Spirit of the law

Opposition parties are again threatening to boycott the installation of a new Member of Parliament (MP) for PAR. Mind you, the seat was voluntarily given back to the party by its departing occupant, so there can be no doubt where it belongs.

But because the PAR-led government is backed by a minimal legislative majority of 11 in the 21-seat house, the temporarily vacant seat means assistance is needed from at least one opposition faction member to meet and approve credentials of the incoming candidate so she can be sworn in.

The same thing happened before with the other coalition party MAN when it made a comparable change. The matter went to court then and because an opposition member had promised the judge during the hearing that she would cooperate should this be deemed the constitutionally correct thing to do, the deadlock was broken.

If all this seems a bit childish, that may be because it really is. St. Maarten has not experienced huge dilemmas on the admittance of new members to Parliament, probably because there have been few similar situations with successions lacking majority support since country status was attained per 10-10-10.

However, not signing in at meetings for politically opportunistic reasons if the governing parties cannot muster a quorum has become common local practice. The argument is that they have the first responsibility to ensure the required backing for coalition polices and proposals.

This usually leads to undesirable delays in sometimes important debates and decisions. And it is done both ways, because coalition parties not wanting to deal with sensitive issues also shun meetings requested by the opposition.

But elected representatives are there to serve the people. They get paid a handsome fulltime salary and should in principle attend every session, regardless of who requested such.

Showing up is the number one prerequisite for any job and those voted into public office must never forget that. Hiding behind legal formalities is not a sign of strength but rather weakness.

There is such a thing as the spirit of the law.

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