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SHTA poll: Businesses want anti-ship-jumping legislation

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PHILIPSBURG--The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), in light of the “current political dilemma,” invited its members to take a poll which showed that the largest single group of respondents wish both for new elections and for new legislation to prevent political “ship-jumping.” However, new legislation was the strongest sentiment expressed overall.

Responses quickly started coming in for the one-question survey sent out to members by e-mail on Tuesday and SHTA released the results on Thursday.

The survey requested members’ opinions on what Governor Eugene Holiday should do, offering four possible answers: to follow the wishes of either the Members of Parliament (MPs) and continue with the formation of a new government based on the vote of no confidence (option A); or to follow the wishes of Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs and the Council of Ministers (COM) and call for new elections (option C).

In either case, there was also an option of choosing whether MPs “must commit to passing legislation to avoid future ‘ship-jumping’ within the next six months.” Option B was for members siding with MPs and wanting the new legislation, while option D was for members siding with COM and wanting newly-elected MPs to pass said legislation.

The largest group by far (57.82 per cent of the 147 respondents) chose option D, stating that the Governor should call for new elections as requested by COM, but that the newly-elected Members of Parliament must commit to passing legislation within the next six months to prevent future ship-jumping.

The second-largest group (27.89 per cent) chose option B, siding with the current MPs, but also calling for the anti-ship-jumping legislation.

Although on opposite sides of the fence, these two larger groups – together accounting for a whopping 85.71 per cent – agreed that new legislation is a must.

The second-smallest group (9.52 per cent) sided with the MPs on the formation of a new government (option A), but did not choose the need for anti-ship-jumping legislation, and the smallest group (4.76 per cent) sided with COM in calling for new elections, but also did not choose the need for anti-ship-jumping legislation.

The strongest single opinion shown by the poll is that the anti-ship-jumping legislation is demanded. Of these, the largest group sides with COM and the second-largest sides with the current MPs.

The survey was carried out in an effort for SHTA to advocate for its members and relay the sentiments of the private sector to governmental leaders and to the community at large. In its announcement, SHTA stated that the survey was for its 193 members.

“It is evident that the business sector of St. Maarten overwhelmingly supports the adjustment of our present electoral laws that allow individual members who have become Parliamentarians on the strength of the party on which list they ran, to declare themselves independent and start supporting another coalition. Five different governments in five years is very concerning,” SHTA stated when revealing the results.

“… We therefore call on our Governor to act, within the boundaries created by law and in accordance with the majority of opinions provided by the constitutional law experts. It is high time that he either signs the [National – Ed.] Decree (“Landsbesluit”) presented to him by the Gumbs Cabinet or send it for annulment to the Crown or Kingdom Council of Ministers, if he is of that opinion.

“We sincerely hope that our politicians will listen to the business community.”

It should be noted that the flash opinion poll was sent out to gather urgent, timely sentiments of SHTA members, which form a good representation of the private sector as SHTA is the largest private-sector representative on the island. This does not mean that every respondent was an eligible voter (for example, some are on the French side), that only one person per member (business) answered, or that the survey was not re-forwarded to other (similar-minded) people who do not fall under SHTA membership.