Governor Eugene Holiday has decided to seek legal clarity on the current constitutional impasse. That’s the gist of a press release from his cabinet at Harbour View on Friday evening.
He did so rather than either signing into law the Marcel Gumbs cabinet’s national decree to dissolve Parliament and call early elections, or sending it up to the Kingdom Council of Ministers for annulment, allowing the recently established NA/DP/USP/Matser/Lake coalition to form a new Government. The statement indicating that it’s not really the Governor’s task to play referee in such disputes came just as the main local employers’ representative SHTA – based on an informal survey among its members about the current situation – urged him to take action one way or another.
A special panel of judges from both the Dutch Caribbean Court of Justice and St. Maarten’s Constitutional Court now will look into the matter and report their findings. The good news is that they have been requested to do so in five working days, which means there may be a resolution to the crisis by the end of next week.
Some who believe the political uncertainty already has taken too long may be disappointed, but the Governor is exercising the necessary prudence. After all, both the right of a parliamentary majority to appoint Ministers and the cabinet’s right to dissolve the legislature and go back to the voters exist side by side in the constitution.
Moreover, there is conflicting expert advice on the issue and a similar situation in Curaçao in 2012 had as alternative outcome that the incoming coalition installed an interim cabinet for three months, after which the people still went to the polls.
Interestingly, the Governor also said he had sent the draft dissolution decree back to the Council of Ministers without any suggestion regarding the content, thereby raising more questions than providing answers. Whether it’s an indication of what direction he might be leaning in remains anybody’s guess.