Opinion: Parliamentarians with checkered histories

POSTED: 09/13/14 11:45 PM

What kind of country do we want to be? That is the question Alex Rosaria, leader of the political party Pais in Curacao linked to his initiative-law that must make it possible to suspend members of parliament that have been detained or are suspected of certain crimes.

Rosaria is now attempting to legislate something St Maarten has already anchored in its constitution in article 50. The practice has learned us however, that there is an urgent need for something that goes beyond legislation: a different mindset.

Members of Parliament and members of the government have to be of irreproachable behavior. The moment they cross the line, they ought to go – temporary or forever, depending on the situation. In a sense, this is a judgment call, but that call will have to be made by the politician who finds him or herself in hot water.

The prevailing mentality at this moment is disturbingly different. Politicians cling to their positions like peanut butter to a sandwich. When they are labeled a suspect in a criminal investigation, they call on the presumption of innocence. When they are convicted – as has happened to MP Louie Laveist – they look in the rulebook to find a reason to stay put.

All this is damaging to our democratic institutions. To say that some politicians have no shame would be an understatement.

Maria Buncamper-Molanus falls in this category of shameless opportunists. “No crime was committed” remains her favorite line and there are still 204 people on the island (203, if we assume that she voted for herself in the August 29 elections) who have confidence in her. On a total of 14,556 valid votes, that number represents 1.4 percent, so it is fair to say that 98.6 percent of the electorate does not trust her or at least does not have enough confidence in her to entrust her with their vote.

The moment the new government falls, as it doubtless will sooner or later, Buncamper-Molanus will be back – either in Parliament or in a cabinet position, though we figure that UP-leader Heyliger prefers to keep her at bay and in Parliament.

Another questionable future Member of Parliament is Silvio Matser. In December, he will be in court to defend himself against accusations of tax evasion to the tune of $3.2 million. Before his election to Parliament, Matser was fully entitled to the presumption of innocence. Now that he has become a public figure, he ought to reconsider his position, but chances that he will forgo his shot at a cozy $125,000 a year job are slim to non-existent.

Louie Laveist will not be back, the electorate finally has had it with him. But Laveist remained in elected positions ever since he was first arrested in 2008 on bribery-charges. Even his conviction did not inspire him to step down.

How different this is in other cultures, where politicians after much lighter missteps – drunk driving, sex with someone they’re not married to – usually declare that they will turn to gardening or extended beach holidays because their presence in the political arena is damaging to their party or their country or to both. Politicians in St. Maarten don’t have such thoughts and as long as they don’t have them, we will be stuck with parliamentarians with checkered histories. At least they give us something to write about.

 

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