Factions call for strengthening and cooperation in new year

POSTED: 09/13/11 12:47 PM

“We are in a race against time to stabilize our country”

GREAT BAY, St. Maarten – There is wall to wall agreement in Parliament that the institution did not get off to the best start and that there is yet more work to be done before its setup is complete. That was the prevailing assessment put forward during Monday’s close of the 2010 – 2011 parliamentary year.

President of Parliament drs Gracita Arrindell called the first year a testing period that has made especially the fresman MPs wiser, stronger and better equipped to carry out their task. She has also said the true judge of their performance will be their constituents and their conscience.
Arrindell remains concerned about the level of beaucracy in government and has suggested that there might be a need for a parliamentary enquiry into how this can be reduced. She also said the solution may lie in the creation of clearly defined processes that are placed in manuals and in tweaking some of the existing laws.
“A case in point is the hiccup we encountered with the recruiting and appointing of members of staff who had worked previously with government. Clearly we will have to amend Article 113 of the ‘Landsverordening Materieel Ambtenarenrecht’ (LMA) which governs the legal position of government personnel, and in keeping with which any civil servant wishing to work for Parliament will have to resign from his or her government job,” Arrindell said.
Arrindell also reported that the process is ongoing for Parliament to have a separate financial administration from the government and for the creation of a translation and digitization of documents so that people can follow developments and contribute to the discussion. The latter two are part of a community relations project that includes visits by schools and meetings with corporate entities and non-governmental organizations.

Though she wants more attention for the legislative agenda in the new year Arrindell has pointed out that some of the body’s immediate priorities need to be preparing for the meeting of the Parliaments within the Kingdom (the POK Meeting) to be held here in January, finalizing the revision of the Rules of Order, establishing a separate regulation for the factions represented in parliament, their staffing and their budget allocations, working with the Youth Parliament and compiling of a report with the minutes of all public meetings.
“My dear colleagues, we are in a race against time to stabilize our country, make it an even more prosperous place and bring the fruits of development and progress to our people. The dice has been cast. The ball is in our court. Now that a reasonably solid foundation has been laid, let us shift gear and get on with the people’s business with diligence, commitment and pride, while remembering that in that noble pursuit, there shall be no alternative to hard work,” Arrindell said.

Democratic Party faction leader Roy Marlin spent no time reminiscing when he delivered his assessment, choosing instead to look to the future and calling for more focus on strengthening the organization. One path he’s suggested be pursued is the discussions that were initiated in June with the Secretariat of the Dutch Second Chamber, which has offered to assist with training staff of the Parliament of St. Maarten.
“We must ensure that there is financing in the 2012 Budget for these trainings to take place and we can become a full fledged parliament. This is the beginning of having a Parliament in St. Maarten and while I respect the efforts that have been made so far, there is more to be done,” the D.P. faction leader said.
Marlin was also quick to point out that there is not a problem in the coalition because he suggested that the Chair and Vice Chairs of Parliament be re-elected every year or if the government changed between elections.
“My stance has to do with flexibility and allowing each government to place its own signature on its governing period,” the D.P. faction leader said.

Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge also focused on the future and called for his colleagues to begin intensifying cooperation in the coming parliamentary year (2011 – 2012). He also wants a closer bond between parliament and the country’s residents.
“Let us be positive. Let us, together, as a people, move forward. We have our task cut out for us. Let us hold hands and do what the people have asked,” the independent MP said.

Leader of the National Alliance William Marlin did spend some time reflecting on the past, eventually summarizing that both the Council of Ministers and Members of Parliament had spent this first parliamentary year vehemently criticizing the institutions that had been set up to ensure good governance, accountability, transparency and corporate governance.
“It is business as usual and we are back to the politics of yester year,” W. Marlin said.
When he looks at parliament as an institution W. Marlin slammed the fact that Parliament is still understaffed especially in its secretariat and the fact that the functioning of permanent committees is questionable. The Parliament’s formation chart shows the need for 13 staffers. Seven of those have been filled and more are to be hired in the future. The president of Parliament wants to place particular focus on hiring a legal draftsman so parliament can create more laws.
United People’s Party faction leader Romain Laville also chose to look to the future.
“We all know that the Parliament of St. Maarten did not start on the right note, but no matter what the concerns or excuses, they can’t be used from tomorrow. We must ask if we seriously want to make something of ourselves and whether our agenda is the agenda of the people,” Laville said.
The UP faction leader also pleaded for more cooperation from his colleagues saying, “The objective here is to work for the people. There should not be any more occasions where proposals that will benefit our people will not get unanimous support or that budgets that are in the best interest of our people are not unanimously passed. We must strive to be better factions and a better Parliament. We must safeguard our people.”

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