Wescot-Williams explains developments Constitutional Court

POSTED: 08/19/13 11:39 AM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams gave an explanation on Friday on recent discussions within the community on the developments with regards to the Constitutional Court. Late last week the Constitutional Court heard cases brought by the Ombudsman, amongst which the Penal Court of St. Maarten.

“We were the first in the Kingdom to establish the Constitutional Court tasked with handling matters brought to that institution by the Ombudsman, the entity where the population can go to launch a complaint against government, government official, civil servant, parliamentarian, or even a draft law.

When someone issues complaint to the Ombudsman that complaint will then subsequently be investigated. The government entity will then have to respond and the Ombudsman will then make a decision that usually involves making recommendations. The Ombudsman can also decide that the complainant does not have a place to stand. Many have already launched complaints at the office of the Ombudsman and recommendations have been made on how to handle.

“Similarly, the Ombudsman also has the task to look at a law that has been passed and decides whether she feels there might be a conflict in that law regarding the Constitution. The Ombudsman in such a case has the obligation to present her position to the Constitutional Court and if there is an issue it will be handled by the Constitutional Court. The first time that happened is when parliament passed the Penal Code of St. Maarten and the Ombudsman came to the conclusion that there could be a conflict. Government and the Ombudsman gave their position and then the Constitutional Court will make a decision based on that. What we had Thursday last is that there was a decision by the Constitutional Court for both government and the Ombudsman to further elaborate with regards to their views since there are several items in the Penal Code where there could be some conflict with the Constitution,” stated the prime minister.

The prime minister was also asked her view regarding the severity, or lack thereof, of punishments for various crimes. “There are two things that need to be taken into consideration; the margin of the law and the decisions which need to be taken according to the law and the punishment which is established by law. As our community develops perhaps we should look at how we could make a change as far as that is concerned; to submit a draft change to our law to reflect harsher punishments for serious crimes for example and then eventually parliament could come to such a decision,” the prime minister concluded.

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