Opinion: Abuse of authority

POSTED: 09/18/12 12:50 PM

The big discussion in Curacao still comes back to this one focal point: did Ivar Asjes act within his mandate as president of parliament when he unilaterally decided that there would be no more public meetings of parliament? And was the new majority within its rights when it called a meeting of parliament without Asjes, a meeting where Asjes was voted out of office? A meeting where the Group of Twelve served the last dinner, so to speak to all but two of the ministers in Schotte’s failed cabinet?
Attorney Karel Frielink said in a radio interview that there is no absolute certainty about what the right answer to these questions might be.
But he came up with an interesting example to clarify what needs to be understood by abuse of authority.
Imagine a motorist waiting at a traffic light. When the light changes from red to green he is authorized by law to pass the crossing. But imagine now that at this very moment an 80-year-old lady crosses the street and the motorist runs her down.
Frielink says that the motorist won’t get away with the argument that the traffic light was green and that he was therefore entitled to proceed.
According to Frielink, that is a classic example of abusing one’s authority.
So what did Asjes do? First he unceremoniously closed a public meeting of parliament without giving any opposition MP the opportunity to speak. Then he declared a moratorium on public parliament meetings until the October 19 elections.
Frielink point to the rules of order: when three MPs request a meeting of parliament, the president has to call it within fourteen days.
Asjes refusal to call any more meetings is obviously inspired by political considerations. He wanted to prevent the new majority from passing motions of no confidence against cabinet members and against himself and Vice-President of parliament Amerigo Thodé.
So when the new majority wanted to cross the street, Asjes floored it and drove straight over them.
Asjes and Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte now maintain that the parliament meeting the new majority held was illegal.
The argument is that Schotte has dissolved the parliament and called elections on October 4. That does not mean however that a caretaker parliament cannot hold public meetings. Schotte and Asjes brush aside the rather significant detail that Asjes violated the rules of order by his refusal to call meetings.
Still, as Frielink noted, the jury is still out there simply because the rules of order and the state regulation don’t contain a provision for the mess the body politic has created in Curacao.
Yet, there is an escape hatch that seems to favor the new majority: in case the rules or order and the state regulation do not provide a solution, the decision is up to the majority in parliament.

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