Above: St Maarten’s new government
By Alexander Britell
It’s been almost four months since voters in St Maarten headed to the polls to choose their next government.
And after a chaotic process, the country finally has its new government led by new Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs, who succeeds outgoing Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams.
“We hold no illusions of the task before us. St Maarten is at a critical stage in its development and growth as a nation,” Gumbs said in his inaugural address. “Our mission is clear: To ensure that St Maarten thrives and grows, to stress on and maintain financial discipline, integrity and transparency in government and to build a nation of character where people live quality lives.”
So how did this four-month delay unfold?
The United People’s Party won seven seats in the Aug. 29 vote, one short of a majority in the 15-seat Parliament.
The election results also included four seats for William Marlin’s National Alliance, two seats for the Democratic Party and two seats for the United Sint Maarten Party.
Initially, St Maarten Governor EB Holiday requested that the Marlin form a government; that came to a halt when UPP leader Theo Heyliger announced that his UPP had formed a coalition agreement with MP Van Hugh C de Weever, leading Holiday to ask Heyliger to form St Maarten’s next government.
But while Heyliger soon presented Holiday with a list of candidate ministers, the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ Council of Ministers intervened into the screening process of Ministers, leading to a rejection of the move by St Maarten’s Parliament and a cooling of relations between St Maarten and the mainland.
It was the latest example of Dutch Caribbean dissatisfaction with alleged interference by the Kingdom’s government, following a high-profile row between Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman and the mainland government earlier this year.
But that was eventually resolved this week, following a vetting period, with the announcement of the country’s new Cabinet.
“This debate which questions the integrity of Government is cause for concern,” Holiday said as the new government was sworn in. “It is a matter that concerns all Sint Maarteners, for it is a matter that clouds the good and positive aspects of our people and threatens our further development.”
Following the announcement, the Netherlands’ Minister for Kingdom Relations, Ronald Plasterk, issued a statement congratulating Gumbs and the new government.
See below for the full slate of Cabinet Ministers, who were officially sworn in on Friday.
Marcel Gumbs — Prime Minister (Minister of General Affairs)
Dennis Richardson — Minister of Justice
Martinus J Hassink — Minister of Finance
Rita Bourne-Gumbs — Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports
Claret Connor — Minister of Tourism Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication
Josiane Fleming-Artsen — Minister Plenipotentiary