Council of State member Marten Oosting: “We are united to obtain a higher goal”

POSTED: 11/14/12 12:28 PM

GREAT BAY – “The Council of State contributes to the quality of legislation. That is the focus of our work,” council-member Marten Oosting said during a presentation in the central committee of parliament yesterday.

Oosting, a 13-year veteran in the council who also served 12 years as the Netherlands’ national Ombudsman, underlined that the independence of the council is important to give meaning to the concept of checks and balances in a parliamentary democracy.
Oosting’s presentation was designed to highlight the working relationship in St. Maarten between the parliament and the Council of Advice. “In the Netherlands every bill goes to the Council of State for advice before it goes to the parliament,” Oosting said. This year the council has dealt with around 500 requests for advice from the government. “There is an increased demand from parliamentarians who work on initiative-laws,” Oosting said.

When the Council of State received a draft-law the first thing it looks at is whether the problem the legislation wants to address has been properly defined. The next step is assessing whether legislation is the right way to solve the problem, Oosting said.

“The Council of State does not have its own political goals,” Oosting said. “It is an advisory body, not more, but also not less. We have 21 members and we strive for issuing unanimous advice. In the thirteen years I have been there it has happened only a few times that a minority advice was published.”

The role of the parliament, Oosting said, is to check whether the government deals properly with advice from the Council of Advice. While the council advises, the government governs, Oosting noted. “But when it puts an advice aside it has to present proper arguments for its decision to do so.”

Oosting acknowledged that in the Netherlands the Council of State is sometimes seen by politicians as an obstacle. “Our advice can be critical, but that is part of the role we play. We are not the opponent of the government. We are united to obtain a higher goal – the quality of our legislation.”

Oosting, who is visiting St. Maarten for the first time, said that the country has set “important steps in the past two years to develop its own system of checks and balances. It is not an easy task for the parliament, the Council of Advice and the government to fulfill all the functions of its checks and balances. After all, this is a micro-state.”

Oosting was accompanied by assistant director advice at the Council of State’s advisory department Arnoldus Weggeman and council advisor Ron van der Veer. St. Maarten’s member of the Council of state Dennis Richardson and Council of Advice Vice-President Mavis Brooks-Salmon and member Marcel Gumbs were also present at the presentation.

Tonight Oosting will give the second Tjeenk Willink lecture at the university.


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