Returning President of Parliament meets press – 47 laws still pending from former Netherlands Antilles

POSTED: 06/28/13 11:52 AM

St. Maarten – President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell gave her first press conference yesterday since resuming her former role. She outlined her desire to get still pending legislation moving down the pipeline in the upcoming year and to keep the general public consistently informed of what is happening in parliament. “I want to continue holding press conferences and be as open as possible with the media,” the parliamentary president said. She first met with the Acting Secretary General of Parliament, Nancy Joubert, because for many weeks parliament was “dormant” and the president felt it was prudent to “hit the ground running and clear up matters” as swiftly as possible.

President Arrindell pointed out that parliament currently has 47 laws on the legislative agenda that are holdovers from the last parliament of the former Netherlands Antilles, all of which pertain to the Civil Code. For example, there are laws that deal with online consumer protection, child abuse, and inheritance among other topics. Some are completely new laws, while others have either to be revised or need additions made. The delay has been because the minutes of the hearings on those laws are supposed to be done verbatim, or word for word, which can be a lengthy process to write down, especially if the meetings were long and deliberative. The president has asked for the process to be sped up because the “objective is to have parliament handle them by August and September.”

So far for the parliamentary year 2012-2013, “six draft laws were submitted,” of which only four were passed, not including the budget. Arrindell stressed, however, that legislating is by its nature slow and careful. The laws that were passed dealt with succession, ID cards, voluntary corps, and the joint plastic bag initiative of MPs Frans Richardson and Johan “Janchie” Leonard.

“The important thing is to move forward from this point onward.” She said there is a “budget for parliament to hire third parties,” in case they need outside legal help. But she would prefer in-house legal experts. The problem, however, is that potential candidates “with a specific legal background,” in particular public administrative law, are “far and few” between. MPs, Arrindell reassured, will receive a letter from her “outlining what needs to be done” about legal expertise in helping draft or revising legislation.

Another high priority for President Arrindell is for the St. Maarten Parliament to meet with its French counterpart in the north, the Territorial Council of St. Martin, as soon as possible, preferably in August after the July break. Since 2010, the president pointed out, St. Maarten’s Parliament has met with other parliaments in the Kingdom, yet not with the government of its immediate political neighbor. This meeting is “three years late.” Our parliament needs “an understanding of what they do at their level,” Arrindell said. “Invitations will be sent out.”

President Arrindell would also like to resume an open house with visiting students, but also “expand it to a public open house” open to the general public as well. While the parliament is the people’s forum, she said, the tours would nevertheless have to be regulated to allow for the work that goes on inside. Such tours “would help promote a relationship with the public,” widening its “awareness.”

Arrindell also wants a more positive working relationship with all her parliamentary colleagues, but “given the recent animosity it will be difficult. Everyone is at fault for that.” The president wants to improve the public image and opinion of MPs.  “The words dignity, accountability, and courtesy are what St. Maarten expects from their officials,” she said. They can start improving their behavior by “being disciplined and on time.”

She urged the public to keep “the great President Mandela in our prayers,” because “our country needs peace, guided by reason” and “Nelson Mandela symbolized that,” Arrindell said. St. Maarten can use “Mandela as an example to move our country forward, especially after turbulent times.”

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