Opinion: Unique situationPOSTED: 10/9/15 2:23 PM
National Alliance leader William Marlin made it a point yesterday to refute the Dutch constitutional experts that are currently in high demand by a government that has lost the confidence of the parliament and that has fought Dutch influence on the island tooth and nail during the nearly ten months it has been in office.
While this may come across as an irreconcilable contradiction – and maybe it even is – it bypasses what the conflict between the governor and the incumbent cabinet is really about. In other words, the remark focuses too much on the messengers instead of on the content of their opinion.
If we simple take the head count as the measure of all things (might is right) than, indeed, MP Marlin is correct. The majority of parliament did vote in favor of a no confidence motion against the entire cabinet and that requires the cabinet members to make their positions available. So far this has not happened.
We have pointed out that the constitution does not clarify when ministers have to make their positions available, but Marlin said, with a reference to the explanatory notes, that it is “immediately.” Unless we have the wrong version of the constitution – which we do not think is the case – we have not found the term immediately anywhere. Not in the constitution itself, and not in the explanatory notes.
Be that as it may be, Marlin has of course a point: if a minister is faced with a motion of no confidence in parliament, he should be gone the same day. How that hangs with a complete cabinet is a different story altogether.
Here we have a rather unique constitutional situation whereby a majority of parliament has passed a motion of no confidence against all cabinet members, while the cabinet has submitted a national decree to dissolve the parliament to the governor.
It is, as professor Kortmann points out, a conflict dissolution. It is all fair and square according to Kortmann and other constitutional experts like Van Rijn and Van den Berg, but there is only one problem: the governor has refused to sign the decree.
This is the reason why the Gumbs cabinet sticks to its guns. Marlin argues that by doing so, the cabinet puts the governor in an awkward position. That is of course very much a matter of opinion.
Isn’t it so that the governor has created this situation? There are two options: signing the decree or submitting it for nullification to the Kingdom government. If the governor has submitted the decree for nullification, his cabinet has been really quiet about it.
It would have been better for the governor’s cabinet to be a little bit more open about this procedure, because right now it is everyone’s guessing game.
In the meantime, we learn that the parliament plans to elect a new president next week Tuesday. With the situation as it is right now, that seems a bit rash to us, though the new majority will obviously point out that it is sitting pretty and that it is only acting in the country’s best interest.
The best way forward (we sort of dislike this term, but in this case it seems appropriate) would be to get clarity fast.
The white smoke should come out of the chimney at the governor’s cabinet and it can still go either way: or the decree is submitted for nullification, or the governor signs it. The latter option is right now remote, so that leaves the first one. That requires a quick response from the Kingdom government.
As Minister Plasterk noted in his brief letter to parliament yesterday, the government “can” dissolve the parliament. Does this mean that Plasterk would support such a move and that he would advise the Kingdom Council of Ministers to send the decree back to the governor? That’s a tall question and right now, we have no clue which way this situation is going.
One thing is certain though – the country cannot be left in limbo for ever – and not even for more than the days that are left until the new majority intends to elect former Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams as the new president of parliament next Tuesday.