USP calls Emergancy meeting as the Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson days as Justice Minister are numbered

Minister of Justice Hon. Dennis Richardson

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten –The days seem to be numbered for Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson after making an agreement with the Dutch Government for an independent Integrity Chamber for St. Maarten and the Strengthening of the island’s law enforcement sector, the governing coalition plans to request the Minister to resign or face a motion of no confidence. The United St. Maarten Party USP is calling its board members and advisors to an urgent meeting in the Parliament building faction office in Philipsburg today 6:30 pm.

Leader of the USP Member of Parliament Frans Richardson told 721 news that on the agenda points are, the way forward for the Justice Ministry and the finances of the party. The USP party was the last party to sign on to the United Peoples Party UP, Marlin Romeo, de Weever coalition. In exchange for its support, UP Leader Theo Heyliger negotiated the Justice Ministry to the USP.

Back in April this year, Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson and Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs presented the draft ordinance for the establishment of St. Maarten’s Integrity Chamber, the law proposal was met with unexpected opposition from within the governing coalition. Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs said at the beginning of the Central Committee meeting that the draft-law is not what the Dutch want. “We have set out to present a law in the interest of the people in St. Maarten.” He said that the Dutch government is being unfair with its attempt to issue a general measure of kingdom governance (AMvRB) on St. Maarten, based on article 51 of the Kingdom Charter. “They will have to go through the Council of State for advice and the Council of State will have to consult with St. Maarten. I am confident, once we proceed, that the Council of State will tell the Dutch government that they are wrong.”  At the end of the meeting it was clear that the coalition would meet behind closed doors and iron out the law, this will allow all Members who support government to show one voice by giving its approval.

The meeting took place behind closed doors and that ended up not as expected as several members walked out of the meeting not wanting to comply with certain stipulations in the law. The matter got ice cold and the ministers shelved the proposal until Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson went to Holland last month and met with Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations in the Netherlands Ronald Plasterk and signed a protocol forcing St. Maarten to approve the National Integrity Chamber Ordinance before July 31 this year.

The protocol on the establishing, format, functioning and cost of the Integrity Chamber is based on a mutual regulation and cooperation defined in article 38 of the Kingdom Charter. As a result, the imposing of a General Measure of the Kingdom Government (Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur AMvRB) to establish the Integrity Chamber, currently at the Council of State for advice, is off the books for now.

The protocol not only restricts the authority of the St. Maarten Parliament but also that of the St. Maarten Council of Ministers. The latter may not cooperate with any changes to the National Integrity Chamber Ordinance without first consulting the Dutch Government. The establishing of the Integrity Chamber is in line with the recommendations of the integrity audits that were completed last year.

The Integrity Chamber will have the independent authority to investigate possible integrity violations and to report its findings to the Prosecutor’s Office. The Chamber also may give advice and recommendations to the governments on integrity issues.

The protocol states that the Netherlands will appoint a quartermaster before July 1. The Dutch quartermaster will work together with the already-appointed St. Maarten quartermaster.

By Andrew Dick/ SXM News Room