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St. Maarten Governor Holiday: Good governance is a matter of attitude

TUESDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 2013

UTRECHT–Good governance is crucial in building a proper country like St. Maarten. It is a matter of attitude, but it is also something that the people should demand.

St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday was the guest speaker at a lecture in Utrecht on Monday, organised by the student association Politeia and University of Utrecht, in collaboration with professor Dr. Henk Addink, specialist in administrative law and good governance. The theme of the lecture, attended by some 50 Constitutional Law and International Public Law students, was: “The perspectives on good governance: nature, importance, practices and challenges.”

The rules of good governance are mostly self-binding, despite the fact that the Dutch Kingdom, through the Charter, is responsible for the realisation and safeguarding of good governance, said Holiday. Parliamentarians, Ministers and civil servants have a leading role in applying good governance.

According to Holiday, St. Maarten’s political culture has its challenges in applying the concept of dualism, as does almost every nation. “An honest reckoning, even among friends, is necessary for the functioning of government.” Parliament plays an essential role. “It is Parliament, the will of the people, that should be the judge of the conduct of government.”
Good governance is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution of Country St. Maarten, but there are a number of articles that regulate the people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and others that create the basis for the introduction of laws with good governance provisions. The High Councils of State, namely the Advisory Council, the Ombudsman and the General Audit Chamber, as well as the Governor, also play a role in ensuring good governance.

“As a new country St. Maarten has the institutional setting and regulatory framework consistent with good governance provisions in the Kingdom Charter. However, this doesn’t say anything about the extent of observance of good governance principles in governmental decision-making. It does show that the basis for the realisation of good governance is there,” said Holiday.

The Governor said that considering the importance of good governance for the overall development of the people, St. Maarten should continue to build on, amend and perfect the existing frameworks to realise good governance and best practices in government. “Only through a continued observance of the principles of good governance, we will continue to progress and build a more safe, secure and just St. Maarten and Kingdom.”

Holiday made reference to a statement by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who once said that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” “As we work on bending the arc towards the perfecting of good governance within the Kingdom, it is imperative that we realise that we all, residents, businesses and governments, have a role to play.”
The Governor mentioned the role of the Kingdom Government in safeguarding good governance throughout the Kingdom, as defined in the Charter. He pointed out that the Kingdom Council of Ministers is a political body and therefore takes political decisions that, by their nature, are based on what is politically feasible.

In his lecture, Holiday also gave an overview of the constitutional process to dismantle the Netherlands Antilles and create new entities in Countries Curaçao and St. Maarten, and Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
At the end of the lecture, students were given the opportunity to ask the Governor questions, which they eagerly made use of. One student wanted to know whether St. Maarten’s small size was an advantage or a disadvantage in realising good governance.

Holiday replied that, in his opinion, the fact that people knew each other personally in a small community shouldn’t be an obstacle to making decisions as long as the rules were clear. He said that in the end everything was a matter of attitude and that it was impossible to secure everything in laws.

Another student asked about corruption and the conflict of interest of politicians in a small community. Holiday said that as Governor, he kept an eye on this. He said that there would always be people who from time to time didn’t stick to the rules. “That is why I always emphasise that it is important to strive for excellence in government. Parliament is primarily responsible. If Parliament neglects its task, the people will respond and as Governor I will make clear that this is not in keeping with the principles of good governance.”

One student brought up the problematic situation at the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (CBCS). Holiday replied diplomatically that in general the Bank functions properly, but that the problem is partly caused by some members of the Supervisory Board, who “unfortunately don’t sufficiently realise the importance of stability of a financial and monetary system.”
According to Holiday, the political differences of opinion and the fact that a number of members of the Supervisory Board express these differences of opinion are contributing to the current situation at the Bank. He expressed the hope that these differences could be solved shortly, “so we can go over to the order of the day, namely managing the Central Bank.”

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