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No indication yet if or when new St. Maarten cabinet will be appointed

WEDNESDAY, 08 MAY 2013

PHILIPSBURG–While it appears quiet on the political front since Sunday’s government shakeup, a lot has apparently been going on behind the scenes. Tuesday’s Council of Ministers meeting is said to have been a turbulent one with the authority of Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams to offer the resignation of the cabinet to Governor Eugene Holiday being called into question.

The names of the candidate ministers for what is expected to be the Wescot-Williams III Cabinet have not yet been submitted for vetting as the new coalition appears to be waiting on the current cabinet to resign. The coalition, according to reports, is keen not to have a situation of two cabinets existing at the same time.

According to information gathered by this newspaper several ministers, in particular those appointed on behalf of the National Alliance (NA), are reluctant to resign.

Wescot-Williams met with Holiday on Monday evening about the political development that led to the NA-led coalition losing its majority in parliament and new government being in the offing. However, no details from that meeting have yet been given by the Prime Minister or from the governor’s cabinet leaving the public to wonder what’s next.

If the matter of resignation drags out, there is the possibility of Parliament, with the new coalition taking the lead, passing motions of no confidence against the individual ministers or against the Council of Ministers en masse.

From NA quarters as well as that of independent Members of Parliament Frans Richardson and Patrick Illidge, there have been talks about pushing for early general elections. But, none of the key players have made any public statements.

Based on the Constitution, Parliament can be dissolved based on a request of the Prime Minister to the Governor. At present indications are that Wescot-Williams remains very reluctant to do so as there is already a declaration of willingness to form a new government.

Dissolving the legislature would normally be done only after consulting Parliament and is not a step taken lightly. The only local examples of how it works are from the days of theNetherlands Antillesas the current Parliament is St. Maarten’s first ever, but it happened in Curaçao late last year and sparked quite some controversy.

The Prime Minister is expected to seek a legal opinion on the way forward.

NA-elected and-appointed members met with other party officials on Sunday night when it became clear that an agreement had been signed by opposition United People’s (UP) party, Democratic Party (DP) and Independent MP Romain Laville to form a one-seat majority government. No details from that meeting have yet emerged.

NA Parliamentarians George Pantophlet and Louie Laveist together with Frans Richardson have requested a plenary session of Parliament on the political developments. That meeting will be held on Monday morning at 10:00am in Parliament House. Who they will address questions to is not clear. However, there is also the possibility that the meeting may not go ahead if the new coalition members decide to stay away, because the de facto opposition is one seat short of a quorum.

On Monday, Wescot-Williams had confirmed receipt of the letter informing her that her government no longer has the support of a majority in Parliament and a second letter signed by eight Members of Parliament who have signalled their willingness to form a new government “based on several principles outlined in a draft declaration.”

“The approach of the previous government lacked cohesion and professionalism, especially when it came to the operation of some ministries” was cited as the cause for the withdrawal of support from the National Alliance (NA)-led coalition by the Democratic Party (DP) and independent Member of Parliament Romain Laville and the formation of a new coalition with United People’s (UP) party, according to a joint statement of UP/DP/Laville issued on Monday evening.

It is “the feeling” of members of DP and UP together with Laville that there must be “a much more cohesive approach” from government. “Policies and plans must be aligned for individual ministers to work on the further development of the country. A cohesive and professional approach towards the myriad of issues confronting our young country is the most pressing concern facing us today.”

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