PHILIPSBURG–Members of Parliament (MPs) voted on Thursday to formally request that the Council of Advice render its advice on finalising the decolonisation process of the Dutch Caribbean islands.
Thursday’s virtual public plenary session of Parliament was requested by United People’s (UP) party MPs Grisha Heyliger-Marten, Omar Ottley and Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani.
Heyliger-Marten, Ottley and Bijlani wanted Parliament to forward a letter dated June 7, 2018, to the Council of Advice. The letter was signed by 10 MPs but was never sent to the council. It contains 57 questions based on former Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk’s letter to the St. Eustatius Executive Council on July 5, 2017, and on Articles two, six, 73 and 103 of the United Nations (UN) Charter, among other documents related to decolonisation.
Because the request is not related to a draft law (which requires the approval of only one MP to be forwarded to the Council), it needed to be voted on and approved by Parliament as a collective body.
During the meeting, many MPs voiced their support for the request. This included the request’s initiators Ottley and Heyliger-Marten, as well as Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper of United St. Maarten Party (US Party), and Christophe Emmanuel, William Marlin, Solange Duncan, Angelique Romou, and George Pantophlet of National Alliance (NA).
“Having these questions answered by the Council of Advice will solidify St. Maarten’s stance on finalising the decolonisation process … and doing what is best for our people,” said Heyliger-Marten.
Pantophlet even wanted the council to expedite returning the advice because “it has been an issue that has been delayed for many years.”
On the other hand, MPs Sarah Wescot-Williams of United Democrats (UD) and Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson of Party for Progress (PFP) did not support the request.
Wescot-Williams said the request is outdated because it is based on a letter by a former Dutch minister. She also said the request is not one to obtain advice from the council, but a challenge and “sparring exercise” to the advisory body.
“I, and it is left to be proven, doubt very much that the Council of Advice would even honour this as a request for advice. … [This is – Ed.] challenging the Council of Advice to respond to positions taken by, I guess, the Members of Parliament who support this dossier,” said Wescot-Williams.
In her opinion, Parliament should make its position regarding decolonisation clear, instead of “kicking the can down to the Council.”
“When we talk about initiatives to have the decolonisation process of the Dutch Caribbean islands finalised, can we tell the people of St. Maarten what those initiatives are? What do we want as a Parliament?” she asked rhetorically.
Similarly, Peterson wanted decolonisation to be debated in Parliament so current MPs could come up with a position paper to present to the Council of Advice. He also said the questions in the request were misleading and biased.
“The documents presented to us are not the opinions or questions of this Parliament. I do not have an issue with recycling, but in this instance, I am seriously hesitant. The questions appear to be very leading questions, framed in such a way that it’s clear what answer the author is looking for,” said Gumbs.
Wescot-Williams also said government should make its position on decolonisation clear. Despite Emmanuel not sharing Wescot-Williams’ opinion that the advice should not be sent to the Council, he agreed with her that government should express its vision on decolonisation.
Both Emmanuel and Wescot-Williams posed questions to government on decolonisation.
“Is government of opinion that the Kingdom Charter has stifled the attainment of self-governance by the Dutch Caribbean countries? If so, in what areas does government consider St. Maarten restricted in the exercise of full self-governance?” asked Wescot-Williams.
Emmanuel asked whether government still has faith in St. Maarten’s current status or whether it believes the country should have another constitutional referendum.
Parliament Chairperson Rolando Brison said a new Parliamentary meeting on decolonisation can be called so that ministers can answer the questions posed during this meeting.
During the meeting, Wescot-Williams presented a motion for government to prepare a “roadmap” regarding the country’s future constitutional status.
The motion resolved “to prepare a roadmap of actions to be undertaken, beginning with a clear position regarding our status as a constituent country of the kingdom of the Netherlands, that should include a clear position of St. Maarten regarding its political status and the steps to be taken if this status is found to not be in conformity with the true aspirations of the people of St. Maarten;
“To utilise all means available to Parliament, including its right to champion the interests of the country before the kingdom government and the Dutch Parliament to present St. Maarten’s case that the Charter of the Kingdom does not grant the Caribbean countries a full measure of self-government;
“To call on the government of St. Maarten to initiate a kingdom conference and follow up on the decisions of the kingdom conference of 2011;
“To call upon the government of St. Maarten to explore the avenues available to St. Maarten, if the Kingdom government is found not be open to dialogue on the position of St. Maarten.”
Motion struck down
Before the motion was voted on, MPs Marlin, Duncan, Pantophlet, Brison and Romou called it redundant. They contended that it covered the same ground as Heyliger-Marten’s motion of May 20, which addressed the conditions set for Dutch financial support to St. Maarten. The May 20 motion mentioned Articles two, 73 and 103 of the UN Charter.
Contrary to these MPs, Emmanuel said he did not see what was redundant about Wescot-Williams’ motion compared to Heyliger-Marten’s. Buncamper said Wescot-Williams’ motion would give structure to Parliament’s ideas on decolonisation.
Peterson said the motion is objective and “straight to the point,” in contrast to the request to be sent to Council of Advice.
The motion was struck down, with eight votes against, five votes for and two MPs absent. MP Hyacinth Richardson of NA, as well as MPs Heyliger-Marten, Bijlani, Brison, Marlin, Duncan, and Pantophlet voted against.
Voting for were MPs Akeem Arrindell of US Party, as well as Gumbs, Wescot-Williams, Peterson, and Emmanuel. MPs Ottley and Buncamper were absent for the voting.
Request for advice accepted
After voting for Wescot-Williams’ motion, MPs voted on the request for advice. The request was passed with 10 MPs voting for, three voting against and two absent.
MPs Gumbs, Wescot-Williams, and Peterson voted against, while Buncamper and Ottley were absent for the voting.
Brison closed the meeting after the request for advice was passed.
Bron: Daily Herald