~ To provide advice in five working days ~
HARBOUR VIEW--Governor Eugene Holiday has requested that “a special panel of three judges” from the Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba and the Constitutional Court of St. Maarten “evaluate the constitutionality of the implementation of the political positions” in the current impasse between Parliament and the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet.
Due to the urgency of the situation, the panel has been requested “to provide an advice within five working days.”
The “independent” panel is specifically requested to evaluate the Constitution in the context of the country’s Constitutional Law to “provide a clear legal position regarding Articles 33, paragraph 2; Article 40; paragraph 2 and Article 59 of the Constitution.”
The Governor met with all parties involved in the impasse on Friday to inform them that he deemed it “prudent” to install the special panel to obtain an urgent advice. “It is evident that this political situation must in the interest of the country be resolved urgently,” he said.
In the meetings, the Governor said he had issued an appeal to the new majority in Parliament and the Council of Ministers “to meet with each other and discuss the matter within the pertinent forum aimed at finding common ground for an orderly constitutional process to avoid having a governance vacuum.”
He said in a press statement issued on Friday afternoon, “Where there is significant disagreement between the parties in regard to the constitutionality, the Governor deems it prudent to encourage parties to arrive at a constitutionally sustainable solution. Parties have been informed that the Governor will take further steps once he receives the judicial position.”
The Governor requested that all parties forming part of the impasse “subject their positions to the common good for the people.” He also encouraged actions “that will foster the resolution of the political differences within the limits of our Constitution” and “maintain and protect the integrity of our constitutional democracy and to foster actions in keeping with our constitution based on the rule of law.”
He said he had “returned the draft decree” to dissolve Parliament and call for elections to the Council of Ministers “without in any way making suggestions regarding the content.” The Marcel Gumbs Cabinet resubmitted the draft national decree to dissolve Parliament and call snap elections on October 15. If the Governor signs the decree St. Maarten may head back to the polls as early as February 2016, just over a year and a half after casting ballots for the present Parliament.
In light of the current political environment and the ongoing debate, the Governor said he considered it important that the population “takes stock of the situation based on facts and free from the ongoing political manoeuvring.” He reemphasised that political debate was “a prerequisite for growth in any democracy.”
The impasse between Parliament and the Council of Ministers started on September 30 when the new National Alliance (NA)-led majority in Parliament passed a motion of no confidence against the cabinet. In response, the cabinet reached a decision a few hours later to call for new elections and dissolve Parliament via a draft national decree that was sent to the Governor to sign. The new coalition wants the Ministers of the now-crumbled United People’s (UP) party-led coalition to resign, but the Ministers want elections.
Since the impasse developed, the governor has consulted with all parties involved “to get clarity” about the political situation. He has “encouraged and warned parties … to adhere to the democratic principles as laid down in our laws, established in and derived from our constitution.”
On the discussions concerning the authorities of Parliament and of the Council of Ministers, the Governor said it was essential to note that in St. Maarten’s dualistic system of government, the authorities of the two bodies are separate and independent, but limited by the rule of law.
“Our parliamentary democracy gives parties the freedom and right to a difference of opinions. This means that within or between the two bodies, differences of opinions can and will arise from time to time,” he said.
“It is not the role of the Governor to dictate the results of differences of political opinions. When political actions result in concerns in regard to their constitutionality, the Governor’s role is to warn and emphasise that it is imperative to only execute decisions that are in keeping with the democratic principles as anchored in St. Maarten’s Constitution.”
Regarding political manoeuvring in Parliament, the Governor said it was not his role to dictate what should or should not be done politically. He is charged, based on the law and his oath on taking office, “to uphold and ensure that the Constitution is upheld, obligated to act in accordance with the law.”