Wescot-Williams: 2017 – a year of challenges and opportunities

Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams

Video Press Conference: Chairperson of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams

PHILIPSBURG – During her first press conference for 2017, on Thursday, January 5, Chairperson of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams wished all a prosperous, Happy New Year.

She deemed 2017, “a year that’s really facing challenges, but also a year of opportunities and it behooves all of us to look for and seize those opportunities.”

She reflected on the elections of September 26, 2016. “The result of that election are for the historic annals,” she stated.

She mentioned that before the Democratic Party (DP) affixed its signature to a coalition agreement, the three parties signed an agreement to work together, to support the government and develop a Red, White and Blue governing program.

Other issues she said the coalition is addressing are: financial feasibility of certain projects; promoting transparency, integrity, openness; suggesting that Parliament approve an Integrity Committee, which will draft a code of conduct for Parliament.

She also said that they were looking at the possibility of Parliament instituting “citizen’s initiatives,” which can be difficult to implement. However, with certain guidelines and according to certain standards, groups in the community can submit initiatives to Parliament. This would raise the level of confidence that the participation of the populace can affect decisions or propose ideas.

Other committees of Parliament can be put in place, which would be advised by a chairperson or the vice chair, which oversees the functioning of Parliament. However, to work those committees must function effectively.

“The Democratic Party will continue to stress the social development of this country. We believe it’s an important component that needs to go hand in hand with economic development,” she continued. Other issues that will be focused on are: the economy, job creation, labour reform, and reforming the tax system.

She talked about finalizing the National Development Plan for St. Maarten because “I think that’s what the people of St. Maarten need at this moment.”

“We are all co-legislators along with the government. The government has had its challenges with rolling out draft legislation to Parliament, and I believe that in addition to that, parliament has to be very well synchronized with government. Controlling the government and government actions by Parliament,” she stated.

She mentioned that she had requested the legislative agenda of the different ministries, but had not received all the agendas from all the ministries yet. This would give “us a better overview as to what we can expect and also again when things are not forthcoming.”

She also stated that the urgent public meeting was called to approve the credentials of the 4 new incoming members of Parliament scheduled for 2:00pm that same day. And a committee will analyze their credentials as presented by the members.

Next week is the IPKO in Curaçao, and there was some uncertainty as to whether it would actually be held there due to political issues on that island as well. After some debate it was decided to be held. Four faction leaders from St. Maarten will attend, however, there will be no formal resolution coming out of the meetings.

Parliament will then pick up its meeting week again and put on the agenda the appointment of chairperson of the committees of Parliament. Ministers will also be given an opportunity to see the coalition’s political governing program. Tax reform will be found in the program, and the Rules of Order. She noted that the Chairperson appoints members to the committees of Parliament. “However, this appointment takes place on the basis of members wishing to be a member of the committee,” she explained.

“We really need to establish a procedure for the reporting by the committees because the committees are supposed to report to the Central Committee and to Parliament,” she continued.

She stressed that electoral reform is critical, and “this has been a learning process. We cannot put St. Maarten through another period like this.” She also said that incoming Members of Parliament are supposed to indicate if they hold a public function. “The only reason for that is so that it can be established that if the person holds a public function, and has not relieved him or herself from the public functions, they can’t be a Member of Parliament and have an active public position,” she said. She has drafted an initiative on this.

After elaborating some more on the key issues, the session was closed.