37 organic laws of St. Maarten stemming from the Constitution, the explanatory memorandum to the Constitution and a glossary have been translated into British English. All translated legislations are now available on the government’s website along with the Dutch version.
The English translations are not binding in court. The original (Dutch) version of the laws will be used and referred to in court cases as Dutch is the official language used by the court. British English was used for the translations as it is the same as used by the Council of Ministers.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Head of the Legal Affairs Department Henk Jan Habermehl symbolically launched the series of laws with a presentation to representatives of the high councils of state, secretaries-generals and department heads of government ministries at the A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall, on Thursday, February 27, 2014.
Wescot-Williams said the completion of the translation project is ‘a proud moment overall,’ and it was ‘extremely important’ for the public to know that the organic laws are now in English and are accessible on government’s website. The laws, she said, is ‘in our first language that is our English language.’
She said the next ‘hefty work’ she desires to see completed by the Legal Affairs Department is the translation of the revised Civil and Penal Codes from Dutch to English. The stipulations in the codes ‘affect all of us, but they don’t live in the community.’
Some 900 more laws and other legal documents are still to be translated into English by government. Funding has to be sought for this project.
Habermehl said laws are not always accessible to ‘the man on the street’ even in a language he speaks, because of the legal terms used. The English translations are helpful in St. Maarten’s case as the first language is English and not Dutch, the language the laws are written in as well as the language used by the court.
The Ministry of General Affairs, which falls under the purview of Wescot-Williams, is instructed in the national ordinance regulating publications of laws and decrees to ensure translations are available ‘within a reasonable time.’
The translation project involved 350,000 words and some 1,000 hours of work by the Legal Affairs Department. Those hours do not include the hours spent by the external legal translators who worked on the project.
(1 March 2014)