"Duncan Law" adopted: early elections possible

The "Duncan Law" was passed unanimously by the Antillean Parliament Wednesday afternoon. This was the last sitting of this Parliament. The new Parliament elected in January takes office on Friday.

The amendment to the Islands Regulation ERNA, now makes possible the dissolution of the Island Councils of St. Maarten and Curaçao and the holding of early elections.

All 22 Parliamentarians voted for the amendment presented by Constitutional Affairs Minister Roland Duncan (NA). A two-thirds majority (15 or more seats) was required to pass the law. The Emily de Jongh-Elhage Cabinet is supported by 14 of the 22 seats. The remaining seats form the opposition.

Based on the amendment, St. Maarten can now expand its Island Council from 11 members to 15 after the next election, in preparation for the Parliament of Country St. Maarten, and can augment its Executive Council from five commissioners to seven to reflect the Council of Ministers for Country St. Maarten.

National Alliance (NA) Parliamentarians George Pantophlet and Rodolphe Samuel tabled a motion for Island Council members' salaries, attendance fees and other remunerations to be regulated by the Island Council instead of by Parliament.

A similar change of the ERNA was also introduced for Saba, St. Eustatius, and Bonaire.

Pantophlet said the passing of the law was a huge step towards 10-10-10, the date for country status.

Samuel also said he was elated about the passing of the law and its implications for St. Maarten's future.

Island Council members are part-timers and receive a stipend for their service in the current system which also allows council members to be commissioners.

With the expansion of the council should come a dualistic system, with the legislative branch (Parliament) separated from the executive branch (Council of Ministers). This change will also make the post of Island Council member/Parliamentarian a full-time one.

DP Parliamentarian Erno Labega said he would expect the NA-led government to restart talks on the constitution for Country St. Maarten that he said were all but abandoned when the DP left Government in June 2009.

"I would expect that we would deal with the constitution before the dissolution of the Island Council," he said.

Prime Minister de Jongh-Elhage and Duncan thanked Parliamentarians for their unanimous support for the further empowerment of the islands. Duncan said the draft legislation was a further necessary and important step in the constitutional process, moving St. Maarten closer to country status.

25 March 2010

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