Committee puts three questions to Council of State: Do kingdom instructions violate our autonomy?

POSTED: 03/4/15 12:35 PM

St. Maarten – On the day of the extended deadline, the permanent parliamentary committee for Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary Relations formulated three questions about the procedures around instructions by the Kingdom Council of Ministers to the governor. The questions will be added to those already formulated by the Dutch Second Chamber and sent for advice to the Council of State.

The instructions the governors of Aruba (about its 2014 budget) and of St. Maarten (about integrity-investigations and about the establishment of the Integrity Chamber) are still a hot topic in the autonomous Caribbean countries of the kingdom.

The questions the Second Chamber members have formulated are, in the opinion of the committee-members in St. Maarten, too vague. The Dutch MPs ask the Council of State about the legal basis for royal decrees that give an instruction to the governors of the autonomous countries. They furthermore want to know what the legal point of departure is for the Kingdom Council of Ministers during its decision making process. Furthermore, they have asked which requirements need to be considered before taking a decision about an instruction.

The committee-members in St. Maarten agreed on adding the following questions: Doesn’t an instruction to the governor violate the autonomy of the countries? What is an instruction’s scope if there is a legal basis for issuing it? Which means of redress do the countries have if the Kingdom Council of Ministers issues an instruction to the governor?

The additional questions should have been submitted already, were it not that Aruba asked for an extension of the deadline, committee-chair Sarah Wescot-Williams said. The new deadline was yesterday.

“We have asked the government for input, but we did not receive a reaction,” Wescot-Williams said, adding that the final responsibility lies with the parliament.

Formally, the committee would have to submit its proposals to the Central Committee for approval and then the parliament would have to agree. That is obviously not going to happen this time around. “There was quite some resistance to granting Aruba an extension of the deadline,” Wescot-Williams said. “If our questions do not come in today, they will not be added.”

The committee-chair said that, in her opinion, the questions formulated by the Second Chamber-members are “leading.” She suggested adding the question about a possible violation of the autonomy of the countries and about the legitimacy for an instruction. “Where does it begin and where does it end?”

In February, Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson reacted angrily to the decision by Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk to issue an instruction about the establishment of the Integrity Chamber. St. Maarten is doing what it is supposed to do, both minister noted at the time. The prime minister even made a copy of the draft legislation that regulates the Integrity Chamber available to the media, even though it was at that time still at the Council of Advice for review.

Frans Richardson (United St. Maarten party) said yesterday that he wants a copy of the letter the government sent to the kingdom. “The Council of Ministers made a strong statement in that letter. That would for me be the basis for formulating additional questions,” he said.

Independent MP Leona Marlin-Romeo brought up the discussion about the dispute committee. “What redress do countries have against an instruction?”

MP Franklin Meyers (UP) had other concerns. “We are asking the questions, and then what? What is the end game? They will do what they want to do anyway.”

Meyers suggested establishing a committee with representatives from St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao to find consensus on a common position on the issue. “Ultimately this will affect St. Maarten today and one of the other countries tomorrow. I want a committee of countries that feel the effect of these measures.”

Committee-chair Wescot-Williams said that such a platform already exists in the form of the tri-partite meetings in which the three countries participate.

MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson (UP) noted that St. Maarten must have its own position clear before such a tri-partite meeting and noted that the kingdom had gone ahead with the instructions against St. Maarten without advice from the Council of State.

Richardson furthermore pointed out that committee members have the right to ask their questions and suggested to go ahead with them if there is consensus in the committee.

“The committee cannot take decisions,” Wescot-Williams said – but in the end, that is exactly what the committee did with the deadline breathing down its neck.

Marlin-Romeo expressed her displeasure with the timing of the meeting. “I do not like last-minute things. What do we need to do to avoid being in this position again? We have to be pro-active, not reactive. We have to meet these deadlines. If we don’t, it will be held against us.”

Marlin-Romeo also considered it not prudent to make the questions St. Maarten wants to ask public. “We should keep them as a trump-card until the Ipko-meeting,” she said.

National Alliance leader William Marlin, who joined the meeting later, disagreed: “If we have a strong position we must let it be known. That can only work to our benefit. The more transparent we are, the better the result will be.”

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