Published On: Mon, Oct 12th, 2020

10-10-10: Setting the record straight

~ Dr. Lloyd J. Richardson was the first chairperson of the Parliament of Sint Maarten ~

PHILIPSBURG – Looking back on ten years of autonomy within the Kingdom of the Netherlands reveals how fast memories fade. When StMaartenNews.com posed the question: who was the first Chairperson of Parliament after 10-10-10, only one reader came up with the correct answer: Member of Parliament for the UP Party, Dr. Loyd J. Richardson.

Dr. Richardson presided over the first meeting on 10-10-10 as the oldest Member of Parliament. That same day, Parliament elected Drs. Gracita Arrindell as its President.

Arrindell was optimistic and ambitious after her appointment. She made the following statement in the Parliament’s first annual report; “Now is the time to refocus our individual and collective efforts to present, debate and enact as many laws as humanly possible that will enhance the quality of the lives of the people of this country. The actions of the 15 Members of Parliament must instill and inspire confidence in this new institution of governance and of government. There simply is no room for grandstanding or for political brinkmanship. We will never get a ‘second first chance’. Enacting laws for the protection of our women and children; environmental laws; fair and executable tax laws; laws that enhance the education of our students and make them productive citizens of our nation must be the focus of parliament for the coming 2011-2012 session year.”

The first annual report of St. Maarten’s Parliament – the replacement of the former Island Council – contains a treasure trove of information that is mostly forgotten though a lot of it is still relevant today, ten years after the completion of the constitutional reform process that resulted in the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles.

Download it here: First Annual Report of Parliament (2010-2011)

While politicians like to refer to St. Maarten as an autonomous country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the organogram included in that report uses another term: the constituent state of St. Maarten. In the past, political analyst Julian Romney has also made this distinction.

The rookie parliament held its first meeting on Sunday, October 10, 2010, at the Belair Community Center. Fifteen candidates took their seats that day: Theo Heyliger, Gracita Arrindell, Rhoda Arrindell, Silvia Meyers, Romain Laville, Jules James, Sarah Wescot-Williams, Leroy Petrus de Weever, William Marlin, Dr. Lloyd Richardson, Frans Richardson, Hyacinth Richardson, George Pantophlet, Louie Laveist and Patrick Illidge.

Of the first fifteen elected MPs only four are still active today: George Pantophlet (age: 67; seniority: 3,540 days or 9.6 years), Hyacinth Richardson (age; 58; seniority: 2,513 days or 6.9 years). William Marlin (age: 70; seniority 2,363 days or 6.5 years) and Sarah Wescot-Williams (age: 64; seniority 2,193 days or 6 years). The seniority scores of Marlin and Wescot-Williams are influenced by their on-and-off membership of the Council of Ministers over the course of the years.

Several of these MPs would later face criminal prosecution and subsequent convictions for a variety of reasons: Theo Heyliger, Frans Richardson, Louie Laveist and Patrick Illidge.

Three parliamentarians gave up their seats on 10-10-10 to join the Council of Ministers: Wescot-Williams as prime minister, Heyliger as deputy prime minister and Rhoda Arrindell as minister of education. Their seats in parliament went to the late Roy Marlin, Dr. Ruth Douglas and Johan Leonard.

The report presents the parliament as “the highest legislative body of country St. Maarten” but that is not entirely correct. In its last meeting as Island Council members approved the establishment of the Constitutional Court, an institution that formally came into being on the same day St. Maarten acquired its new constitutional status. The Constitutional Court has the authority to annul legislation that parliament has approved. Only the Ombudsman can submit new legislation for review to the Constitutional Court.

Here are two initiatives from back in the day that are still causing headaches ten years later. In May 2011, the National Alliance faction submitted the first initiative law to parliament; it proposed an amendment to the labor laws to ban 6-month contracts. In June 2011, DP-MP De Weever submitted a motion to amend the timeshare laws.

Remarkable: the annual report lists members of Parlatino committees as “senators.” But four days after the publication of this overview, on February 22, 2011, the Central Committee of Parliament decided to address Members of Parliament as MP’s and not as senators because the unicameral parliament is (obviously) not a senate.

A press release issued on December 5, 2010, announced that St. Maarten had become a member of the Parliament of Latin America and the Caribbean (Parlatino). “This is an opportunity for the country to be an active participant in one of the regions oldest regional organizations – 46-years. We are looking forward to our participation and establishing a constructive and effective working relationship that will benefit our people during this term,” Gracita Arrindell stated in the press release.

During that first parliamentary year MP Johan Leonard recorded the highest attendance rate for all public and committee meetings: 98 percent. On the other end of the spectrum were Hyacinth Richardson (30 percent) and Louie Laveist (35 percent).

William Marlin recorded the lowest attendance rate for public meetings (46 percent): out of thirteen meetings he did not show up seven times – without giving notice. Silvia Meyers, Johan Leonard, Roy Marlin and Patrick Illidge were the only ones with a 100 percent attendance rate.

Not a single MP had a 100 percent attendance rate for meetings of the central committee of parliament. Those who came closest with a rate of 97 percent (therefore missing just one meeting) were Gracita Arrindell, Jules James, Dr. Ruth Douglas and Johan Leonard.

Leroy Petrus de Weever had the lowest attendance (59 percent) but this was mainly due to illness in the latter part of the year. At the low end of the spectrum were Hyacinth Richardson (26 percent) and Louie Laveist (35 percent). They never gave notice of their absence.

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