Published On: Sat, Oct 29th, 2022

Ousted MP Heyliger-Marten strikes back, leaves the UP and goes Independent

PHILIPSBURG — MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten took her sweet revenge after the parliament voted her out of her position as president of parliament with an 8 to 7 vote by announcing her resignation from the United People’s party (UP) and by establishing herself as an Independent Member of Parliament.

The UP is now left with just two seats in parliament (MPs Brison and Bijlani) while the coalition is dominated by the National Alliance that currently holds four seats. Heyliger-Marten’s move could very well mark the complete implosion of the UP. In the 2020 elections the party won 3,231 seats; Heyliger-Marten was the party’s highest vote getter with 656 – 20.3 percent of the total. Without her votes, the UP would have won just two seats outright and maybe one residual seat.

Earlier this month the parliament still voted with 9 to 6 to keep Heyliger-Marten in her position, but because two MPs (Akeem Arrindell and Chanel Brownbill) changed their minds, the outcome was now 8 in favor and 7 against her removal. The unanswered question remains why Arrindell and Brownbill changed their minds. Since they recently pledged their support to the coalition it might just be a matter of coalition-discipline.

The current makeup of the parliament is now as follows: National Alliance 4 seats, UP and PFP 2 each, United Democrats 1, USP 1 and five independents: MPs Arrindell, Emmanuel, Duncan, De Weever and Heyliger-Marten. The coalition hangs on to a thin 8-seat majority but its survival depends heavily on the continued support from Arrindell and Brownbill.

In the meeting that marked the end of Heyliger-Marten’s tenure as president of parliament, the initiators of the proposal went out of their way emphasizing that their initiative was “not personal” and “not against women.”

But when Heyliger-Marten later in the day came with a public statement, a completely different picture emerged. She said that she had been called emotional and dumb, that she was lied to and manipulated and that she had been chastised by those who tried to weaponize her husband’s legal battle against her. All of those statements, she added, were made “mostly by men in the inner circle of the UP.”

The arguments to remove Heyliger-Marten from the president’s chair focus on a meeting about the damning Ombudsman report about the tender for solid waste collection that severely criticized VROMI-Minister Egbert Doran. In one of these meetings, the president wondered whether Doran really needed two weeks to answer just five questions and she also announced that a meeting would continue with or without the minister’s presence. Heyliger-Marten clarified that this latter statement cannot be attributed to her, since it was the express wish of the MPs who had requested the meeting.

To the eight MPs who wanted her gone it did not make any difference. MP William Marlin (NA) observed that the chair has “to work along with the government and that the past couple of weeks he had noticed “hostility” towards certain ministers. “We discussed this in coalition meetings and the conclusion is that this is going too far,” Marlin said. “It is nothing personal, at least not from my side and it is not an attack on women. It is basically the coalition saying that this cannot continue in this form.”

MP Raeyhon Peterson (PfP) noted that parliament had reached “a new low,” adding that the attempt to remove Heyliger-Marten from her position “is coming from a coalition that refuses to hold its own ministers accountable for their actions.”

Peterson also contested Marlin’s view on the chairlady’s function. “The position of the chair is to be objective and to serve the people, not the coalition or the government. That is an amateuristic lie that holds no legal weight.”

MP Sarah Wescot-Williams (UD) noted that “the Old Boys Club is alive and kicking. It is a mentality and this proposal is an attack on a female in a high position. That is exactly what it is. Nobody believes that the argument that is brought forward (that the president is biased towards the opposition) is the real argument.”

MP Rolando Brison was on the other side of the fence: “When it is convenient for them the opposition will come to your defense,” he said, adding that the PFP-faction is out to create confusion.

Independent MP Solange Duncan quoted Shirley Grisholm, referring to her as “the first female presidential candidate in the USA in the seventies of last century. (Actually, the first female presidential candidate was a lady called Victoria Woodhull in 1860). But Duncan still may have hit the nail on the head with her quote, attributed to an older African-American man who addressed Chisholm when she was collecting signatures for her nominating petition for state assembly in 1964 at a Brooklyn housing project: “Young woman what are you doing here in this cold? Did you get your husband’s breakfast this morning? Did you straighten up your house? What are you doing running for office? This is something for men.”

Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel also came to Heyliger-Marten’s defense. “You did not call a single meeting I requested so I do not see where the bias is,” he said. “What we are witnessing is a crumbling of the government. The whole country is falling apart but we ask to remove the chair of parliament because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You are suffering because of the worst government in the history of St. Maarten.”

In the second round MP Marlin noted that democracy is about numbers. “If you did not have the numbers you did not win. The majority rules, not the minority.”

MP Wescot-Williams closed off the debate: “It shall come to light what the real reason is for removing the chair.”

Before the vote, MP Heyliger-Marten had the last word: “Obviously we are here because of the way one meeting was handled. But we have a thick skin and we believe in what we stand for. We are here to represent the people and to vote our conscience. That is our job.”

Resignation from the UP party

In the afternoon, Heyliger-Marten announced her resignation from the UP and to declare her status as an Independent Member of Parliament. She said that she had campaigned and helped organize five elections for the UP during the past twelve years. Standing up for the party was one thing, but: “never in my wildest dreams did I foresee that I would have to be standing up for myself against those in my own party that I once helped build.”

Heyliger-Marten described the toxic atmosphere in the party: “The UP has perpetuated a climate in which men can speak and act against women in despicable ways, and women are to remain submissive when spoken to. But not this woman, You’ve got the wrong woman.”

The MP added that she will “never bow down or submit to inequality and that she will “stand up against weak men that will never understand the true value of a woman and believe that it is okay to be disrespectful to us.”

Heyliger-Marten said that she is “not afraid to stand alone, remain true to herself and to do the best she can for this country and its people.”

Her assessment of the UP is devastating: “I cannot even begin to explain what the party stands for anymore. The green house is in such disarray financially and has been led rudderlessly to oblivion, with no vision.”


Related links:
Grisha grateful for majority support to remain President of Parliament
MP Grisha Marten: My Official Resignation from the UP Party!
Opinion piece: A star is born