PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The eight Members of Parliament (MPs) who voted against a proposal to suspend voting on the country’s 2022 budget until after the next Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting have shown their blatant disregard for the Sint Maarten Constitution. This is what Party for Progress (PFP) MPs Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson had to say following Friday’s public meeting of Parliament.
The proposal in question was brought forward by MP Gumbs on Friday afternoon during Parliament’s handling of the country’s draft 2022 budget. The budget in its current form shows a deficit of more than 120 million guilders. According to Article 100 of Sint Maarten’s Constitution, the country’s annual budget must be balanced. If not, then approval from the Kingdom Council of Ministers must be secured beforehand.
Although Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs indicated on Thursday that the new Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK) will forward a positive advice to the Kingdom Council of Ministers regarding Sint Maarten’s deviation from the balanced budget norm, this assurance was not enough to make the PFP MPs and three other members of Parliament break the laws they swore to uphold.
“While I am not shocked, I’m severely disappointed. As it stands, Parliament is set to vote next week on a budget that, if approved at this time, can be considered illegal, because it would go against what’s clearly laid down in the Constitution,” said MP Gumbs on Friday night. “We have seen many times before where our Government had promises from their Dutch counterparts, only to have them not fulfilled at the eleventh hour. A promise is a comfort to a fool and I will not break the law for one.”
“All MPs who have voted against the proposal, have shown that they either do not comprehend the authority given to them by the people of Sint Maarten through the Constitution, or that they are simply disregarding the highest law of the land because of whatever personal reasons they have to rush this budget process,” added MP Peterson.
PFP have also called out the false narratives being spun, which contend that the budget must be passed in order for the Government to fulfill its financial obligations, including paying civil servants.
“This could not be further from the truth, as Article 14 of the Kingdom Law CFT already stipulates that, in the event that the budget is not approved in time, the country can use last year’s budget as a basis for the financial administration until the approved budget is available,” said MP Peterson. “To say otherwise is simply misinforming the people of Sint Marten in order to hide the actual reasons why this budget is being rushed. We should remember that we passed the 2021 budget in July 2021, seven months delayed.”
“Every MP took the same oath of office when taking their seats. We all swore to help uphold the Constitution of Sint Maarten. What’s happening now is spitting on that oath and dangerously undermining our own authority and credibility. As former Ombudsman Dr. Arduin warned us, if we undermine our own authority, then we give others permission to disrespect us and do the same. It is downright shameful that we cannot do what we consistently demand the Dutch government to do, which is, honor and adhere to our Constitution,” commented MP Gumbs.
“Some MPs have criticized the requirement of approval from the Kingdom Council of Ministers, arguing that the Dutch Government has too much power if they can stop our Parliament from doing its job and passing the budget. It is strange that one of the loudest voices saying this was also part of the government that approved the Kingdom Law giving the Kingdom Council of Ministers this power. It is sad that they cannot even hold themselves accountable for putting us in the situation that they now complain of,” said MP Peterson.
PFP will never support an illegal budget. As such, MP Gumbs and Peterson will vote against the draft legislation if the country’s 2022 budget comes to a vote next week as expected.
“I would like to thank those MPs who did support the proposal for their commitment to upholding the law, regardless of faction affiliation,” concluded MP Gumbs.