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You are here: Islands Islands News Government has ‘autonomous right’ to dissolve Parliament

Government has ‘autonomous right’ to dissolve Parliament

~ Governor wrote in 2013 letter ~

 

PHILIPSBURG--“The right to dissolve Parliament by national decree is a constitutional and autonomous right of the Government,” wrote Governor Eugene Holiday in a letter dated May 16, 2013, to then-Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams when she tried to stopped the then-National Alliance (NA)-led Council of Ministers from invoking Article 59 of the Constitution.

The letter came to light this week as political tension intensified between the newest NA-led coalition with a majority in Parliament and the UP/De Weever/Marlin-Romeo-supported Council of Ministers, after the crumbling of the United People’s (UP) party-led coalition.

The current Marcel Gumbs Cabinet has held tight to the view that it is its right to dissolve Parliament in the face of the shifted majority in Parliament. The NA-led coalition has stuck to its position that in face of the September 30 motion of no confidence against the cabinet, the seven Ministers must resign and demit office.

The May 2013 letter told Wescot-Williams, who leads the Democratic Party, that she could ignore the wish of the five members of the Council of Ministers – now Members of Parliament (MPs) William Marlin and Silveria Jacobs; Roland Tuitt, Romeo Pantophlet and Roland Duncan – who wanted to dissolve Parliament after a new UP-led coalition was formed in Parliament.

Now MP Wescot-Williams, according to the letter, requested that the Governor look into a “petition” by “the majority” of the Council of Ministers to dissolve Parliament based on Article 59. She also appeared to have likened the 2013 political crisis, often referred to as the “Mexican Standoff,” to the first Government change in 2012 when then also the UP was forced from office.

According to the Governor, Wescot-Williams was wrong to compare the forcing of the UP-led Government from office in 2012 and the Mexican Standoff in 2013.

The letter stated: “In this regard, I want to refer you to your May 8, 2012, letter in which you offer the resignation of your then [UP-led – Ed.] cabinet. In this letter, you emphatically state that each minister has decided to make their portfolio available and that the Council of Ministers has empowered you to do so. In this situation [the Mexican Standoff – Ed.], this is not the case.”

The Governor added: “You are also of the opinion that the current [2013 – Ed.] political situation does not justify dissolving Parliament. In this regard, it is important to notice that the right to dissolve Parliament by national decree is a constitutional and autonomous right of the Government. This right can be seen as the opposite of the rule of trust.”

He further added: “I want to emphasise that for the proper functioning of the democracy, space should be given for the majority point of view in the [2013 – Ed.] Council of Ministers or justice will not be done to the constitutional process.”

The Marcel Gumbs Cabinet is operating on the same premise as was used in 2013 to try to dissolve Parliament. At that time, there also was a motion of no confidence against four of the seven ministers, passed by the then-new UP-led majority in Parliament on May 13, three days before the Governor’s letter.

No motion was passed against then-Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams or then-Health Minister Cornelius de Weever, as they had become supporters of the new majority. Then-Justice Minister Roland Duncan had already resigned from his post.

 

Politically advantageous

Referring to the letter on television talk show Oral Gibbes Live on Thursday night, United People’s (UP) party deputy leader Member of Parliament (MP) Franklin Meyers said the only reason Wescot-Williams had not gone along in 2013 with the NA’s call for the dissolution of Parliament was that it was “not in the best interest” of Wescot-Williams and the Democratic Party “to call elections.”

Meyers said the Constitution, while flawed, still stipulated the right of the Council of Ministers (Government) to dissolve Parliament. The architects of the Constitution put in Article 59 for “a reason” and that reason stems from the Ministers having their “finger on the pulse” of the community, he said.

Justifying his party and the remainder of its coalition’s stance on the calling of snap elections, Meyers said, “What is democracy? Isn’t it the people?” He said the move to hold elections on December 8 was the main way of “going back to the people” for them to decide who should be in government. “The people have the final say.”

 

Personal gain

Meyers admitted that he was not happy to go back to the polls just over a year after the last elections, but said he saw it as the only option for bring about some stability to the country.

The constant shifting of political allegiances and looking back at the country being governed by five different Governments in the span of five years, Meyers said: “We are making a mockery of democracy, because people throw down Government for personal reasons.”

He said that while UP and its leader MP Theo Heyliger had striven for a stable coalition of 10 seats in Parliament, “you can’t control people’s minds” and with freewill, MPs could decide the direction in which they wanted to head.

According to Meyers, the UP-led coalition had crumbled because some in the UP ranks were not happy that coalition partner MP Leona Marlin-Romeo had been given a Minister’s post. He made it clear that Marlin-Romeo had never requested the post, but the party leadership had thought it best as a way of further stabilising the coalition. The awarding of that one post “caused turmoil in UP.”
The new NA-led coalition has in its folds two former UP, now independent MPs: Silvio Matser and Maurice Lake. Former UP coalition member United St. Maarten Party leader MP Frans Richardson is also part of the coalition that is rounded off by the four NA parliamentarians and Wescot-Williams.

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