PHILIPSBURG (TDH) — Winning the most seats in an election is not the cure for the instability of Government, it is but the start of a very shaky process, especially when individuals forget the premise on which they ran in the elections and decide to fight for self-advancement, says United People’s (UP) party leader Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger.
Heyliger, speaking to The Daily Herald on Sunday, stated: “I gave up significant political power for a stable government, but self-interest still prevailed within the party. UP won seven seats in the last elections, the most of any party, and was shut out from the process early on. The then-UP team worked from the start to better St. Maarten and managed to get first a slim majority coalition of eight. We expanded to 10, decreased to nine and were back at 10 in January.”
As of September 30, the country is “again in a holding pattern. Now, not much can be done since the start of the impasse between the National Alliance-led group in Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which is fighting to see stability return to our country,” said Heyliger.
Asked why he supports the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet’s call for a new election just over a year after the last one, he said: “It has become too ridiculous. How often will we continue to do the same thing and expect a difference result?
“Everyone in the community, no matter which side of the fence they are on, is aware and understands our system is flawed. The system allows for instability instead of stability. The system holds parties accountable and as the framework for running a campaign, but the party and, let me add, party loyalty, dies when the election results are announced.
“My stance is, let’s go back to the people of St. Maarten. I firmly believe the people are indeed tired of the constant movement in Parliament that has taken place over the past five years. I believe they realise that coalitions don’t work, but they are also aware that party loyalty will not often hold out in the face of personal interest.”
So what is the remedy? Heyliger said: “Snap elections will hopefully solve one of the hurdles, depending on the will of the people. They will either give one party a solid majority with a firm mandate or determine that parties must govern the country in a coalition setup.
“Whatsoever their desire, their elected representatives must, without thought of self-interest and worry about their next term in office, make some unpopular, at least for some politicians, decisions on firm electoral reform. We have to deal with instability at the root, because we cannot determine what’s on anyone’s mind at any moment.”
A broad-based coalition representative of what the majority of the people wanted as per the election results was striven for, he added. “I said from the very beginning my goal was for stable government. I, and by extension UP, relinquished some of its power in government by giving coalition partners almost or equal responsibility.
“To those UP members and coalition partners who continue to stay true to UP’s call of inclusive government, we will hold fast to see that St. Maarten is no further pushed into stagnation by self-interest.”
It is “understandable” that there are “mixed feelings” about elections again and so soon. “I have mixed feelings myself. I hear people in our community talk about not voting if there is an election, as the ballot makes no difference. I can say to them, ‘I understand your feelings.’ At times, I have even wondered about the merit of running again in an election, much less casting my individual ballot,” Heyliger said.
While the country waits on the “panel of wise men judges” installed by Governor Eugene Holiday to provide advice on whether the Council of Ministers should resign in face of the September 30 motion of no confidence or the ministers’ call for dissolution of Parliament takes precedence, St. Maarten is at “a standstill,” said Heyliger.
“And what is stalled by self-interest? Let me tell you – the expansion of the medical centre, furthering of housing projects, the waste-to-energy plant, bettering education, and so much more. And you can say, we have heard it before, but just know that headway has been made with all of these projects, including the medical centre. Had it not been for rampant self-interest above the health of our people, we would have broken ground very soon on that project,” he said.
“Did the MPs who left the coalition know what was at stake? Yes, they were aware of government efforts to achieve progress for this country in spite of the financial shackles of CFT [the Committee for Financial Supervision – Ed.], and the big stick the Dutch Government has been threatening to beat us with since attaining so-called country status. I think the better question is ‘do they care?’ Do they care that this impasse, this shifting, has harmed St. Maarten most of all?”
“Many people are focused on the impasse between Parliament and the Council of Ministers, but we need to focus on what the shifting of political allegiance and the abandonment of loyalty have cost our country,” Heyliger said.
St. Maarten was “starved by the Dutch” of the promised stable footing and debt relief that was to come “wrapped with a larger orange bow” as of October 10, 2010. “We all know what happened after that. Many years ago, our salt fed them. Today, as we say locally, we have to suck salt, if we had any left,” he said.
The reality is that without that stable start position, Government via the Finance Minister has had to manoeuvre to produce “even the skinniest of skeleton budgets. A financial instruction was still given (remember the Dutch stick) to us to fix our budget with zero money. Deadline is looming to cross this hurdle, but instead the country is bogged down by the gluttony of some hungry political leaders and the self-motivation of some MPs,” he said.
“The draft 2016 budget still has to be handled, but the people are not being told by this new coalition of people who so love St. Maarten that failure to address the financial instruction to the satisfaction of the Dutch and not having the 2016 budget in Parliament for debate in time will not cost the new coalition anything. However, it will cost the people dearly and possibly in forced taxes by the Dutch,” Heyliger said.