Published On: Mon, Dec 14th, 2020

Knops demands that Parliament accepts legal basis for consensus kingdom law

PHILIPSBURG – The government will not have all its ducks in a row before the end of the year. That puts a big question mark behind the preparedness of State Secretary Drs. Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) to give St. Maarten access to the third tranche of liquidity support during Friday’s meeting of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. A frantic exchange of correspondence with Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs shows that Knops is far from satisfied with the government’s steps towards accepting all conditions – and with it, the establishment of the Caribbean Reform Entity.

Jacobs assures Knops in a letter dated December 11, that she has indicated several times that she has “the support of the majority in parliament.” She furthermore points out that the agreement about the conditions is between governments. “By signing it I can guarantee you that St. Maarten will abide by the agreements.”

At the moment of this writing, Monday’s meeting with Parliament about the conditions for liquidity support still had to begin. We will report separately about what happened in that meeting.

Jacobs admits in her December-11 letter that all required measures have not been executed yet and that three national ordinances are a work in progress. These ordinances are about salary cuts for civil servants, minister and parliamentarians and about limiting the top-salaries in the (semi) public sector. The Council of Advice has already rendered advice about the proposal to cut the salaries of politicians by 25 percent, while the advice for the other two ordinances are expected shortly, but in any case before the end of the year.

Read the Jacobs letter online here>>>

The government aims to prepare its reports based on the advices within two weeks and then send it to Parliament with the request to put handling of the ordinances on the agenda. While the legislation is not yet in place Jacobs writes that “the labor conditions for politicians have already been lowered.”

Knops replied two days later saying that the government had earlier expected that all relevant legislation would be approved before the end of the year. “Unfortunately it appears from your letter that this will not become a reality,” the state secretary wrote to Jacobs.

Knops is also troubled by Jacobs’ remark that measures can only be executed once the legal basis is in place. “This means that you have to catch up with half a year’s worth of reduction in labor conditions.”  He wants to know how the government intends to do this.

Knops furthermore demands that the Parliament takes a motion it approved with a 11-3 majority on November 5 off the table. That motion, Knops wrote, expresses support for the Pro Soualiga Foundation’s point of view “that the Kingdom Charter is not a lawful legal instrument and as such cannot be used as the basis for legislation.”

“Based on this motion it seems that there is no support from Parliament. A statement from Parliament showing that is accepts the legal basis for the consensus kingdom law Caribbean Reform Entity is necessary before I can put my signature to an agreement,” the state secretary wrote.

In the meantime the Party for Progress (PFP) faction of MPs Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson has made its position clear with regard to the Pro Soualiga Foundation in a press statement.

The PFP voted against the November-5 motion especially because of its support for the Pro Soualiga Foundation and dismissed its standing in a press statement that reacts to what the PFP calls an “incredibly disrespectful letter” to Governor Holiday.

In this letter the foundation’s president P.D. Brison questions the Governor’s authority (as established in the LMA, the rulebook for civil servants) based on vague quotes from two court rulings. The foundation even suggests that the Governor offers “a public apology to all those civil servants you have erroneously submitted (Brison probably means: subjected) to bogus procedures.”

The PFP states that the foundation’s claim that it speaks for the people of St. Maarten does not make any sense: “The lack of basic comprehension of our legal system is clear as day and their confusion in regards to the role of the governor showcases this.”

For the actual role of the Governor the PFP-statement simply refers to existing legislation. “The fact that a foundation is accusing His Excellency of overstepping his authority when it is clearly laid out in the law makes us wonder what their ulterior motive may be.”

Gumbs and Peterson also contest the foundation’s claim that it has “a broad task to defend the political and constitutional rights of St. Maarten.” The statement notes that a mandate for such a task can only be given by the people of St. Maarten.


Related articles:
Opinion piece: Political Grandstanding
Letter PM Jacobs to State Secretary Knops – 12 Dec 2020
Letter State Secretary Knops to PM Jacobs – 13 Dec 2020
Now or never: Knops demands hard guarantees in exchange for liquidity support
Opinion by Hilbert Haar: “Will Parliament play hardball?
PFP: Pro Soualiga Does Not Speak for the People
Letter Pro Soualiga Foundation to Governor re: LMA