Opinion: Insult (main politicians not showing up on ceremonial day)

POSTED: 09/11/14 7:08 AM

The opening of the parliamentary year is not for nothing announced as a solemn affair. It is, after all, one of those events on the calendar that pays tribute to the constitutional democracy we all value. The prime servants of this system, our ministers and our Members of Parliament, just cannot have something better to do on a day like that.

Look next week at Prinsjesdag in the Netherlands. That is a celebration of democracy and – by the way – also the day when the minister of finance presents the budget for the upcoming parliamentary year and the day when the king reads the Troonrede that contains the government’s policy for the year ahead.
In St. Maarten the local Troonrede is the address by the governor.
Seldom will a member of the Dutch parliament or a member of the Dutch senate find reasons for doing something else on that day.
The absence of Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and MPs Theo Heyliger, Dr. Lloyd Richardson, Patrick Illidge and Jules James on Tuesday has left many people speechless.
Never before in the brief history in country Sint Maarten did so many representatives of the people thump their nose at this ceremonial day and its significance for our democracy.
Had the press briefing of the Council of Ministers taken place yesterday, we would have asked these questions: “Is it correct prime minister that you did not attend the opening of the parliamentary year on Tuesday because you were attending a wedding in Greece? Is it correct that the leader of the United People’s party, Theo Heyliger, attended the same wedding?”
Unfortunately, the press briefing was canceled and we did not get the opportunity to ask these questions, so the answers are up in the air. The story about this wedding is however on the street and – as these things go – will soon start living a life of its own.
We’d think that for local politicians being dead is about the only valid excuse for not being present at the opening of the parliamentary year.
What was the excuse UP-MP Jules James had for not being there? Was he, maybe, still sulking because he missed re-election by a mere three votes?
What was the excuse for (formally still independent, but elected on the UP-list) Dr. Lloyd Richardson? We have no idea and no reason was given.
The same is true for independent (and ousted) MP Patrick Illidge. On Monday he was there for the closure of the 2013-2014 parliamentary year – one last opportunity to bring up his elusive sewing center – but on Tuesday he was absent with notice – reasons unknown.
So that’s what these people did? Give notice? We challenge employees to give their company such notice and see what happens.
Basically the notice parliamentarians give is nothing more than an announcement liken “I am not coming.”
This is an insult, not only to fellow-politicians, but first and foremost to the people these politicians pretend to represent. Fortunately, there is a remedy- one that should prevent a repeat of embarrassing absences in September 2015. Actually, this remedy ought to apply to every occasion where a politician gives notice of his or her non-appearance.
The new Council of Ministers and the new parliament ought to establish the rule that notices of absence must include a reason, and this reasons must be a. valid and b. made public.
It’s my wife’s birthday, my great-great aunt died or I’m going to a wedding in Greece are not acceptable reasons. Politicians who put pleasure before work ought to feel the consequences:  a 25 percent deduction from their monthly paycheck seems reasonable enough to us.

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