PHILIPSBURG:--- The United St. Maarten Party (USP) faction in parliament outlines its plan of action for the year 2021. The work on some of the projects outlined in the 2021 plan of actions has begun in 2020, while the party intends to have them completed during the course of this year.
Animal Cruelty Law is one of the projects on the list. This law already exists in parts of our penal code. Aruba has a more in-depth law with a penalty section. The faction intends to review this law to establish if there is a need to implement a similar law with adaptations that are best suitable for St. Maarten. Discussions with stakeholders and revision of the Aruban laws have already taken place. The law will safeguard animals’ rights and prevent cruelty to certain domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, and horses. The law to protect the shark species are already on the books, while specific emphasis will be placed on having dolphins in enclosures such as dolphinariums, etc. not allowed. The allowance of zoos will also be reviewed as we are of the opinion that animals belong in the wild and not in cages.
From the aspect of food security and strengthening our economy in the field of agriculture and fisheries, we are confident that this sector can be beneficial both financially and health-wise.
Small-scale personal gardening is already a new phenomenon on the island for those with the space to do so. The requisition of domain land to accommodate professional and personal agriculture is a possibility being considered to further discuss also with the Ministry of VROMI.
Cannabis farming for medicinal and recreational purposes is another sector that can be a new pillar for our economic diversification. Presently the faction is busy seeking collaboration from the parliaments and governments in Aruba and Curacao who are much further with legislation and permitting of such farming especially the medicinal cannabis.
Agriculture through technology will be a beneficial source for food security, thus also benefitting the hospitality sector (phonics technologies within a hurricane area) It will probably be necessary to bring in specialists from abroad to assist in this area. A more in-depth working relationship with experts from the Netherlands (University of Wageningen) must also have collaborated. The University of St. Maarten and the agriculture sector can together pull this initiative.
Market protection for locally grown and cultivated products is very essential. The price of the local products can remain competitive by using well water (to be decontaminated if necessary), which is much less costly and is easily accessible in many areas on this island.
Another sector that can bring economic advantages is seafood farming for lobsters, fish, shrimps, and conchs, thus creating additional opportunities for jobs.
Livestock farming of chickens, ducks, and pigs for consumption and egg production can be sold locally as well as exported to neighboring islands.
The USP faction in parliament is actively working on the tolerance policy for the decriminalization of possession, use, and cultivation of Cannabis. The maximum allowed amount of cannabis for personal and recreational use is yet to be determined. This will decrease the number of persons incarcerated for possession of a minimal amount of cannabis. In addition, youngsters found with a minimal amount of cannabis will not have a criminal record, thus allowing them to further their education or to seek employment.
The finalization of the code of conduct and gift policy for parliamentarians is another aspect that the USP faction in parliament will be dealing with, as this is imperative to avoid Members of Parliament (MP’s) finding themselves in positions of a possible conflict of interest and to avoid them compromising their functions/duties. It will also prevent MP’s from using their office for personal gain and to prevent them from having their integrity to be called into question.
The code of conduct will determine, among other things, the maximum monetary value of gifts a member of parliament may accept, what other employment or duties/work a member of parliament may perform outside of his/her duties as a parliamentarian, and what other functions the member may hold or carry out.
Installing a permanent Integrity Committee in parliament is also something that the US Party will be bringing to the floor of parliament.
On the subject of Environmental Protection and Preservation, the US Party believes that the beach ownership legislation must be reviewed to ensure that all our beaches and shorelines are owned by Country St. Maarten, including the parking and accessibility.
The US Party will be pushing for the long-awaited finalization of the VROMI ordinance which entails the garbage collection ordinance, the sewage collection ordinance, the building ordinance, and the completion of the zoning of our country to prevent the destruction of our beaches, lagoons, ponds, and the remaining greenery, just to name a few.
The needed law on breathalyzer testing is presently being reviewed for the process to start the initiative law or an amendment to the present law. This law will allow law enforcement officers to perform a breathalyzer test on individuals suspected of being intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol while driving a vehicle on the public road, or being a nuisance to society. Presently, there is no legal manner to determine the state of such persons by means of a test unless a blood sample is taken. Also, the law on noise pollution is being reviewed for the initiative law process and will equip law enforcement officers with a device to measure and determine the level of noise being produced. Perpetrators will be warned or given a fine, should they exceed the to-be-determined allowed number of decibels. Presently, there is no legal manner to determine the level of decibels in the law.
The USP MP’s are dealing with the adaptation of the electoral laws on the following points:
- The numeration that politicians are entitled to at the end of their terms or when their terms end prematurely. (i.e. termination due to a vote of no-confidence or change of government, or due to early elections)
- The right and the process to call early elections prior to the formal end of the term.
- The procedures to appoint and screen candidate ministers.
The revision of the draft penal code is another matter very dear to the hearts of the USP MP’s. They have suggested amendments to various articles to ensure that everyone is treated fairly by the law. And that no one party, in particular the prosecutor’s office, is given a preferential position to carry out their job. The law is not about what quota can be filled or how many people can be arrested, but about ensuring that the country is safe for all citizens. Everyone must be treated equally and personal privacy must be safeguarded by the laws (as it in the Netherlands) which is presently not the case.
The USP MP’s are going to make several proposals for the strengthening of our Rule of law (Rechtstaat) and the justice system during the next 5 years, which include that:
- All laws will be translated into English and will be the formal language of the courts within the transition period of 5-6 years.
- Maarten/Antillean born lawyers practicing should be granted the opportunity to become judges and prosecutors during the program period of the proposed COHO entity.
- Funds from the transition program, be it a grant or a loan, must now be allocated to this project in writing.
- A Prosecutor General be appointed for St. Maarten who reports to St. Maarten’s Minister of Justice and carries out policies best for THIS country.
- The laws on Financial Economic crimes, particularly pertaining to offshore businesses, be equal to those in the Netherlands.
- The border control is part of the Coast Guard and Immigration, seeing that KMAR is not controlling the physical border between the Dutch and the French sides.
In regards to the sustainability of our economy, the USP faction recommends:
- That we reinstate offshore banking as is stated in our laws and adjust the laws if necessary. The CFATF will be taken into consideration.
- That our telecommunication companies be strengthened by partnering with a telecom giant from the Region, or the Kingdom of France. Proper telecommunication services and stable internet service must be guaranteed. The rates are to be competitive with those within the region.
- That we move from direct taxes to indirect taxes. Tax reform must ensure an attractive investment climate. Everyone must pay their due taxes.
- And that we move on to sustainable energy whereby our water and electricity supply is produced through incineration of garbage partially or in full.
- Alternative Energy should be sought in the form of wind and solar but with the local electricity company at the helm of such to ensure the sustainability of the company for the future.
As it pertains to the discussion of Decolonization, the US Party wholeheartedly supports the review by the Constitution and Decolonization committee of Parliament on the status of the completion of Article 73 of the UN resolution 945. The USP faction in parliament supported the motion passed in parliament regarding the position of the Pro Soualiga Foundation and will continue to support such until the full measure of decolonization has been attained.
The party strongly believes that our freedom of expression and our rights to choose is not to be surrendered as a condition for any money.