Harbour View – In light of the current political environment and the ongoing debate His Excellency the Governor of Sint Maarten, drs. E.B. Holiday considers it important that the population take stock of the situation based on facts and free from the ongoing political maneuvering. In that regard the Governor wishes to reemphasize that political debate is a prerequisite for growth in any democracy. And the Governor stresses that it goes without saying that for growth such should take place based on facts, peacefully, with mutual respect for the opinions of all sides and with due consideration of the laws governing Sint Maarten.
Considering the political developments of September 30, 2015 involving:
- the current Council of Ministers losing its majority support in Parliament
- the passing of a vote of no-confidence in Parliament against the current Council of Ministers; and
- the subsequent decision of the Council of Ministers later the same day to call for new elections and dissolve Parliament,
The Governor has consulted with the parties involved to get clarity regarding the political situation. In doing so he has encouraged and warned parties, always emphasizing that it is imperative that parties adhere to the democratic principles as laid down in our laws, established in and derived from our constitution.
With regard to the discussions concerning the authorities of Parliament and of the Council of Ministers, it is essential to note that in our dualistic system of government the authorities of both bodies are separate and independent but limited by the rule of law. Our parliamentary democracy gives parties the freedom and right to a difference of opinions. This means, that within or between the two bodies differences of opinions can and will arise from time to time.
Since the start of this political situation the Governor has, to safeguard an orderly constitutional process, consulted with the Prime-Minister, the leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament, the independent members of Parliament, the Chairman of Parliament and the Vice Chairperson of the Council of Advice starting September 30. Based on the consultations and the information received on October 5, 2015 the Governor established that:
- the new majority in Parliament provides a basis to form a new government;
- that the (Council of) Minister(s) has not yet made their positions available based on article 33, paragraph 2, of the Constitution of Sint Maarten; and
- that the Council of ministers has put a draft national decree forward to dissolve Parliament and call for elections .
In doing so the Governor also returned the draft decree to dissolve Parliament and call for elections to the Council of Ministers without in anyway making suggestions regarding the content thereof and appealed to both parties to meet with each other and discuss the matter within the pertinent forum aimed at finding common ground for an orderly constitutional process to avoid having a governance vacuum.
The Governor, considering the developments and the importance of an orderly constitutional process and his obligation to uphold and to ensure that the constitution is upheld has and continues to encourage and appeal to all parties to act in keeping with the fundamental principles of our parliamentary democracy based on the rule of law.
The Council of Ministers requested various constitutional experts for advice regarding the ongoing political situation. There is however no consensus among the constitutional experts on the cardinal constitutional questions. Meanwhile both parties have maintained their respective positions:
- The majority in Parliament continues to call on the Council of Ministers to make their positions available; and
- On October 15, 2015, the Council of Ministers has resubmitted a revised draft national decree to dissolve Parliament and call for elections.
Our country is, as a result, faced with two opposing political positions. With the motion of Parliament stating that it no longer supports and has confidence in the current government and that it wishes to form a new government, a political position was taken to form a new government supported by a new majority in Parliament. On the other hand the Council of Ministers has decided not to make its positions available before a new Parliament is elected and a new government is formed based on a new majority in Parliament. In doing so a political position has also been taken.
It is evident that this political situation must in the interest of the country be resolved urgently. Although politics will always play a role in that process, it is imperative that all parties observe the rule of law as established in our Constitution. The current political situation has however given rise to concerns in that regard.
Where there are concerns in regard to political maneuvering, it is not the role of the Governor to dictate what should or what should not be done politically. The Governor is, based on the law and the oath he took to uphold and ensure that the Constitution is upheld, obligated to act in accordance with the law. To the extent that political actions result in constitutional concerns, the Governor must and has therefore warned against such, emphasizing that it is imperative to only execute decisions that are in keeping with the democratic principles as anchored in our Constitution.
To arrive at a balanced and sustainable resolution to the current differences of opinions, the Governor considers it vital to obtain clarity regarding the constitutional conformity of the political positions. Today, he therefore met with and informed parties that he deems it prudent to request a special panel of three judges consisting of judges from the Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba and the Constitutional Court of Sint Maarten, to evaluate the constitutionality of the implementation of the political positions and inform him about it. Based on the current situation the independent panel is requested to evaluate the Constitution of Sint Maarten in the context of Sint Maarten Constitutional Law and provide a clear legal position regarding articles 33 paragraph 2, article 40 paragraph 2 and article 59 of the Constitution of Sint Maarten. Based on the urgency the panel has been requested to provide an advice within 5 working days.
In conclusion, it is not the role of the Governor to dictate the results of differences of political opinions. When political actions result in concerns in regard to their constitutionality, the Governor’s role is to warn and emphasize that it is imperative to only execute decisions that are in keeping with the democratic principles as anchored in Sint Maarten’s Constitution. Where there is significant disagreement between the parties in regard to the constitutionality, the Governor deems it prudent to encourage parties to arrive at a constitutionally sustainable solution. Parties have been informed that the Governor will take further steps once he receives the judicial position.
The Governor, to encourage actions that will foster the resolution of the political differences within the limits of our Constitution, is requesting all parties to subject their positions to the common good for the people of Sint Maarten. The general interest should prevail in the interest of a stronger country. Governor Holiday is herewith appealing to all stakeholders to do all that is necessary to maintain and protect the integrity of our constitutional democracy and to foster actions in keeping with our constitution based on the rule of law.