It is important to evaluate our representatives in parliament on an annual basis and not wait until election time. Therefore, SMCP is developing a parliamentary report card that will indicate how well or how poorly our MPs are doing in the following six areas: attendance, participation, representation, supervision, legislation and interaction. In the first letter to the editor on this topic, we covered the reason for and the nature of the report card and presented an extensive description of the first benchmark attendance. In part two, we dealt with the following benchmarks: participation, representation and supervision. And in this letter, part 3, we will describe the last two benchmarks of the report card i.e. legislation and interaction.
The legislative function of parliament is anchored in article 82 of the constitution, which states, “National ordinances shall be enacted jointly by the government and Parliament”. In other words, parliament is co-legislator together with government. Parliament as well as government may initiate or draft laws, which must follow the legally proscribed route and procedures in order to reach their final destination, which is approval by parliament.
During the first six years of parliament, approximately 40 laws were presented by the government and passed by parliament. With the exception of the budget laws, all the other laws were adoptions or amendments to laws that were already in force in the Netherlands Antilles. Sadly, in the nearly seven years of the existence of our parliament, not one law, initiated or drafted by parliament itself, reached its final destination. The very first draft initiative ordinance, namely the law to eliminate the abuse of the temporary labor contract, was submitted on June 6, 2012 by the NA faction. That was more than five years ago. To date this law has not been approved but is still in the pipeline. When we look at individual parliamentarians initiating laws, the annual reports of parliament only make mention of Petrus de Weever who submitted a motion in June 2011 to amend the timeshare laws in Sint Maarten. However, according to the Daily Herald of April 12, 2013 MPs Frans Richardson and Johan Leonard also submitted a draft initiative law to ban the import, distribution and sale of plastic bags. In conclusion, the legislative functioning of parliament and of parliamentarians, as far as initiating laws is concerned, is seriously lacking and would certainly receive a failing grade.
Interaction refers to parliamentarians interfacing and communicating with the voters and the public. During the campaign period, prospective parliamentarians were daily in the face of the people. They interacted on a one-on-one basis or with groups via social media, radio and television talk shows, home contact meetings, town hall and public meetings. However, after the election all contact with the people was severed. In fact, it seems as if parliamentarians now try to avoid the public. The interaction benchmark will evaluate how parliamentarians stay in touch with the public. They will be evaluated on how frequently they interact via their websites and other social media. We will look at how often a parliamentarian goes on radio and television talk shows to inform or enlighten the public about issues relevant to them and their community. Does he/she keep in touch with the people via the print media or via town hall meetings? Does the parliamentarian visit companies, organizations or business to get a firsthand feel of what is going on? The interaction benchmark will give the people an idea of how well or how poorly a parliamentarian is keeping in touch with the public.
In SMCP’s Manifesto, a chapter was included entitled “Post-Election Agenda”. The purpose of this activity is to keep in touch with the people. Most political parties and their candidates only reach out to the public prior to the elections to get your vote. But SMCP believes that the people are always important and therefore wants to also reach out to the people after the election. The party planned to do so via general membership meetings, media and social media, lectures and town hall meetings. I have not seen this kind of commitment to the voters and the public in any other Manifesto.
Rather than wait until campaign time to talk about what a parliamentarian did or did not do and how well or how poorly he/she executed their parliamentary functions, the SMCP intends to evaluate members of parliament at the end of each parliamentary year and present their scorecard to the general public. Consequently, at the end of their term of office, the public can judge for itself as to which parliamentarians were functioning and which ones were not. The parliamentarian who attended meetings, represented and interacted with the people, carried out his/her supervisory task etc. deserves another chance. But the parliamentarian who said nothing of substance in parliament, who did not read the documentation, who did not attend meetings and who did not interact with the public should definitely not be rewarded with another four years in parliament. The report card is simply a tool to help the people make the right choice.
Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party