The script was very familiar on Wednesday evening when I was the only Member of Parliament who voted against cutting your benefits and in some cases salaries.
I have asked over 100 questions about these cuts to civil servant benefits and in some cases salaries. I have gotten carefully worded non-answers which clearly show that these decisions were not based on any tangible studies, reports, union involvement, nothing. While other MPs were satisfied to vote for cuts based on very little and with no information about when your rights will be restored to you, I simply could not. We have seen too many “temporary” measures on St. Maarten become permanent.
Even with that truth in mind, The Prime Minister stood up in Parliament and questioned on which side of history we will stand. History will show that I am not afraid to stand alone while fighting for my people. I could never in good conscience support making people lives more difficult by passing laws that does exactly that. Political opponents can call me what they want, but the people of St. Maarten know where I stand.
I cannot in good conscience vote to infringe on people’s rights, salaries and benefits knowing that there is no substantiation for these cuts, financial or otherwise, other than the Dutch says so. No matter how you fluff it up, no matter what amendments you add, it all boils down to cutting what people have worked hard for and infringing on their basic human rights. Some have been quick to publicly dismiss my warnings and concerns. Every single thing that I have raised a red flag about since November 2020, is now coming to pass. And no-one can say or point out otherwise.
This notion that they keep pushing that “base salaries will not be touched” is what you call a shallow lie. Shallow because they refuse to delve deeper. Dr. Martin Luther King said there is nothing more dangerous than willful ignorance and conscientious stupidity. People planned around their increments, bonuses and other benefits. When you do not have these things, you have to turn to that same base salary that they keep boasting will not be touched, to now choose which obligation you will pay. So the Naf 300 you planned for now has to come out of a base salary that is already committed to other obligation. So the base salary is being touched, not by their hand directly, but by their actions nonetheless.
And it will not end with these three laws. These laws are just the beginning of much bigger issues for this country and its people, neatly wrapped up in the COHO entity and the country packages. Here too I have been asking questions and raising the alarm for months. And here too you should not expect to hear the truth from this government. What you will probably hear is a concerted effort to manipulate the world to make it give them what they want, not tell you what really is. This government has proven that they are incapable of pursuing what is meaningful and right for its people. They rather choose what is expedient and flawed, and never speak the truth.
They will make it sound like the choice before them was not a simple one among many. That it was the only one. They will try and make you believe that they could not find the same equivalent of government waste to cut. Ask the government what operational costs they cut and they will tell you gasoline and telephones. Then turn and boast that they were creative.
In the meantime, they have made cutting benefits sound like no big thing. As if single mothers wasn’t depending on a bonus, or families don’t depend on vacation pay not to go on vacation, but to pay house insurance. As if all the years you have worked to secure a little extra to try and live a decent quality of life can be just tossed out and tossed up as a win. But they live more comfortable than most of you.
The other dimension to this argument should be looked at through the prism of fairness. The government will impose upon its people measures that their counterparts in the Netherlands will not be subjected to. It goes against the very spirit of UN conventions and is not equal or fair.
They will never tell you that to date they do not have an economic recovery plan. To date! A full year into the pandemic and this government does not have a plan. They have failed in their responsibility to provide a level of stability and creativity that can form the bedrock of an economic recovery. In fact key to that, is maintaining demand in the economy, especially as the recovery of key sectors such as hospitality and tourism will be driven by consumer spending in 2021. That is why the decision to freeze or cut salaries and benefits is just a poor decision for our economy.
We need our people participating in the economy and they simply won’t if they are worrying about their income falling behind or if they just don’t have that income at all. The same goes for the proposed additional taxes that the CFT want to see levied on St. Maarten. I can’t wait to get to that discussion to see the so-called conscience of some be put to the test after cutting people then looking to impose more taxes on them. It is an economically illiterate step that will harm the private sector as well as the public sector.
Anyone watching the debate on Tuesday would have seen quite a show on the floor of Parliament. You would think that we were achieving something great with all the sarcastic tones, campaign speeches, gleefully making statements as if we just struck gold. Giggling and laughing and being sarcastic while putting more financial strain on their people. They seemed so proud of themselves that they were making political headway among themselves, totally oblivious to the people of St. Maarten who do not live as comfortable as they do.
And then the Prime Minister pontificated about the careful use of words. That’s funny. You see I love words and how they are applied. But all my life I have sought to use words to tell the truth. Even more so as I sought public office. Words do indeed have power, words are power, words could be your power.
Words can be a destructive tool for anyone who wants to add an emotional twist to a blatant lie. Words can be a weapon used by someone who without reservation can tell their people to eat crumbs while they eat caviar. Yes, words. You can compile a lot of words in your attempt to answer questions hoping that these words would hide your negligence. But you are effectively saying nothing while exposing your truths to be lies.
With words, truthful, honest words, you can change a life and you can inspire your nation. Unfortunately the words we have heard from this government and its support in Parliament have changed lives for the worse and have depressed a nation, not inspired it. I will continue to fight for you and the people of St. Maarten as long as God gives me the strength to do so. God bless you and your families.
MP Christopher Emmanuel