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Faction leaders outline their achievement and failures during parliamentary year 2014 -2015.

PHILIPSBURG:---- Faction leader of the United Peoples Party Franklin Meyers in his remarks during the closing of parliamentary year 2014-2015 said that the moment the UPP and MP De Weever formed the coalition that formed the current government they got all sorts of pressure from the Dutch Government (Kingdom Partners) which includes an instruction. He said during this parliamentary year his government were busy dealing with all the constraints placed on St. Maarten rather than working on the things that would benefit the people of St. Maarten that elected them to office.
Meyers said when the National Alliance, USP and DP formed the first coalition in the wee hours of the morning after the 2014 parliamentary elections there were praises coming out of The Hague but the current coalition have been getting undue pressures and have been given instructions.
Meyers said the UPP is the first party that complied with all the requirements that is laid down by law yet they are the ones that have been getting strong arms from their Kingdom partners.
Faction leader from National Alliance William Marlin did not leave no stone unturned when he highlighted the failures of the current parliament, even though they were warned by the governor of St. Maarten during the opening of this parliamentary year. Marlin quoted several statements from the Governor Holiday speech that he delivered on the opening of the 2014-2015 parliamentary year. Marlin said that while the UPP faction leader boasted of all the things they were first to do he failed to mention that they buckle to their Kingdom Partner when they voted for the law to establish an integrity chamber even though they do not agree with it. Marlin said the UPP drafted some 18 changes that they wanted in the draft law but when the Dutch flexed their muscles the elected officials forming the government of St. Maarten ran and hid under a rock instead of standing up and fight. He further stated the governor spoke of a tourism driver’s license that should be implemented but that along with several other legislations is yet to reach the floor of parliament for debate.
Marlin called on the current government to take a page from St. Eustatius to see what they did when they did not agree with their Kingdom partners. He said government has on their plates an instruction to get their budget in order, settle the debts of SZV and APS, while the same government agreed to increase the pension age to 62 yet parliament is the first to send home certain civil servants who made 60 this year. Marlin even mentioned the court case that is currently taking place with the St. Maarten Harbor Group of Companies and the latest settlement with Zebec and the SMHGC, the security contracts with Checkmate Security and the construction of the causeway all of which he said are questionable.
Faction leader of the Democratic Party Sarah Wescot Williams called on the government to work with her to work on much needed reforms that will benefit St. Maarten. She spoke of the episode that transpired when the Democratic Party secured two seats.
Faction leader Frans Richardson was absent, while MP Cornelius de Weever and MP Leona Marlin Romeo also gave their remarks on the role of parliament. Marlin Romeo considered the past year successful. She felt that the chairman of parliament did a commendable job. She said she personally worked hard and is part of several committees. She thanks the current recorder of parliament for her hard work and most of all thanked the voters for giving her the opportunity to work for them when they elected her to office.

Sound bites of the presentation made by the DP during the closing session of Parliament.

The so-called twinning" of ministers with factions and individuals in Parliament, as if these ministers are property of the MPs, only serves to further blur the roles between the two bodies. Whatever the internal arrangements, in this house, every member of government is accountable to the entire parliament. So my questions are just as important as any other member, coalition or not.
I suggest to those members who languish in this House of Parliament, because they want to sit across the road in the government building, to work with me, so we can bring some further electoral reform, so that persons elected by the people are less constrained if they opt to sit in the executive branch.

The DP faction for one is not sitting idly by, twiddling its fingers and looking for a government crisis around each corner.
The primary role of Parliament is one of scrutinizing government, of holding government accountable for its actions or inactions. Of speaking out on behalf of the people we represent.
We are often times quick to conclude that Parliament is the Legislature and while that is true, Parliament is actually the co-legislator. In others words, while parliament always passes or rejects laws, it's only together with government that laws are established or put into effect. Government AND parliament adopt legislation and the government ratifies such. There must be some consensus therefore on the legislative agenda to be pursued by Parliament.

There is a lot of work for Parliament to do. And many reports tell us this; the integrity reports, general audit chamber reports, and most of these tell us we are not, by a long shot, sufficiently exercising the oversight and control of government function as Parliament.

it is quite telling, when, were it not for the DP faction, the governing program presented to Parliament would have been shelved. Not even the members who presented the program to government asked for it to be debated in Parliament. It's a pity that the program offers no structure, no targets, no monitoring, no financial paragraph, simply put, a poor excuse for a program.

As part of my faction's efforts to make parliament more efficient and self controlling, we today have an integrity committee of Parliament.
If all goes well, my efforts to have a structured consultation with members of government via so-called weekly or bi-weekly question hours or question time will be included in the revisions to the rules of order.
Furthermore I believe that more attention should be paid in these revisions to communication internally and externally by electronic means and appropriate guidelines should be set.
I also believe the committee structure of Parliament should be further fleshed out to give these bodies more teeth. Some of these committees are still viewed too much as an extension of government, which they are not.

I look forward to an agenda of this parliament for the coming year, with clear goals and objectives to get things done.

Government has a dismal record of responding to parliament. I hope soon, all answers provided by government will be made public by parliament. Government also scores poorly in managing its institutions properly, especially the government companies. Some they do not touch with a 10-foot pole, others they want to sit in the seats of the board and management of these companies.
Coalition members are communicating via the media with their government and government should therefore be cognizant of the fact that they need to be open with all members of Parliament, because they are not assured of the unequivocal support of their entire coalition clique on all matters.
And until government spontaneously responds and openly addresses matters, every avenue to get government to react will be utilized by this faction.

We have from the outset also established some priorities, which I shall repeat here:

Tax reform, Healthcare (locally, accessible and affordable), Labor/unemployment, General pension and elderly care, Electoral reform, Transparency and accountability, Higher Education (USM), Climate change and its effects on St. Maarten and a National Development a Plan for St. Maarten.

Some immediate concerns: SMMC, Tourism (STA), Timeshare Legislation, Increase in pension age, Healthcare for the elderly and the uninsured, and Waste management (the landfill in particular).

Our faction invites the people of St. Maarten to critically think along with us, give us your feedback, so we in turn can keep the pressure on government that they not only respond to us and to you, but also be proactive in informing the people about what matters to them.

MP Leona Marlin-Romeo Closing Remarks for the 2014-2015 Parliamentary Year

PHILIPSBURG (PARLIAMENT/Independent Faction) – Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Leona Marlin-Romeo on Monday addressed the House of Parliament during the closing of the parliamentary year 2014-2015. In her address as faction leader the MP stated the following:

“The 2014-2015 Parliamentary session has been brilliantly chaired by the honourable Dr. Lloyd Richardson, and he has led it to a successful conclusion.

“I would like to convey a sincere thank you to the Presidium, that consisted of Dr. Lloyd Richardson, MP Cornelius De Weever and my person, who successfully finalized a new: Function book, Relaunched the Parliament Website, Adapted the new travel guidelines for Parliament, finalized the process for the purchase of a new server for Parliament, Key issues that have a fundamental impact on the effectiveness of Parliament.

“Congratulations to the Secretary General, the driving force behind the entire operation of Parliament. I thank you Nancy Joubert for your relentless efforts to ensure that the Chair, Presidium, staff and the entire parliament functions as it should.

“A warm thank you to my staff, as a team we were able to send 2 initiative draft laws to the Council of Advice for scrutiny: namely

1. Voting Registry: Objective was to address the ongoing issues of students and other groups living abroad voting in local elections.
2. Small Claims Court: Objective addressed the issue of allowing citizens to take matters to court for claims less than 5000 guilders. An initiative of Reynold Groeneveldt supported by my person

“In this parliamentary year, I was able to start the process and expect to complete them in the next parliamentary year the issues of:

  1. Neonatal screening: Objective is to allow all babies born on Sint Maarten to get the heel prick to test for genetic disorders, this is a preventative measure that can save the government substantially in health care cost. And I would like for this preventative measure to be included Public Health Ordinance
  2. Consumer Protection: Objective is to establish an entity that would serve as the body for consumers to complain about the quality of inferior services rendered and products on Sint Maarten.
  3. Beach Policy: Objective: allow appropriate access to the beach for emergency vehicles
  4. Creation of a Separate Personal Document Registry: Objective is to have personal documents such births marriage and death certificates of persons born in the kingdom registered in Sint Maarten
  5.  Foster Care Concerns: Bring about awareness of the situations in the Foster Care
  6. Central Bank & Notary: Objective was to bring about awareness on the lack of legislation to regulate financial institutions and notaries specifically consumer protection
  7. Sint Maarten Anthem: Objective is to start the debate on creating a National Anthem for Sint Maarten, and put to the rest the debate on whether to have one or not
  8. Driver’s License: Objective is to allow persons the ability to get a license on Sint Maarten according to the rules of Sint Maarten.
  9.  Electoral Reform: Objective is to ensure that the mishaps or the areas that were lagging be rectified. The Main Voting Bureau is expected to present a report on what was discussed in the meeting, along with areas identified by MP Wescot Williams. A debate on this matter in its entirety needs to still come to the floor of Parliament.

“A special thank you to the Committee members of the committee that I chaired, namely the Petitions Committee. We were able to establish the rules and guidelines for Petition entries, MP Wescot-Williams, MP Christopher Emmanuel, MP Johan Leonard, Because of the efforts of the committee members petitions coming to “Parliament must meet certain criteria’s established by this committee and approved by Parliament. I am delighters to see that our collaborative efforts surpassed party affiliation and together we were able to prepare such. Setting the example for other committees.
“It has been a very busy year, for my person, being part of the Presidium, chairing 2 committees, being actively part of other committees, researching the various laws that need changing, participating in healthy debates in and out of Parliament, Being part of the IPKO delegation, Parlatino, Faction Leaders, yes it is meetings after meetings, But to whom much is given much is expected. I have been executing my tasks. Each of the 15 members have a duty to fulfil as well.
“What lies ahead? I have pledged to work for the people of Sint Maarten, and this entails defending the democracy of this constituent state. Our democracy was consistently challenged in this Parliamentary year, and I expect no different tomorrow and years to come.
“But we have to make a fundamental decision whether we will collectively put party politics aside and fight together to defend Sint Maarten. Our democracy has been tested by others but we must also test it.

“When tested the issue of ethics, morals and values emerges and brings a different perspective to the matter at hand.
Max Cannon stated that “People are going to behave however the social norms permit, and beyond that.”

“This means that we the people of Sint Maarten including Parliament will have to determine what we find acceptable for our island, this is part of democracy.
“We the people of Sint Maarten must determine what is our norms and values as this will be key in situations that entails making and taking ethical decisions. This should not be determined by any outside entities but by us, the people of Sint Maarten. This is not a selective process, it should be reflected and practiced across the board. Our decision should be a holistic discussion, to be debated publicly not only in Parliament but with input of both Church and State.

“Yes I will state again, to whom much is given much is expected. We must collectively brace ourselves for what is to come, there are serious challenges ahead. But I can firmly say, The ANCHOR holds, in spite of the storms.

“I thank the voting population for this opportunity to serve them and I pledge to continue to work in the best interest of the people and this constituent state. I pledge to continue to give and be my best and promote stability in Sint Maarten. May God continue to bless Sint Maarten,” Independent Faction Leader Hon. MP Leona Marlin-Romeo said on Monday during the closing of the parliamentary year 2014-2015.

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