Published On: Wed, Sep 11th, 2019

Government in limbo

PHILIPSBURG – The government of St. Maarten remains in limbo day two after United Democrats faction leader Franklin Meyers withdrew his support for the governing coalition of UD and SMCP. Meyers made his announcement in a brief speech during the closing of the parliamentary year on Monday morning.

Meyers’ decision means that the coalition has no longer a majority in parliament. The opposition is currently however unable to claim a majority either because United St. Maarten party (US) leader Frans Richardson is detained on suspicion of bribery and abuse of power.

Meyers’ decision is, according to his address to parliament, based on his resentment towards Dutch interference in St. Maarten’s affairs. “As a St. Maartener, a man, a father I can no longer be a part of a government where outside manipulation is stunting the forward motion of St. Maarten and its people,” Meyers said, adding that he had thought “long and hard” about his decision.

While UD-leader Theo Heyliger is suspected of accepting millions of dollars in bribes over the past fifteen years, Meyers declared that the actions of the current government are driven by “selfishness.” At the end of his speech he declared that he withdraws his support from the government.

SMCP-MP Claude Peterson was not prepared for Meyers’ statement, as his speech contained a line saying that the coalition was still in the saddle since the parties signed an agreement on April 5, 2018. “After what I have just heard I am not so sure about this anymore,” he said.

Peterson was critical of the behavior of some ministers and some coalition-members. Without providing any names he noted: “A Council of Ministers can only be successful if there is cohesion and unity of action and policy. But the lack of cohesion in the Council of Ministers and the ongoing sabotage by those who do not adhere to strong principles of good governance and who are out to disrupt any clear and well-articulated policy or procedure that has been agreed upon is evident for all to see. The lack of cohesion and the sabotage are disrupting the progress of this country. For the SMCP, that is unacceptable.”

It is currently unclear what will happen next. The opposition does not have a majority in spite of the support it may expect from MP Meyers, because USp-leader Frans Richardson is behind bars. In case Richardson, like UD-leader Theo Heyliger before him, is charged with bribery and abuse of power, he will automatically be suspended as a member of parliament. In that case former Minister Maria Buncamper-Molanus, who was sentenced for tax fraud last year, will get his seat and then the opposition will have the majority it needs to send the current government home.

MP Rolando Brison - 20190909Using his speaking time during the closing session, United St. Maarten Party (USp) faction leader, MP Rolando Brison, besides reiterating the need for a parliamentary inquiry into Mullet Bay, also addressed what is happening at the airport and the issue of pre-clearance.

Brison questioned if the Dutch government has issues with US sovereign territory being in our lands, asking if that was their fear. Brison said he welcomed the US government to come and see what is going on here. “Hopefully, that will be our way in through the door of the UN to let people know that St. Maarten is not a self-governing territory.”

In a recent statement to Brison pointed out that pre-clearance would allow the use of domestic gates in the United States, a move that would enable St. Maarten to open many more routes.

“Pre-clearance strengthens economic competitiveness and mutual security and benefits travelers by expediting their clearance into the US. Additionally, foreign airports with a pre-clearance facility appeal to more passengers,” Brison stated. “That added attraction unquestionably benefits the bottom line of the airport and the economy of the island. Overall, pre-clearance presents an effective business model for foreign airport authorities interested in capitalizing on the increasing demand in the international air travel sector.” according to Brison.

Aviation insiders agree with Brison’s position on the benefits of pre-clearance though they complain that local politicians are more interested in getting a cut from the multi-million investment in a pre-clearance facility than in making pre-clearance a reality.

Private jet charter companies, for instance, could fly passengers from surrounding islands to St. Maarten and get them through pre-clearance, after which they can fly to any domestic airport in the United States without hassle. Currently, flights from St. Maarten have to go to international airports in the US where passengers have to catch a connecting flight to their final destination. Pre-clearance would make charters from St. Maarten to for instance Orlando possible in three to four hours.

As to the future of the present government, rumor has it that a broad-based government is being considered. MP Brison, who today posted a video of himself visiting the Governor’s cabinet, is rumored to be a possible formateur of a next government. posed the question to Brison whether this was true or not. However, up until publishing this article, we did not get an answer from the MP.

Photo captions: Photos of MPs Franklin Meyers & Claude “Chacho” Peterson with  Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever and Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin.


Related articles:
MP Franklin Meyers withdraws support present government
MP Peterson: A true team player in the coalition
USP: Our people comes first in any new govt. discussion