing her power then the place to take that is to the Parliament of St. Maarten and I would be expected to be called by Parliament to give account for what I have done. Many persons have asked me what the sanction is against the deliberate attempt by the Deputy Prime Minister to circumvent the laws of this Land and using the position of Deputy Prime Minister to usurp the responsibilities as the law puts down for the Prime Minister, and then have the heart to go out and tell the Public of St. Maarten that the Prime Minister is thwarting the process of the Council of Ministers. Although I listened to many statements being made, when it came down to this fact I had to hold this Press briefing today to explain that.
There are some stipulations in our Constitution and there are no two ways about it. There are articles in our Constitution that say that Parliament can be dissolved by National Decree. A National Decree is a decision by the Government of St. Maarten. That is not in dispute here, the dispute comes in the regards that what needs to be done in order to have that decision taken. In my letter to the Governor I have indicated to him that it is my firm belief that when you have a situation like that it is the Parliament of the Country where we need to seek redress and where we go with this matter. So to take and cover up the actions of this letter by the Deputy Prime Minister to the Governor of St. Maarten by falsely stating that it is the Prime Minister that is holding back the process of dissolving the Parliament I would like to say a couple of things to the people of St. Maarten: I often look back at my political career since 101010 and often ask myself how could it be that given the outcome of the elections in 2010 I was appointed Prime Minister. When in 2012 the Government changed and again I was in the position of Prime Minister I again asked myself the same question. And recently the answer to that question is becoming very very clear; I was put here for a reason. I was put here because at some point in time the people of St. Maarten would have been facing what we are facing today and I would be called in the position of Prime Minister to give a judgment. I want you and the people of St. Maarten to know: yes I have a responsibility to the people of St. Maarten as Prime Minister clearly outlined in the Rules of Order, where the emphasis was put on the Prime Minister in making sure that the rules and regulations are carried out accordingly. That has become very clear.
After having made that point extremely clear, persons have asked me the sanctions which exist for an action whereby the Deputy Prime Minister without consulting the Prime Minister and putting himself in the position of Prime Minister could indicate to the Governor that a decision was taken to dissolve Parliament. And then when I react then of course I am thwarting the process. Well you know what? This Prime Minister, and because there are penal sanctions that can be issued against any Minister putting his or her signature to a decision that is not in keeping with the rules and regulations, is going to be even more keen on deciding what, how and if decisions are taken in the Council of Ministers in St. Maarten. And for that I will carry full responsibility.
Rather however than telling the people of St. Maarten that this is a Mexican standoff, rather than informing persons outside of St. Maarten that basically the situation is explosive, it is explosive because politicians are instigating our people to make calls for things for which the ultimate end is not yet known and not yet understood. In fact the dates mentioned in the draft resolution which was sent to the Governor are in conflict with the electoral law of St. Maarten. I repeat that the dates are in conflict with the electoral law of the Country of St. Maarten and I challenge to be challenged on that point. My call to the People of St. Maarten is the following; I will not entertain even the semblance of a Mexican Standoff because my political and moral responsibility to the People of St. Maarten is to make sure that this issue which is hot, and which is intense, is brought to the solution in the benefit of only the people of St. Maarten. I am not entertaining the notion of Mexican standoff, I will not instigate the people and I will not send a message outside of St. Maarten reflecting a message that does not exist on St. Maarten and if it does exist it is instigated by politicians and I will not be a part of that. What I will do is take my political and moral responsibility and the extra responsibility given by the Constitution of St. Maarten and by the Rules of Order of St. Maarten and seek to solve this matter in the Interest of the people of St. Maarten. Everything that I have stated and read is on the record. I wish our Country well and give the people of St. Maarten my assurance that while some would seek a Mexican Standoff and hoping to see this situation grow into something none of us want, I am going to do the opposite and give whatever it takes to ensure that St. Maarten comes out of this wiser, better and more prepared to move forward. Thank you.