Constitutional advice does not impress prime minister

POSTED: 10/22/15 12:02 PM

The governor cannot tell me what to do”

St. Maarten – Based on the advice he received from a panel of three judges Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday confirmed yesterday in a press release that he will sign the national decree to dissolve parliament as soon as the members of the Council of Ministers make their positions available. “In that case he can wait for a very long time,” Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs told this newspaper last night. The governor has discussed the findings of the panel with the prime minister, leaders of political parties and independent Members of Parliament that form the new majority

Gumbs sticks to the position he took during yesterday’s press briefing (see related story: “I will not back down”) and stay in function. “I will not sign my resignation letter before the governor has signed the national decree to dissolve the parliament. He can be assisted by three judges but that has no value. I will send him the opinions of the three constitutional experts again.”

“The governor cannot tell me what to do,” PM Gumbs continued. “I am responsible for the governor and he has to sign the national decree. I am not stupid.”

The advice to the governor has been compiled by Evert-Jan van der Poel, the President of the Common Court of Justice, civil law judge Jan de Boer and Justice Bob Wit, President of the Constitutional Court. The judges stuck to strict legal interpretation of the constitution.

Based on the five-page advice, the governor reconfirmed his earlier position: “There is no basis not to form a new government and that he shall, should the new majority decide to do so as expressed, take steps to facilitate the formation of an interim government based on the new majority in parliament.”

Furthermore, the governor confirms that he repeats his call on the Council of Ministers to make their positions available. He furthermore repeats “his call on the Council of Ministers in the interest of Sint Maarten to continue their duties by doing that which is necessary for the day to day operations of government until a decision has been taken regarding their resignation.”

Lastly, the governor confirms that he will sign “the national decree to call for new elections and dissolve parliament once it is in compliance with the electoral laws.”

While the latter remark in the governor’s press statements seems to offer a way out of the current crisis, Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs wants none of it, as his above reaction to these positions make clear.

The three judges arrived at four key conclusions, based on a series of questions posed to them by the governor. The first one is that the Council of Ministers, faced with a motion of no confidence, must make its positions available “as soon as possible and without reservations.”

The second conclusion is that article 40, paragraph 2 of the constitution provides the basis, following the motion of no confidence, for the new majority in parliament to form an interim government and dismiss the existing caretaker Council of Ministers.

The third conclusion is that the governor “is not obliged to sign a national decree based on article 59, paragraph 2 of the constitution provided by the caretaker Council of Ministers to dissolve parliament and call for new elections, until they make their positions available in keeping with the constitution.”

The fourth conclusion is that the task of the interim government would then be to prepare the new elections.

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