Rodolphe Samuel elected as new President of Parliament St. Maarten


~ Motion of no confidence passed against Gracita Arrindell ~

PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Rodolphe Samuel was voted in as the new President of Parliament on Friday afternoon. He will take up the post as of July 15, replacing outgoing President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell (United People's party).

Samuel's appointment followed the passing of a motion of no confidence against Arrindell by the NA/Democratic Party (DP)/Independent 3 coalition. The motion was passed by eight votes for and five against. UP parliamentarians voted against the motion.

The vote to appoint Samuel had the same ratio: eight votes for him and five blank votes. The voting is done by secret ballot and the blank ballots most probably were from the UP members.

Samuel thanked fellow MPs for their confidence in him. "I know the job is not an easy one. We say 'we have to work' and I love to work. ... We are a young country. We have a lot to do." He expressed hope for cooperation "when the time of cooperation comes." He also thanked Arrindell for her service.

MP Johan "Janchi" Leonard (UP) told Samuel: "You have big shoes to fill."

Following the vote for Samuel, Arrindell said: "I came, I saw and I worked." She will chair at least two Parliament meetings next week before Parliament goes on recess until the first week of August.

Arrindell submitted her resignation from the post on Wednesday, effective September 1, the start of the new parliamentary year. Her motivation for that date had to do with completing the tasks for the 2011-2012 parliamentary year.

MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson (NA) thanked Arrindell for her service, as did several other MPs.

Independent MP Patrick Illidge commended her for the tireless nights she had setting up the country's first Parliament.
MP Roy Marlin (DP), who presented the motion on behalf of the coalition, said he wanted it to be clear that the motion had to do with agreements the coalition had made and keeping those agreements. "This is not about the present chairperson. This is a coalition agreement that was made and should be kept."

Marlin said he would be "a hypocrite to criticise" Arrindell after he had worked with her in the former UP/DP/Illidge coalition.

MP Louie Laveist (NA) concurred with Marlin that the change had "nothing to do with the chair [but] with the political reality."

The motion stated: "That in order for a government to carry out its policies and considerations for the governing period, the government under normal democratic circumstances should at all times be supported by a majority of Parliament and this also includes the person that holds the function of the Chairperson of Parliament."

The motion resolved "that the Chairperson of Parliament no longer enjoys the support of the majority of Parliament and that the Parliament in accordance with article 57 of the Constitution of St. Maarten will appoint per July 15, 2012, a new member to occupy the position of Chairperson of Parliament."

MP Dr. Ruth Douglass (UP) stated that the transition from the current president to the new one should take place as per September despite the new coalition and transitions.

MP Silvia Meyers-Olivacce (UP) also protested against the "weird" changeover date because it would take effect during the recess. She added her preference to see Arrindell "step down in September. ... In one way, I am saddened [but] we need you on this side to strengthen us as well. It will all work out for the better."

Independent MP Frans Richardson said the July 15 date would give Samuel time to prepare for the new Parliamentary year.

MP Jules James (UP) called for the Rules of Order to be followed with a change of the presidency taking place at the beginning of the parliamentary year. He suggested that the coalition MPs "go back and look at the rules" instead of taking the approach of "might is right," as NA leader and former MP William Marlin liked to say. He protested against the way the situation was playing out.

Absent with notice from Friday's session were MPs Leroy de Weever (DP) and George Pantophlet (NA).

Also handled at the meeting was a list of incoming documents in Dutch, English and Spanish (from the Parliament of Latin America Parlatino). Independent MP Romain Laville said he found the use of three languages confusing and a decision had to be made on the language to use. Arrindell explained the use of three languages as the two official languages of the country and Spanish from Parlatino.

The decision lists of several past meetings also were approved.