PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The roles and responsibilities of Members of Parliament are very much in the news lately. This is understandable with the recent election behind us and a displayed lack of interest for parliamentary meetings by some of the current members of Parliament.
And while it is true that not everything is or even can be regulated and there are no set rules as to members’ obligations to the institution of Parliament and their behavior as such, the fact remains that even in politics there are some basic courtesies that should be observed, such as giving timely notice of absence or delay.
In our system, the “freedom” of individual MPs and how they execute their job, is taken very far. Much to the chagrin of some, I have in the past published that at the salary an MP enjoys, an idle half hour costs the taxpayers appr. f. 900, per MP!
Truth be told, several members of Parliament were indeed abroad attending Parlatino meetings last week. But to portray this as members representing THE Parliament at these meetings is stretching it, given the manner the entire Parlatino participation is set up. We must continue to question the added value of Parlatino meetings for St. Maarten MPs, given that:
These meetings are conducted in Spanish.
There is no local structure to further Parlatino matters effectively. So it is pretty much up to the individual MP how he/she handles his/her membership in a particular Parlatino committee.
This is a claim I have been making since my entrance into Parliament in 2014.
The lack of seriousness by some members of Parliament also has to do with the feeling that being an MP is some kind of a side job. Again, in my opinion, this is a wrong assertion. Not at the salaries MPs enjoy. This unfortunately also sets a bad example for new parliamentarians.
As we continue to discuss a code of conduct for MPs in the Integrity Committee of Parliament and (financial) disclosure by members of Parliament, it is a good start for MPs to disclose all other (side) jobs and or business interests.
I have prepared a draft initiative law to require that members file all functions or jobs they hold, not only public ones, as currently required by our election ordinance. Several public functions are incompatible with the position of Member of Parliament according to our constitution.
However, if the premise (salary) is a full time position for MPs, the question must be asked: what are we, the Members of Parliament allowed as side jobs?