Published On: Mon, Oct 31st, 2022

Parliament’s annual report contains a recurring piece of misinformation

PHILIPSBURG — The annual report of the parliament for the year 2020-2021 is a document that runs 274 pages, stuffed with information related to the function and authority of parliament, a financial overview, a picture gallery of the Members of Parliament and even an explanation of its logo. But the document also tells its readers how busy (or not) parliamentarians have been and how they voted on all the issues that came to the floor of parliament.

The introduction chapter contains a recurring piece of misinformation, namely, that the parliament is the country’s highest legislative body. That is of course wrong, because St. Maarten has a Constitutional Court that has the authority to annul any legislation approved by the parliament that violates the constitution.

Rolando Brison, the president during the 2020-2021 parliamentary year, refers in his foreword to a central committee meeting that took place on May 26, 2021. On that occasion, the American attorney Peter Choharis gave a presentation about the decolonization-petition he presented on behalf of the parliament to the United Nations. “Parliament will continue to work with the government and all stakeholders to finalize this process,” Brison writes, although since Choharis’ presentation seventeen months ago there has hardly been any development in this field.

The introduction states that there are sixteen permanent and ad hoc parliamentary committees, though further down in the report it appears that there are seventeen committees.

Financially, the parliament stayed within budget: it spent 7,892,885 guilders of the 9,116,938 guilders that were available for 2020-2021. The balance of 1,224,53 guilders (13.4 percent) remained unused.

The report offers a detailed overview of parliament activities that covers the period from September 8, 2020 (opening of the parliamentary year), up to July 5, 2021, when parliament went on recess until August 13, 2021.

There were 16 public meetings of parliament, 28 central committee meetings and 58 meetings of parliamentary committees, though further down the report mentions a number of 66 meetings.

Interestingly, three of these committees (for the New parliament building, Parlatino matters and District councils), did absolutely nothing; they met just once to appoint a chairman and a vice-chairman. The committee for Kingdom Affairs and inter-parliamentary relations held the most meetings (8), followed by the committees for finance and education with 6 each. Low on the totem pole are the committees for integrity, the country’s expenditures, petitions, Vromi, electoral reform and the committee for the parliamentary inquiry Mullet Bay; these committees met just twice.

The report also lists the attendance of parliamentarians to public meetings, central committee meetings and parliamentary committee meetings.

MP Akeem Arrindell (independent) has the lowest attendance for public meetings (65%) and for central committee meetings (40%). More often than not, Arrindell was absent without giving notice. Suspended MP Claudius Buncamper and MPs Solange Duncan and Angelique Roumou each had a 100 percent attendance record for public meetings. Buncamper also attended all central committee meetings.

Arrindell’s miserable attendance record also shows up in parliamentary committees: in almost all of them he has the lowest attendance record. For five committees, Arrindell did not show up for a single meeting.

Parliamentarians submitted 382 written questions to ministers during the 2020-2021 parliamentary year. The number of questions peaked in the 2019-2020 year with 537. In its first year (2010-2011) MPs asked just 103 questions, the lowest number on record so far.

Parliamentarians submitted (and approved) seven motions. In the year 2015-2016 they submitted 18 motions (17 were approved) and in 2010-2011 there were just four motions of which one was approved.

Since 2010 parliamentarians submitted 123 motions; 93 of them were approved. There were 12 amendments in 2020-2021, while in four other years no amendments were submitted. Of the 131 draft national ordinances submitted to the parliament since 2010, 88 were approved. Over the same period, there were also 19 initiative draft national ordinances; only four of them were approved.

Lastly, the annual report lists the voting behavior of our parliamentarians. The list shows that seven MPs never voted against anything: MPs Bijlani, Brison, Heyliger-Marten, Marlin, Pantophlet, Richardson and Roumou. MP Solange Duncan voted thirteen times against a proposal; with five no-votes. MP Wescot-Williams did not even come close to that number.


Related links:
Annual Report of Parliament for the year 2020-2021