St. Maarten Government falls again: Fifth cabinet in five years in the making

POSTED: 10/1/15 4:01 PM


Heyliger and MatserUP-leader Theo Heyliger (left) and MP Silvio Matser on 10-10-14 when they were still political allies. Now the political marriage is over: “I cannot take the internal abuse anymore,” Matser said yesterday. File photo Today / Leo Brown

St. Maarten – The Gumbs cabinet met its untimely political death yesterday shortly after 12.30 p.m. when the parliament passed a motion of no-confidence against the government with an 8 to 7 vote. Coalition members Silvio Matser and Maurice Lake (UP) and Frans Richardson (independent) supported the motion Democratic Party MP Sarah Wescot-Williams presented. St. Maarten will now soon have its fifth government in five years since it became an autonomous country on 10-10-10.

Wescot-Williams presented the motion during a seemingly innocuous agenda point about developments at government—owned entities in general and at the airport in particular.

“The government is oblivious to the urgent needs of the people, like healthcare, security, pensions, employment and housing,” the first consideration of the motion states. Furthermore, the motion notes “the blatant disrespect for parliament”, the “untenable situation at most government-owned companies and other entities such as the Cadastre and the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation,” the “lack of leadership in and by the government” and, lastly, “the absence of a measurable program of the government.”

Based on these consideration the cabinet “no longer enjoys the confidence of the parliament,” the motion states, naming all seven ministers in the process.

United People’s party MP Silvio Matser declared himself independent, saying that he had had to endure a lot of abuse from members of the coalition. He felt “disrespected’ by his colleagues who, according to Matser, had been sending round letters saying that he should be taken out of the coalition.

Matser is the only current MP with a criminal conviction to his name, but he has appealed the verdict. In January the Court in First Instance sentenced Matser to 24 months of imprisonment, 3 years of probation and 240 hours of community service. Of the prison sentence, 18 months are suspended. His defunct construction company energizer has to pay a 4.5 million guilders fine.

Matser dismissed the conviction as “an issue with the tax inspectorate, like many people have.”

Matser said that he felt left out of the loop by his coalition partners and that he does not even know what others are doing. “It is time to draw a line in the sand,” he said. “I cannot take this internal abuse any longer.”

On March 23 it was already clear that Matser had become a loose cannon in the coalition.  UP-leader Theo Heyliger told this newspaper at the time – when there were rumors about the fall of the government – that Matser was at the heart of it. “He wants things to go faster than it is possible to do them,” Heyliger said in an unusual candid comment. “During the week I was away, Matser got extremely upset. He has been discussing his issues with others. This is about personal issues he wants to be handled.” Heyliger did not disclose details about these issues.

His fellow faction member Maurice Lake also dropped out of the coalition, saying that the government lacks leadership. “It is a difficult decision for me, but I have to go with my conscience,” he said, “Little has been done for the people in the past year. I have to live with my decision and we could do more for the people. I assure the people of St. Maarten that we will bring back stability.”

In the rumors that circulated in March, Lake’s name also surfaced but at the time he denied the reports as “untrue and baseless.”

Lake railed against social media reports about his perceived involvement, saying “the truth always prevails in the end.” He also affirmed his allegiance to the UP: “Any issue that I have with my party I discuss internally and try to seek solutions there. I won’t go and throw down government to put the country in jeopardy just like that. My allegiance lays with the United People’s party, the people of this country, and the coalition.”

Silveria Jacobs, Christophe Emmanuel, George Pantophlet, William Marlin (National Alliance), Sarah Wescot-Williams (Democratic Party), Frans Richardson (independent), Maurice Lake and Silvio Matser (United People’s party) supported the motion.

The seven votes of what remains of the coalition could not beat the eight votes in favor. Johan Leonard, Theo Heyliger, Tamara Leonard, Franklin Meyers and Lloyd Richardson (UP), and independents Cornelius de Weever and Leona Marlin-Romeo voted against the motion.

Franklin Meyers knew already what was up before the vote: “Last night I received a call, saying – we have a government. We do not need more instability in our country. It seems that the only thing that exceeds power is the craving for more power.”

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