MP Illidge and Minister Duncan should step aside, UP-faction says

POSTED: 03/19/13 1:38 AM

St. Maarten – Justice Minister Roland Duncan and independent MP Patrick Illidge ought to do the honorable thing and step aside until the investigation into the Bada Bing bribery tape has cleared up matters. That is the gist of a press conference the United People’s party faction gave yesterday afternoon at the parliament building.

The UP-faction considers calling Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams to parliament “to give her direct view” on the situation.

MP Meyers declined to answer questions about the possible involvement of party-leader Theo Heyliger in the scandal. Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel said in an interview with this newspaper that he had made the video footage showing how MP Illidge accepts $15,000 from him at Heyliger’s request.

“None of us is in the position to defend our party-leader,” Meyers said. “We won’t answer that question.” The MP did indicate that the faction met with Heyliger and that he has in fact returned to the island.

The UP parliamentarians underlined that they did not give their press conference to play politics and that they are not out for anybody’s blood. MP Meyers repeated that the faction demands a thorough investigation, that the integrity of the country is suffering and that the integrity of the government is at stake.

“Integrity, accountability and transparency are at the heart of this matter,” MP Gracita Arrindell said. “This has cast a shadow over our parliament, our country and our government. No one is perfect but when the elephants fight, the grass – our people – gets trampled.”

MP Arrindell noted that like all her colleagues she took the oath of office which is established in article 56 of the constitution. “This is what parliament should stand for,” she said.”It is not only about the letter but also about the spirit of the law. We should stay clear of even the semblance of breaking the law.”

Arrindell said that her faction “cannot tiptoe around this issue” whereby a Member of Parliament and a member of the council of Ministers were called in for questioning. She took issue with Vice Prime Minister Marlin likening the events to a James Bond movie, “instead of saying: they should step aside until the investigation is over.”

MP Arrindell said that the politicians in question cannot just sit there “as if their nose is bleeding, wishing this will go away. They cannot put the genie back in the bottle.”

She noted that there appears to be a reasonable doubt about integrity: “The right thing to do now is to step aside. We are not out for anybody’s blood but for the sake of our young country we ask to let the investigation run its course. They will either be exonerated or the investigation will go in the direction it will have to go.”

Arrindell also took it upon herself to make a gesture to the electorate. “I apologize to the people of St. Maarten. This is not how we should behave. Being a Member of Parliament means: you are St. Maarten. Until their names have been cleared both should step aside. Staying on damages St. Maarten’s reputation. The trust in our system must be re-established. Actions speak louder than words.”

MP Dr. Ruth Douglass said that the parliament ought to establish a bill of rights for its members. “We need to put a code of conduct in place. We do not have the right to live above the law.” According to MP Douglass reviewing the screening process is the next step.

MP Johan Leonard concurred with his colleagues, saying that integrity is one of the pillars of democracy. “We have to rule out conflicts of interest,” he said. “There are alleged kickbacks related to a number of government projects.”

As examples, Leonard referred to construction projects in the port, the Justice Park and a $7 million building the Bureau Telecommunication and Post is apparently purchasing in Philipsburg. “To government officials are getting kickbacks,” Leonard said.

MP Jules James said that the faction considers calling Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams to the parliament to give her direct view on the situation.

James said that there seem to be no checks and balances anymore. “Nothing has come of (the investigation into) the death threats against my person,” he said, adding (without mentioning his name) that after MP Romain Laville threatened to shoot him in front of the parliament building, Justice Minister Duncan issued a gun license to him.

Asked whether the ties Justice Minister Duncan has with the prostitution sector- as established in a series of four articles in the newspaper- MP Arrindell said that “ministers are required to disclose all businesses they are part off. I question the screening process,” she said, adding that the justice minister should have distance d himself from his business interest in Hypnotic Hotel and Entertainment NV.

MP James added that the ball is the prime minister’s park. “She is the head of the Council of Ministers, and this affects her cabinet.”

When the UP calls the prime minister to parliament, Justice Minister Duncan’s ties with the prostitution sector will be part of the issues the party will discuss.


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