Opinion: That’ll be the day (when parliamentarians would take a hard look at their own functioning)

POSTED: 01/20/13 7:50 PM

The United People’s party wants to subject changes to the electoral law to a referendum, we understand from a press statement issued by MP Gracita Arrindell.
It is a pity that so far we have not heard a lot about which changes politicians have in mind. We could guess, of course (and we will), but that brings the risk of barking up the wrong tree.
The one thing Arrindell brought up in her press release about a meeting with veteran attorney Ralph Richardson is – and we paraphrase here freely – the phenomenon of politicians that jump ship.
This is something that happens maybe more frequently in a Caribbean setting, but it is not unique. Dutch political parties have had their share of dissidents and the political system dealt with it the way it should: by discussing the issues and by fielding arguments.
Jumping ship or not jumping ship does not make a whole lot of difference in the practical sense. We have now seen that first Patrick Illidge left the National Alliance to go independent, and then Frans Richardson followed. The third MP to leave his party was Romain Laville.
But what if those MPs had simply stayed with their parties and voted on the issues at hand not along party lines but based in what they believe in? The government would have to pay more attention to what it is doing, because ministers would have to make a bigger effort to convince the parliament that they are doing the right thing.
In the current situation, our parliament is a sleepy congregation that makes a good living and achieves close to nothing. Case in point: we are writing January 19 today and the only activity at the parliament building this year has been a central committee meeting where the University of the Southern Caribbean from Trinidad and Tobago gave a presentation.
There is no urgency as far as the people’s business is concerned. There are no – or hardly any – initiatives from this parliament to make St. Maarten a better place and to correct wayward behavior from the government.
Instead, our government is sitting pretty, knowing that it has the undying support of ten MPs. Why bother about anything? The parliament will never use its control-function – as it should – to call this government (and by the way: any government, no matter its signature) to account.
The desire by certain politicians to start fiddling with the electoral system is simply a blatant attempt to strengthen majority-control. If MPs ever were obliged to give up their seat when they have a falling out with their party, democracy is the big loser.
Instead of looking at electoral legislation, parliamentarians ought to take a good hard look at their own functioning and ask themselves whether their attitude is truly serving the country, the democracy and by extension the people.
That would be a nice wake up call. Citizens have the right to submit written petitions to the competent authorities. What if some voters petitioned the parliament with the demand that the members of this esteemed body actually show up for work all the time? That they attend any and all meetings, that they read their documents and that they argue issues on behalf of the people based on solid arguments instead of losing themselves in procedural nitpicking?
Yeah, that’ll be the day.

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