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St. Maarten president releases Council of State letter on integrity investigation

THURSDAY, 09 JANUARY 2014

PHILIPSBURG–Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams finally released on Wednesday the response of the Kingdom Council of State regarding Sint Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges’ queries on the integrity investigation ordered by the Kingdom Council of Ministers in September 2013.

Although the prime minister already had provided the press a synopsis of said response during the Government press briefing on November 27, local media now were given a copy of the actual document, which was dated November 21.

The Council of State explained that according to Article 21A of the Law of the Council of State its advisory department was obligated to inform the ministers about any questions the ministers might have regarding legislation and governing.

“Aside from the question whether a Minister Plenipotentiary can be regarded as equal to “Our Minister” under Article 21A, the use of the instrument of information by individual ministers is limited by the principle of unity of the Kingdom Council of Ministers, especially when the requested information is a matter for which the Kingdom Council of Ministers or the government is responsible in principle. ”

The Council of State then pointed out that Voges’ letter of September 25, 2013, left no doubt that the request for information ran parallel with a discussion within the Kingdom Council of Ministers about the possibility to give an instruction for an integrity investigation into Sint Maarten’s government.

“Taking into account that the Kingdom Council of Ministers already decided to issue said instruction on September 27, the request of the Minister Plenipotentiary touches on the unity of the Kingdom Council of Ministers and the constitutionality of its actions.

“With the giving of information the (Advisory – Ed.) Department would therefore become a party to a potential conflict between the Kingdom Council of Ministers and one of the countries in the Kingdom.”

The Council of State also acknowledged that according to Article 12A of the Kingdom Charter there should be a Kingdom Law establishing how to handle the differences between countries, but that despite the best efforts of the Kingdom partners this law did not yet exist.

However, the mere fact that this law does not yet exist cannot be an argument “to use the possibility to request information as an alternative for the resolving of such a dispute,” in the eyes of Council of State,

In light of these arguments, the Council of State concluded it could not consider the request for information by the Sint Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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