Published On: Sun, May 5th, 2024

Questions abound after screening process

The recent screening process for ministerial candidates in the Mercelina cabinet has sparked a whirlwind of questions and concerns about political leadership, transparency, and the efficacy of governance in St. Maarten. As the dust settles, it’s imperative to scrutinize the decisions made and their implications for the island’s future.

Dr. Luc Mercelina, the Formateur and incoming Prime Minister, stands at the center of this storm. His handling of the screening process has raised eyebrows, casting doubt on his political acumen and leadership abilities. By submitting candidates under investigation or with convictions, Mercelina has exposed Governor Baly to political liability, undermining the integrity of the government’s highest office. Is this intentional political maneuvering, or a misstep in judgment?

Moreover, Mercelina’s failure to ensure the presence of coalition members during a crucial parliamentary meeting reflects political sloppiness at best. The cumbersome requirement for a quorum in such proceedings only adds to the inefficiency of an outdated process, begging the question: why persist with practices that serve little purpose in today’s political landscape?

The prolonged investigations plaguing individuals like Christophe Emmanuel highlight systemic flaws in our justice system. It is unjust and inhumane to subject individuals to years of uncertainty without resolution. The OM’s repeated use of ‘under investigation’ as grounds for disqualification from ministerial roles must be reevaluated to prevent further injustice.

Raeyhon Peterson’s alternative appointment as Chief of Staff in the Ministry of VROMI, pending legal challenges, raises serious optics concerns. How can we justify exempting a high-ranking official from screening while enforcing it for others in similar positions? The inconsistency erodes trust in the screening process and undermines the integrity of our institutions.

Additionally, the absence of MP Ludmila De Weever during the latest parliamentary proceedings speaks volumes about internal rifts within the coalition. Her silence echoes louder than words, leaving the PFP party’s stance in question. Why the absence, and what does it signify for the party’s future within the coalition?

As we navigate these murky waters, it’s crucial to hold our leaders accountable and demand transparency at every turn. The current state of instability within the government is cause for concern, with more questions than answers surfacing after the swearing-in ceremony. It’s time for clarity, decisive action, and a renewed commitment to serving the interests of the people.

In this climate of uncertainty, the voices of the people must be heard, and their concerns addressed. Only through open dialogue and meaningful engagement can we hope to steer St. Maarten towards a future of stability, progress, and prosperity.


Related articles:
Government of Sint Maarten Starts with Vacancies due to Governor’s Intervention
Debate about screening of candidate-ministers comes back to life
The Screening Process Screams for Reform
Mercelina to succeed Jacobs as Prime Minister



Commentary by Terrance Rey

For an experienced politician, effective party leader and renown (medical) professional, the political faux pas exhibited by Formateur and incoming Prime Minister, Dr. Luc Mercelina, raise eyebrows regarding his political leadership. His handling of the screening process does not bode well for this 2×4 government. Over the years, an unwritten rule of the Prime Minister, as the leader of government, is to at all means avoid the position of Governor becoming politically exposed. The Governor is known to be a legal mind, trained in the school of Mavis Brooks-Salmon, the late Vice Chair of the Council of Advice. Therefore, it can be expected that the Governor is bound to follow the letter of the law. When it comes to the screening process, as vague as the process may be, one can expect the Governor to follow the letter and spirit of the law. The integrity ordinance requires a minister to be free of any and all blemishes that may negatively impact the highest office of government that must be held in the highest of esteem. Submitting candidate ministers that are seriously under investigation by our National Detectives (Landrecherche), who have a conviction that meets the established Braam-jurisprudence and who have tax issues, is exposing the Governor to political liability when he is requested to put his signature to a national decree to appoint such ministers. Why intentionally do that? It puts the Governor in a very awkward position and only serves to strengthen the call to do away with the role of the Governor in the formation process. Or is that the objective all along?

Worst, by not mustering up the members of his coalition to be present during a public meeting of parliament that was known to take place nine days prior is political sloppiness and calls the political leadership ability of Mercelina into question. You need a quorum of half +1 to keep a public meeting for a formality wherein you have to vet the credentials of new incoming members of Parliament.

A totally useless process, by the way, if you asked me. When I worked in Parliament in 2010-2012 we did it at the time because we didn’t have a Main Voting Bureau in place. So, we did the vetting in Parliament. But that situation has since been rectified with the installation of an MVB.

Since then, I see absolutely no added value of the process, constitutionally called for or not. The process just gets politicize with this nonsense of needing a quorum for a public meeting. Poor Jules James had to suffer through the same process in 2019 when he had to come in to replace Theo Heyliger.

The parties and the MVB vet the candidates’ credentials on Postulation Day. So, all what needs to happen is that the MVB informs parliament that DP candidate A and URSM candidate B are next in line for the seats in parliament and they can send them to the Governor for swearing in.

Another reason to screen the Constitution for impractical practices nowadays.

Since I am venting, here is another ridiculous situation that has to change in our society. It is absolutely ridiculous to have people under investigation for an exceptionally long time. As was the case with Claudius and Maria Buncamper and now with Christophe Emmanuel. How many times can the Public Prosecutor’s Office be allowed to play that card? A candidate is ‘under investigation’, so he or she cannot be a minister. That nonsense has to stop. You can’t have people in suspense for so many years pending the outcome of an eternal investigation. It is cruel and inhumane psychological treatment and, by extension, unwarranted punishment.

I have nothing against Raeyhon Peterson. Personally, I think he is a good guy. Always helpful and knowledgeable in matters relevant to his work expertise and experience. However, now hearing that pending the outcome of his legal challenge to the Governor about his non-appointment as minister, he will be serving as Chief of Staff in the Cabinet of the Minister of VROMI raises other eyebrows. The optics in that matter is quite skew. How does this look to Department Heads, Secretary Generals and Directors of Government-owned Entities & Companies who do have to pass screenings? The Chief of Staff of a Cabinet Ministry, who is technically the executive righthand of the minister, gets a free pass and doesn’t have to be screened, but who is practically their boss?

And since I am on a roll asking impertinent questions to the former Formateur and now Prime Minister, why didn’t you put Patrice Gumbs forward to be acting Minister of VROMI until this vacancy is filled? Why did the PFP accept this situation? And where was MP Ludmila De Weever on Thursday, May 2nd? Her absence during the public meeting of Parliament to vet the credentials of replacement MPs speaks volumes. Melissa Gumbs looked quite lonely sitting all alone as the sole representative of the PFP party in Parliament.

I can understand MPs Christophe Emmanuel and Kevin Maingrette absence during the aforementioned meeting. It is greatly disappointing to be left out in the cold with no ministers and still be expected to follow the Formateur’s lead like sheep. Personally, I feel very sorry for MP Christophe Emmanuel. His candidacy as minister has only served to accelerate his so-called investigation. I expect that charges against him will be brought forward within short. Else, once again, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) will end up with egg on its face if it doesn’t seem to act fast soon.

As it stands right now, the only ‘victory’ the OM can claim in their decennia-long battle against corruption and undermining of government by the underworld, is the fact that Theo Heyliger is finally incarcerated. However, the egg yolk in their face is the fact that the wife of Theo Heyliger is now the Minister of TEATT and will be overseeing the same Port her husband is accused of defrauding. The irony of the whole situation knows no bounds. So, expect Christophe Emmanuel to pay the piper shortly in an effort to score some points judicially finally once again.

We have a very weird situation presently. The swearing in finally of the Mercelina I cabinet should have eased tensions and put people’s minds at ease. Instead, we are facing a situation of political instability with a minority-led government and more questions than answers. How can we ever effectively lead this country into political maturity, stability, and self-sufficiency in all aspects of national development and independent nation building is my last question.

Terrance Rey