Council of State did not get involved in integrity-dispute

POSTED: 01/9/14 2:03 AM

St. Maarten – The Dutch Council of State declined last year to get involved in the dispute between the Government of St. Maarten and the Kingdom Council of Ministers in the row over the procedure that led to an instruction to Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday to commission an integrity investigation. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams made a copy of the council’s reply available to the media at yesterday’s press briefing.

“Considering the fact that the Kingdom Council of Ministers has established the instruction to St. Maarten on September 27, 2013, the request from the Minister Plenipotentiary touches on the unity of the Kingdom Council of Ministers and the legal basis of the actions it undertakes,” the Council of State writes in the document dated November 21, 2013. “By providing information the department would venture into a possible dispute between the Kingdom Council of Ministers and one of the countries in the Kingdom.”

When it became clear in late September that the Kingdom Council of Ministers intended to issue the instruction to the governor to order an integrity investigation, Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges – after consultation with Prime Minister Wescot-Williams and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson – to ask the Council of State for “advice” about the procedure the Kingdom Council of Minister followed. The government was particularly piqued about the fact that the Kingdom Council of Ministers invoked article 43 of the Kingdom Charter; this article deals with the kingdom’s guarantee function for good governance.

The reply to Voges – signed by the Vice-President of the Council of State Piet Hein Donner – contains a reference to the law on the Council of State. That law stipulates that the department of advice provides information about matters pertaining to legislation and governance “at the request of Our Ministers or one of the Chambers of the States-General.”

The Council of State leaves the question aside whether a Minister Plenipotentiary is on equal footing with “Our Ministers” but it touches upon a more important aspect: “The principle of unity of the (Kingdom) Council of Ministers sets limits to the use of the instrument of information by individual ministers, especially when the requested information concerns a matter for which the Kingdom Council of Ministers or the government is competent on principle.”

The request for information by Voges obviously concerned the intention to give an instruction to the governor to commission an integrity-investigation.

Interestingly, the department of advice notes that the Kingdom Charter contains an article that orders the kingdom legislator “to make provisions for dealing with by kingdom law identified disputes between the Kingdom and the countries.” The Kingdom Charter dates back to 1954 – 60 years on December 15 of this year.

“The department of advice understands that in the meantime agreements have been reached in the consultation between the countries about the preparation of the execution of the assignment contained in this article. At this moment the intended provisions are not in place yet.”

It is obvious that the provisions the council refers to here are sixty years in the making – and counting. “The single reason that these provisions are not in place yet cannot be reason to use the possibility of asking for advice as an alternative for the solution of such a dispute,” the Council of State document concludes.

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