PHILIPSBURG. Sint Maarten – Prime Minister Hon. Marcel Gumbs offered some clarification for statements he made at the bi-weekly Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday, 12 August.
The Prime Minister said that certain terms he used were indeed not necessary nor were they entirely representative of his own personal beliefs. He attributed his outburst to frustration with what he has called the ongoing destructive conduct of certain media and community elements.
The Prime Minister had the following message for the country:
“Indeed, my life has been touched by the tragedy of suicide. Contrary to what some may feel at this moment, I do not believe that if individuals are on the brink of suicide, that they should do just that. I understand, more than most, that depression is a disease that sinks its claws into the mind and often does not let go, driving some to seek a final solution. I understand the burdens facing many within our community today, and how that may contribute to the overwhelming notion that no life is better than this life. So allow me to clarify what I intended with my statements, in the heat of the moment during that meeting.
“We are faced with unique situations as a young Country. Many have said, we’re not doing that bad, and compared to what it COULD be, we are not. However, as I have stated recently, we are all responsible for how this country moves forward. That means I am responsible, my Cabinet, the Council of Ministers, Parliament, the civil servants, the media and the community at large. In this day and age of social media and the ability for everyone to be able to start a blog and call themselves a reporter, it appears that there is no longer the “burden of proof” to be sure that what is being asked, printed or said is actually factual. And, if I may be frank, that DOES indeed cause instable conditions for any small country and community. How disheartening it truly is to know that out there, on Facebook, for example, there are individuals who willingly tag elements in the Netherlands that have had nothing positive to say about our country…but then are immediately the first to criticize the Netherlands when an instruction is provided by the Tweede Kamer.
“I am a firm believer in personal accountability. I cannot demand that something is not printed or posted, because that is in truth censorship and no government should dictate what the media and those who fashion themselves as such can and cannot print. But what I, and I believe the entire community can and should demand, is that whatever is printed be factual and based on legally obtained information, and not be purposefully incendiary. Incendiary means, intending to stir up conflict, to cause fire. An individual who is consistently exhibiting this type of behavior, the behavior of ‘destroy’ with no intention or willingness to build, to nurture, is not an individual who is contributing to this country in a positive manner. That individual is self-destructive, as it can only poison one’s soul to participate in activities that are destroying the image, reputation and regional standing of the very country that you say you love.
“It is no laughing matter when documents are leaked from the respective ministries. It is no laughing matter when incendiary individuals in the Netherlands are welcomed to debates on social media as though based on fact, and then use this information to punish St. Maarten. We must ALL look in the mirror, to move beyond the decisions, or lack thereof, that have brought us to this precipice. From myself as Prime Minister to those reporting in the media to those commenting on these same reports, sometimes enjoying the anonymity of online social platforms, we all MUST do better.
“I apologize for my choice of words during the press conference; I am not a word-smith. It was, indeed, a trying week and passions have been running high. I don’t believe in flowery language to get things across; I find it clouds the message. Nevertheless, my choice of words were not accurate and were indeed insensitive. However, I do not apologize for the intended message. It remains the same as it did on the day of our inauguration: St. Maarten needs each and every one of her people to come together, forget our differences, forget the positions or contracts or whatever that we may have wanted, and move forward as one unit. Some among us may continue to and even enjoy lighting fires; but fire spreads, and that is not a blaze this country can afford. May we all find the strength to come together, and may God bless St. Maarten.”