MISSING “CONFIDENCE RULE” NATIONAL ORDINANCE
By Lisa Alexander
On Wednesday 25th September 2019, nine (9) members of our already dissolved Parliament got together and attempted to not only belatedly raise a motion of no confidence by the application of Article 33 of the Constitution to the Prime Minister and other Ministers but to also belatedly and unlawfully try to impose additional unconstitutional rules or demands on said Ministers.
Whereas Article 33 (see below) of our constitution does provide for the forced resignation of the Prime Minister or any other Minister or combination of Ministers once the Parliament clearly expresses this wish, it does not provide for Parliamentarians to impose any additional rules on said Ministers.
1. The prime minister and the other ministers shall be appointed and dismissed by national decree.
2. If a minister no longer has the confidence of Parliament, he shall resign.
3. By national ordinance further rules may be enacted on paragraph 2.
4. Parliament may not approve or resolve to propose such a draft national ordinance for endorsement without a majority of at least two thirds of the votes cast by the serving members.”
The Explanatory Notes to our Constitution further clarifies, “Article 33(2) imposes a legal duty on the individual minister to resign if a majority in Parliament no longer has any confidence in him or her.”
However, our Constitution in Article 33.3, actually makes provision for our Parliamentarians to have been able to put such a mechanism in place if they were of a mind to, when they were a sitting, functional, un-dissolved Parliament. Said mechanism could have been called “The Confidence Rule National Ordinance”. This document would have encapsulated and would have clearly defined the process and logic associated with the resignation of a Minister or combination of Ministers once the Parliament majority clearly expresses the fact that it no longer has any confidence in him or her or them. It could have also detailed any restrictions that would be imposed on said Minister of combination of Ministers once a Parliament majority passes a motion of no confidence. Such a document would have had to be enacted and passed by two thirds of the serving members of Parliament, signed by the Governor and therefore would have had the force of law behind it. The fact is though, that we do not have such a document, nowhere in our legal system does such a document exist.
In addition to the above, the following are also true which would further render the actions taken by the Parliamentarians, impotent and of no legal effect:
1. Three (3) days before the Parliamentarians took the above action, the Prime Minister had executed one of her constitutionally delegated duties enshrined in Article 59 of our Constitution. She invoked said Article which did three things
a. dissolved the current Parliament,
b. set a date for new elections and
c. set a date for the new Parliament to convene.
2. The above document has been published and therefore enshrined into law. The Parliament was dissolved and rendered impotent. The Parliament therefore has no legal basis on which to enact or pass any motion or to put any law in place or indeed take any other action, which they think, may garner them votes in the already scheduled upcoming elections. If Parliamentarians were not deposed from their access to unfettered power by its dissolution through Article 59 after a date for elections is set, they could very likely seek to abuse their power and seek to put themselves at an unfair advantage over any other previously un-elected candidate contesting the upcoming elections.
3. Further, she has submitted her resignation for consideration by the Governor. The initiative was clearly taken out of the hands of the members of Parliament, as Parliament cannot force a Minister to resign who has already resigned.
4. Article 33.4 indicates that if further rules (“The Confidence Rule National Ordinance”) was enacted it would take two thirds (2/3) of the votes cast by the serving members of the legislature implying that matters of such gravity, to do with the removal of a lawfully installed Minister or combination of Ministers, should require at least 10 votes out of the 15 serving members of Parliament.
In conclusion, as per the Explanatory Notes on Article 44 “Sint Maarten is a parliamentary democracy. The will of the people is the foundation of the government’s authority. This will is expressed by a people’s representation, Parliament, which is elected directly, regularly, freely and confidentially.”
The right to vote is the constitutionally guaranteed way of including the voice of the people in sorting out disagreements that may come up from time to time between the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch. No one should attempt to stop the people from freely expressing their wishes. After all, Sint Maarten is a nation of laws and all its inhabitants from the Governor to the ordinary person like you and me MUST respect those laws.