Considering the current political environment and the ongoing debate His Excellency the Governor of Sint Maarten, drs. E.B. Holiday considers it important that the population take stock of the situation free from the ongoing political maneuvering. In that regard the Governor wishes to emphasize that political debate is a prerequisite for growth in any democracy. And the Governor stresses that it goes without saying that such should take place peacefully and with mutual respect for the opinions of all sides.
As a result of the political developments leading up to the resignation of the current government on May 22, 2013, the Governor has in keeping with his role as constitutional Governor consulted extensively with the players involved. Depending on the situation the Governor has encouraged and warn parties, always emphasizing that it is imperative that parties adhere to the democratic principles as laid down in the constitution of Sint Maarten.
With regard to the discussions about the authorities of Parliament and of the Council of Ministers, it is essential to note that in our dualistic system of government the authorities of both bodies are separate and independent. This does not mean, however, that within or between the two bodies differences of opinions will not arise from time to time. That is currently the case. In such situations various outcomes are possible: (a) a new government is formed based on early elections for a new parliament (article 59 of the Constitution) or (b) a new government is formed based on a new majority in the sitting Parliament (article 33 of the Constitution). Although politics will always play a role in that process, the actions of political maneuvering of various players on both sides of the debate that took place since May 6, 2013, have given rise to concerns.
Where there is political maneuvering, it is not the role of the Governor to dictate what should or what should not be done politically. As constitutional Governor when actions resulted in such concerns his role is to – and he has warned against such – emphasizing that he will only ratify decisions that are in keeping with the democratic principles as anchored in the rule of law through our constitution aimed at safeguarding good governance.
Part of the political maneuvering was the conflict between the majority in Parliament and the majority in the Council of Ministers. By Wednesday evening, May 22, 2013, all Ministers had made their positions available in view of the political developments. and indicated that they are willing to stay on as caretaker ministers until a new government has been appointed. To avoid a vacuum in government, the Governor requested that the ministers continue working until a new government is formed. The cabinet as of that moment, took on a caretaker status. At the same time, there was a conflict between the Chairman of Parliament and the new majority in Parliament. The chairman, in keeping with the democratic principles as laid down in the Constitution, eventually resigned making way for the new majority in Parliament.
Another part of the political maneuvering was the conflict within the Council of Ministers between the prime-minister and the majority of ministers regarding the handling of the majority’s May 7, 2013 proposal to dissolve parliament. Four of the six caretaker ministers, in keeping with the democratic principles as laid down in the Constitution, convened an extra-ordinary Council of Ministers’ meeting on June 4, 2013. In accordance with the Rules of Order of the Council of Ministers, the four ministers were justified to convene that meeting and to put the draft national decree to dissolve Parliament as discussion point on the agenda. In that extra-ordinary meeting they approved the draft national decree to dissolve Parliament and call new elections. As of that moment, that political conflict was resolved by the majority of the Council of Ministers in that, as outlined in the explanatory note to article 39 sub 4 to the Constitution, decisions of the Council of Ministers are taken by the Council of Ministers and not by the prime-minister or the individual ministers.
The draft national decree to dissolve parliament and call new elections, as was decided on in the extra-ordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers, was submitted to the Governor for ratification on June 5, 2013. Taking the caretaker status of the Council of Ministers and considering that the process of forming a new government supported by a majority in Parliament is taking place, the Governor informed the caretaker ministers that they are to send the draft national decree to Parliament for its consent, prior to his signing for ratification. This consent is deemed necessary because dissolving Parliament would mean that directly after an election, a caretaker government could also immediately dissolve the newly formed Parliament again and call new elections if they disagree with the outcome of the elections. And in doing so, the a caretaker government could continue to hold the democratic process hostage indefinitely. Moreover, article 33 of the Constitution, states that if Parliament no longer has confidence in ministers they are to make their position available. Noteworthy is that through its motion of May 24, 2013 the majority in Parliament has clearly stated that it no longer supports the caretaker government. In this situation, consent of Parliament to approve its dissolution could be considered part of the system of checks and balances. It should be noted however, that this check would not have been required if the Council of Ministers had not already tendered their resignation,
A final important aspect in the recent political developments, has been the petition by concerned citizens calling for new elections. This matter was brought to the Governor’s attention and in keeping with his Constitutional role , the Governor has forwarded the petition to the Council of Ministers for handling and decision making based on which the Governor could act.
In conclusion, it is not the role of the Governor to dictate the result of differences of political opinions. In his constitutional role of Governor, when actions result in concerns, the Governor’s role is to warn and emphasize that he will only ratify decisions that are in keeping with the democratic principles as anchored in the rule of law through Sint Maarten’s Constitution aimed at safeguarding good governance. With the tendering of the resignation of the entire Council of Ministers on Wednesday evening, May 22, 2013, and considering the motion of Parliament stating that it no longer supports the current government and that it wishes to form a new government, a political choice was made to form a new government supported by a new majority in Parliament.