THURSDAY, 14 MARCH 2013
~ Duncan called for investigations before Bada Bing scandal broke ~
PHILIPSBURG–The constitution contains provisions on how to deal with ministers and parliamentarians who run afoul of the law. It also contains stipulations governing under what circumstances one should resign or be suspended.
These comments were made by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Deputy Prime Minister William Marlin in response to questions from The Daily Herald as to whether embattled MP Patrick Illidge, a coalition partner, should step down pending the outcome of investigations over the alleged Bada Bing bribery scandal.
Marlin said when rumours about a tape began surfacing with claims by the Dutch government that the De Telegraaf had a tape and that they too are aware of it and questioned what government was doing about it, he met with Wescot-Williams and Justice Minister Roland Duncan. Marlin said the Justice Minister immediately dispatched a letter to the “competent people” calling for this matter to be thoroughly investigated. He said this letter went out before the tape became public.
When the tape was released, Duncan sent another letter “saying there seems to be such a tape, ensure it gets in the hands of proper authorities and he is demanding a thorough investigation,” Marlin said.
The Deputy Prime Minister said for him the issue is a very serious one. “What you see on the video and the comments that you get hereafter is one thing; the new twist that has been given to the entire matter that it now involves the leader of another political party, Mr. Theo Heyliger (United People’s (UP) party) adds a total new dimension to it and it is starting to look like a James Bond movie, but in reality when we look at it, if you want to call it the legal consequences and or ramifications of it, our system (and) our constitution has in place mechanisms to deal with it.”
Marlin said certain procedures have to be followed before an investigation is conducted against a Minister or an MP. In the past, if a public official was condemned, he or she would remain with their seat. Under current legislation, however, a person who is condemned automatically loses his or her seat. “And if a criminal investigation is started, the person is suspended. When you are suspended, it happens automatically and another person replaces that person until that entire matter is cleared up.”
Marlin said currently there is “seemingly a gathering of information” in the Bada Bing affair and he does not want to sit in the seat of the Public Prosecutor, the judge or the court. “They have their responsibilities and important is that the issue is now walking the channels that it is supposed to.”
This is not an issue for government to rule upon, Marlin said. When the information has been gathered and it is decided that authorities are moving on to the next phase, he said, the legal provisions are there as to how the matter will be dealt with. “Even if a political party or politician or minister would think he/she should step down or resign or the leader of the UP should not be allowed to contest an election because of what was said by the manager/owner of Bada Bing about him, that is not for me or any other politician to decide. It is what the law will allow or will not allow. That is the road we have to navigate and that’s the road we are travelling right now.”
Marlin said the coalition has not met with Illidge on the matter.
Wescot-Williams said she would not want to “run ahead of any situation as clearly the wheels are turning and I think that is important that we establish this.” She said when and how a Member of Parliament should resign or would be legally suspended or dismissed is contained in the law.
In her opening remarks at the Council of Ministers Press Briefing Wescot-Williams also further elaborated on her statements on the matter issued on Sunday. She also responded to statements made in the press that the United States should intervene. “I hope that the public would understand that when it comes to these statements, I must react and protect the image of the government, the general government and the people of this island. That is my responsibility as Prime Minister.”
“We spent a lot of time to make sure that the Foundations for Country St. Maarten are in place and making sure that the agencies that are the bedrocks of our democratic system were able to function so today especially the legal and judicial agencies have their role; there are always checks and balances in all cases.”
She said some would want government to “come out swinging” from the hips, but she won’t be doing this. Wescot-Williams said some persons in The Netherlands are making statements without correct information. She plans to go to The Netherlands and speak to these persons.