My Person of the Year 2016: The Ombudsman

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Dear Editor,

I would like to congratulate all the person(s) who have been nominated by the different media houses on St. Maarten.

I believe any person(s) or organization that had been nominated as Person of the Year should play a key role within the public, private sectors and community in general.

As a Community Spirited person, if I had to vote for the Person(s) of the Year, I would have selected the Ombudsman and her team as the Person of the Year for 2016.

The Ombudsman was very active in all areas of the public by educating and explaining Government, Parliament and the general public of their roles within the community. They also held several town hall meetings with the different community councils explaining the people the role of the Ombudsman and the people’s rights as individuals.

They led by example in Parliament by presenting their financial reports and explaining Parliament of their roles of presenting and passing laws in the general interest of the people.

They give Integrity workshops to the Police and they invited the different schools on the island to their office to learn more about the organization. They hosted educational seminars for all sectors within the community.

And most of all they protect Government and the people of St. Maarten where it concerned the Integrity law, which infringed on the rights of the people. Presently the Integrity law is back to basics in order to make the necessary adjustments in accordance to the decision by the Judge of the Constitutional Court. If the Integrity law had passed as is it would have taken away all rights of any individual to defend and protect themselves legally in any case against them.

The Integrity law is not only geared towards politicians, but it touches and protects the human rights of the entire community.

In the beginning, I was not a big fan of the Ombudsman, but when I understood the mediator role they play with Government, Parliament and the community, it makes my job a lot easier as a former Minister and Parliamentarian by working along with them to find a solution to every situation.

I know the Ombudsman would be surprised by the content of this letter, but I am a living testament to say thanks to the Ombudsman’s persistence. I have changed my opinion about their works and started the process to amend the law for the Cadastre to fall under the Minister of VROMI instead of the Minister of Finance.

In life it takes the bigger person to say I was wrong and they were right by the works they have been doing and being a fair mediator between Government and every citizen when it comes to complaints and solving issues in the general interest of St. Maarten.

Every citizen, we need to respect by answering their complaint and getting out their permits on time. We need to put ourselves in these persons shoes and understand that they have commitments with the banks to get out their permits on time and answering back their complaints with an ample solution even if the answer is no to the person.

As a former Member of Parliament, the Honorable Christophe Emmanuel and myself attended the Ombudsman Integrity workshop in Curaçao and it was a turning point for me to raise the bar and serve our people better in the House of the People.

I pray and hope that the Ombudsman can also do a presentation on Integrity for all Parliamentarians live in the House of the People.

I agree with the Chairlady that Parliament has to establish a Code of Conduct and raise the bar when it comes to integrity issues, especially in a time like now where some of our representatives don’t respect themselves and make a mockery of Parliament and the people they represent.

In closing, I am not perfect, but I try my best to assist people in the right way to accomplish their goals in life. My goals for 2017 are simple where I don’t want to be better than the other person, but to be a better person than 2016, and to better serve my community. Every day, we need to look ourselves in the mirror and stop adopting a complain culture and criticizing each other and understand that a statue was never built in honor of a critic.

We need to take the Ombudsman as an example and work and live our life with Integrity and respect others and be a good example to future generations. My generation, including myself need to step up to the plate and continue to do the right thing to better represent and lead our people.

In closing, what I have learned over the years, I would advise all Ministers, Parliamentarians, the different Ministries and the general community to continue to support and work along with our Ombudsman and her team for 2017 to make St. Maarten a better place for all of us. The challenges will be great for 2017, and we are going to hit hard times but together we can make a difference by moving St. Maarten forward in the future.

Former MP Maurice Lake