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Published On: Sun, Jul 7th, 2024

MP Arrindell is searching for guidelines that are already there

PHILIPSBURG -- Member of Parliament Akeem Arrindell has asked Prime Minister Mercelina for clarity about the right of voters to get time off on Election Day to cast their vote.

Arrindell states in a letter he sent to the prime minister that he has received numerous complaints from citizens who claim that they were unable to vote in the January parliamentary elections “due to stipulations set by their employers.”

“Everybody is supposed to know the law” is a legal principle. It is not anchored in any law but it means (more or less) that you cannot call on mitigation of a verdict because you did not know that what you did was punishable by law.

The citizens who, according to MP Arrindell, complain about employers who make it impossible for them to leave work to cast their vote, apparently don’t know the law either.

Article 45 of the Election Ordinance states: “Every employer is obliged to make sure that every voter in his employment gets the opportunity to cast his vote, insofar as this cannot be done outside of the established working hours and on the condition that the voter cannot do his work for more than two hours.”

Simply put: every voter gets a maximum of two hours off from work to cast a vote; and employers, like everybody else, ought to know this because it is in the law.

Nevertheless, MP Arrindell states in a press release that the matter “has sparked significant concern highlighting the need for clear guidelines and protections for workers to exercise their democratic rights.”

"The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and all citizens must have the necessary time to exercise this right without fear of reprisal or restriction from their employers," Arrindell’s press release states. "I am committed to addressing this issue and ensuring clear guidelines are communicated to the public. St. Maarten's working men and women deserve to know their rights and have those rights protected."

With his initiative, described in the press release as “decisive action” MP Arrindell addresses an issue that has already been regulated. All voters have to do is read the Election Ordinance to know where they stand in this respect.

The Election Ordinance stipulates that the polls are open from 8 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock in the evening. Is there anybody in St. Maarten with a job that begins at 8 a.m. and finishes at 8 p.m.? If working hours end at 5 p.m., voters still have three hours to get to their polling station and cast their vote. Under such circumstances, employers do not have to give their employees time off to cast their vote.

It seems therefore that the complaints, coupled with MP Arrindell’s assumptions, are based on a gross misunderstanding of something that has already been regulated by law.

The clear guidelines are already there and everybody is able to access the Election Ordinance online or, if they do not have internet-access, to ask somebody who has this facility at his or her disposal, to do it for them.

Thinking that this would settle the matter is wrong because MP Arrindell’s press release states that the United People’s party  (UP) stands firmly behind his search for transparency and that the UP “will continue to advocate for the rights of all citizens and work towards a more transparent and equitable electoral process.”

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