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Sarah queries the justification of closed door meeting requests by the government; should not become norm.

sarahwescott12022018PHILIPSBURG:--- Last Tuesday afternoon was another closed door virtual meeting of Parliament with the Prime Minister in attendance to apprise Parliament of the “negotiations” with the Dutch Government regarding liquidity assistance and specifically the proposal by the Dutch Government to legislate a Caribbean Reform Entity (CRE). In the meeting, the Members of Parliament were informed of Government’s first official response to the proposal put on the table by State Secretary R. Knops regarding this CRE. As with most of these closed-door meetings with the Government, one is left wondering, what the secrecy is all about” stated United Democrats Member of Parliament, Wescot-Williams in a recent statement.

The MP believes that the population is entitled to hear their Government defend its position on any topic in Parliament, and are equally entitled to hear the reactions of their representatives in Parliament. “While I support, especially during these times, finding ways to more efficiently use the time of Ministers and Members of Parliament and that informal communication between the Parliament and Government also can be constructive, the premise of formal political dialogue via the highest body in the land, should never be relegated to a sort of secret society”, she stated.

“This, regardless of how strong or large any Government coalition is. In fact, the broader the coalition, the more need for that openness and accountability by the Ministers, and always with respect for the separation of powers”. Case in point: the same proposal for a CRE by R. Knops was, as is required for Kingdom Council of Ministers’ deliberations, confidential and could not be shared with the Parliament of St. Maarten by our Government, the same Government that was expected to agree with this proposal and ensure its Parliament supported the proposal. State Secretary Knops decided the same day however to provide HIS Parliament with the information, in so doing making the whole package public”, Wescot-Williams further elaborated.

“So while I am all for more efficiency by means of e.g. a) structuring the question hour of Parliament and making this a standard part of open communication between the two layers of Government; b) sending questions for meetings ahead of time and eliminating the long adjournments or the rushing off of answers; c) not obliging Ministers to read hours and hours of answers, which are provided in writing anyhow, Government should respond timely to questions by MPs, and this should go hand in hand with Government’s respect for the role of Parliament and for the duties of every individual Member of Parliament”, MP Wescot-Williams concluded.

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