Follows is the statement by the Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Hon. Sarah Wescot-Williams as was read during the Council of Ministers' Press Briefing on Wednesday, May 8th 2013.
Elections or a new Cabinet:
"I have heard many queries and opinions regarding calling elections, or not calling for elections considering the current political developments; why not call elections now?
Elections in this context is not the main constitutional act. The main constitutional act is the dissolution of the Parliament; the "disbanding" of Parliament if you wish, which CAN be done. As a consequence of that, the law dictates that elections must be held in such a case. The question is then when should they be held?
The law does not state such. The law does state however that once it is decided to dissolve Parliament, elections must follow and a new Parliament must take seat within three months."
So that brings us to the crucial question. By whom is Parliament dissolved?
To understand the logic behind that answer, you need to first ask: who appoints the Ministers?
"If you say Parliament, you are both right and wrong. Ministers are nominated by a Parliamentary majority. This can be done informally and this can be done via the official formation process. This means that Parliament, -and with that we mean a Parliamentary majority- can decide a Minister does not enjoy its confidence. When that is clearly stated, the Minister MUST make his or her position available. This so-called confidence rule is part of the bedrock of our Parliamentary system. The possibility is also in the constitution for the Parliament to legislate how this confidence rule can further be executed. That however has not happened yet, so basically, it states that the Minister who does not enjoy parliamentary support makes his/her position available.
Nominating a successor for the Minister is a political interaction, but again the appointing of that Minister only becomes a fact with a government decree.
What we call an LB."
"In addition, for any LB to become effective it must be signed by the Governor and one or more Ministers.
In the case of appointment or dismissals of Ministers, the Prime Minister is the "co-signee", along with the Governor.
So this brings us back to the question regarding the dissolution of Parliament.
How does this occur? Through a Government Decree (LB).
That is a product (decision) of the Council of Ministers. A decision that only goes into effect when it is formulated in an LB, signed off by the Governor and one or more Ministers."
When can or should Parliament be dissolved?
"Parliament can never be dissolved when Parliament invokes the confidence rule against one or more Ministers or the whole Cabinet. If this occurs we are turning things on their head.
Imagine this scenario. Parliament (a majority) decides they have no confidence in a Minister or in the Council of Ministers. These council members say, 'Aha, you think you are going to get rid of me? No, I am going to preempt you and dissolve you, Parliament.
Again if this occurs then we're turning the roles around and throwing the whole system on its head.
If the Parliament decides they no longer have confidence in the Ministers and Parliament cannot get its act together to agree on "nominating" Ministers for appointment or agree on a way forward for the governance of the country, then you have what is termed an impasse.
But there could never be an impasse between Parliament and the Government, because imagine if Parliament ( a majority) decides they have no confidence in Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams for example, and I turn the rules around and say I am not going anywhere and instead I decide that what I will dissolve parliament. If that argument is upheld, this Country will be facing some turbulent times when all Parliamentary rules of engagement will be thrown to the wind."
"It is important for the population to not think for a moment that in 2012 I was not equally challenged to call elections, when there was a Parliamentary shift which lead to a new Government Constellation. I was challenged by the coalition partners at that time to "call for elections" and I was criticized by some for not doing so. The same circumstances that applied then apply now. Regardless of who the actors were, a majority in Parliament decided they had no confidence in the members of Government, and they (the current coalition partners, which is a majority) decided they could and would work together for a new cabinet.
There was no vacuum in terms of parties not being able to find common ground and/or the Government not knowing whether they had majority support. That vacuum did not exist in 2012 and it does not exist now."
"So what has really transpired the last week. I came back from the Netherlands, still impressed by the abdication and the inauguration of the monarchs, and was faced with these facts: a new majority in Parliament and mind you, a majority is a majority, it is not qualified in terms of size, color, or make-up. The majority decided they are willing to work together and those of that majority who supported the current coalition, withdrew their support for this coalition.
"With that expression by a majority of Parliament, the constitutional thing to do is tender the resignation of my cabinet.. To whom do I tender my resignation? To the Governor. Followed by the starting of preparations to discharge of the Ministers. Then consultations start or continue between the factions and the Governor.
"However, you can't discharge a Cabinet, this is done individually and if you have Ministers who say, 'I am not resigning', then you are challenging the constitution.
Objections were raised last year in May by former Ministers, and objections are being raised by Ministers now. But if we feel the system is not working, let's change it, not bend it to suit us.
"The answer I gave last year when government changed (to what it is today), to the question: 'Why no elections?' is again valid today; the possibility to dissolve Parliament can't be used to circumvent one of the most principled rules of a Parliamentary Democracy, namely that the Government must have the support of the representatives of the people. What demonstrates that support? A majority of Parliament.
"I could not close off this point without again stressing the need to effectuate electoral reform to bring our systems more in line with what fits our young democracy. We have adjusted somewhat from what we had as an island territory, but in my humble opinion, more needs to be done to ensure that a Parliament, elected by the people and a Government supported by that Parliament can truly together work in the people's best interest, and be judged on the basis of that work upon completion of the term by the people who elected them.
"Yes, I know Parliament has also unanimously adopted a motion for reform, which by the way I support, but that is more campaign reform, which I believe should also happen, but as a part of overall electoral reform.
Only then can we truly motivate and guide young people to prepare themselves and seek to take over the leadership of this country in the future and do so for all the right reasons.
"I viewed with concern some of the developments within coalition circles, not only in the council of ministers, where I have also had my challenges, mind you. But I consider those challenges a part of our new system and new found authorities, which is the delicate balance between a common vision and the individual political responsibility of each Minister; the dualistic system we have introduced, which again is necessary, but which takes getting accustomed to and for us to understand its workings.
What we need direly though on all levels and even in the broader community are dialogue, communication, participation."
From the Cabinet of the Prime Minister