Curacao change of Government in Retrospect to Sint Maarten’s Three-week Political Impasse

There are many similarities with respect to what transpired in Curacao in the latter part of 2012 and what transpired here within the past three weeks with the National Alliance led Government seeing its parliamentary support withdrawn. Of particular importance is what transpired at the parliamentary level of Government.

Back in July 2012 the Schotte-led coalition government lost its parliamentary support. This prompted former Prime Minister Schotte to dissolve parliament and call for snap elections (October 19, 2012) and for a new parliament to be installed by November 2, 2012. Governor Frits Goedgedrag had no choice but to sign the decree to dissolve the legislature after the Schotte cabinet resigned.


The New Curacao Majority in the Parliament of Curacao had 12 seats of the 21-seat legislature. With respect to Curacao, the New Curacao 12-seat Majority was not able to pass a motion of no confidence prior to the Schotte Cabinet resigning, and hence why the process headed towards snap elections in October 2012.

Even though the Schotte led Government tendered its resignation, the 12-seat New Parliamentary Majority was able to pass its motions of no confidence and also appoint an interim Cabinet. It all started back in September 2012, where a meeting of the Central Committee of Curacao’s Parliament was cancelled because the opposition members did not show up. The 12-seat majority opposition members were of the opinion that the Chairman of Parliament of Curacao should convene a public meeting where they could adopt motions of no-confidence against the individual ministers of the Schotte Cabinet caretaker government. The President of Parliament refused to call any public meetings.

In the case of Sint Maarten, public meetings of Parliament were convened, but the Members of Parliament were not given the word and the President adjourned the meeting until another date.

One Curacao opposition Member of Parliament (MP) stated public meetings were requested on very important issues, but these were not convened, and that parliament is currently being held hostage. He added, we are being prevented from performing our duty to control government and making laws.

The MP further added, the President of the Curacao Parliament determined that the Parliament can only meet to discuss current matters and urgent issues, but he’s the only one who determines what is urgent or not, and it is obvious that the rules of the legislature are being contravened. "We aren’t even allowed to take the floor during meetings. The chairman determines when this is possible by sticking to his interpretation of the Rules of Order."

Curacao Governor Frits Goedgedrag asked advice from legal experts Carl Gruning and Roque Koeyers on the request by the majority of 12 of the 21 members of Parliament to install a "business cabinet" of professionals that will replace the already caretaker Schotte-led Government. The Governor received his legal advice, which concluded that it usually makes little sense to send home a government that already has caretaker status, it can be done in extraordinary cases if a majority sees the need.

The urgent need put forward by the 12-seat parliamentary majority for installing an interim cabinet is to prevent Higher Supervision by the Netherlands because it appears the Schotte-led caretaker Government has not complied with the budgetary instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers and that would be the next step.

On May 13, 2013, the eight seat majority of the Parliament of Sint Maarten met under the chairmanship of 1st Vice Chairman of Parliament Hon. MP Romain Laville, and a motion of no confidence was passed against five Ministers of the National Alliance-led Government Cabinet. There was some confusion as to whether the meeting was legal as well as the legitimacy of the motion. The Prime Minister Hon. Sarah Wescot Williams provided a legal advice document prepared by the Department of Legal Affairs to the President of Parliament Hon. Rodolphe Samuel at that time, stating that the May 13, 2013 meeting was legal.

We can recall that the President of Parliament Hon. Rodolphe Samuel at that time stated that the May 13 meeting was not an official meeting of parliament and was only a gathering.

In the case of Curacao, the parliamentary majority of 12 held a meeting of their own and replace the Curacao President of Parliament and Acting Chairman with representatives from among their own. The Secretariat of Parliament was not involved in this public meeting and it was held in the conference room of the Parliament faction offices at the former Central Bank Building in Punda, rather than the House of Parliament in the legislative hall.

During the meeting an attempt was made to get the General Secretary to attend, but he refused because he considered the situation unclear. Instead, the meeting was recorded by the Notary and an unidentified employee of the secretariat.

During the parliamentary meeting, the MPs pointed out to article 120 of the Rules of Order which states that in all cases where these rules or other lawful regulations don’t suffice, the majority decides.

Members of the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament in The Hague were pleased that a majority of the Parliament of Curacao took matters into its own hands and convened a meeting, because the President of Parliament was refusing to do so.

The Governor received 10 motions that were passed by the 12-seat parliamentary majority calling for the immediate dismissal of ministers of the Schotte caretaker Cabinet. One of those motions adopted by the new majority specifically asked Governor Frits Goedgedrag to appoint a person charged with forming an interim cabinet to stay on until a new government is installed after the elections.

In mid-September 2012, Curacao’s Governor Goedgedrag started a round of orientation talks on forming an interim cabinet to run the country until a new Parliament to be elected October 19 takes over, based on the aforementioned motion. The Governor asked Eduardo "Dito" Mendes de Gouveia to explore the short-term formation of an interim cabinet with a small team of ministers and supported by a majority of Parliament members.

Just before the end of September 2012, after the new 12-seat parliamentary majority confirm they supported an interim cabinet in conformity with the formation order from the Governor, the Governor ordered De Gouveia to form a cabinet who can count on the support of the majority.

Dutch caretaker Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Hon. Liesbeth Spies, stated that the Governor of Curacao acted within his authority as national representative when he appointed Eduardo Mendes de Gouveia to form an interim cabinet in Curacao.

On October 1, 2012, the embattled former Curacao Prime Minister G. Schotte occupied the Council of Ministers office in Fort Amsterdam refusing to relinquish power to the new interim cabinet. Schotte remained at the offices of the Council of Ministers for a 24-hour period before vacating the premises.

Dutch Minister of Kingdom Relations Spies at that time supported the appointment of an interim cabinet in Curacao, adding that the new temporary cabinet is in compliance with the country’s Constitution and the rules in a democratic state of law. Spies pointed out that the dismissal of the Schotte cabinet and the appointment of an interim cabinet was in accordance with the wish of the majority in Curacao’s Parliament.

Roddy Heyliger