~ Low attendance by local MPs ~
MAHO--Two days of committee meetings of the Latin American Parliament Parlatino opened at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino on Thursday morning. The opening saw low attendance by local Members of Parliament.
President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell declared the sessions open in the presence of some 30 of the more than 75 delegates expected from the Parlatino countries Argentina, Aruba, Bolivia, Curaçao, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten. The Mexican delegation arrived later in the day due to flight connections.
Arrindell highlighted the role St. Maarten could play as a hub to the rest of the world to and for Latin America due to the island's geographic location in the Caribbean. She noted that membership in Parlatino provided the country with a way to profile itself in Latin America and farther afield. "While we have ties to our mother country [the Netherlands – Ed.], we have connections to Latin America."
The only St. Maarten representatives present until the end of the opening ceremony were independent (former National Alliance (NA)) Members of Parliament Frans Richardson and Dr. Lloyd Richardson, and Arrindell of the United People's (UP) party. NA Parliamentarian Louie Laveist, a member of the Parlatino energy and mines committee, did not attend the meeting due to illness.
Representing St. Maarten on the three Parlatino committees, but not present for the opening session were Democratic Party (DP) MP Leroy de Weever, MP William Marlin (NA), and independent (former NA) MP Patrick Illidge, among others.
St. Maarten is the host of the sessions for the first time since becoming a member of Parlatino. In the past, the country was associated with Parlatino via the then-Netherlands Antilles and the last sessions held here under that constellation were in 2009.
The committees meeting in St. Maarten are Committee on Energy and Mines, Committee on Political Affairs and Municipal Integration, and the Committee on Economic Affairs, Social Debt and Regional Development.
After a day of discussions, an official welcoming reception was held at the resort with Arrindell again welcoming local and visiting delegates. She was joined in greeting the delegates at the reception by Parlatino Acting Secretary-General Rolando Gonzalez Patricio.
Special guests at the reception, hosted by Parliament, were Governor Eugene Holiday and Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams.