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Constitution can never be sidelined.

~“Changes are needed, but what we have must be upheld”~

rolandobrison22032020PHILIPSBURG:--- Leader of the United People’s Party MP Rolando Brison recently explained the responsibility Parliament has to uphold the constitution, despite it having some flaws. His comments were made during the recent public meeting in which questions were posed to the council of advice regarding the application of article 50 of the constitution, which has provisions for the suspension of members of parliament that are convicted of certain crimes. This meeting was called based on a request from MP Buncamper who claims the article is in contravention with international law, specifically the convention on Civil and Political rights.

“The question as to whether our constitution deviates slightly from some international norms is not a strange thing. The fact is that some international laws, those considered of a “Jus Disposivitum” character, can be applied in a modified manner in some countries. Article 50 is an example of such an article, where it may seem to not be word-for-word in line with international law, but this is not a strange thing at all,” explained Brison.

Brison cited the example of the case of Mr. Stanley Johnson of Saba who took a case to the UN Commission on civil and political rights because the pension in Saba, part of a Dutch municipality, is much lower pension than in the continental Netherlands. “While cogently proving that this is not directly in line with international law, the court of the United Nations Commission on civil and political rights, the same international commission referred to in MP Buncamper’s complaint, ruled that there is room for the modified application of international law in jurisdictions based on the social, economic and geopolitical realities of the state. The UN commission, therefore, dismissed the complaint.”

Brison also remarked that some international laws that are characterized as “Jus Cogens” in nature, conversely to those of the “Jus Disposivitum” character, are much more paramount and have little or no room for deviation. “One such type of “Jus Cogens” law is the right to self-determination. These laws are considered so serious and important within the international community, that all countries must abide by Jus Cogens laws fully. Jus cogens laws, as confirmed most recently by the Dutch State in 2018 in their written statement to the international court of justice, include the prohibition of slavery, racial discrimination, genocide, torture, and the right to self-determination. Political rights are not Jus Cogens and thus can have modified application.”

Brison aimed to dispel the notion that the parliament has the power or competency to simply ignore article 50, and choose whether this article would open the door for suspended MP Buncamper to return to Parliament. “While I truly sympathize with the suspended MP, the fact is the authors of the constitution decided to include this article and it is our highest law. I dealt with this before when MP Heyliger was suspended in 2019 on the basis of the same article 50, and as much as I wanted MP Heyliger to rejoin us in parliament, the fact is there was and still is no possibility for parliament to disregard that article or any article in our constitution. Whether we agree or disagree with this article, it must be applied. Just like how we may not agree with the role of the governor in our constitution, which is in direct contravention of our right to self-determination, the parliament does and must uphold that as well. Our only real recourse as a parliament is to amend these articles, and that is where the focus should be.”

The Parliament has established a permanent committee of constitutional affairs, and this committee should continue to be active in identifying the articles that need amend and prepare to draft these amendments. “However, the priority must be on amending articles that have a Jus Cogens character. After all, it would be a shame for the parliament to prioritize changing of articles that benefit us MPs above those that benefit the entire country’s right to self-determination. I look forward to the committee remaining active and drafting constitutional amendments. This may be challenging, as these changes would need approval in the second chamber, but I believe if properly motivated we will succeed.”

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