MP Sarah Wescot: “We are finally making progress with English   as the first or national language of St. Maarten.”

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“My day was made”, to use a colloquial expression,  with the announcement by our Finance Minister that my proposal as approved in 2 unanimous motions of Parliament regarding the English language was being followed up upon by the government of St. Maarten.

The first motion on this topic was of September 17, 2015 and instructs the government to come up with “a plan to establish English as the first  and ‘mother tongue’  language for St. Maarten.

The  motion continued to ask for a plan to accomplish the aforementioned, with specific attention for the promotion of the English language in the civil service of St. Maarten. 

In a follow up to this motion, Parliament was informed that the money to execute this ambitious plan to promote English as our national language was not available.

Hence , a follow up motion I initiated in December of 2016, again passed unanimously, instructed government to allocate a f. 500.000,– in the first amendment to the government’s 2017 budget for development of the plan: “English as the first official language of St. Maarten”.

This matter of English as the primary official language of communication in our society has had my keen attention for several years and in my different capacities, because I firmly believe in  language as an enabler. It is part of our heritage and part of our personal, social and cultural identity. 

Many, many years ago, St. Maarten made a bold step when in a  then primarily Dutch educational system, several schools went over to English as the language of instruction on St. Maarten.

We need that “boldness” now to ensure that students who came and are still coming  out of our dual language educational system are not stymied in their further development and aspirations to contribute to their society. This means that we also need to pay attention  to the areas, such as our justice system, where for obvious reasons the dominance of Dutch is prevalent. 

The disparity between the formal and informal usage of our 2 official languages in my opinion calls for a national language policy and ultimately  a national ordinance, and professional advice soonest  how best to navigate to our desired goal.

S. Wescot-Williams, MP/Chairlady of Parliament 

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