Coalition stays away from meeting about Jules James

POSTED: 01/25/12 11:42 AM

St. Maarten – The entire coalition stayed away from a parliament meeting yesterday morning wherein the opposition National Alliance wanted to discuss the behavior of United People’s party MP Jules James during a meeting on November 17 of last year. James voted on two motions about the situation at the Simpson Bay Resort (the former Pelican Resort), while he is this company’s general manager.
The only coalition member present was Parliament President Gracita Arrindell; together with the five NA-members and independent Frans Richardson the meeting fell one MP short of a quorum. The UP and the DP-factions stayed away, as did independent Patrick Illidge. The meeting will be called again within four times 24 hours and is therefore likely to take place this Friday.
Opposition leader William Marlin remarked after the botched meeting that he did not have much to say. “It is obvious that the coalition – and the UP in particular – does not know how to handle the meeting and does not know which direction to take. On November 17 they were basically divided and some faction-members voted against their conscience. We will see what will happen next.”
Marlin said that it is the coalition’s “good right not to sign in to buy some time. But they cannot continue not to show up. If the next meeting is postponed again, the vote in the third meeting will be legal, no matter how many MPs are present.”

In November the National Alliance submitted a motion that was supported by independent MP Frans Richardson. It described how Simpson Bay Resort’s General Manager Jules James dismissed about 100 unionized workers after a November 4 court ruling that went in the resort’s favor. The workers were informed verbally and not given a valid reason for their dismissal. “This is a clear violation of St. Maarten’s labor laws by general manager Jules James,” the motion stated.
The motion described the actions by James as “clear examples of excessive abuse of power.” To remain employed the dismissed workers were given the option to sign immediately a 6-month contract, the motion states. Replacing permanent workers with employees via employment agencies, who are mostly offered work for two to three days a week, the motion states, is a practice aimed at “eradicating permanent workers and circumventing St. Maarten’s labor laws.”
When the motion was put to the vote, James voted against it, in spite of the fact that he had a clear conflict of interest.

UP-faction leader Romain Laville was the dissenting voice in the coalition in November. This is what he said, before he was called to order by his faction and toed the line: “The actions of the company in question do not have my support. I will not defend it. I will not throw a colleague under the bus either, but I have to stand with the people of St. Maarten, even if this may be my last go around in politics. I have fought a good fight, but I cannot do this by myself. I know how dirty this game can be, and some may see this as political suicide, but I have to do what is right. To the workers I say, do not lose hope. Even if it costs me my seat, I have tied my shoes tonight.”

The coalition then submitted a watered-down version of the NA-motion that left out any reference to Jules James, and that seemed designed to give the resort-workers the illusion that they had their support. James voted in favor of this motion. Because the opposition had in the meantime left the meeting and because one coalition-member was not present, the motion did not carry because it received only seven votes, one short of the required minimum.

In a letter dated December 5 of last year, Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday got involved in the matter. He invited Parliament President Arrindell for a meeting to discuss James’ behavior in parliament. Holiday quoted an article from the constitution about voting on matters in which MPs are personally involved and noted that James’ behavior was “cause for legal observance concerns and review.”
The governor pointed to “the potential effects for the legislative process and for confidence in the rule of law.” He also noted that MPs are sworn to uphold the constitution.
Arrindell said at the time after a meeting with the governor that, based on legal advice she had sought, “there was no legal basis for the governor to get involved.”
Attempts to get an explanation from UP-leader Romain Laville about the reasons for his faction’s absence from yesterday’s meeting failed, because Laville did not answer his phone. Jules James did not answer his phone either.

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