St. Maarten Factions agree on joining ParlatinoPOSTED: 11/24/10 10:28 PM
St. Maarten – Members of Parliament have come to general agreement that the Parliament of St. Maarten will become a member of the Latin American Parliamentary grouping (PARLATINO). Their agreement in principle was given during a Central Committee meeting held Tuesday afternoon.
Parties have also agreed in principal to join eight Parlatino committees. They are the Committee on Economic Affairs, Social Debt & Regional Development, the Committee on Public Safety and the combat and prevention of Narco-trafficking, Terrorism & Organized Crime, the Committee on Education, Culture, Science, Technology & Communication, the Committee on Health, the Committee on Human Rights, Justice & Prison Policies, the Committee on Gender Equality, Childhood & Youth, the Committee on Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries and the Committee on Environment & Tourism. There will be a maximum of two MPs on each committee. Committees meet twice a year.
There was debate at the session on whether the Parliament is ready from a budgetary perspective to take on the membership. Early on National Alliance Member of Parliament Frans Richardson queried what would be the annual cost of being a member. The answer, as given by the President of Parliament, is US $200, 000. He’d later ask for the proposal to be placed on hold until Parliament could discuss its budget and whether there is enough money in the travel budget to make the logistical arrangements for MPs to attend committee and plenary meetings.
Democratic Party MP Petrus Leroy de Weever also raised that concern querying if Parliament has enough money to arrange the logistics when MPs have to travel and if budget constraints would restrict their ability to participate.
“I think our participation has to be purposeful,” de Weever said.
Arrindell pointed out that the fee need not be paid immediately but a decision need to be communicated soonest or the island would lose the chance to join Parlatino this year. She also said the island would not have pay any of the US$ 20, 000 that the now defunct antillean parliament did not pay. She also pointed out that travel costs would be limited if MPs were selective about which committees to serve on. All member parliaments are allowed two members on each committee.
Members from the United People’s (UP) Party supported Arrindell in her proposal from the outset and in the heat of the discussion. UP faction leader Romain Laville said the island needed to take up the membership as part of the overall shift to “behaving like a country.”
“The networking and information can be used to improve the island and I think joining will benefit us as a country as we learn from the committees,” Laville said.
Johan Leonard, also of the UP Party, cited what he called “several important reasons for joining.” They include being able to expand the island’s business and trade relationship with countries like Brazil, potential cooperation on socio-economic issues and giving the island a voice in Latin American issues.
On the latter Leonard said, “If we want to be a factor in Latin America and the Caribbean, we must join Parlatino.”
Independent member of Parliament Patrick Illidge, who is aligned with the UP Party through an Accord of Inclusion, also stressed that membership of Parlatino would be good for the island as it continues discussions on a bilateral arrangement with Brazil and Panama and it could help with diversifying the island’s economy.
“The fee is worth it and I believe it can help with agriculture and fisheries. For example we can buy land in the Dominican Republic to grow food that can then be sold here in St. Maarten. I believe we should make use of the opportunity,” Illidge said.
President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell concurred with the viewpoints issued by the members. In a statement issued Tuesday night she said, “Our island nation already has a business relationship with Brazil, Argentina and Panama with respect to the promotion of tourism. Our membership in Parlatino can only be strengthened and can lead to the further development of other areas of trade.Having a close working relationship by being a member of Parlatino and its various permanent committees will allow us to exchange ideas and learn from each other based on our experiences. This will also further strengthen relations and open up possibilities and opportunities in various areas.”
D.P MP Roy Marlin supports the idea of joining Parlatino but also pressed for the island’s Parliament to lead on a new proposal for Caribbean Parliaments to come together. His proposal is directed mostly at the English speaking Caribbean. Marlin believes that forming an alliance would allow for better coordination between St. Maarten and its “regional brothers and sisters nearby” on issues like health.
“We saw for example that a young boy died because he was not able to get medical help fast enough and I think we can work on agreements that will help to avoid those kinds of situations in the future,” Marlin said.
The decisions made in Tuesday’s Central Committee meeting will now be placed in a report that will be forwarded to a public meeting of parliament scheduled for 2:00 p.m. today that includes the appointment of an interim Secretary General for Parliament and an interim Deputy Secretary General.