Opinion: Article 53

POSTED: 02/14/12 3:43 PM

What on earth could be open for interpretation in article 53 of our Staatsregeling? Let’s not beat about the bush – we leave that to our parliamentarians – and get right down to business.

This is the text of article 53 in Dutch:

Artikel 53
1. De leden van de Staten onthouden zich van medestemmen over zaken, benoemingen, schorsingen en ontslagen inbegrepen, die hen, hun echtgenoten of hun bloed- ook aanverwanten tot de tweede graad ingesloten, persoonlijk aangaan, of waarin zij als gelastigden zijn betrokken.
2. Het eerste lid is niet van toepassing bij de beslissing over de toelating van de na het periodieke aftreden nieuw verkozen leden.
3. De leden van de Staten mogen niet:
a. in rechtsgedingen, waarin het Land betrokken is, als advocaat of procureur werkzaam zijn;
b. over de vaststellíng of goedkeuring van de rekening en verantwoording van een lichaam in welk bestuur zij zitten, in de Staten medestemmen;
c. werken ten behoeve van het Land aannemen noch zich daarvoor borg stellen of daarin direct of indirect deel hebben;
d. direct of indirect deelnemen aan onderhandse pacht van goederen of rechten van het Land.
4. Indien het belang van het Land dat vordert, kunnen de Staten van de verboden, bedoeld in het derde lid, in bepaalde gevallen ontheffing verlenen.

For those of our readers and parliamentarians who do not fully grasp the Dutch language, here is the official translation. The Staatsregeling is now called the Constitution: Note that the original version nor the translation uses the word parlement/parliament.

Article 53
1. The members of the States shall refrain from voting on issues or appointments, including suspensions and dismissals, that personally affect them, their spouses, and their relations by blood or marriage up to and including the second degree, or in which they are involved as proxies.
2. Paragraph 1 of this article does not apply to decisions on the admission of members elected after the periodical demission from office.
3. The members of the States may not:
a. work as a lawyer or counsel in legal actions in which the Country is involved;
b. cast a vote within the States on the adoption or approval of the accounts and reports of a body of which they are board members;
c. accept a contract for work for the Country, nor stand as surety for such work or participate therein either directly or indirectly;
d. participate directly or indirectly in a private lease of property or rights belonging to the Country.
4. If deemed appropriate in the interests of the Country, the States may grant a waiver of the prohibitions specified in paragraph 3 of this article in specific cases.

If we just stick to paragraph 1 we wonder where the room for interpretation is. We do not see it: parliamentarians are simply not allowed to vote on issues that personally affect them.
In the case of Jules James this is crystal clear. He is the general manager of the former Pelican Resort – now the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina – and he is a member of the UP-faction.
The motion that was put to the vote on November 17 heavily condemned James personally for the situation at the resort.

What comes to mind are Bryan May’s lyrics from the Queen-hit We Will Rock You.

Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got mud on your face
You big disgrace
Kickin’ your can all over the place
Sing it!

We will we will rock you
We will we will rock you

Buddy you’re a young man hard man
Shoutin’ in the street gonna take on the world some day
You got blood on your face
You big disgrace
Wavin’ your banner all over the place

We will we will rock you
Sing it!
We will we will rock you

Buddy you’re an old man poor man
Pleadin’ with your eyes gonna make you some peace some day
You got mud on your face
Big disgrace-
Somebody better put you back into your place

Then there is the role of Parliament President Gracita Arrindell who did not interfere when James cast his controversial vote on November 17. DP-MP Roy Marlin made it look like this was not her responsibility, but the responsibility of each individual MP.
We suggest that MP Marlin reads up on the rules of order for the parliament. That explains in article 8 about the tasks of the president among others that she sees to it that MPs live up to the rules of order.
Something is not written there: the president of parliament is also a member of parliament herself and as such she has sworn to uphold the constitution. And the constitution says … see article 53.
It is therefore obvious that the president erred when she did not intervene, that she did not tell James he was not allowed to vote.
What is the difference with what happened shortly afterwards? UP-MP Romain Laville wanted to abstain from voting – and the president pointed out (after MP Leroy de Weever had brought it up!) that he had to vote for or against the motion. That was reason for Laville to leave the meeting.
So that is that. James violated the constitution and the president of parliament, whose role it is to make sure that the rules of order are obeyed, let him.
What to do with a parliamentarian who wipes his behind with the Constitution? James’ continued presence in parliament is an insult to the principles of the constitutional democracy. The longer he hangs on to his $125,000 a year chair, the more obvious it will become to citizens what he is made of.
And what kind of mandate does James have anyway? In the September 2010 elections he won a measly 152 votes, ranking him number fifteen among all candidates that won votes in this election. Only Maria Buncamper-Molanus (136), Roy Marlin (128) and Rhoda Arrindell (120) had less voter support.
It is hard to imagine how somebody who weaseled himself into an extremely well-paid second job could bring himself to “do the honorable thing” as was suggested again yesterday as the preferred course of action by opposition MP George Pantophlet.
James has been an embarrassment to himself for quite some time now, but the longer this charade continues the more he will also become an embarrassment to his party, to the parliament and ultimately to the country. At the end of the day, whose interest does this serve?

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