Published On: Thu, Mar 7th, 2019

Sheriff locked up; Deputy needed

Another case and a perfect example highlighting the fact that we are a young Constitutional State yet only in our infancy stage and we are to learn, adapt and grow as we go.

Where our Constitution failed to elaborate on procedures for certain processes, it was expected that wise heads, legal minds and mature politicians would solve any constitutional dilemmas that rise up from the ambiguities that can occur in our laws and guidelines that govern us as a country.

Fortunately, there is no need for a panic in the case at hand with a 14-member Parliament. The Constitution simply states that in the event a member of Parliament is suspended, he will be replaced by a deputy. If his suspension leads to him losing his seat in Parliament due to an irrevocable sentence, he is replaced permanently in Parliament.

The process how to appoint a “deputy” is not known. That process was never worked out. Nowhere. Not in the Constitution. Not in the laws of the land.

MP Theo Heyliger has the distinction of being the first Member of Parliament to have his seat suspended due to being placed in pre-trial detention (‘Voorlopige Hechtenis’) which can be extended for a maximum of 120 days total. All the other MPs, who were arrested and not had their membership of Parliament suspended, were merely held for questioning for the standard 8 days.

As we see it, the prosecution is just milking the law for the maximum benefit that they can get out of it. ‘Pre-trial Punishment” is what it looks like to us.

White collar crimes are difficult at best to prove if you have no evidence except a witness statement to the act. It is therefore expected that Mr. Heyliger will serve no time after his conviction, if it ever reaches so far. Merely a conditional sentence, maybe a fine and a ban from political and government office for a maximum of 5 or 10 years.

Therefore, it is our opinion that the prosecution will make sure he served some jail time before a court sentences or clears him.

Sheriff star shieldWhat does the term “deputy” even means? Does this mean that if Mr. Theo Heyliger is released he can return to Parliament and his ‘deputy’ steps down? That is what you would expect the term ‘deputy’ to mean, right? The term ‘replacement’ is only used if and when a MP loses his seat permanently.

We agree completely that a ‘deputy’ should be an interim appointment (for at least until the next elections are held and a new parliament comes in). That is logical. However, this is St. Maarten and the politicians here on St. Maarten have the habit of thinking “if it is not in the law, then I don’t have to do it”. Meaning, if it is not prescribed by law, don’t expect a deputizing MP to give back his seat just like that.

All of this needs to be worked out in a procedure. How this procedure would be invested into the system also has to be worked out. Whether by decree, law or an amendment to the Constitution. This will all take time. In the meantime, a “Deputy” has to be appointed. For fear of setting a precedent that holds no ground, all relevant stakeholders in the system will have to be very careful how they go about the process as they seek a short term solution.

We will see what will happen on Friday.


Related articles:
Parliament silently accepts Heyliger’s suspension
Opinion: “Another missed opportunity
Column: “Sheriff locked up; Deputy needed
March 7, 2019: Heyliger’s detention extended for another 8 days
Opinion: “Karma is a double-edged sword
Theo Heyliger hears Friday what the future holds for him; will his detention be extended?
Theo Heyliger transferred to Bonaire prison facility
Theo Heyliger still in detention cell at Philipsburg police station
Torture and/or inhuman and degrading punishment for Theo Heyliger
Analysis: “The road to UD-leader Heyliger’s potential downfall”
Opinion: “A real reason for concern”
Judge extends pre-trial detention for MP Theo Heyliger
Theo Heyliger arrested in Larimar investigation
Urgency prison situation brought to the attention of Theo Heyliger