Good morning Mr. Chairman, the griffier, my colleagues and all following us on Facebook and radio. Today as I look back at the last 7 months of this parliamentary year, I can say that I believe we have started with the closing that could set an extraordinary tone forthis era or perhaps eras;the era of not wanting to cross party lines even when doing so is in the greater interest of the country;
the era in which many still have to let go of the concept of party or self above country and embrace the concept of country above self;the era in which a member of parliament choses to give quorum so a meeting can proceed rather than focus on personal agendas, because you realize that your job as a parliamentarian is to work for the people and not for yourself!
This year, for me as a newcomer, was very enjoyable, because I learnt so much.I leant particularly about the constitutional foundation on which the country is built and the constraints within which the country is required to operate. Our introduction to parliament by Dr Nilda Arduinbenefitted us all extremely well, and to her, I know I can proudly say, on behalf of all her students, “Thank You very much”. You opened our eyes to many things that we were not aware of until we took your week of classes.
This parliament stood its ground and didn’t allow things to just happen simply because somebody said it must be done that way. We did our research, we asked questions and even pleaded with ministers when it was necessary, and today we can say hard work pays off. St. Maarten is off the CFATF grey list and moved on to the 4th round without passing a draft penal code that doesnot reflect “law for all”. The law needs to represent everyone, not serve the interest of a few. We took the criticism for our stance, but today we can look back with pride at what it actually means for our people.
The Corona Virus taughtthis country, its people, the government and parliament many hard lessons. In fact, the Corona lessons are still ongoing for the world! It also taughtus that we need to take a firm stance and not let constitutional changes be pushed down our throats because of past failures. We need to take responsibility for our actions and deeds, but most important we need to learn to take a stance for what we believe is best for our country and not necessarily for ourselves. As we reflect on theoath we took we should take time to understand what it means and how it should affect our decisions for our country. Our vote matters, regardless of the outcome of the vote. The record will always show your stance and those of the others.While you should not take my word for it, try to understand that “You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity”.And “You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it”.
Through this all and with the crippling effect of the corona virus, this parliament eventually passed the laws for the Pension age increase, the AOV age increase and the premium increase.Remember that “what one person receives without working for, another person works for without receiving”. Let me repeat that! “What one person receives without working for, another person works for without receiving”.
I do believe that it is in the country’s best interest that we come together and make our meetings more efficient with less politicking and grandstanding. In addition to that, I truly hope that when meetings are requested,they are called promptly and completed, instead of being continuously adjourned for answers that are sometimes never received. Our duty is to give accurate information to our constituents and we should do so in a timely fashion, based on accurate information. Communication is key in every successful venture.
To our partners in the kingdom, I say that we are willing to work with you, but we must respect our laws, our constitution and, most of all, our partners.
If anyone of you believe that you can take away our autonomy for food or liquidity support, or if you believe you can continue to enter through the backdoor by using article 43 of the kingdom charter to impose your will on the people of this country, and if you believe that the democratic deficit is the way to go without having a legal appeal process, then I truly believe that the kingdom charter has outlived its true meaning and purpose. Our people will decide our constitutional future as regulated by law, and not by a few in The Hague. We need to stop creating conflicts with each other and work resolution oriented.
Mr. Chairman our government needs to put its plans forward on what we are going to do and anchor it down in an amended budget and give it legal value. We mustembrace the Dutch government as part of our solution and not make them part of our problem. Too often we get derailed by discussions of integrity and corruption instead of focusing on what we need to do to get this country moving. Corruption is not a true reflection of the average politician and the people of St. Maarten. The parliament and the government need to have a clear unified message to the Netherlands and our people. We need to clearly articulate our problems and possible solutions for our discussions.
It’s our obligation to ensure that the Kingdom Government embraces that equality in the Kingdom is there for all its citizens.
Mr. Chairman in closing I want to leave you with these remarks: while the Dutch government commits constitutional infractions,which threaten us and the constitutional foundation we stand on, we must alsorecognize our consecutive governments’ infractions towards our people. Infractions in providing a good and safe environment which is conducive to our peoplemaking a fair and decent living.The lack of an investment climate in which the island’s people have real opportunities to make a good life for themselves and their families! Let’s face it, we must improve our educational system that provides the island’s children with the necessary skills to grow up to be the employers not the employees.We too must take stock of how we are keeping up our end of the bargain.What are we doing to avoid giving our partner, the Netherlands, reasons to push through their agenda?I look forward to a productive parliamentary year, one in which we stand up for what is right, because it’s right for our people. A year in which we make commitments not only those we intend to meet, but those we are able to meet. St. Maarten is no stranger to challenges; St. Maarten is not a stranger to rebuilding; St. Maarten is the “Friendly Island” and so it is instinctive for us to want to work with our partners in this Kingdom. But St. Maarten did not come this far economically and constitutionally, having to build a country from scratch because commitments made by others were not kept to have to take a step back, at this time of crisis and risk again that commitments made are not kept. We have come a long way from 1954!!!
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and May God continue to bless St. Maartenand its people.