Published On: Fri, Mar 31st, 2017

Motions

President of Parliament Wescot-Williams would like the government to deal in a different way with motions the Parliament approves. We agree, though this is a two-way street. Parliament ought to deal with them in a different way as well.

More often than not, motions are not more than a wish list, in fact, a question asking the government to do something. But seldom do these motions indicate where the money has to come from to execute such a request. Parliamentarians have always taken the position that the government has to figure that out.

That perception is dead wrong: if you want something, the least you can do is indicate how you’re going to pay for it. Otherwise you resemble a rebellious teenager who demands his expensive electronic gadgets from his parents without any concern about the household income.

But okay, there are two sides to this story. It also happens more often than not that the government does not react to a motion, unless one considers doing nothing also a reaction.

That’s not very elegant. A better approach would be to settle the status of each motion the day it is brought to the floor of Parliament. This requires the presence of the minister who has the issue at hand in his or her portfolio.

In the Dutch Parliament, ministers have three possible reactions to a motion. The first one is that they wholeheartedly degree. The second option is that they “seriously advice” the Parliament not to pass the motion. The third option is a flat-out refusal to execute a motion if Parliament is pigheaded enough to pass it.

That last scenario that opens the door for other action from the side of Parliament. They could, even before a vote on the motion, threaten to send the minister home through a motion of no-confidence.

That is a heavy-handed reaction, especially because in St. Maarten this could result in the fall of the government. If the issue is important enough then such a reaction is justified; it still gives a minister the chance to reconsider his options.

But at least, by following such a playbook, everybody knows where he stands. And that is something one could call progress.