What about all those motions in Parliament?

Wycliffe Smith Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party


One of the things we must give our Members of Parliament credit for is the large number of motions presented to and passed by Parliament.

Since 2010, seventy-five motions were submitted, 22 were rejected and 53 were passed, according to the 2015/2016 Annual Report of Parliament. All in all, not bad for a young legislative body! Does the activity of presenting, discussing, rejecting or passing motions tell us something about the work of parliament? Yes, it does. It tells us that a lot of energy is put into writing, discussing and passing motions in vain. In other words, if no action ensues from all this activity, then our parliamentarians are engaging in an exercise of futility and in the process, they are wasting precious tax-payers’ money.

What is a motion? It is merely a petition, asking government to take action on a matter of concern to the parliament. However, if that petition is not a matter of concern for government at that time, then the motion is shelved and never executed. It seems to me that motions, submitted and passed in our parliament, only give the impression that our parliamentarians are working. But, if we follow the motion-trail, we will see that the majority of those motions go no further than the hall of parliament.

Unfortunately, this has been the fate of most of the 53 motions that our parliament has passed. What happened to the motion that was passed, three years ago, (January 16, 2014) that requested government to explore the possibility of acquiring land in Middle Region, to build a Community Center? And what happened to the motion passed on December 3, 2013, requesting the Minister of Health Care, Social Development and Labor to carry out a survey to determine the level of a “living wage” for St. Maarten and to report back to Parliament within sixty days?

Unfortunately, sixty days have turned into more than 3 years and the living wage has not yet been determined. What happened to the motion, passed on March 17, 2016, requesting the Minister of General Affairs to prepare and submit a plan regarding mandatory services for youngster ages 18 through 25? This motioned was to go into effect as of January 2017. We are now in February 2017, and to this day no plan has been submitted to Parliament. What about the motion banning the use of plastic bags? What about the motions passed in 2013, concerning the protection and preservation of our national/cultural heritage such as Fort Amsterdam and Mullet Pond?

On October 22, 2014, parliament passed a motion, instructing government to set up a Committee to study, evaluate, and recommend an action plan, based on findings and recommendations of the various integrity reports. Unfortunately, no time frame was given. We are now almost 1,000 days further and Parliament has not yet received the Plan of Action.

Had Parliament followed-up on this motion, we would not have had the recent integrity chamber and quartermaster dispute between St. Maarten and the Dutch Minister of Home and Interior Affairs. The deadlines for action on all these motions have quietly passed and there has been no action by Government and no follow-up by parliament. These are just a few examples, of how parliament passes motions that yield no results whatsoever. Regrettably, members of parliament never follow up or call out a minister or the government, on their blatant refusal to execute parliament’s motions.

So far, the only motions that parliament follows up on, are motions of non-confidence. It is amazing how quickly parliament ensures that these motions are expedited yet takes on a nonchalant and laissez-faire approach towards all the other motions.

Our parliamentarians really need to reconsider the issue of passing motions. They should make sure that the motions that they pass yield results. They should ensure that each motion answers the basic questions of who, what, why, when, where and how? Most of the time the answer to one of these questions is missing, especially the answer to when.

Most motions do not have a time line or a target date, which is crucial, if parliamentarians intend to follow-up on their motions. If the date passes and a minister or government has not complied with the motion, then parliament should send reminders. If this does not work, then the minister or the government should be called to parliament to give an account. Failure to do so can lead up to a motion of non-confidence in the minister or the government. This is how parliament and individual parliamentarians should carry out their supervisory or controlling function over government. It is time that parliamentarians become proactive and make demands on government.

What about all the motions passed in parliament? Well, they are worthless if parliament does not follow up to ensure that they are executed. We trust that parliament will start doing its job!

Wycliffe Smith

Leader of the St. Maarten Christian Party