100 days of being country St. Maarten. Richardson, Gibson concur: We’re getting there.POSTED: 01/17/11 1:05 PM
St. Maarten – By Donellis Browne – Today marks the 100th day since St. Maarten became a country on October 10, 2010 and two senior advisors of government on the process of constitutional change believe things are not going too badly. Dennis Richardson, who is the Project Director for Constitutional Affairs, and Senior Attorney Richard Gibson have stated in different interviews that the recently concluded period and the time to come will be about continuing to build the country from scratch.
On Sunday’s For the Record on Radio Soualiga 99.9 Choice F.M Richardson said, “We’re not doing that badly for a country with no experience with a government of this magnitude.” He reaffirmed that things were being started for scratch and put that down to how busy the government was, just in preparing to arrive at the new status.
“We were so busy negotiating and then from one moment to the next something that was so far away, was all of a sudden very close,” Richardson said.
The former Lt. Governor and candidate member of the Council of State does not mind though that everything is not ready. He believes that will allow the island to have its own struggles and make its own mistakes. He conservatively estimates there’ll continue to be little hiccoughs for another year or two, while the new roles are being filled in.
“I told our Members of Parliament in a closed session that yes we will stumble and fall, but we have to pick ourselves up. I’ve seen us struggling to get our Minister Plenipotentiary set up and going, but during the budget debate I’ve seen how our social partners have been able to come out and put their position on the table,” Richardson said as he examined some key highs and lows.
Gibson, who served as Projector Director for Justice, does not believe that any one should equate the 100 day period with the honeymoon period governments typically to settle in and begin governing in earnest. He believes doing is equal to comparing apples and oranges. In his opinion it is unreasonable to expect that all the key structures will be set up in 100 days because the Government of the Netherlands Antilles did not do what is was supposed to do on many occasions.
“If we take the Center for Unusual Financial Transactions as an example up to today it not fully staffed and the pledge to get it up and running came a year and half ago or more so it is unreasonable to expect that the government will be able to get all it needs to do done in just 100 days,” the attorney said.
Gibson said he’s not surprised that there are some issues at start up. He puts the chaos and confusion that’s come down to a Central Government that did not live up to its commitments to the island even to the end. Because of that neglect the government began its existence by look for housing and putting in other infrastructure. But in that dark Gibson sees light.
“We haven’t had any major disasters and the necessary steps are being taken. There is movement in the right direction. If I were to look at what has taken place in the first 100 days I’d give a C plus grade to what has been achieved. It will take a super human effort to carry us forward but we can make if we stay focused on why we embarked on this journey,” he said.
Laws and Legislation
A key aspect of being a country is the ability to make and amend laws, and here too the attorney is not unhappy with the pace, because this is an institution that had to be set up from scratch and for Gibson it’s like writing a book.
“First you get an idea and then you give it structure and then you spin your narrative and so too with Parliament. There were committees to form, locations to be found and personnel to recruit. It’s not surprising that their productivity appears meager but if you look at the fact that they set up their institutions and were able to handle the budget I think they’ve done a good job,” Gibson said.
For Richardson it is important that the island has taken over the tasks previously carried out by the Social Insurance Bank (SVB). Those tasks including administering the insurances like sickness, accident and pensions are vested in a Self Governing Agency (ZBO), which is acting as predecessor for the island’s National Health Insurance.
The takeover of tasks happened on January 1. However not everything has been finalized so the administrative issues can be handled here. Richardson expects to round that off by midyear. Before it happens staff will have to be recruited and be trained. For the moment he’s happy with their performance.
“They believe we can do things better and more effectively now that the decisions are being made here. What we’re doing now is identifying who will take on the new jobs and who can be given additional tasks so that we can move forward with the trainings,” Richardson said.
Though things simply came together for it in the first 100 days, Gibson is happy the Constitutional Court has been installed. For him it means the citizens have a mechanism to ensure that their rights are not trampled. From a historic point of view constitutional courts have proven to be important. For example, the United States Supreme Court, which is a constitutional court, helped the civil rights movement win many of its battles. It also allowed for people to have police tell them what rights they have when being arrested – the Miranda rights.
“It’s also a good thing for out trias politica that parliament can be checked,” Gibson said.