Gumbs, Peterson: President of Parliament Does Not Speak for PFP


~ Letter to Prime Minister is a masterclass in being tactless ~

Philipsburg, Sint Maarten — Party for Progress (PFP) Members of Parliament (MPs) Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson on Wednesday, April 28, 2022, distanced themselves and their faction from the statements made by President of Parliament Grisha Heyliger-Marten in a recent letter to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs.

Gumbs expressed her frustration with the continued misuse of the position of the President of Parliament, adding that letters sent by the President of Parliament give the impression that the words and sentiments are on behalf of the entire Sint Maarten Parliament.
The President of Parliament is trying to shield herself by acting as if she is only sending the letter in her capacity as a lone MP,Gumbs commented, “However, much like when former President of Parliament Brison blundered in his letter to the Central Bank, this is again an instance of not recognizing that, when you are the President of Parliament, your words reflect and often give the impression of being representative of the entire Parliament.

Moreover, in parts of Heyliger-Marten’s letter, the wording itself gives the impression of a unified Parliament standing behind its President. For instance, Heyliger-Marten references questions that MPs received in a closed-door technical briefing with the Prime Minister and cited input received from “Dutch Caribbean” experts. This ends by stating that she is “even more convinced that the draft COHO law cannot and should not be supported by the Parliament of Sint Maarten.”

“Why would the Chairwoman make such a statement in a letter where she is not, allegedly, speaking as President of Parliament? Furthermore, which experts was she listening to?” Peterson questioned. “We were all present at the presentations by Professor Hoogers, Mr. Dennis Richardson, and Ms. Nathalie Tackling, but it seems the PFP faction’s interpretation of what these professionals told Parliament is wildly different to the President of Parliament.”

Professor Hoogers, a constitutional and Kingdom law expert from the University of Groningen, shared his concerns with the COHO legislation with Parliament and urged the members gathered to effectively document their concerns and propose amendments to the COHO law.

Former Lieutenant Governor Dennis Richardson and local lawyer Nathalie Tackling shared similar sentiments, with Tackling focusing on the need for ownership and commitment by St. Maarten to effectively execute reforms and build local capacity.

“This is exactly what the PFP faction will be doing, as we will present our amendments to the COHO law in the further deliberations,” said Gumbs.

It is extremely amusing to Gumbs and Peterson that the President of Parliament would speak about ongoing scandals within the Dutch state.

Gumbs found it ironic that governmental accountability in the Netherlands is such a priority for the President of Parliament, considering many outstanding questions regarding taxpayer money and government spending in St. Maarten.

“As a faction, we have consistently stated that this type of ‘what-about-ism’ is a disservice to the people. It is a deflection to justify how things are, instead of seriously dealing with how things can change for the better,” Peterson added. “Where is the call for more checks and balances to ensure we avoid our own scandals here, such as questionable land giveaways and misspent government funding?”

The faction also took aim at the mixed messages being sent by the President of Parliament on Sint Maarten’s path on the COHO and relationships with the Kingdom. The MPs questioned the cohesion between the President of Parliament, her faction, and the rest of the coalition, especially considering Heyliger-Marten’s comments on achieving a “full-measure of self-government through constitutional reform.”

“We’re curious as to what the Chairwoman means with this,” Gumbs stated. “On the one hand, we have MP Duncan submitting a proposal to take action on changes to the Kingdom Charter, which is the course of action that that same expert panel recommended we take. Are we, then, choosing to ignore that action because it doesn’t jive with the narrative some of us want to create? It is time to speak plainly and honestly with the people of Sint Maarten. There is talk of reform without equally talking in depth about what should be reformed.

Is the vision of independence, or just a Dutch government, or actually any entity or country, that gives us money without telling how they want to see their money spent?”
The faction stated that it was looking ahead to the IPKO conference, to be held next week in St. Maarten, and that it had already communicated to curious MPs who had reached out from Curacao and Aruba that the letter was not their position, nor that of the entire Parliament. IPKO takes place from May 4 to 6, 2022.