Michael Ferrier writes: Stop the insanity

POSTED: 10/5/15 6:08 PM

Five governments in five years – that is Country St. Maarten’s claim to fame, and all because we keep trying to work an electoral system that does not and will not function. As long as there are politicians who enter the political arena, who do not mean what they say, do not keep their word, do not know how to practice country above self and who will do whatever it takes to get into and stay in one of the 15 coveted parliamentary seats that come with a handsome salary and a gorgeous benefit package, the insanity will continue.

I speak from experience, having run on the DP slate in 2014 and as such, I feel I can comment with authority about the type of people described above. For instance: MP Van Hugh Cornelius de Weever.

This politician hijacked the second DP parliamentary seat earned through party votes, including my 129 and started the new 2014/2018 cycle of “I-am-going-to-throw-down-Government-if-I-do-not-get-what-I-want-notwithstanding-the-fact-that-I-am-not-popular-enough-to-get-elected-on-my-own.”

To me it is obvious that our system of government, our very democracy is rapidly becoming the subject of ridicule within the Kingdom, the region and the world. But forget what the rest of the world thinks of us. What do we think of ourselves? Why is it that, up to now, we the people accept that a small group of politicians only pay lip-service to the problems of our electoral system, but do nothing to give up their lucrative payday as Members of Parliament and Ministers of Government. I challenge any one to show me one single concrete action that has been taken to stop the insanity where a single politician is elevated to Parliament on the coat-tails of a party leader, or combined party votes, to then promptly bolt (jump) across the aisle with “his/her” seat.

Regardless now of how this latest session of political musical chairs plays out, the result will likely be that the usual suspects return in some form or the other. So why have new elections? Just so that the same bunch of politicians will be able to make even more promises, while pledging their loyalty to party and party leader as a convenient way to hop on to that particular party train to the promised land of a lucrative parliamentary seat? Or is it to have Christmas come early for those that collect money and favors in return for their vote?

I think it is time to face facts St. Maarten. Our system is broken. Reality is, that we vote for people, not for parties. And only a limited few candidates get the majority of all votes. Their political coat tails are such that other (obscure, little known, or unpopular) political candidates are swept into office. Once in the seat, having taken the oath of office, a Member of Parliament, is given a huge amount of authority and power, irrespective of how much public support they personally had. So, where is the democracy in this? Why is it that politicians running on a party slate do not actually have to share that party’s principles, values and vision? The ease with which members of parties, once elected to office, can switch loyalty is proof that there is no party loyalty or shared party principles or beliefs! It is pretty sad that we have (and keep) a system in which a candidate, who is unable to earn the required preferential votes from the electorate, can hijack an entire government. Such a candidate must not be able to trade his/her seat.

If a candidate becomes an MP on the popularity of the party, and down the line they cannot, for whatever reason, remain loyal to that party, they should have two options: resign and vacate the seat, making it again available to the party, or alternatively, stay with the party, vote their conscience and let the chips fall where they may (or as they say in USA Politics: Put on your big-boys’ pants). A Member of Parliament takes an oath of office to represent all of the people and not to be obliged to any individual or entity. Not towing the party line is allowed, but it takes guts, principles and values. If a politician is sincere in working in the best interest of the people and also wants to stay true to principles of integrity, then he/she should be able to defend his/her view and stand up to his/her party. Trading, or otherwise negotiating deals with a seat in Parliament, for personal gain, is not acceptable. It simply has to stop. Let us eliminate the not-empowered jumper.

This means our electoral laws have to change and it will not happen without public pressure. The next government must make this change a priority.

For now, just as in 2013, 8 is more than 7 and as long as there is a majority in parliament (unfortunately, no matter the characters), ministers (in this case, a majority of whom did not run for office) should not be able to cause the dissolution of a parliament that just gave them (the ministers) a vote of no confidence (fired them).

Michael J. Ferrier

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