Congratulations to His Excellency drs. Eugene Holiday for hosting a timely, well organized, informative symposium entitled “ICT Governance: Shaping our Future”. The world of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is ever expanding and Sint Maarten needs to get on board before we are left behind. ICT is not only about having faster internet and more computers and smartphones in our society. Rather, it is more about planning, implementing and managing technology in order to promote and enhance the flow of information to and from citizens and to provide efficient service to citizens and to businesses.
Where does Parliament stand in terms of ICT? Very poorly! A few months ago, when reviewing Parliament’s website in terms of the information it provides and how it interacts with the people, it was obvious that in both instances Parliament failed dismally. On March 27th of this year, a letter was delivered to the President of Parliament offering suggestions as to how to improve Parliament’s website so that the people could be better informed and served. Having received no response or even a confirmation from Parliament, this letter was resubmitted on June 13th 2017.
To the Honorable Member & President of Parliament. As a concerned citizen, profoundly interested in the role and functioning of the Parliament of Sint Maarten, it is my belief that Parliament, as the direct representative body of the people of Sint Maarten, should be more transparent, accountable and communicative towards the people of this country. It behooves Parliament to disseminate as much information as possible in order to raise the level of awareness of the people concerning this new and august co-legislative and supervisory body in Sint Maarten. Consequently, I would like, via this letter, to draw your attention to the following concerns and suggestions that would serve to raise the transparency level between parliament and the people of Sint Maarten. The following suggestions also address the question raised by the St Maarten 2015 National Integrity System Assessment on page 32 and issued by Transparency International namely: to what extent can the public obtain relevant and timely information on the activities and decision-making processes of the legislature in practice?
As Parliament’s website is the main source of information at this time, it should be relevant, user friendly and easily accessible to the people. Please note that the current website is in urgent need of a general overhaul. The audio archives need some serious updating. The last audio recording dated back to January 26th 2016. Note also that not all of the parliamentary meetings are available in the audio archives. Furthermore, the audio files need to be labeled better so that one can easily find the meeting one is looking for.
The video archives are in need of some serious updating and overhauling as well. These need to be complete because several video recordings of parliamentary meetings have not been taken up in the archives and consequently, people who go to the archives are unable to find what they are looking for. For example, the first meeting of the NA/UP Government held on October 31st is missing; also, the budget meetings held in December 2016 are incomplete. In addition, the meeting concerning the establishment of parliamentary committees is also missing. These are but a few examples of missing videos on the website. Furthermore, the videos also need to be clearly labeled and identified so that one can find a particular meeting with much greater ease than now is the case.
The telephone numbers, email addresses and office hours of the MPs should be listed. I hereby also suggest that a brief Bio of each MP be given as well as the various committees that an MP is a member of.
I tested parliament’s email address that is listed on the website (firstname.lastname@example.org) by submitting a question to parliament. To my surprise and joy I received an immediate reply stating that I would receive an answer within one business day. Three months have since passed and I am still awaiting the promised reply from Parliament. I suggest that someone of the administration be assigned to check Parliament’s emails and to ensure that the necessary follow up is carried out expeditiously.
I have noticed that the Parliament of Curaçao posts all the documents related to the agenda points of a meeting on their website. Is it possible for the Parliament of Sint Maarten to also post the same on its website?
Minutes of public and committee meetings are not available on the website. Will these be posted soon on the website?
These are just a few of the observations and suggestions that I submitted in writing to the President of Parliament. I ended my letter by stating that in the interest of ensuring that the people of Sint Maarten receive accurate, relevant and timely information, “I kindly request that you look into the above-mentioned issues and problems so that the people will be kept abreast of what is taking place in Parliament with their elected representatives.
Trusting that you will be able to improve the communication and information flow between parliament and the people in the near future, I remain”,
Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party