Published On: Sun, Jan 21st, 2018

Dictatorship of the majority

By Koos Sneek

In the Daily Herald of Friday, January 19th, there was an article about the Island Council meeting in Statia held on the day before. In the article the reporter mentions that the faction of the Democratic Party walked out the meeting. The reporter deemed it not necessary to also report on the reasons why the faction walked out the meeting or if it was not clear to him or her to seek clarity by the DP faction. A political faction does not walk out of an official Island Council meeting for no reason. Certainly not the Democratic Party of Statia.

The DP faction left the meeting before the handling of the last three points on the agenda. These points were voted on by the coalition to be added to the agenda after the opening of the meeting. This practice has become a common one by the PLP/Merkman coalition, whereby underlying documents are not made available to the opposition. Even motions to be presented are usually unknown to us. Sometimes we don’t see them up to the time they have to be voted on. This way the opposition is not able to get a good understanding of the matter and we cannot prepare ourselves properly for the debate.

Besides this, it is customary and also beneficial to the process that subjects are discussed and, if there is a need, explained in the Central Committee before sending them for debate to the Island Council. In the case of the appointment of the Griffier or Council Registrar, which was one of the three points added by the coalition, this could have been better handled in a closed-door session of the committee in order not to compromise the interest of the individual. Our party leader Ms. Adelka Spanner has made honest and repeated attempts to explain this point of view and requested to follow this procedure. This was met with much hostility by the members of the coalition, its members resorting in name calling and blaming the opposition of playing politics. At the end of the day, according to PLP councilman van Putten, they have the majority, so it does not matter too much what the opinion is of the DP. When voted on, the subject will pass anyway.

The rules of order of the Island Council do offer the possibility for members to add points to the agenda by the setting of the agenda after the opening of the meeting. The reason for this is to allow urgent matters to be debated in a timely manner instead of having to wait for the next Island Council meeting. One may wonder whether the appointment of the registrar and a mix-up of our coat of arms were points of such an urgent nature that they could not be handled in a next island council meeting whereby all members would have had ample time to become familiar with the information at hand.

In case of urgency, the rules of order also offer another solution, whereby the chairman of the island council can add points to the agenda up to 48 hours prior to the meeting. He does this in writing and includes all underlying documents. This option guarantees that all members have the opportunity to sufficiently acquaint themselves with the subject. Unfortunately, this option has never been used.

In a civilized and grown up democratic system it is fully accepted that also the minority has the right to speak and be heard. Repeated statements made by members of the coalition that the voice of the opposition (in our case representing two of the five seats) is not important and does not count, since whatever they want will still pass in the island council, is a characteristic of despotism and a sign of immaturity. It is dictatorship of the majority!

Koos Sneek