Parliament closes off another year with few achievements

POSTED: 09/16/15 10:05 PM

St. Maarten – The parliamentary year closes this morning in a meeting that begins at 10 a.m. It is a time for politicians to reflect on a year gone by –only, there is not much to look back on, as the stories we wrote between September 2014 and today about the efforts of our parliament. As the review will show, there were little to no achievements. Integrity was the buzz word for most of this parliamentary year, leading after a cumbersome process to the establishment of the Integrity Chamber last month, but otherwise there are no achievements to report about.

In September of last year, financial supervisor Cft advised to conduct an investigation into the Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP). The parliament did nothing.

Also in September, the parliament scheduled a meeting to handle an amendment to the 2014 budget. The meeting could not go through, because several MPs – in particular Romaine Laville, Dr. Lloyd Richardson, Jules James and Leroy de Weever – considered a trip to a Parlatino meeting in Panama more important.

In the same month, Today reported that political pensions – due because of the change of government – could cost the state up to $4 million over the next two years. Parliament does not react.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers integrity report states that ministers meddle in the day-to-day affairs of their departments. Again, the parliament does nothing.

In October, the parliament discusses the Wit-report about integrity, Doing the Right Things Right. MP Frans Richardson calls the meeting “a waste of time.”

MP Christophe Emmanuel faces a lawsuit over insulting and slandering private citizen E.T.M. – believed to be Etienne ‘Toochie’ Meyers – with bribery allegations.

Parliament passes a motion asking Governor Holiday not to act upon an instruction from the Kingdom to subject candidate-ministers to additional screening with the help from Dutch experts. The results of this move are unknown. In November a second meeting to establish the Bureau for Intellectual Property – a moneymaker for the government – stalls due to a lack of quorum.

In December, the General Audit Chamber reports that the government paid 78.2 million guilders in subsidies in 2013 to 56 different organization but that it has no clue whether these subsidies have been used appropriately. The subsidies take up 20.1 percent of the 2013 budget. The parliament does not react.

In January of this year, the Central Committee meets for a debriefing about the Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom consultation (Ipko) that took place earlier in the month in Aruba.

During the debate about the 2015 budget, the parliament passes five motions. Among them is one from National Alliance MP Silveria Jacobs that asks the government to instruct Gebe to reduce the fuel clause on utility bills for all citizens immediately. Nothing happens. The same fate hits a motion from UP-faction leader Franklin Meyers who asks to add an international transfer fee to money transfers via agencies like Moneygram and Western Union.

MP Theo Heyliger takes National Alliance leader William Marlin to task over the Emilio Wilson Estate.

The National Alliance faction demands the resignation of UP-MP Silvio Matser, after his conviction for tax fraud by the Court in First Instance. Matser remains in his seat.

The recommendation by PricewaterhouseCoopers to subject the parliament to “a targeted integrity assessment” falls on deaf ears.

In February, it turns out that two ministries – Justice and Tourism and Economic Affairs – are both working on draft legislation for the establishment of the Gaming Control Board. Parliament never asked about an update about this development, or questioned why two ministries were doing the same job.

In March the ad hoc committee Integrity of Parliament names the code of conduct for parliament a priority. Nothing has happened so far with this message.

A meeting of parliament about the troubled housing foundation SMHDF cannot take place due to a lack of quorum. The opposition frustrates a meeting about the Integrity Chamber.

The parliament approves the 2015 budget without paying attention to its own budget.

In April, the establishment of the Integrity Chamber meets with fierce resistance in parliament. “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees,” UP-faction leader Franklin Meyers says.

In May, Justice Minister Dennis Richardson reaches an agreement about the Integrity Chamber with Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk. Parliament mutters about the protocol the minister signs, and MP Frans Richardson even calls for his resignation but he gets no support.

In June the guidelines for travel by members of parliament become public. MPs travel only business class or first class and receive $448 a day for trips to Europe and $400 a day for trips to other countries,

The UP-faction relents and proposes changes to the Integrity Chamber legislation.

In July, National Alliance MP George Pantophlet says that there is no need for an Integrity Chamber because there is sufficient legislation in place already.

There is a bomb alert at the airport, but the parliament does not react to this situation.

In August the UP-faction withdraws its proposed changes to the Integrity Chamber legislation and votes in favor of the draft law.

This month, the opposition has asked for a meeting about the waste-to-energy plant on Pond Island and the Democratic Party has pushed for action with timeshare legislation.


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