PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Over the past years, the NA has fought valiantly for the rights of people of St. Maarten and for the 37 square miles of earth we share with our sisters and brothers in the north. One must keep in mind that we are a country within the Kingdom and as such should enjoy a ‘full measure of self government’.
From Island Council members, Commissioners and Senators in the pre 2010 era to the Members of Parliament and Ministers since, we have stood for and fought the interference of the Dutch in words and action.
Examples of such are:
- Fighting for the promised financial assistance from the NL to properly start to fend for ourselves in 2010
- Agreeing to a CFT for a limited period to prove we could bring our financial House in order
- Accepting assistance to strengthen the Justice chain while maintaining control
- We have spoken out against the heavy handed threats of “aanwijzing after aanwijzing” despite our Dutch “partners” admitting that the lack of funding at the start had a huge role to play in the lack of progress towards greater self governance.
- Speaking out in parliament and government against more measures which would stifle our rights in this new status since 2015 when ministers in the kingdom bound the parliament to take a particular decision or face further measures.
- Tried to renegotiate the terms of the protocols and implementation of the Integriy Chamber and warned that these were constructs to further stagnate our progress and strides towards true self governance
- Spoke out in parliament against the lengths to which the Afpak team could go within the legislation
- Heard the cries of regular citizens being put through hours of interrogations, without a shred of evidence and being released after without a word of apology for besmirching their names and jeopardizing their ability to make a living. We questioned the Justice chain about such practices and echoed the concerns of the people in parliament
- Taken note that these same allegations have been leveled at politically exposed persons over the years and that few of the cases were ever finalized
- We warned of the Dutch interference and heavy handedness then, and again when they conveniently used the vote of no confidence against our NA led government to play games in the media to force the resignation of then PM Marlin after the change of political allegiances post hurricane Irma lead to a new majority in Parliament of eight. We warned that, locally, we were playing into their hands and that there were ulterior motives.
- PM broke his silence and spoke out against the lack of cooperation of the marines during the emergency period in executing the requests of the Chief of police and PM, which they confirmed 9 months later, which made him persona non grata in NL
- We urged and lobbied for a national government to stop the strides from across the Atlantic, but the power for some was within grasp and a true political bond in the interest of country could not be forged. Sight was lost of the bigger picture that as a fledgling country we were falling into the age old colonial trap of “denounce local leaders and rule”.
- Again, after the elections, several attempts were made to unify parties in the interest of the greater community and to together stand our ground – however, that too failed. Firstly, because one party refused to work with a party who’s leader was the subject of an investigation… later for unidentified power struggles within the parties and lack of trust – therefor, no national (or broad based) government was formed,
Today, SXM is represented by ministers approved by a mere 8 MPs, the bare minimum for such. The interim and sitting government have not been able to execute anything that they threw the former government out for… they have in fact clearly stated in each meeting that they are the mercy of the Dutch, that they don’t know how they will finance the budgetary and recovery shortfall, or where they will get the remaining one billion dollars needed to recover the island.
They also can’t seem to get the promised $500 million (minus World Bank fees, millions in NL consultants, cost of the Integrity Chamber and increased Border control) into the economy where it is greatly needed to generate work and accelerate the recovery. This stagnation also seems to be part of the general orchestration to keep us dependent and reliant on the super power in our partnership.
We are one year later and the majority of schools are still in the same state of disrepair unless insurance funds were received; 100s of people are still bunking up with family and friends and in the temporary shelter in need of housing (real numbers are not available); no money for shelters (despite the statements of State Secretary Knops to the Kingdom Council and media); the emergency plan is finally approved in the peak of the season with no resources in sight to execute it; not enough social assistance for the vulnerable; no trunking radios to facilitate communication in a disaster; no center of command; no agreement with NL as to how assistance pre-, during and post disaster will take place; no solution to the waste disgrace at the landfill (NA solutions were shelved after the change); no storage for aid received after storm; and NO MARCH for any of these challenges still being faced by the people of St. Martin.
So do we agree that without proper local representation within the prosecutors office, lack of knowledge of our culture as well as cultural bias against us has us at a disadvantage? …YES, we do!
Do we agree that the Dutch have usurped our authority and sometimes with our permission and it must stop? Yes, we do!
Do we agree that unity is strength ? Yes, we do! We have been preaching it for years.
We also believe that the place to fight such battles is in the Parliament and Council of Ministers of Government and in discussion with our Kingdom partners at all levels with the same goal and then to the United Nations If necessary. We should unite as islands of the former Netherlands Antilles and fight for our rights for “a full measure of self government” as has been decreed in the United Nations Charter and even seek independence if that is the will of the people.
The current accused, MP T. Heyliger, is a member and leader of an 8 man majority in Parliament and his faction could have brought the debate to parliament without a march. A Call for a referendum could have been made, a motion to get a decision on the stance of parliament could have been made and can still be done, and information sessions should be held with the people of St. Maarten. This Stand for SXM would have had much more weight and authenticity if it had not started as a “Stand with Theo” protest and petition. Even now the steps mentioned above must be taken.
So does NA stand for St. Maarten. Yes, we do. In every meeting, statement, question, request for meeting, meeting called, working visit made, press release issued, motion made, lobbied and voted on, legislation initiated, researched, debated and voted on, and we do so regardless of who is targeted.
We stand on the premise that one is innocent until proven guilty, whether their names be Dwayne, Judy, Fernando, Silvio, Romain, Marietje, Chanel, O’Neal, Frans, Brenda, Theo, Peter or Paul and that true justice should prevail and take place in a reasonable time span.
We stand for a fair and just legal system and as members of parliament it is in our power to make sure this is the case… for the past 8 years it has been within our rights with some higher supervision… let’s utilize that power, the power of speech, legislation and Stand for our rights right here and among the higher powers than the Kingdom, if need be, to make sure there is justice and equality for all, and that this island nation can truly be treated as equal in the kingdom and given a full measure of self government or ultimately complete Independence.
I, and by extension the NA, have always stood and will always stand for St. Martin and her people.