Still no movement on repairing key law on business sale/transfer

POSTED: 11/24/11 8:34 AM

St. Maarten – Despite an acknowledgement earlier this year that the law on the transfer of companies is a root cause of the issues faced by employees at the former Pelican Resort the United People’s Party/Democratic Party government has yet to make concrete moves to amend the current law. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams confirmed Wednesday that legal advice was sought on the matter and the cabinet has concluded that the way workers are treated is based on how their employers interpret the law.

“That discussion about transfer of business and what laws are currently in place for you to be to able to take a clear position on it has taken place. The government had also indicated several months ago that it would be interesting and necessary to see how the courts would have interpreted the law, because that is in addition to it being more specific. That is why the rulings that are coming from the court are so important,” Wescot-Williams said.

Pressed on whether there had been any concrete action the prime minister added, “We’re talking about an issue that is taking place, basically as we speak. So no, we have not sat down since every court case and come up with some concrete action, but again whatever is taking place is being looked at from the more general perspective of: is there anything that government/parliament can and should do about the laws in question.”

Wescot-Williams would then stress, “It’s a matter of how the law is interpreted. The law is there with respect to business and business transfer/transition. Does it go far enough in how it is stated? That is the question we were dealing with months ago and some advisors say maybe we should take it a little further and be more specific about and others are suggesting that is not the legal way to go about it. So right now, following these verdicts, we have not picked up the discussion.”

While the transfer of business is not a discussion at this time the Democratic Party, the coalition partners – United People’s Party and Democratic Party – and the cabinet plan to have discussions about what they do next on the overall issue. The meetings have not been planned yet because the prime minister returned on Tuesday and only returned to her office on Wednesday morning. The discussions will include whether it is morally correct for a Member of Parliament to have multiple functions.

“We need to look at the situation at hand, and that is the issue that the employees of (former) Pelican are facing. We need to deal specifically with that, see what can be done and what, if any, tools or mechanisms are at the disposal of government to do something. And secondly I believe what we’re going to see is a process where there matters will trigger a discussion about our laws and whether changes should come. Again the law does not prohibit and everybody is using that in terms of what you can do. And if the law does not say it cannot be done, then that means it can be done. That is the interpretation given and the question is: Is that really so. I believe that as we go along and encounter these situations it will eventually lead to changes to our laws ensuring that whether it be about government or a situation that could appear to be conflict, if need be, you have something that will strictly state whether you go left or right, and when we encounter those voids it is incumbent on government of parliament to make the necessary changes so we don’t constantly be dealing with interpretations and the law is not really clear,” Wescot-Williams said.

As a party leader Wescot-Williams did not out and out commit to “instructing” the party’s MPs to vote against a law amendment National Alliance MP Louie Laveist wants to table that would eliminate the possibilities for MPs to have multiple functions.

“Naturally it is up to the Members of Parliament when receiving a proposal from one or more other parliamentarians to have that discussion. There is nothing wrong and I encourage parliament as a parliament, as individual factions and individual members to come with proposals on how to get rid of a particular situation because the law does not yet provide for it. So I think that’s a good development and in party circles and government circles we will have the discussion,” the prime minister added.

“I can’t go into specifically, from what I too have read, what the proposed initiative from Member of Parliament Louie Laveist will entail. Naturally the devil is in the details and you’ll hear that discussion in parliament. The concept of now narrowing down the law that is right there, right now, I think that’s a positive development,” Wescot-Williams said.

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