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MPs unanimously pass motion to block creation of Integrity Chamber

31 JANUARY 2017

PHILIPSBURG–Members of Parliament (MPs) stood firm on Monday in condemning the formation of an Integrity Chamber in St. Maarten when they voted across party lines to unanimously pass a motion urging Government to not pursue the establishment of a Chamber in the country.

The motion was passed by all 14 MPs who signed it and were present at the public plenary session of parliament.

The motion resolved to “vigorously condemn” the action of Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to appoint a quartermaster for the Integrity Chamber that has been deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court and called on the Government of St. Maarten to “use all means available” to block the creation of any institution that is in violation of the laws of the country.

The motion also urged the Government of St. Maarten to inform the Dutch Government that St. Maarten is of the opinion that the protocol between St. Maarten and the Netherlands signed on May 24, 2015, is “no longer executable.” Government was also advised to present to Parliament its plans of approach to tackle the remaining areas of integrity as reported in the various integrity investigation reports conducted here.

The motion said the Integrity Chamber ordinance had been adopted by the Parliament of St. Maarten on August 17, 2015, and that this and all national ordinances adopted by Parliament were subjected to the scrutiny of the Ombudsman. The Constitutional Court deemed the objections to the Integrity Chamber ordinance as submitted by the Ombudsman valid and rejected the ordinance.

The motion also said that national ordinances cannot go into effect if rejected by the Constitutional Court. The protocol signed by Plasterk and former Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson was based on the creation of an Integrity Chamber by national ordinance, but since the rejection of the ordinance the protocol signed has lost its validity.

The motion also said Plasterk’s unilateral move to suddenly appoint a quartermaster on the basis of the protocol, which is yet to be communicated to the Government of St. Maarten, demonstrates blatant disrespect for St. Maarten’s autonomy.

Prior to the passing of the motion, Finance Minister Richard Gibson said in response to a question on whether the protocol signed had been ratified by the Council of Ministers, that irrespective of whether the protocol had been ratified, the consequent actions of the Council of Ministers to execute its content and the actions of Parliament to pass the Integrity Chamber law gave it life.

He alluded also to the joint meetings held amongst the Justice Ministers of the Kingdom where agreements are made amongst the Ministers present. These agreements are not binding, he noted, as the issues first have to be agreed to by the Council of Ministers.

Monday’s meeting was the continuation of a meeting that began last week Thursday, which was adjourned in the first round.

At the start of the continuation of Monday’s session, several MPs reiterated their positions on the issue of the appointment of the quartermaster.

National Alliance (NA) MP Rodolphe Samuel said it had become clear after the first round that the Government of St. Maarten had complied with the agreement made between St. Maarten and the Netherlands regarding setting up the Integrity Chamber, but this process had come to a halt after the decision by the Constitutional Court. It was only after this decision, he said, that Plasterk went ahead and appointed a quartermaster, which he considers “wrong.”

United People’s (UP) party MP Franklin Meyers wondered why all the sudden interest in St. Maarten. Meyers said that although he had voted for the Integrity Chamber ordinance to prevent the country from looking like it was not trying to address the issue, “the buck stops here.” He noted that it is time for St. Maarten to “stand up and say ‘no’ and mean the ‘no.’”

UP MP Tamara Leonard said that while the appointment of the quartermaster was part of the protocol between St. Maarten and the Netherlands, the timing of the appointment was off. She said St. Maarten should “deal with this issue and get this law completely thrown out. There is nothing wrong with an Integrity Chamber, but not the way that they are doing it. We can keep ourselves accountable.”

UP MP Claret Connor called for caution in the next move Parliament intended to make. He said that because the information on the appointment had been published in the press, but never officially communicated to St. Maarten, caution should be exercised that Parliament does not “jump the gun” by taking premature actions.

Democratic Party (DP) MP Sarah Wescot-Williams restated her position on the issue. Other MPs also spoke.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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