Almost a month after the Constitutional Court tossed out the national ordinance to establish an integrity chamber for the country, the Council of Ministers is yet to receive an advice on the verdict for the Legal Affairs Department.
The Department was instructed, after the verdict was rendered on July 7, “to chart a new way forward” on a new draft for the Ministers. However, when asked about the progress on Wednesday, Prime Minister William Marlin said, “Still no advice from them yet.” This is partly due to the department head being on vacation, prior to his departure from the department on August 15.
“There has already been a shortage of personnel at the Legal Affairs Department and with the head leaving, it puts even a larger strain on the remaining staff,” said Marlin.
With the volume of draft legislations and amendments coming from the seven ministries, the department is somewhat snowed in. “Across the board, there is documentation in preparation so this one is an added burden,” he said.
Marlin had expressed happiness about the tossing out of the national ordinance a week after the verdict was handed down in favour of the case filed by Ombudsman Nilda Arduin. The law “criminalized” the entire community, would have left people “guilty until proven innocent” and gave “far-reaching powers” to the people related to the chamber, he said.
A lengthy complaint against the law was filed in September 2015 by Arduin. The Court found the complaint to be justified and struck down the law using the powers granted to it via the Constitution.
Marlin had vehemently opposed the law when it was tabled during his tenure as an opposition Member of Parliament (MP). He along with other National Alliance (NA) parliamentarians had voted against the law. The then United People’s (UP) party-led coalition had supported the law. The UP-fraction abandoned its more than two dozen tabled amendments to the law to support the legislation.
The Dutch Government has been very insistent about the need for integrity issues in St. Maarten to be tackled and solved by Government and had even gone as far as to propose its own version of the now struck down law.
The past government, based on the outcome of several integrity assessments dating to 2014, had committed to carrying out recommendations outlined in those reports. That commitment remains in place under the current government.