PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Members of Parliament (MPs) learned more about the roles and functions of the officials of the Collectivité of St. Martin when a delegation headed by Collectivité President Aline Hanson took part in a Central Committee meeting of Parliament in Parliament House on Friday.
This is the second time MPs have met with their French-side counterparts since St. Maarten became a country within the Dutch kingdom on October 10, 2010. The discussions were centred more on outlining the roles of the French-side officials in an effort to bring better understanding about the workings of the Collectivité.
Parliament President Gracita Arrindell called the meeting an important one. She said the information given would help to educate not only MPs, but the public.
MPs expressed the desire to work more closely with their counterparts on the French side. MP Leroy de Weever suggested contact between Parliament's permanent committees and those of the French side's Collectivité.
Hanson outlined the functioning of the Collectivité and areas for which she is responsible. The Vice-Presidents and other council members gave information about their roles, projects and programmes. She also gave a population estimate for the French side as 37,630 people. The Collectivité records some 800-900 births annually.
The French side has implemented a statistical information system supported by Forward Keys. It has been estimated from that system that more than one million tourists come to the island as a whole annually. It has shown that cruise numbers for the French side are dropping.
MPs were told by the visiting officials that the French side would be requesting some water supply from the Dutch side soon for some six months, to allow for the renovations of the water network on the eastern part of the French side. A meeting to finalise the arrangements is slated for this month.
A booklet on the functions and roles of the Collectivité representatives and committee is in the offing and once completed copies will be shared with Parliament.
Hanson was accompanied by Territorial Council Member Louis Fleming, First Vice-President Guillaume Arnell, Second Vice-President Ramona Connor, Third Vice-President Wendel Cocks, Fourth Vice-President Rosette Gumbs-Lake and Executive Council representative Jeanne Vanterpool.
MPs enquired about the competency of the Collectivité to deal with local issues instead of needing to involve officials from France. The Collectivité representatives pointed out that based on the French side's constitutional statement, it has limited competencies.
MP Johan Leonard (UP) was again emotional about the "one people" of the island being hampered from ironing out local issues without France or the Netherlands becoming involved, depending on the situation.
Hanson said memoranda of understanding on working together could be made by the two sides of the island.
There will be a meeting of officials of the two sides of the island and those of France and the Netherlands in 2014 to iron out issues related to police carrying out cross-border "hot pursuit" of criminals.
Possibilities of working together on projects to benefit both sides of the island also were raised. However, the French side must comply with strict European standards that may make some projects feasible.
A written follow-up related to the operation of Dutch-side taxis on the French side has been promised by the Collectivité representatives in response to questions posed by independent MP Romain Laville. There is a plan to regulate the buses and taxis on the island that needs to be discussed with the Dutch side government.
Absent from Friday's Central Committee meeting were MPs Louie Laveist, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce and Dr. Ruth Douglass.