Emancipation Day speech Gracita Arrindell

POSTED: 07/4/11 11:58 AM

“Some challenges we face could have been avoided”

St. Maarten – The President of Parliament, Gracita Arrindell, addressed the Parliament yesterday on the occasion of Emancipation Day. Arrindell said that she is confident July 1 will be an official public holiday by next year. This is the text of her speech.

“Before going into my message for this very special occasion, I want to thank and highly commend the Honorable Minister Dr, Rhoda Arrindell and the Council of Ministers, for taking the current initiative to declare Emancipation Day – the 1st of July – an official national holiday.


I am confident that after the draft legislation is submitted to Parliament and is reviewed by the relevant advisory councils, come July 1, 2012, we the people of St. Maarten will be able to observe Emancipation Day as an official national holiday – and rightly so.

Our observance today is yet another important step in our nation’s political history as we strive to evolve not only in the process of building our governmental institutions but more so; as we strive to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery clothed in its myriad forms.

The legendary singer Bob Marley once said, “to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, non but ourselves can free our mind…”.

While our young nation has faced a number of challenges, and will continue to do so as we move forward, we must chart our own course for the future of all our people.

Emancipation is an ongoing process.  There simply is no expiration date.

In the past eight months several Members of Parliament, members of government, as well as citizens have expressed their strong reservations about the manner in which St. Maarten – in which we the people of St. Maarten – remain shackled to, and by, some of the vestiges of our colonial history.

In keeping with our new constitutional status, we might be a more autonomous political entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in some respects, but in some ways we are even more shackled than before. You know what I am talking about.

Today, as I have done before, I state boldly:  Some of the challenges we face today, could and should have been avoided, if only, collectively we had the courage to stand up, draw a line in the sand and say, ‘so far and no further.’ The devil is always in the details.

We still have a lot of work to do if St. Maarten is to attain its full measure of the right of self-determination.  This is just the start, not the end.

Dear Colleagues, Citizens of Sint Maarten, as we observe Emancipation Day today, let us remember and pay homage to our forefathers for the great sacrifices they made so that we may be free. And, let us continue the struggle in the proud, selfless tradition of our forefathers.

Of course, in modern-day St. Maarten, there are new enslavers and nature of the struggle is different.

In my humble opinion, an integral aspect of our struggle must embrace the process of working collectively towards having less violence in our community- be it physical, verbal or mental.

If we are to really emancipate ourselves, we must deal with issues in the labour market and accord the addressing of issues in education and issues affecting our youth, top priority.

As we reflect on this Emancipation Day and remember the past and plan for the future, let us accept that emancipation for us, must also embrace the individual’s right to have different political views. Let us emancipate ourselves from the temptation to resort to hate-mongering and to the belittling of each other. I have no kids of my own, my children are my nieces and nephews, the sons and daughters of my neighbors,  the sons and daughters of all present in this meeting here today. When we are hate full towards each other this negative behavior is  reflected back to the behavior of our sons and daughters. I sit here with pride and dignity and do all in my power to make our people proud and make future generations of Saint Martiners proud.

We have over 102 nationalities on Sint Maarten, no nation is an island on its own. If you choose to come here to make a living, a new life, come out and celebrate with us, not only when convenient.

On our way to becoming a full self-governing country, as the people’s representatives, we are challenged to come together and to continue building a strong and viable nation.  Everyone is needed onboard.  Everyone has important roles to play.

I take pride in the fact, and I am grateful – as I am sure we all are grateful – to be able to play critical roles in this process of emancipation and nation-building. Let us not fail our people.

Our forefathers have taught us the value of struggle and today we stand tall on their shoulders. As a proud black woman and descendant of Arrindell, I stand tall on his shoulders and will not let our people down.

As Parliament we have to set the right agenda and enact those laws necessary to mould the society as we wish it to be for ourselves and for coming generations – a sustainable, compassionate, resilient and caring society.

On this Emancipation Day let us commit to the ideals of peace, tolerance based on sustainable development of our people.

I call on every St. Maartener to use this day to reflect on the ideals of our diversity, tolerance and openness to which our national strength as a people has allowed us to prosper.

Minister of Culture Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, I am looking forward to celebrating with you Emancipation Day 2012 with these Halls as well as the streets of Sint Maarten overflowing in commemoration of this day.”

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