Published On: Sat, Jan 4th, 2020

What did SMCP do in Parliament

MP Claude Chacho Peterson & Minister Wycliffe Smith - 10 Sep 2019

What has the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) accomplished during its 19 months in Parliament and 17 months in Government? Our worst critics would say “nothing” while our best supporters would say “a lot!” The truth lies somewhere in between and in my assessment, it lies closer to “a lot”.

Having been elected to Parliament, SMCP is obliged to give an account to the people for the time spent in office. Therefore, this article will deal with SMCP’s achievements and accomplishments in Parliament.

Note that even prior to the elections in February 2018, SMCP had already begun to make a difference. SMCP was the first party with a clear ideology which advocates Christian principles. Hereafter, other parties also began to claim their Christian heritage. SMCP was the first party to point out that candidates should make it clear whether they are campaigning to become Parliamentarians or Ministers. SMCP indicated that the election is about the legislative branch and therefore, the campaign should focus on what parties and candidates expect to accomplish when in Parliament. Another achievement by SMCP is the elimination of the practice of forming coalitions immediately after the election. Consequently, for the first time since 10-10-10, a government was formed after proper discussions between the formateur and all parties, taking into account the informateurs’ report.

At the Parliament level, SMCP functioned as a Member of Parliament and a member of the UD/SMCP Coalition. As a duly elected one-seat faction in Parliament, SMCP was entitled to two faction workers. Benjamin Bell and Tswana Nunes-Burleson, were employed to handle the administrative and policy work of the faction office. Wycliffe Smith was first sworn in as Member of Parliament. However, when the UD/SMCP Government was formed, MP Smith was then appointed as Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and the next highest vote getter on SMCP’s slate, Claude Peterson, was sworn in as Member of Parliament to replace him.

With a minority position in the Coalition and having one seat in Parliament, one Minister in Government and one Acting Minister Plenipotentiary as well as given the short time frame of one year and months, the SMCP still managed to accomplish quite a lot, despite various disadvantages that the party was faced with. Nevertheless, SMCP can look back on its time in the Coalition and claim some tangible as well as intangible wins for the party. Just the mere presence of SMCP in the Coalition and in the Council of Ministers was a reminder that the Christian principles of integrity, honesty, transparency, accountability, stability and ethics had to be upheld. This is a significant intangible win which the people should not overlook.

SMCP had campaigned on reducing the salaries of Members of Parliament by 15%. Shortly after being sworn in, MP Smith presented such a motion during the 2018 budget debates. However, due to the fact that the Government had included a 10% salary deduction in the 2018 budget for Parliamentarians and Ministers, SMCP accepted this 10% proposal. Unfortunately, Parliamentarians were neither in favor of a 15% nor a 10% deduction and so this motion finally resulted in a voluntary 10% salary reduction which was signed off by all the Ministers and by only two Members of Parliament, namely SMCP’s MP Claude Peterson and UD’s MP Jules James.

With regard to stability, SMCP was the Coalition partner that fought to maintain stability in the Coalition. For example, SMCP had all Coalition partners agree to a Coalition Management Agreement, which was not fully adhered to. However, it is a fact that if former MP Peterson had not invested so much time and energy in trying to keep the Coalition together, it would have collapsed even earlier. After the fall of Government, MP Peterson kept his word by voluntarily giving up his Parliamentary seat and returning it immediately to Wycliffe Smith. This demonstrates integrity because, in the past, Parliamentarians held on to their seats, costing the country more in redundant salaries. Both Smith and Peterson, in their own ways, began to raise the bar in Parliament as was mentioned in SMCP’s Manifesto.

MP Claude Chacho Peterson - Vice Chair of ParliamentMP Peterson represented Parliament and Sint Maarten at the IPKO and on other trips. MP Peterson took a strong public position against traveling to Parlatino. In the Coalition, he was very vocal on various issues that confronted the country, including the airport issue. Peterson was a strong supporter of Trust Fund/European financing for the airport. On the floor of Parliament, he exposed the sabotaging and delaying of the airport reconstruction and called for a forensic audit of the airport’s finances. It was MP Peterson who brought the first motion to Parliament to solve the impasse with the bondholders.

As a faction, MP Peterson initiated many meetings such as the one on US Preclearance. Another meeting initiated by him was the meeting with State Secretary Raymond Knops, inviting him to come to Parliament to discuss the reconstruction of Sint Maarten and other matters. State Secretary publicly accepted the invitation, but the majority of other factions in Parliament refused to attend the meeting. MP Peterson has also prepared an amendment to the traffic ordinance to accommodate breathalyzer testing. This draft law is practically ready to be presented in Parliament.

Change does not happen overnight. Therefore expecting revolutionary changes from SMCP in such a short span of time is not very reasonable.  The SMCP has gained invaluable experience which will enable us to improve on our approach, ideas and solutions for change so as to be able to serve the people of St. Maarten better.

On January 9th 2020, SMCP is asking you, the people of our beloved country, to give us more seats (at least 3) so that SMCP’s Members of Parliament can be empowered to call meetings without having to depend on other factions. With at least 3 seats, SMCP can accomplish much more and serve you better for a change!

Wycliffe Smith
Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP)
Website: www.smcponline.com
SMCP Manifesto: Download it here…