PHILIPSBURG – PFP Members of Parliament Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson once again reiterated their faction’s distance from the 5 November 2020 motion of Parliament relating to the “decolonization process,” after Parliament received a copy of a petition submitted by the Choharis Law Group to the United Nations’ Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism and the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.
The petition, totaling 37 pages with appendices, was sent to Parliament thirty minutes before the start of a closed-door meeting of the Committee for Constitutional Affairs & Decolonization, a fact the PFP says gives the impression that the meeting itself was called as a formality to share a document that had already been shared externally. The closed-door nature, they lament, seems to have been to prevent the deconstruction of the petition from occurring in front of the very people the proponents of the motion and the law firm claim to represent. PFP remarks that the document itself, while written by a supposed international law firm, uses very little legal arguments to make its case that St. Maarten is being racially discriminated against. There are also several blatant lies within the document, the most obvious of which is on page three.
“The document states that St. Maarten was forced to enter into agreement for the CFT,” PFP says, “but it has been acknowledged and admitted, both in the press and on the floor of Parliament, that the architects of our country status agreed to the creation of the CFT. It was to our understanding that anything related to this committee and its processes would be based on facts, and not emotional fiction.”
The petition oddly makes mention of Curacao and Aruba, who were famously part of the original proposal received by Parliament. This proposal was briefly discussed on the floor of Parliament and several questions were posed by Gumbs to the Prime Minister on the matter. The original proposal included a ‘golden’ discount of 91% of their fee in the event all three islands signed on, however, there has been no confirmation received if Curacao and Aruba have committed. Further to that, the faction is concerned from a geopolitical perspective how such actions may heighten tensions between Sint Maarten and the Netherlands. The concern is that this will affect the ongoing discussions around liquidity support.
“Have the self-styled 12 disciples, in taking on the role of Government, considered a contingency to provide for the 4,000 households still receiving food packages? Do we realize that the money funding both the public sector and the SSRP, is Dutch aid money?” the faction asked. “The money that’s allowing us to take care of our most basic needs from water and light to food on the table and roofs over our heads is all aid money. Are the recipients of this aid the same persons that the petition identifies as the victims of racial oppression? Oppression is very present but more from the persons who have failed to create the necessary safety nets that have put us in such a precarious and desperate position. The creation of a poverty line, a cornerstone of PFP’s manifesto, is an autonomous responsibility, along with minimum wage, social welfare and many of the topics addressed in the petition.”
PFP also questioned the role of Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs in this current situation, as she is officially the representative of the country on the international stage.
“Some may say that as per article 44 of the Constitution of St. Maarten,” PFP states, “that Parliament represents the people of St. Maarten and that this petition ‘fulfills’ that representation. But that is a very cute use of word play and semantics. Because if you read the official Explanatory Memorandum on this article of our Constitution, it specifically states that Parliament does not act on behalf of the people of Sint Maarten in the way that a representative acts on behalf of the party it represents. Parliament solely represents the people of St. Maarten towards the Government of St. Maarten and within the boundaries of the Constitution of St. Maarten. Outside of these 16 square miles, the country of St. Maarten is represented by the Government of St. Maarten, headed by the Prime Minister. We see her presence nowhere in this petition.”
The most insidious part of the engagement of this firm, the tone and content of the petition and the complete lack of transparency regarding ‘the process’ is that in all of it, the people of St. Maarten remain in the dark.
“This motion of 5 November 2021 is being used as carte blanche for saying and sending whatever fits the agenda of its proponents,” PFP concluded. “As a faction, we were against the contents of the motion from the very beginning. For a Parliament, in a parliamentary democracy, to believe it can contract legal representation for both Parliament and Government is ludicrous. At every step of the way, the people have been excluded from the process. From Pro Soualiga Foundation to the Choharis Law Group, we have organizations speaking on behalf of the people because twelve members of Parliament decided they should. Sometimes it seems that some of the twelve do not care about the actual will of the people, going so far as to say that the people do not have to be consulted during this process. This faction does not believe in that and want to make that clear, once again, to the people.”