James: “Keeping the coalition together is more important” – UP party upset about parliament’s handling of meeting requests

POSTED: 09/27/12 12:34 PM

St. Maarten – “Undemocratic and anti-transparent,” is how United People’s party MP Johan Leonard described the behavior of parliament President Rodolphe Samuel during a press conference yesterday morning. The UP is upset about the way requested meetings with ministers are delayed.

The latest example is the request for a meeting with the Minister of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor Cornelius de Weever. On September 10, UP-faction leader Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce submitted the request, but her letter carried only her signature instead of the required three. The same day, Meyers submitted a second letter, this time signed by all five UP-faction members. The first letter was booked in at the parliament on September 12, the second one a day later.

On September 17, Vice-Chair of Parliament Romain Laville responded in two separate letters to the requests. In one, he pointed out that it required three signatures. In the other, he stated that the request lacked motivation, with a reference to an article in parliament’s the rules of order.

So in a letter dated September 24 (last Monday) the UP faction retracted the September 10 letter and submitted a new request. In the letter, the UP objects to the no-motivation argument. However, “in the spirit of working in the interest of the people of St. Maarten” the faction motivated its request by stating it wants to hear Minister De Weever about “the health situation at the St. Maarten Medical Center” and its impact on social and labor policies.”

Parliament booked the letter in the following day. In the meantime, on Monday evening, the parliament announced the meeting the UP had requested for this Friday (tomorrow) in a press release to the media. The following day, around noon the UP-faction was informed that the Friday-meeting was cancelled. The media were not informed about this decision. Only last evening around 5.40 p.m. did a brief statement arrive announcing the meeting’s cancellation. No reason was given for it.

“There are a lot of excuses for delaying meetings with ministers,” UP-MP Ruth Douglass said. “We want the public to know what is going on. Is this a dictatorship they put in place? We are still under democratic rule. We want to have meetings with more ministers. The hospital is in crisis; it is the only health institution we have and this matter should not be taken lightly. The government should not play politics with these issues.”

MP Johan Leonard said that he is disappointed with the attitude of the president of parliament. He also mentioned the glass wall of the meeting hall that has been made opaque by applying a grey film to it. “We are being taken for granted and the people are being shut out,” he said.

“We do not appreciate the direction this parliament is going,” added MP Jules James, who made a point of questions his faction has posed to several ministers and to which answers are not forthcoming. “Article 62 says that the minister shall answer questions within a reasonable period. But they have gone unanswered for more than four weeks now. That is not acceptable.”

James later said that the rules of order for parliament still have not been ratified and that his faction may bring up a proposal to define what exactly is meant by “a reasonable period.”

About the hassle with the announcement and subsequent retraction of Friday’s meeting with Minister de Weever James said: “The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.”

James said that his faction demands the president of parliament changes his approach. Referring to the decision taken by the vice-president of parliament Laville (while president Samuel was in the Netherlands) James said: “anything with more than one head is a monster. The president agrees with me on this issue, but he does not want to rock the boat. Keeping the coalition together is more important.”


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