Published On: Fri, Aug 4th, 2017

Marlin lashes out at Connor in integrity chamber debate

GREAT BAY – Prime Minister William Marlin lashed out at UP-MP Claret Connor yesterday afternoon in a central committee meeting about the general kingdom measure designed to impose an integrity chamber on St. Maarten.

Connor stated that Marlin, as an opposition MP had been against the integrity chamber and that he was now in his role as prime minister suddenly a proponent. “What is the difference?” Connor wondered.

Marlin was not having any of it: “I feel insulted by the suggestion that I was against it then and that I am now in favor because I am the prime minister.”

The PM lectured Connor about what he sees as the reality. His objection against the integrity chamber in 2015 was against demands established in a protocol former Vice Prime Minister Dennis Richardson signed with Minister Plasterk in May 2015. That protocol denied parliament the right to make amendments to the draft legislation. “It was unacceptable because it relegated our parliament to a rubber stamp,” Marlin said. “Now we have a different approach.”

After the government took the kingdom measure for advice to the Council of State in The Hague, parties reached an agreement that was signed at the time by the secretary-general of the Ministry of General Affairs, Hensley Plantijn, and his Dutch counterpart Erwin Arkenbout.

This half-page agreement states that the Netherlands and St. Maarten consult with each other about the establishment of an integrity chamber, based on the ruling from the Constitutional Court that threw out the ordinance parliament approved in 2015.

The agreement furthermore states that the council of Ministers of St. Maarten promotes that the national ordinance will be approved by the parliament no later than October 31 of this year.

That deadline met with criticism from several MPs who interpreted it as a demand by the Dutch, but Marlin took those concerns away: “That deadline does not bind parliament.”

The prime minister answered a range of questions MPs had asked in an earlier meeting about the same topic. He announced that the draft legislation for the establishment of the integrity chamber is almost ready for submission to the Council of Advice.

This drew again criticism from MPs who suggested that the government had accepted another draft written by the Dutch. Marlin noted that the Constitutional Court found the previous legislation unacceptable because of a series of additions the Dutch had added to the original draft. “It was a question of delete, delete, delete. This is not a draft written by the Dutch. It is our proposal,” Marlin said.

MP Drs. Rodolphe Samuel went almost all the way back to the drawing board by repeating his suggestion to revive the Integrity Bureau. “Why did we not do that? Now the Dutch are doing it for us,” he said. Now we hear that the Dutch want it to be done in whatever form by October 31. Now we hear that the draft is almost ready. Why? When the Dutch request something, it’s like lightning. What sense does that make?”

The agreement Secretary-General Plantijn signed with Arkenbout states that the consultation between both parties will be based on mutual openness and that the delegations involved in the talks will be high ranking civil servants, “preferably not the already appointed quartermasters.”

The results will be presented on November 1 the latest to the dispute committee that has been established for the dispute St. Maarten submitted for consideration to the Council of State in May.