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Published On: Wed, May 9th, 2018

Motion to lower salaries angers MP Richardson (UPDATED)

Parliament scenes 2

PHILIPSBURG – MP Wycliffe Smith’s motion to lower the salaries of parliamentarians by 15 percent received sufficient support from three members of the United Democrats faction – MPs Meyers, Bijlani and Mercelina – to be tabled during the second day of the 2018 budget debate, but it also triggered an angry reaction from United St. Maarten party leader MP Frans Richardson.

MP Frans RichardsonRichardson described Smith’s initiative as “a nice gesture” but he immediately made clear that he will not support the motion. This way, Richardson took his revenge for Smith’s St. Maarten Christian Party’s refusal to work together with the USp in a governing coalition.

“Sometimes political parties make statements that they don’t want to work together with other parties,” was MP Richardson’s cryptic statement. “I won’t forget that.”

The USp-leader claimed that his refusal to support the motion had nothing to do with the 15 percent cut Smith proposed. “You can only change the salaries of MPs at the beginning of the next parliamentary year,” he said. “And this cut is a drop in the bucket; let us not fool the people. If you really want to save money, then lets go back to what we received as members of the Island Council.”

When he presented his motion, MP Smith referred to MP Richardson’s “we have to take bold steps” statement, made on Monday. “For years people have been talking about the salaries of parliamentarians. They are considered too high and not on a par with the work they do and their productivity,” Smith said.

Wycliffe Smith 20180125 - HHThe manifesto the SMCP published before the elections already contains the party’s initiative to lower the gross salaries of MPs by 15 percent. In case Parliament does not vote in favor of the initiative, the party said in its manifesto, its representative(s) in Parliament would cut their own salaries and donate the 15 percent to a charity. Smith stuck to this scenario on Tuesday.

“Some have called this a political move. But eight months after Hurricane Irma, people are still roofless, homeless and jobless. MPs have a salary that is higher than what most people earn on our island. We ought to show empathy with those who have lost everything. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Smith noted that the Council of Ministers is still discussing lowering the salaries of ministers as well. He reminded Parliament of the initiative of former DP-MP Roy Marlin, who tabled a motion to lower salaries by 12 percent in January 2014. “We all saw the reaction; nobody supported that motion,” Smith said.

Apart from MP Richardson’s reaction, MP Smith did not get the debate he was hoping for; all other MPs ignored the issue.

This story will be updated after parliament has voted on the motion.

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UPDATE: Parliament did not vote on the motion on Tuesday evening at the request of MP Franklin Meyers (United Democrats) after Minister of Finance Mike Ferrier presented a list of 37 proposed cost-cutting measures. The voting on the motion was postponed to a future date.