MPs support call for a referendum on independence

President, Independence for St. Martin Foundation (ISMF) Joseph H. Lake, Jr. (File Photo)

PHILIPSBURG – The majority of St. Maarten Parliamentarians present at the reconvened meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament held Friday, September 2, with a delegation of the Independence for St. Martin Foundation (ISMF), expressed support for the foundation’s call for a referendum to be held so that the people of the territory could have their say on the issue of independence.

President of the ISMF Jose Lake, Jr., made the case for a referendum to be called on the issue of independence and implored the Members of Parliament to act swiftly to make this happen within the next year.

Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, secretary of the foundation, addressed the issue of placing St. Maarten back on the United Nations (UN) list of non-self-governing territories. She said when the territory was removed from the list by the Netherlands in 1954, the people of the island were not consulted.

Arrindell further elaborated on why such reinstatement would not be a step backwards as some had argued, pointing out that the “autonomy of St. Maarten” is a myth as the territory is still a colony that does not have control over the appointment of the Governor, nor over constitutional matters, which still require the approval of the Dutch Kingdom government.

Arrindell added that in both judicial and financial matters, the last word remained with the Kingdom government. “What autonomy are we talking about?” she asked rhetorically. She then proceeded to answer the questions posed by the MPs during the May 18 meeting.

Placing the territory back on the United Nations (UN) list would secure international support for the island’s quest, Arrindell said. She added that St. Eustatius and Bonaire are also seeking the same thing, having taken their case to the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) heads of state meeting and to the UN.

Independence, continued Arrindell, is a right of all colonized people, and not a privilege. “If a right is not a priority for politicians, what else would be?” she asked.

Friday’s meeting was adjourned briefly to allow the ISMF to answer additional questions from the MPs.

President of Parliament Sarah Wescott-Williams brought the meeting to a close after she indicated that the next step would be for the foundation to present a formal petition to Parliament and/or for the individual MPs to make use of their right to present a motion to a plenary session of the legislative body.

“We are very satisfied with the outcome of the meeting,” said Lake. The ISMF president noted that during the first meeting, 10 of the MPs present expressed support for independence. “That’s a two-thirds majority,” he stated.

He reiterated that the quest for independence is not a partisan issue and urged the politicians to take the lead in working with the people. A referendum does not mean that the territory would obtain independence the next day, but it would signal the beginning of the march towards sovereignty, Lake said.

The meeting was a continuation of the first one held on May 18, which was adjourned after the MPs listened to the presentation of the foundation, made some remarks and posed a series of questions, which the ISMF had the opportunity to answer on Friday.

The meeting of September 2, began with MPs Frankie Meyers (UP), George Pantophlet (NA), and President of Parliament Wescott-Williams (DP) expressing condolences to Elton Jones, the Jones and LaBega families on the tragic death of Omar Jones. Jones is a member of the ISMF, but could not attend Friday’s meeting.