SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Party for Progress (PFP) Members of Parliament (MPs) Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson are pleased that their Motion of Disapproval against Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert Doran received a substantial majority in the Public Meeting of Parliament on Wednesday, October 20, 2021.
The motion - the first of its kind in St. Maarten’s history as an autonomous country - had a total of ten (10) votes in favor and two (2) votes against. Stemming from Minister Doran’s questionable handling of the Vineyard Heights long-lease land controversy, the Sint Maarten Parliament has sent a strong message that it will not continue to tolerate the previous ad-hoc and obscure manner of granting government long-lease land.
MP Peterson, who presented the motion in the October 13, 2021, continuation of the Public Meeting, said it was PFP’s goal to present a viable alternative to the infamous Motion of No Confidence, which has been overused and abused in the country’s political landscape.
“A motion of disapproval, if you put it in private sector terms, can be considered like a warning letter,” Peterson explained. “Usually, the go-to motion in these cases is a ‘motion of no confidence’, which sends the Minister home. In fact, the rumor mill had been running wild with gossip that the Minister of VROMI was indeed facing a motion of no confidence. However, a Motion of Disapproval is a different path, one step below a motion of no confidence. It ultimately holds the Minister accountable while still maintaining the stability of Government.”
The motion calls on Minister Doran to create, implement and publish a long-lease land policy by December 1, 2021. This policy should utilize existing VROMI guidelines and require the government to follow up with applicants.
The motion also instructs Minister Doran to cease from issuing any long-lease land parcels in the Over the Bank area until the policy is in place, and resolve the current controversy by completely following the advice given by Landsadvocaat Gibson and Associates. Previously, Minister Doran had only partially followed the advice.
According to the motion, the Minister of VROMI will now publish a public notice, which will allow the previous 50 applicants to approach the VROMI Ministry and indicate whether they still want to pursue their land requests. Landsadvocaat Gibson and Associates had advised this measure, but Minister Doran had not done so.
“While the PFP faction strongly disapproves of the Minister’s handling of Vineyard Heights, we believe it does not benefit the country to immediately send the Minister home and put vital government services and departments in limbo. Instead, we opted for this avenue, which warns additional reprimands if good governance lapses are not fixed,” said MP Gumbs.
“I have been calling for an objective and transparent procedure in issuing government long-lease land, not only in Parliament, but from when I was a civil servant in the Organisation of Domain Affairs. I am happy to see that my calls have finally been heard, now in this form by my fellow MPs,” said MP Peterson. “In the preceding Public Meetings on the topic, Minister Doran has stated that he wants to be part of the change in government, to do things the right way. However, his lackluster responses to my questions, to those of my fellow MPs, and those of the Ombudsman has left me with little confidence that he would follow up his stated intentions with concrete and focused actions. This is why we presented the motion, and I urge the Minister to comply with its resolutions.”