Only 6 of 22 motions since 2012 yielded results: Motions carry the day – but only in parliamentPOSTED: 07/16/15 4:25 PM
St. Maarten – The motions Members of Parliament submit during the annual budget debate seldom yield results. This newspaper examined 28 motions a host of parliamentarians tabled since 2012. With 22 of them successive government did absolutely nothing. Six of them yielded (some) results.
When governments fail to execute motions, parliament never retaliates. In the Netherlands, a cabinet that refuses or neglects to execute a motion that is carried by a majority in parliament, could lead to a cabinet crisis. In St. Maarten, it results at best in muttering by MPs who are dissatisfied with the lack of follow up.
Not to be unkind, let’s begin with the motions that did have an effect. UP-MP Maurice Lake tabled a motion on January 27 of this year to amend the budget for new works in such a way that it enabled the purchase of the Vorst Estate, In the meantime, the government has purchased the property.
A motion of May 6, 2013, from the United People’s Party, the Democratic Party and independent MP Romain Laville sent the Wescot-Williams II cabinet home. This was a motion of no confidence against the ministers William Marlin, Romeo Pantophlet and Silveria Jacobs. It succeeded – but that did not do much for the people who live here; it just resulted in a change of government for reasons that have yet to be explained.
Then there was a motion, dated April 18, 2013, that asked for relief on the Gebe-tariffs for “the less fortunate in our community with emphasis on our senior citizens.” Last year, Gebe introduced a relief program for senior citizens, but the less fortunate were – and are – left out in the cold.
A motion from March 2012 to suspend the collection of succession and transfer taxes succeeded – but those taxes were not collected to begin with anyway.
Independent MP Romain Laville, who was so passionate about the rights of the employees at the Pelican Resort in 2011, tabled a motion in April 2013 to amend the civil code in such a way that the rights of employees are protected when a company changes ownership. That amendment to the civil code is now in the books.
On the other side of the equation are no less than 22 motions that were simply ignored or not executed. We’ll not discuss them all, just the ones that stand out.
Among them is that famous motion to eliminate disposable grocery bags. The motion stems from March 21, 2012, and it was supported by MPs Frans Richardson (independent at the time, now United St. Maarten Party) and Johan Leonard (UP). More than three years later, the rather simple legislation to settle this matter has not reached parliament yet for approval and it seems to have been all but forgotten.
Another environment-related motion dealt with subsidies for Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (Epic). The motion asked the government to provide around $200,000 in subsidy. It never happened.
A motion from the United People’s party from April 2013, asked the government to cut the subsidy for the Voluntary Corps of St. Maarten (VKS) by 200,000 guilders and to use this money for the establishment of a special victims unit, literally backfired.
In 2012 and 2013, the VKS-subsidy was a bit above 800,000 guilders, though the organization used only something like 340,000. In spite of the motion, the VKS-subsidy in 2014 remained at the 800,000-level.
Independent MP Patrick Illidge asked the government in a motion in April 2013 to allocate a 50,000 guilders subsidy to the Second Chance Foundation. Nice try, but it did not happen. The weak point of this motion was that it just asked for money, without indicating where the government ought to slash it from its budget.
A motion from December 12, 2013 that asked the government to write off tax debts over the years 2006 to 2010 did not inspire the government to taking action either.
On March 19, 2012, independent MP Romain Laville’s motion asked the government to start a study into alternative energy within 90 days. Did not happen either.
Another Laville motion, dated April 17, 2013, asked the Vromi-Ministry to strengthen legislation “towards maintaining the recreational and ecological value of St. Maarten’s beaches, including increased control, enforcement and penalization.”
Vromi did not do this (though it went after a business owned by Laville’s family on Mullet Bay when it wanted to build a structure there). The Beach Policy of 1995 remains in force and that’s it.
A motion that led to a lot of debate and – in the end – no action at all is Frans Richardson’s request for electoral reform. Richardson made the call in a motion dated April 18, 2013, well ahead of the 2014 elections. But Sarah Wescot-Williams, the prime minister at the time, noted that most of Richardson’s demands for change, are already addressed in existing law. One of the points in the motion stipulates, “not to coerce or offer to accept money or other incentives to receive support or assistance from any civil servant, with the aim to support or impede the election of any candidate.”
When Richardson established his own party in December of the same year, the announcement of the party came with a promise of giveaways like cell phones and other gadgets. The debate about electoral reform went nowhere.
Lastly, there was of course the motion of October 2, 2014 against the Kingdom measure to instruct the governor to execute additional screening for candidate ministers for the new government. The parliament condemned the measure, of course, and called on the governor not to carry out the instruction.
The motion did not stand a chance of success, and probably everybody knew it, but the parliament sent the message anyway. While the role of the governor in the process remains undiscussed – as it should be – the instruction resulted in fierce screening that took several candidates out of the race for a position in what is now the Marcel Gumbs cabinet.
A motion that went further than the one parliament accepted, stated that the parliament “will undertake all actions necessary to present the actions of the Kingdom government against St. Maarten before the United Nations Decolonization Committee” – and, for good measure, also to Parlatino and to regional organizations like Caricom and OECS.
Maybe parliament did that – we’re not sure – but it did not change the result. UP-leader Theo Heyliger – who felt not without reason that he was the target of the Dutch measure – simply decided to take up his seat in parliament and to let others run the cabinet.