Published On: Tue, Mar 30th, 2021

Invoking Article 59 is PM Jacobs’ final option

PHILIPSBURG — Government and Parliament are at a crossroads due to the continued dispute about the insistence by State Secretary Raymond Knops that the Parliament denounces the petition it submitted to the United Nations that demands a stop to the process towards the establishment of the Caribbean Reform and Development Entity (COHO).

There is not only a rift between Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and the coalition that supports her government; the parliament is also strongly divided. Yet, the demands from the Kingdom Government are clear: support the COHO and withdraw support for the UN-petition or there will be no liquidity support.

The Party for Progress (PFP) intends to put the parliament to the test, after parliament’s chairman MP Rolando Brison sent a half-hearted letter to the prime minister declaring that “a majority of parliament expresses continued support for government to continue with the implementation of agreements regulated in the country package and for the legislative trajectory related to the establishment of the consensus kingdom law COHO.”

But the PFP-faction that voted against the motion that resulted in the UN-petition has now called on the coalition to withdraw the UN-petition. That request will not go down well with the driving force behind the petition that seems so obsessed with the completion of the (already completed) decolonization-process: UP-faction leader Grisha Heyliger-Marten. That the factions of the UP and the National Alliance are supporting the Pro Soualiga Foundation also stands in the way of getting sorely needed liquidity support from the Netherlands.

The PFP points out in a press statement that the Netherlands supports 4,000 families with food aid, that it funds the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan and that it pays the salaries of parliamentarians, ministers and civil servants.”How are we going to raise money to keep this country going, the lights on and food on the table? Float a bond?”

The PFP states that in such a scenario the country will be floating a junk bond, “to be bought up by whatever questionable elements seem to infiltrate the government.”

Related article: PFP Calls on coalition to withdraw petition to UN

Faced with all these conflicting positions, Prime Minister Jacobs seems to have only one realistic option left: invoking article 59 of the constitution. Said article states that parliament can be dissolved by national decree, that this has to be followed by elections and that a new parliament will have to be seated within three months.

Behind the scenes parties are weighing their options. The UP reportedly is after a new coalition with the support from the USp, the UD and PFP but that ship won’t sail because the PFP will never step into such a partnership.

The National Alliance is reportedly seeking the support of the USp and independent MP Emmanuel but that idea won’t fly either, if only because Emmanuel – who fiercely opposes the COHO – seems to have already lined up candidates for his own party.

Prime Minister Jacobs has already assured State Secretary Knops three times of her government’s support for the country package and the COHO. But as long as the support from the parliament remains unclear, Knops will not release any liquidity support. He wants the unequivocal support from both the government and the parliament.

To get to that point, the eleven members of parliament who supported the November 2020 motion that resulted in the UN-petition will have to withdraw that petition. They cannot pretend through vague letters from chairman Brison that they support the process while they support at the same time a petition that demands exactly the opposite: a stop to the process to establish the COHO.

As long as the UN-petition is on the table, the prime minister does not have that unequivocal support from the parliament that Knops demands. Looking at the course of action Jacobs has taken so far it is highly unlikely that she wants to take responsibility for a government that has no cash at hand to meet its obligations.

This means that her only way out is to invoke article 59 of the constitution. It is a heavy-handed option but the authority to take this step is at her disposal without any conditions. It will create the opportunity for the population to make its choice between eating autonomy and having real food on the table.