People of St. Maarten, it is my honor and pleasure to address you today on the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of St. Maarten attaining Country status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; a Decade since we embarked on a brand new journey as a Constituent State. Affectionately called 10-10-10, it is the start of a new beginning. It provoked in all of us, dreams of grandeur and prosperity never seen before. We had hope and belief in ourselves that we could and would achieve and succeed at self-governance. Today, as per our laws, on this the second Monday in October, we commemorate the day, ten years ago, when the Constitution of St. Maarten first came into being, when our First Parliamentary Meeting was held; a day we, the people of St. Maarten moved into the next level of self-determination. This pivotal point in St. Maarten’s history came about by the choice of the St. Maarten people in the year 2000 to take direct control of our destiny and our future. With this in mind, this day, Constitution Day, should fill each St. Maartener with a sense of pride.
I quote from the Translation of the official publication of Sint Maarten (AB 2010, GT no. 1)
Constitution of Sint Maarten
WE, THE PEOPLE OF SINT MAARTEN AFFIRM that we acknowledge the guiding principles of Almighty God as the core of our values; INSPIRED by the exercise of our universal right to self-determination, as expressed in the referendum of 23 June 2000, with which we freely chose for the status of Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; RESOLVED to work together, with our partners in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with our neighbours in French Saint Martin and with all peoples of the world on the basis of freedom, equality, peaceful co-existence and international solidarity; DECLARE that we are a people that believe in the principle of democracy, the rule of law, the principle of the segregation of powers, the dignity and value of the individual, the entitlement of all persons to the fundamental rights and freedoms; RESOLVED to provide for the continuing preservation of nature and the environment; DECLARE that we wish to establish a constitutional order based on an open and accessible government; AND THEREFORE, in order to record these goals and convictions, the following provisions have the force of law as the Constitution of Sint Maarten.”
This 10th Anniversary of Constitution Day has been themed, ‘Decadal Growth & Progress,’ owing to the fact that our young country, though in its infancy, and tiny in size, is mighty in potential. During these last 10 years, though it may be hard to pinpoint, we can identify areas of growth and progress, as well as identify areas of improvement, with the goal of standing on our own financially, responsibly, and sustainably, with the ability to handle external shocks independently.
Those who came before us, in the late 90s, through the early 2000s, had a clear vision of St. Maarten, as the financially prosperous island gem of the Dutch Caribbean. What we had not factored in, however, was the toll the lack of proper infrastructure, insufficient human capita, and political opportunism would have on our ability to grow into our vision of a successful Country within the Kingdom and into further self-governance. These issues have proven to be a huge challenge in this first decade of our growth and are matters we are still grappling with today.
I could describe our journey during the last ten years since achieving country status as a work in progress. In principle, there is nothing wrong with being a work in progress as long as we continue to be progressive. As I state this, I acknowledge and repeat that there is much work to be done, St. Maarten. The most recent challenges we have faced, and continue to face in 2020, are a subtle reminder of that work that needs to be done. Let us not forget that the words ‘Semper Pro Grediens – always moving forward’ which is our motto! And so, for that very reason, as a people, as a country, we must never stop fighting to improve our way of life, and striving to make St. Maarten a better place for us today and for our future St. Maarteners.
It has been a decade, not all of us are proud of in every moment, but from every experience, both positive and negative, comes lessons. And from where I stand today, at the helm of our St. Maarten, I acknowledge the hard work of those before and pledge to continue to push for the needed maturity among us. I recognize the necessary changes needed from within us a people, a government, a nation, to move St. Maarten to the next level of responsibility, accountability, sustainable development, and ultimately opportunity and progress for all.
We must remember the goal, the lessons learned, and focus as we move forward on what we can and will achieve. We must ask ourselves, where have we been, where are we now, and where do we want to go? To move forward we must first forgive ourselves and our leaders for the mistakes of the past and map a new way forward despite the current and lingering challenges. Countries have turned things around in 10 years, and with the lessons learned, Yes, St. Maarten can and will still become the vision of those who came before us because we still share that Vision.
We continue to work with former partners of the Netherland Antilles, Aruba, and Curaçao and with the Netherlands in an attempt to achieve the very best version of St. Maarten. During this year 10-10-2020, it is no secret and I would be committing a disservice not to mention the tensions that currently exist with the Kingdom. Our constitution is under fire, the Kingdom statutes are in question, our cooperation within the Kingdom is rife with historical and post-colonial baggage, which causes us to question our current status within the Kingdom. This calls for us to reassess our constitution, and ensure we have enacted all laws and regulations necessary. We must also assess the Kingdom Charter, as the democratic deficit within the Kingdom threatens our very existence. We must assess how we operate within the Kingdom. The debate of obligation versus responsibility, dictation versus dialogue, imposing of conditions versus true consensus. It is the greatest test we have had to endure – one that tests the will of the people to stand strong together, or be broken once more and left forever dependent.
Even in this, rest assured that despite our limited capacity, St. Maarten’s government is working to find solutions even with limited resources and innovating to bring in the necessary funding that will serve us best on St. Maarten. We do so while insisting on a relationship with our partners in the Kingdom of the Netherlands built on mutual respect and equity.
The foundation on which our constitution has been founded, is irrevocable, except if the People of St. Maarten explicitly express differently. This is the pride that we hold as a nation; the pride I described earlier, the right to determine one’s destiny. For this reason, I can stand proudly and say today that our future is truly in our own hands. Today’s virtual session restarts the education, the reflection, and the dialogue as to where next on this journey towards true self-determination as a people and as a nation. Tune in, chime in, be a part of the dialogue, be a part of the decision making.
When I look ahead to the next ten years and beyond, I have confidence in a vision that encompasses the continuous growth and development of this country via the empowerment of our people for the achievement of the success they envision for themselves. For this reason, the key underlying objective of the National Development Vision is the transformation of St. Maarten into a compassionate, strong, and decisive country that will be economically resilient and capable of sustaining its own development and providing an enhanced quality of life and wellbeing for generations to come. This totally in line with my vision for St Maarten – a place where dreams can be realized; where businesses and jobs are created, where innovation and opportunities abound, and education and quality of life are at the highest standards.
I envision a St. Maarten where we use the resources we have and enhance them to better our people. But most importantly, we move towards a sustainable St. Maarten, where we focus on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to come, in every aspect, whether it be the economy, the environment, or our social sectors.
Ladies and Gentlemen, people of St. Maarten, I conclude today by saying, there is more work to be done. Do we have more responsibilities than prior to 10-10-10? Yes. Have we been financially independent during this time? Yes! Have we made mistakes along the way? Yes! However, we can only learn from our shortcomings and build a strong and progressive nation upon those lessons. We are at a crossroads of our existence and I pray we choose wisely moving forward. Listen, read our constitution and subsequent laws, assess, reflect, learn, speak up, and help us forge the right path forward as we take the necessary steps for continued growth, self-determination, and success.
On this day, as we commemorate and, yes, celebrate ten years as a nation, I urge the people of St. Maarten to focus on the future and join in the process of building a strong and resilient nation for present and future generations. Happy Constitution Day, Decadal Growth and Progress, St. Maarten.
God Bless you, the people who make this, Sweet St. Maarten.