Today’s Opinion: How to dissolve a parliament

POSTED: 03/27/11 8:26 PM

Eldridge van Putten’s petition drive aimed at dissolving the St. Maarten Parliament and – we assume – sending the St. Maarten government home – reached a new stage yesterday when the social and political activist sent a letter to the president of St. Maarten parliament with this question: How many signatures do I need for the parliament to comply with the request to dissolve itself?

While the parliament’s president is on some obscure mission in the United States, Van Putten’s letter will obviously go unanswered for the time being, so we may as well make an attempt to offer some advice here.

The correct answer to the question is: no number of signatures on a petition drive will make the parliament decide to dissolve itself. Whether Van Putten comes up with one, a thousand, ten thousand or a million signatures, the parliament will not budge.

We’re not saying that this is the right thing to do, but we are predicting that this is what will (not) happen.

While the constitution offers Van Putten a minimal option to achieve his goals, this is merely a theory that will remain just that. The only basis to get what he wants is to be found in article 59 of the State Regulation.

That article offers the option to dissolve the parliament, but guess what. The decision to do this is entirely up to the parliament itself. The esteemed gathering of overpaid and underperforming politicians needs to approve a national decree to dissolve the parliament.

Van Putten does not need to collect any signatures at all. Again, one or a million – it does not really matter. What matters is the will of the parliament.

Our social and political activist could of course go to a casino, maybe in Cupecoy or elsewhere, to find out if there are funds available to undermine the government and the parliament – after all, lobbying in St. Maarten is putting banknotes of the correct denomination in the right pockets – but we think he will have little chance of success because we heard that others with different interests have been there before him. So that won’t work.

Our honorable members of parliament must be following van Putten’s action with a bemused and at the same time bored smile on their face. They know he won’t achieve anything – at least not via the method he is using at the moment.

Toppling a government in St. Maarten requires greasing the right pockets, there are no two ways sufficient quantities it may make some politicians see the light and decide to leave the party they used as their vehicle to grab a $125,000 a year job, and to throw in their lot with the other side.

That stuff happens all the time (we mean, elsewhere in the world) and there is no reason to think that things work differently in St. Maarten.

Basic human needs are the same all over the world: everybody wants food, shelter and company. The basic needs of politicians are pretty universal as well: power, influence and money.

It would be a mistake to think that Van Putten’s action has no effect at all. The behavior of our members of parliament is not helpful. Instead of taking care of “the people’s business” as they are always quick to point out, they are extremely busy with honorable business in exotic places like Aruba, Panama and New York City.

That these lofty activities are absolutely meaningless for the well-being of the people who live in St. Maarten is clear to everyone, except to the politicians who do all the traveling at somebody else’s expense.

There will however arrive a moment in our history when people will get really fed up with this kind of attitude. At the moment St. Maarten proudly carries the label Friendly Island. Certainly in politics this is true, compared to other places where the differences between political factions sometimes turn violent.

We don’t have that here, at least not yet, but it does not mean that it will never happen. To make a marriage work, spouses have to do something for it, and the same goes for politicians electorate will come knocking to ask what you did during your time in office. And if the electorate has a strong enough dislike for the answers it is getting, there is no way of knowing what will happen.

All over the world politicians are called to account and in most cases the population is not handing out achievement awards.

It is time for our politicians to show something for their money. One good example is the way Democratic Party MP Leroy de Weever reached out to the National Alliance for a joint effort to create appropriate timeshare legislation. That’s your tax dollars at work, and this may prove to be a valuable initiative.

But there are too many parliamentarians of whom we have heard absolutely nothing in the past six months and these people have to realize that they are playing a potentially dangerous game – not only for themselves, but for our whole community.

They bring to mind a line from the Dutch standup comedian Wim Kan, who once summed up what politicians do for a living: Niets, maar zeer lang achtereen (“Nothing, but during a very long time”).

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