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New coalition says De Weever acted illegally, calls for urgent meeting

page1b125PHILIPSBURG--Second Vice-Chairman of Parliament Cornelius de Weever performed an “illegal act” when he chaired Tuesday’s plenary session of Parliament and closed it swiftly without giving Members of Parliament (MPs) the possibility to react, say representatives of the new coalition in Parliament.

After De Weever closed the session they submitted a request for an urgent meeting of Parliament to talk about his “illegal act” as well as “the consequences for the functioning of Parliament and for the representation of the people of St. Maarten.”

De Weever reacted to the meeting request in a press statement Tuesday night, saying he “will not entertain such a letter” and believes he did not perform an illegal act as stated in the letter.

The letter “should be resubmitted with different wording,” said De Weever in the press statement.

He added that he “stands by” his decision to seek legal advice on the decision of the Council of Ministers to dissolve Parliament (see related story).

The new coalition, comprising National Alliance (NA), Democratic Party (DP), United St. Maarten Party (USP), and independent MPs Silvio Matser and Maurice Lake, passed a motion of no confidence against the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet on September 30, the same day Matser, Lake and Frans Richardson (USP) withdrew their support from the coalition led by United People’s (UP) party. De Weever is a member of that now-crumbled coalition.

In spite of the motion of no confidence, the cabinet has refused to resign and this has led to a stalemate that so far has stretched for two weeks.

Following the meeting called to elect a new Parliament chairperson and two vice-chairpersons that De Weever closed swiftly without the handling of the agenda point, MPs of the new coalition held a lengthy deliberation in the General Assembly Hall of Parliament House. That deliberation culminated with the submission of the request for the urgent meeting.

The MPs hope the Chairman of Parliament will call the meeting by Monday at the latest in accordance with the Rules of Order of Parliament.

 

Not independent

DP leader MP Sarah Wescot-Williams said at an impromptu press conference on the happening of the day that at the centre of the issue is the fact that De Weever made his position available to Parliament on October 1 and refused at that time to chair a Parliament meeting to establish the membership of parliamentary committees, but still chaired the session on Tuesday.

De Weever was also “wrong” when he stated in the meeting that he had taken note of the “national ordinance” submitted to Governor Eugene Holiday by the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet to dissolve Parliament and was seeking legal clarification. Wescot-Williams said there was no draft national ordinance, but there a draft national decree before the Governor.

De Weever also needs to explain from whom is he seeking legal advice on the subject, she said, adding that the MP “has not been mandated by Parliament to seek any legal clarification.”

Wescot-Williams said the new coalition had been prepared to make a proposal in Tuesday’s meeting to bring the dissolution decision taken by the cabinet to Parliament for debate.

The new coalition also wants to take De Weever to task for using Article 37 of the Rules of Order to close the meeting. While the rules allow for this, Wescot-Williams said the chairman must invoke this rule “in the interest of proceeding or in the interest of the order of the meeting.”

There was “no start” on the agenda point of the day, thus invoking the article was not correct, she said.

De Weever is “attempting to shift the problem that exists with the Government not tendering its resignation [by] bringing it to Parliament and that is a misuse of power and authority that is vested in the Chairperson of Parliament to represent Parliament,” she said. The Chairman of Parliament “cannot act independently.”

Parliament Chairman MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson made his position available to Parliament on Tuesday morning. First Vice-Chairman of Parliament MP Leona Marlin-Romeo did the same on Monday.

Making one’s position available to Parliament is a bit of legalese, said the new coalition representatives, because it can be said the person did not resign.

 

Doublespeak

NA leader MP William Marlin told the press it was “unfortunate” the Chairman and Vice-Chairpersons had acknowledged the new majority in Parliament and made their positions available, but it appeared this was only to create the impression that they were rising above the Council of Ministers’ decision “to go against the Constitution.”

He said Dr. Richardson had “agreed to cooperate with the meeting” on Tuesday, because he did not want to hold up the process of the transition to the new majority. Dr. Richardson did not show up for meeting and instead was heading off-island to attend a function as Parliament Chairman, although he had made his position available earlier in the morning.

Marlin had a discussion with De Weever prior to the meeting “to look for a way out,” but that was not successful.

   The crumbled UP-led coalition is “applying tit for tat” in response to three of its members joining the new majority in Parliament and to the motion of no confidence against its ministers, said Marlin.

UP leader MP Theo Heyliger also was called out by Marlin about his “doublespeak.” Marlin recalled that in May 2013 under the similar circumstances when the NA-led coalition lost its majority and its ministers did not resign immediately, Heyliger had stated boldly that a government that lost majority in Parliament had only one option: to resign, and failure to do so was in violation of the constitution.

The Gumbs Cabinet is “trying to create a constitutional crisis” by ignoring the advice of the Governor that the new coalition should not be thwarted and that Parliament should not be dissolved.

The Cabinet has shown that the Ministers “do not respect or care about the constitution,” Marlin said.

 

Buying time

Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs appears to have a memory lapse, as he has been decrying “ship-jumping” by MPs while forgetting he had been made Prime Minister thanks to two ship-jumpers: De Weever and Marlin-Romeo, said Marlin.

“Then ship-jumping was allowed, because Marcel Gumbs and the UP were in power. Now that they have lost their majority, they are willing to let this island sink. They are willing to let this island be the shame of the Caribbean and the world. They are willing to let the Dutch come in and take over,” he said.

The Cabinet’s stalling has to do with “buying time” to get certain projects going such as the expansion of the prison, the conversion of the generators in the power plant, and the waste-to-energy plant. After these and other projects are off the ground, the cabinet “will then claim they are going to uphold democracy. It is wrong what is happening. … The country is held hostage by a rogue Council of Ministers,” said Marlin.

 

Stalemate

USP leader MP Frans Richardson said “the use and abuse of power” had started at a time when the country and its people could ill afford a stalemate. The people are becoming “more and more aggravated by a bunch of rogue Ministers who have now taken this country hostage. … The bottom line [is] they don’t have shame. … They are going as business as usual.”

Although the Gumbs Cabinet has continued to label itself as a “professional cabinet” the current situation has proven they are not professionals, Richardson said. Gumbs and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson “should know better,” he added.

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