St. Maarten’s dualistic Government is between rock and a hard place

POSTED: 11/24/10 10:25 PM

St. Maarten – “In short, government governs, and the Parliament controls.” Those simple and clear words are how candidate Council of State member and former Project Director for Constitutional Affairs Dennis Richardson described the island’s recently implemented dualistic system of government. He’d go on to state that truly achieving dualism is something found “between a rock and a hard place.”
Richardson outlined the system in a lecture he gave Tuesday night at the request of the Charter for Professional Young People (CPYP) at the Philipsburg Community & Cultural Centre. He’s pointed out that it’s too soon to make any definitive pronouncements on the success or failure of the system as the island only has just over a month’s experience with it.
“I will say though that it will be interesting to see how it develops. The formation of the first government of country St. Maarten has already given some indication of how it might end up,” Richardson said.
The former Lt. Governor told his small audience that at its core dualism is a system where the parliament and government seek “the necessary balance for mutual independence.” He pointed out that though the two were separate there would be instances where especially MPs supporting the government and the Ministers they appoint will seem close. He put that down to political reality of wanting to stay unified in order to win at the next election.
Richardson also pointed out that dualism does not create a strict division on law making as “both government and Parliament do it.” What is a challenge is that the government has an entire civil service that it can use to do research and prepare laws while Parliament is limited because they lack the staff.
“To equalize between the two you’d basically have to create a whole new apparatus. At the moment what you have is that the government designs and submits the laws and Parliament reviews them and potentially approves them. That however does not take away an individual MPs ability to draft laws. It’s just that they don’t have all of the resources that the government has at its disposal,” Richardson said.
Richardson also admitted Tuesday night that no cost/benefit assessment was conducted when the decision was being made to implement a dualistic system of government.
“We chose to place an accent on increasing the level of democracy instead and that comes with its own particular benefits,” Richardson said in response to a question.
One definite assertion he made is that dualism has several enhancing factors. Firstly it depends on performance, its created a system where political parties are vested in associations that are controlled by their members and there is an “accent” on the leadership skills of inclusion, motivation and charisma.
At the end of the lecture two awards were handed out to young professionals who have been excelling. The first was to the former President of the Dutch Quarter Community Council Henry Lynch, who is the incoming Managing Director for the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation and to the youngest member of parliament Romain Laville.
“This award is for men like my good friends Rene Violenus, Christopher Emmanuel and Kendall Dupersoy who have helped to enrich the debates either on the Backyard Programme or on the basketball court. It also proves that as young professionals and lead our country that was handed to us by our forerunners and on behalf of the generation that’s coming behind us,” Laville said.

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