the Governor's Speeches

Back to Speeches Indexdec 06, 2010

Opening Address Extraordinary Meeting of the Advisory Council

Delivered by His Excellency Eugene B. Holiday as a opening address 
for a Extraordinary Meeting of the Advisory Council

Dear vice-chairlady, members and staff of the Advisory Council,

It is for me an honour and a pleasure to open and chair this extraordinary meeting, my first meeting of the Advisory Council of the Country Sint Maarten.

The Constitution stipulates that the Governor may preside over the Advisory Council, as often as he considers such necessary. I can inform you that that will not be often. It is further stipulated that in the event that the Governor functions as chairman he has an advisory function. I can assure you that you can depend on my advice. In that light I will make use of this opportunity to offer you some words of advice. In doing so, I will focus on the tasks, the authorities, the significance of the advices and the importance of the independence of the Advisory Council.

1.  Task of the Advisory Council

According to the constitution the tasks of the Advisory Council encompass advising about all proposals of legislation and regulation  of or with regard to the Country St. Maarten. The Advisory Council in my opinion is therefore an authoritative body which –
? on the basis of the expertise of its members and secretariat in the area of legislation, legislative technique and public administration; and
? at some distance from everyday politics –
contributes to the quality, among which the uniformity, of the legislation and the administration.

It is therefore of importance that on the occasion of advising about legislation the Council maintains a clear assessment framework which is based on three aspects, namely:
(1) a policy assessment;
(2) a legal assessment; and
(3) a legislation technique assessment

I can hold an entire speech about these aspects, but for now I will only briefly discuss some features.

Re 1 Policy assessment
The policy assessment in short concerns whether (1) the proposed policy has been formulated clearly and (2) whether the intended objective is achieved with the proposed regulation . In that context it is of importance to note that the points of departure of the legislator are not always sound and well-founded. Also the chosen solutions do not always comply with the requirements of proper legislation and of a democratic constitutional state. Often compromises are inevitable. The legislative texts which are the result of that, then also do not always comply with the requirements of precision, effectiveness and efficiency. Also in that regard, I must point out that the explanatory notes to legislation must make clear that there are sufficient people and means for the execution and maintenance.

In such cases it more often than not concerns complex social and economic issues. You are therefore recommended to always seek broad community advice.

Re 2 and re 3 Legal assessment  and Legislation technique assessment
With regard to the Legal assessment and the Legislation technique assessment I request your attention for the following. Also in view of the limited number of legislative lawyers in the country it is of extra importance that in the start-up phase of the country the Council places extra weight on and pays extra attention to the quality of legal and of legislation technique aspects of the draft laws. Cooperation with sister advisory bodies in the Kingdom could be considered. In this regard consideration can be given to the department of legislation advice of the Council of State.

2.  Significance advice
This brings me to the question what is the importance of the Council’s advice on legislation. Usually Government and sometimes, in case of initiatives, Parliament are the users of the advices . The advices are, however not only of importance for Government and Parliament as legislative authority, but also for, namely, the Constitutional Court and the ordinary judge as constitutional evaluator. Because Sint Maarten has a Constitutional Court which at the end of Parliamentary debate assesses a statutory (legal) regulation in relation to the Constitution on request of the Ombudsman, it is therefore important that the Advisory Council always has a sharp eye for the constitutionality and if necessary reports about that. The advice of the Council can then play a role by the decision of the Constitutional Court or of the ordinary judge.

3.  Authorities
In light of the significance of its advice on legislation the Council must consider its authorities well. Mostly the Council advises as a result of a request, although the Council is authorized to also give unsolicited advice to the government in case you deem that necessary. It is self-evident that the Council as last advisor must have all necessary documents and information in order to give a good advice. This means that the request for advice should be accompanied by advice given by other instances. Of importance thereby is that pursuant to the National ordinance on the Advisory Council the ministers give information to the Council which the Council considers necessary in connection with the matters to be handled. Finally the Council is authorized to call on experts to advice it.

The Council is recommended to optimally use its authorities optimally to carry out its task optimally.

4.  Secure independent position of the Council
That brings me to the importance of securing the independent position of the Council. As High Institution of State the Council has a separate task, which is carried out independently from Government and Parliament. The members of the Council must be able to carry out their tasks free from undesired influence and there may be no reason for doubts to the objective way of execution of their function. In connection with that it deserves recommendation, supplemental to the legal provisions with regards to incompatible functions  for members of the Council, to prepare a Code on how to deal with ancillary positions.

5.  Conclusion

In conclusion, the way in which as first Advisory Council of Sint Maarten, in this start-up phase, you fulfill your task and make use of your authorities will be the determining factor for the position and the authority of the Council in relation to the Government, the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Community and, more importantly for the quality of the legislation and administration in Sint Maarten. On you therefore lies an extraordinary and important responsibility.

I wish you and the Council much wisdom with the execution of your extraordinary and important work.