Database gives citizens free access to legislation “This strengthens the foundation of the constitutional state”

POSTED: 06/19/13 1:34 PM

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Education Minister Patricia Lourens (l) applauds after Prime Minister Wescot-Williams launched the Laws Database with a bang of her gavel. Second from left is Henk Jan Habermehl; to the right of the Prime Minister are Acting Governor Groeneveldt and Lieneke Haandrikman. Photo Today / Milton Pieters

St. Maarten – After 10,000 hours of work put in during the past one-and-a-half year, the department of legal affairs presented with some pride the Sint Maarten Laws Database, It makes all legislation pertinent to country St. Maarten easily accessible for all citizens. “This is the first country in the world that went through all of its legislation and digitalized it,” Henk Jan Habermehl, head of the legal affairs department said during the launch of the database at the A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall. “This strengthens the foundation of the constitutional state.”

“Our laws were sometimes a puzzle after 10-10-10,” Acting Governor Reynold Groeneveldt said, “Where could they be found? For the public it was not transparent, they needed help from lawyers and even for them it was not always clear as a lawyer I have been looking forward to this database for a long time.”

Groeneveldt said that, with the texts of all legislation available online, “there can be no more misunderstandings about the letter of the law. This database brings the law within reach of all citizens.”

The acting governor said that translating all legislation into English “remains a major challenge that has to be overcome.”

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams reacted to that last point in her address: “The translation of our legislation into English is progressing well. I am looking forward to having the texts digitally available in English.”

The Prime Minister described the launch of the database as “a momentous occasion.”

Habermehl described the process that led to the realization of the database.”In September 2011 we placed a dot on the horizon” he said. “There was a large need for finding law texts.”

The team of six legal minds that took on the daunting task to go through 1,800 regulations that were in the course of the project brought back to 1,100 applicable laws, consolidated all legislation. That is to say that all amendments that have been adopted over the course of the years were embedded in one new text.

Usona made resources available for the project, though Habermehl did not give an indication of the total costs. But the fact that the team sank 10,000 hours into the project says enough about the effort that resulted in the database. In the beginning of May the last texts were submitted to the Council of Ministers. After approval, the texts went for verification to the governor’s cabinet.

Surrounded by Acting Governor Groeneveldt, Habermehl and Education Minister Lourens, Prime Minister Wescot-Williams officially launched the database with a firm bang of the gavel that is also used in Council of Ministers-meetings.

Lieneke Haandrikman gave the audience a brief presentation about the database. It is accessible via the website sintmaartengov.org. Clicking on the button Laws in the red panel on the right hand side brings up a screen with on the left hand side in the blue panel a button for Search engine Sint Maarten Laws Database.

This button activates the screen for entering search criteria. It is also possible to search through eleven predetermined subjects that will bring up all legislation for that particular field.

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