PHILIPSBURG, St Maarten, Thursday September 23, 2010 – Women who rise to the level of Prime Minister often make history by becoming the first female to do so. But Sarah Westcot-Williams of the Democratic Party (DP) in St Maarten is not just that country’s first prime minister, she’s the first ever prime minister in the Dutch territory.
Her DP and the United People’s (UP) party have formally agreed on a coalition government that she will lead when the country’s new governing structure – under a new constitution – takes effect on October 10th. From that date, the island will become a separate country and will have its own parliament and prime minister when the Netherlands Antilles is dismantled.
Following last Friday’s Island Council elections in which none of the parties was able to get an outright majority, Westcot-Williams’ DP which only won two seats, and the Theodore Heyliger-led UP, which took six, began coalition talks. Their total eight seats give the coalition a simple majority of the 15 seats in the new parliament and the National Alliance (NA), which was in power for just over a year and won seven seats in last week’s election, forms the opposition.
“It’s not going to be an easy task, but maybe that’s the reason why the UP and the DP have joined to form the first government for country St Maarten,” Westcot-Williams told reporters after the Country St Maarten Accord was signed.
“Negotiations started early, knowing that the people of St Maarten needed a government and that serious people are working for their future. We are committed to making sure that the foundation for country St Maarten will be a solid one.”
Heyliger said the two had committed to put disagreements aside.
“Today I stand here refreshed and renewed after a very bitter campaign. Today we also stand here to bury all differences and work for the people of St Maarten,” he said.
Under the Country St Maarten Accord, any difference of opinion between the parties will be taken before a two-member arbitration committee which will comprise one person from each party.
Although the names of other Cabinet posts have not yet been announced, the DP and UP have already divvied up the portfolios.
In addition to the prime ministerial post, the DP will get Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague; Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour; and Deputy Chairman of Parliament. The UP will choose the Deputy Prime Minister; Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary; Chairperson of Parliament; Minister of Infrastructure; Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication; Minister of Finance; Minister of Justice; and Minister of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports.
Each party will also choose shareholder representatives of specific government-owned companies while they will both agree on appointees to other government entities, embassies, and consulates.
The Accord, along with the parties’ political programmes, will form the basis for a governing programme which will be drafted within 60 days after the coalition takes office.
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