By Hilbert Haar
“A parliament is nothing less than a big meeting of more or less idle people,” the British journalist, businessman and essayist Walter Bagehot once wrote. True or false? When I look at the parliament in St. Maarten I am sorely tempted to agree with Bagehot. The question is whether the citizens who voted their fellow (wo)men into a cozy and overpaid seat in parliament are getting the right bang for their buck. Let me say beforehand that this does not apply to all of our parliamentarians. There are a few rather refreshing exemptions.
Our parliament is supposed to control whatever the government is doing and it has the right to take initiatives and to file motions. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The first one that comes to mind is the Mullet Bay parliamentary inquiry, an initiative of MP Rolando Brison. On August 12, 2019, the parliament accepted a motion to conduct such an inquiry. Main objective: giving Mullet Bay back to the people. The proposal stated that the to be established inquiry committee would spend 32 weeks researching the issue. It is now mid-March 2023 and 41 weeks have passed. We are still waiting for any meaningful report about this inquiry.
Then there is that letter from (again) MP Brison to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs asking her to propose to the Kingdom Council of Ministers to initiate the finalization of the decolonization process. Brison sent his letter in May 2017, that’s six years ago. Five months before Brison sent his letter the Dutch government stated in a reply to the Pro Soualiga Foundation that the decolonization process was completed on December 15, 1955.
On that day, the general Assembly of the United Nations accepted a letter to this extent from the Dutch government and a copy of the Kingdom Charter, saying: “The peoples of the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname have expressed through their freely elected representatives, their approval of the new constitutional order.”
Every now and then I hear some rumblings that contain the term decolonization, but decisive action, let alone results? Nada. Zip.
Then there is that motion about a new banking law. On January 24, 2022 – 16 months or 487 days ago – the parliament approved a motion that asked the minister of finance to request that the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten (CBCS) prioritizes or creates consumer banking protection laws that address four specific issues.
The first one is the right to have a basic bank account opened in a fair amount of time. The motion also asked to establish rules for the termination of banking relationships and rules for the publication, transparency and limitations of bank charges. Lastly, the motion asked for the establishment of a consumer banking protection bureau.
The CBCS should submit a draft within 90 days of receiving an instruction from the minister of finance. I do not know whether the good minister ever issued such an instruction. What I do know is that by now almost five hundred days have passed and nothing has happened.
Has the parliament forgotten about this motion? Is it maybe no longer politically relevant? Has the battle for decolonization gone out of fashion? And was giving Mullet Bay back to the people not more than an idea to create the illusion that the parliament is actually doing something meaningful?
All these questions require clear answers and I guess that the electorate will strike back when it gets the opportunity to vote for a new parliament in January 2024. Unless, of course, the electorate has also forgotten all about the examples mentioned in this article.
As an afterthought: recently the parliament approved a motion that asks the government to rebuild the historic ruins at Diamond Estate and to let those who destroyed them pay for it. this way, the parliament is overlooking an obvious problem: the government has no idea who destroyed those ruins. Who is supposed to investigate this? The government? Detective Samuel? The prosecutor’s office? And what if it turns out that the vandals are little punks that don’t have a penny to their name?
Maybe this well-intended motion will not be forgotten as fast as any other. But I am prepared to bet my bottom dollar that results will be hard, if not impossible, to come by.