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MP Meyers: “We run the risk of becoming targets”

St.maarten – What should have been a solemn closure of the 2015-2016 parliamentary year became another confrontation between the chairlady of parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams and independent MP Cornelius de Weever, while UP faction leader Franklin Meyers warned that politicians threaten to become targets instead of leaders.

When Wescot-Williams was the last one to take the floor during the meeting, De Weever interrupted her with a point of order, suggesting that MP George Pantophlet chair the meeting while Wescot-Williams spoke.

“MP de Weever, you should not interrupt a discourse such as this with a point of order. Since this is not our customary meeting I am addressing the floor of parliament from this seat,” Wescot-Williams said. After that, De Weever remained quiet, but Wescot-Williams later sent out a statement to the media calling the interruption “disrespectful and rude.”

In her address, Wescot-Williams addressed the fragmented makeup of the parliament. “Currently there are eight factions because the rules allow members who declare themselves independent to become a faction.”

Wescot-Williams spoke of “a tumultuous parliamentary year” and reflected on the 10-10-10 intention to have a separation of the executive and the legislative branch. “We have seen quite some changes of coalitions,” she said. “If we look back over the years, shifts in parliament have always led to a change in government itself.”

The chairlady, political leader of the Democratic Party, said that in the absence of legislation for electoral reform, she has put a proposal for a code of conduct for political parties on the table. The objective is “for political parties to commit themselves and give a commitment to the people of St. Maarten that they will not support or accommodate persons who leave their party in the formation of a new government. History shows that this has always been the reason for defection.”

Wescot-Williams acknowledged that her code of conduct is not foolproof. “However, where there is a will to act differently, such an opportunity will be found by those who want to act differently.”

The value of the code, she added, “Is the word of the men and the women who will, or will not, sign such a code of conduct.”

When Wescot-Williams wanted to highlight an important piece of initiative-legislation, MP de Weever, who jumped ship from the Democratic Party after the 2014 elections, interrupted her.

When Wescot-Williams continued her discourse, she referred to the proposal to expand the scope of the Constitutional Court by including conflicts between parliament and government, between ministers and between ministers and the governor. The proposal is to float this idea and ask for an advisory ruling from the Constitutional Court.

“I believe this is extremely important,” she said. “Much of our constitution – in political debate – has been left open to the opinion and discretion of those who were part of the conflict.”

MP de Weever was the first to take the floor in this meeting, saying that during the last change of government “our constitution was trampled by those who took the oath to uphold it and our rules of order were tramples on by this coalition.”

De Weever went on saying that “those who were stakeholders in this” cannot expect people to respect them.” He also attacked the government on its promise of transparency, saying that it had come with a hidden agenda and no governing program. Only if they had come with a clear program could they talk about accomplishing,” De Weever said. “Up to now they have only been doing what the last coalition was forced to leave behind.”

UP faction leader MP Franklin Meyers noted that the country has gone through tumultuous times since 10-10-10. “We have seen that if you do not govern with a responsible attitude your actions can affect the masses. We are feeling the effect of five governments in six years and things that were held against the UP have not been resolved.”

In this respect, Meyers referred to the situation at the prison and the police force, health insurance and the dump fires. He also noted that the balanced 2016 budget has run into a deficit of “29 million guilders after the second quarter” and that the minister of finance is now presenting the 2017 budget while the issues with the current budget have not been resolved.

Meyers also said that the garbage collection situation “is the worst it has ever been; this is ridiculous.”

Then the UP faction leader ventured onto more ominous grounds: “When we go into the community, the people cannot see that 10-10-10 has benefited them. They feel that the only folks that generally benefitted are the politicians. We run the risk of becoming targets instead of leaders. If we do not become serious about what we want to do for this country we are going down in history as the fifteen members who steered this ship into the abyss of destruction. And that is something I would not want to be remembered for.”

“We are at a time where St. Maarten needs to have hope,” National Alliance faction leader George Pantophlet said. “You can live thirty days without food and seven days without water, but not one day without hope. People need to hear from us leaders that there is hope. The world is full of complicated issues and the only way to solve them is by working together.”

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