Hearing Integrity Chamber Friday January 22, 2016

Philipsburg: The public is reminded of the session scheduled by the Constitutional Court for a Hearing regarding the case brought before the Court by the Ombudsman pertaining to the National Ordinance to establish the Integrity Chamber.

Integrity in Community

It is important to note that integrity is a matter of the entire community. With the integrity of government, those in authority, civil servants and related entities being at the forefront, investigations of integrity breaches by persons holding public office affects everybody. We are all accountable for the way we operate as citizens of the country.

While the National Ordinance  to establish the Integrity Chamber ratified by government in August 2015 is geared towards investigating integrity breaches by those holding public functions, everybody is subject to cooperation with the Integrity Chamber in such investigations. As such it is the task of the Ombudsman provided for by the Constitution of Sint Maarten to guard that the rights of the citizens are safeguarded in the process. Not only the politician, but various unsuspecting persons may find themselves involved in the process of investigations by the Integrity Chamber, while they may not even be aware of the matter under investigation. An example of this may be an accountant providing services to a business of a person suspected to be in collaboration with a public figure in a matter of corruption. The accountant could find himself being compelled to open his books to provide information which could lead to establishing the wrongdoing of the public figure under investigation. This may include temporary confiscation of computers to extract certain information. Understandable and even plausible as this may be, the law should however include protection of the citizens against the danger of random searches in gathering information to establish integrity breaches by those in authority. This is the core of the grievances against the ratified National Ordinance on the Integrity Chamber brought forward by the Ombudsman to the Constitutional Court for review.

Constitutional Court

Sint Maarten being the first and only country within the Dutch Kingdom with a Constitutional Court; understanding the task of the Ombudsman as guardian of the Constitution and subsequently protector of the rights of the citizens is a process of great importance to everybody, not only on Sint Maarten, but the entire Dutch Kingdom. Reason why the Ombudsman calls on the government to make it possible for the Court session to be broadcast live on Friday January 22, 2016. The President of the Constitutional Court established that this will be allowed, if requested on time. The general public is invited to attend the session to learn more about the Constitutional Court, its proceedings and the grievances brought forward by the Ombudsman for review.

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