PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The comments “gay cruise” made in Monday’s sitting of Parliament by Member of Parliament for the National Alliance Christopher Emanuel are according to the Tourism Minister, the Honourable Stuart Johnson irresponsible and have offended one of St. Maarten’s biggest International partners in the hospitality industry, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association FCCA and members of the LGBTQ community.
Johnson said Emanuel’s comments puts St. Maarten at risk as this kind of negative and discriminatory comments are heard around the world and harm an already fragile tourism economy. There are lessons to be learnt from the challenges of other Caribbean tourism destinations whose homophobia resulted in physical attacks on visitors and a negative image on their destination.
Johnson is calling on the National Alliance through its leader, the Honourable Member of Parliament Silveria Jacobs, to distance herself and the party from the comments made by fellow MP Emanuel, or state for the record that it is the NA’s position to discriminate especially based on “gender expression.
During an urgent meeting of Parliament on the liquidity, support for the SXM Airport on Monday this week, MP Emanuel asked whether the Cruise Summit Johnson attended was “a gay cruise.” Emanuel had attempted motivate a motion of no confidence against Johnson claiming that Johnson has “never attended any meeting of Parliament.”
Parliament does have a critical role in addressing matters of concern regarding the Executive Branch’s function. However, Johnson pointed out that it is also a responsibility of parliament to uphold the constitution and the laws on St. Maarten, one of which speaks directly to the equal treatment and rights of all individuals regardless of race, colour, religion, creed, gender, national origin or gender expression. Johnson said, “On the subject of my attendance at Parliament, I have been to Parliament in my capacity as Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication four times. Meanwhile, the MP when he was a minister never attended and called parliament meetings a puppy show.”
The concern now within Government and throughout the community is that MP Emanuel’s comments may have a damning impact on St. Maarten’s image and its relationship with the LGBTQ community and its international partners in the hospitality industry. The Cruise Summit, which Johnson attended, was the recently held PAMAC Cruise Summit consisting of over 100 FCCA PAMAC top executives. He held several meetings with top decision makers in the Cruise Industry to discuss and further develop initiatives for mutual success. His objective was to offer assurance to the Platinum Partners of St. Maarten’s continued commitment to improving its Cruise Tourism Product and to find ways to return our cruise numbers to what they were before September 6th 2017.
The FCCA’s Platinum Associate Membership Advisory Council honoured Port St. Maarten with the prestigious “PAMAC Caribbean for Everyone” Award.” During that award ceremony, FCCA President Paige said, “Having Minister Johnson and Port St. Maarten on-board the PAMAC Cruise Summit is yet another example, with the event providing a vital forum for our destination partners and some of the Cruise Industry’s top decision makers to discuss and develop initiatives leading to mutual successes.” However, the comments of MP Emanuel are alienating members of the international community who we need as we continue to work on rebuilding our fragile economy.”
Johnson said he hopes that these comments do not live a life of their own. He has expressed fear that it can result in people becoming verbally abusive towards others whose gender beliefs are not aligned with theirs. This will harm our “Friendly Island” image and can cause irreparable damage to our community and economy if left unchecked