What had been rumoured for months finally took place (see related stories). Three members of the UP-led coalition supported a motion of no-confidence by the opposition against the Council of Ministers, leaving it without majority backing in Parliament.
This means that, based on commonly accepted democratic principles, the Gumbs cabinet will have little choice but to step down en masse unless one of the eight legislators who voted to send them home has a sudden change of heart, which is highly improbable.
The good news is that there won’t be too many financial implications because most of the current public administrators have not been in office a whole year, the minimum to receive a special pension as such, while – who knows – some might even return, as has happened in the recent past too.
There is nevertheless enough reason for concern, especially regarding much-needed continuity in governance. On the other hand, the Dutch side already had been “running on automatic pilot,” according to the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) in Wednesday’s paper.
Still, the motives given for the political crisis remained relatively vague; for one thing, because everyone knows controlling government-owned companies, foundations and other entities the way they were set up “at arm’s length” from the shareholder representative is difficult at best. At the same time the continued budgetary issues and CFT-advised financial instruction made capital investments impossible.
As a consequence growing frustration obviously played a role, but one has to wonder how much improvement can realistically be expected from any new government to be appointed under the circumstances. The elected representatives who voted in favour of the motion have submitted a joint declaration and signed governing accord to Governor Eugene Holiday indicating they will form a new coalition, so the other option – to dissolve the legislature and call early elections – is highly unlikely to be considered seriously at this time.
In Curaçao the former Schotte cabinet decided the latter after having lost its majority, but then-Governor Frits Goedgedrag had refused to give his required cooperation. He installed an interim cabinet backed by a “new majority” instead, which led to a huge constitutional debate on his role.
Also in St. Maarten much of the NA-led government in 2013 wanted Parliament to be dissolved, but that did not happen, as a new UP/DP/Laville coalition took over. It was explained by experts in both cases that the legislature must have the final word, so it appears the days of Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs and his team in office are indeed numbered.
Those who supported the no-confidence motion would do well to continue carrying the responsibility they have now placed on themselves by quickly proposing candidates for a new cabinet. Especially with the tourism season fast approaching, the community simply cannot afford to be left in limbo for too long.