Published On: Sun, Oct 22nd, 2017

Parliament is to blame for delay in hurricane aid

Wycliffe Smith2While most people blame our honourable Prime Minister and the Government for delaying Dutch hurricane financial aid, the hold-up really lies with Parliament. The Prime Minister is only acting on a mandate, received from Parliament on January 30th 2017, which instructed Government to block the establishing of the Integrity Chamber.

In the corporate world when the Board of Directors instructs Management to carry out an order, it is executed until the Board cancels the instruction. Likewise, in the public sector when Parliament passes a motion, instructing government to execute an order, government is expected to carry out the instruction until Parliament decides otherwise.

Let me spare the reader the history and intrigues related to the Integrity Chamber and fast forward to January 30th 2017 when the Integrity Chamber was once again the topic of discussion on the floor of Parliament. After learning that the Kingdom Government had appointed a quartermaster to the Integrity Chamber, without officially informing Sint Maarten, Prime Minister William Marlin requested a meeting with Parliament to discuss the unlawful decision by the Kingdom. At the end of the meeting, fourteen Members of Parliament (MP Geerlings was absent with notice) unanimously passed a motion ordering the Government to block the creation of an Integrity Chamber and to condemn the decision of the Kingdom Government. The motion further instructed Government to present a plan of approach to tackle various areas of integrity as reported in the four integrity reports conducted on Sint Maarten.

To date this motion is still valid and binding because Parliament has not amended or annulled it. Hence, the current stance taken by the Prime Minister, towards the Integrity Chamber and the Kingdom is in keeping with this motion and is supported and condoned by our Parliament. Consequently, the onus of the delay of the much-needed financial aid for the reconstruction of Sint Maarten should be placed on Parliament.

Since the January motion, Parliament has done nothing concerning the Integrity Chamber. Here are some facts and observations showing that Parliament does not see the urgency or the need for the Integrity Chamber.

  1. In the January 30th motion, Parliament instructed Government to prepare a plan of approach, but never followed up on this instruction. Clearly, Parliament’s supervisory function leaves much to be desired in this matter.
  2. Between January and August 2017, the Central Committee of Parliament held several meetings with the Prime Minister concerning the Integrity Chamber but the Committee never saw the need to amend or revoke the decision concerning the Integrity Chamber.
  3. Even after learning that the Kingdom Council of Ministers had tied the hurricane aid to the implementation of the Integrity Chamber, Parliament has not deemed it necessary to review the January motion.
  4. Parliament has also slowed down the process of financial hurricane aid by allowing the meetings concerning hurricane preparedness, disaster management and the recovery of Sint Maarten to drag on for more than six weeks whilst the end of these meetings is still not in sight.
  5. Parliament is seemingly unable to deal with the core problem, which is the Integrity Chamber; hence, we see individual Members of Parliament on their own writing letters to the media and to the Kingdom Council of Ministers concerning the desperately needed financial aid. In my opinion, these letters would have made a greater impact if they had come from Parliament itself.
  6. Many Members of Parliament have raised questions concerning hurricane preparedness, disaster management and the recovery plans for Sint Maarten but have not received satisfactory answers. It appears as if the tone, the agenda and the schedule for the meetings of Parliament are set by Prime Minister and not by Parliament.
  7. Parliament knew long before hurricane Irma hit the island that the target date for the approval of the ordinance of the Integrity Chamber was October 31st 2017; yet Parliament never pressured Government to ensure that the ordinance would be ready on time.
  8. The Interim National Recovery Plan was presented to the President of Parliament and the Faction Leaders on October 10th 2017. However, to date, this report has not yet been brought to the floor of Parliament. Here again we see how Parliament is delaying the process.

Given the above observations, Parliament should bear the blame for delaying the aid because, as the highest legislative and supervisory body it instructed the Government, via the January 30th motion, to use whatever means available to block the creation of the Integrity Chamber. The Prime Minister as head of the executive branch is only carrying out the instruction of Parliament

It goes without saying that if our Parliament and Government had done what they had to do from the moment the Integrity Chamber ordinance was rescinded by the Constitutional Court the country would not be in this deadlock today. However, to get out of this dilemma, Parliament should revoke or amend the motion of January 30th 2017, so as to enable Government to enter into negotiations with the Minister for Kingdom Relations concerning a new deadline seeing that the 31st of October is no longer feasible. Negotiations should also commence as soon as possible regarding the much-needed financial aid for Sint Maarten. Parliament should finalize the meetings with the Prime Minister as soon as possible. Parliament should also discuss and approve the National Recovery Plan as soon as possible.

Parliament, please do not hide behind Government any longer. Step up and lead the country. You owe it to our people!