DP faction leader leaves child abuse discussion in protest

POSTED: 02/7/12 3:51 PM

St. Maarten – Democratic Party faction leader Roy Marlin walked out of Monday’s meeting on the central registration system for child abuse half an hour after the meeting began because he objects to the way the meeting was being conducted. He was specifically concerned about President drs. Gracita Arrindell making the procedural error of having civil servants answer questions without their minister’s present.

“I don’t know if we are doing the right thing. We have a group of civil servants before us here who when it comes to parliament at all times should have their minister of the department that they represent present. I don’t expect a civil servant to give a vision of what is expected. I believe the vision should come from the minister himself. An NGO giving information to parliament is different that civil servants giving information to Parliament without the minister being present. “

The hearing consisted of a presentation by the Women’s Desk in collaboration with Youth Affairs and Social Affairs departments spanning two government ministries. The delegation led by Aida Boirard-Hollaman made recommendations on the direction the legislature should take in amending Book 1 of the Civil Code based on their day to day experiences with child abuse cases.

Marlin made mention of Article 63 of the Constitution as a reason for his strenuous objections on the absence of a minister but did not go into detail into the actual wording of the article.

Article 63 reads that “The ministers are entitled to attend the meetings and take part in deliberations. They may be invited by the Parliament to attend meetings in order to provide the requisite explanations, provided that this cannot be regarded as contrary to the interests of the Country or of the Kingdom They may arrange to be represented at the meetings by individuals they appoint for that purpose.”

After the meeting adjourned for 10 minutes for drs. Arrindell to confirm whether the civil servants were present at the meeting with the permission of their respective ministers and the knowledge of the Ministry of Justice.

National Alliance leader William Marlin also voiced his displeasure with the way the hearing was being handled.

“We need to be clear that we have followed the proper procedures. The law that we are here discussing falls under the Ministry of Justice. The questions being asked should not be answered by the group without the explicit permission from their ministry to speak on this issue.”

Marlin emphasized, “Civil servants are not members of private institutions who speak on behalf of their organization. When they speak the ministry speaks and we do not want the situation where a minister comes in and says that is not me, that is what they said.”

“They are not taking a policy position,” drs. Arrindell opined.

“The ministry was informed and we’ve had civil servants here before. This is not the first time. It is a draft law and the questions that were posed so far regard this particular law.  It is time to do what we have to do and ask questions pertaining to this draft not necessarily putting the civil servant into an awkward position.  We do not expect the civil servants to bring policy statements and the minister does not have to be present during this meeting,” she added.

Several times during the discourse Boyrard-Holman expressed her discomfort with some of the questions posed by the parliamentarians. She considered it premature to share public opinions that bordered on policy making.

“We might just be going over our boundaries. We are not the right department to make public pronouncements on how the law should be drafted. We need to give room to both the Court of Guardianship and the Ministry of Justice to do what they are supposed to do or are busy doing. We will always give our support and input.”

Boyrard-Holman is hoping that her department will be able to work more closely with the Ministry of Justice in the future to present a truly integrated approach for combating child abuse.

“There are experiences that we have that we need to be able to share with them. There are bottlenecks in the present work relationship that we should be able to work out and move forward. An integrated approach is needed right now.”

At the end of the hearing it was still unclear as to whether the recommendations presented carried the support of the various ministers. This is one of several laws that was left behind by the parliament of the Netherlands Antilles and is now being given what Justice Minister Roland Duncan calls “a St. Maarten flavor.”

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