Jose Lake: St. Maarten is ready for independence at next referendumPOSTED: 03/9/15 7:00 PM
GREATBAY—St. Maarten is anticipated to take the leap to being an independent country within the next five years, president of the Independence for St. Martin Foundation Jose Lake said in a press conference yesterday.
“We have seen a great increase in the interest in independence and it’s a much larger group that is supporting independence. We are at a stage where it will become necessary within short for us to lobby the parliament to get them to move to a new referendum within another year or two,” Lake said. He added that he does not expect another referendum to be held right away but he is optimistic that with constant requests it will happen before the end of this governing term. The last referendum held on St. Maarten was in 2000 and Lake opined that the island is long overdue for another one.
“Convincing our people of independence is not as difficult as it was before. I think we have reached the stage where when you look at our parliament and you do a quick survey, and ask our parliamentarians how many of them voted for independence, you would be surprised to hear that the majority of them did. There was a time when not one politician on this island would dare say they voted for independence because it would cause them votes. Today even the biggest vote getter in Parliament has publicly stated that he voted for independence. So from that aspect we believe that we are on the right track,” Lake said. He is confident that independence will win in a referendum because the people are ready to take their destiny into their own hands.
Responding to statements that many persons may not be in favour of independence because of fear of losing the privileges they perceive come from being the holder of a Dutch passport, the independence foundation dismissed this as a scare tactic. “I don’t have to get a visa but I see people from all over the Caribbean in the same plane with me. We were travelling long before visas,” Leo Friday pointed out, adding that visa status is something that can be negotiated. “Isn’t it better to have your own passport than to say you have the passport of someone else that you use?’ Friday questioned.
Former minister of state for the Virgin Islands Dr. Carlyle Corbin, who is an international advisor on governance and multicultural diplomacy and senior fellow in the dependency studies project, is the keynote speaker at tonight’s lecture on the last colonies organized by the independence foundation.
“We will be discussing the none-independent Caribbean over the next couple of days as to what actually constitutes the none independent Caribbean. We have territories that are listed by the United Nations, we have those that are autonomous such as St. Maarten and Curacao and most recently St. Martin North and St. Barths that have emerged into a collectivity status of their own, which implies more autonomy. We also have those which are integrated—Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guyana—we will look at some of the concerns that they have in terms of what they are doing; whether they have completed their political revolution, whether they are looking at other possibilities or expanding from what they have and of course we have what I refer to as the very peculiar situation of partial integration which is what has emerged in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba,” Dr. Corbin said during yesterday’s press conference.
Dr. Corbin said he had the occasion to be associated with the referendum in Statia last December in terms of looking at framing the options and defining them for the people that were able to vote in that referendum. Despite there being no change following the referendum because of lack of voter turnout, Corbin said he considered clear that the result indicated a wish for a more autonomous status. “In a general sense there may be some useful comparisons to some of the situations ongoing in the Pacific Region as well. It’s very interesting that some of the same players in the Caribbean also operate in a similar fashion in the pacific. It’s almost tragic that we don’t know as much about them as we should because there are useful lessons to be learnt. Certainly comparisons and discussions are always good,” Dr. Corbin said.
He noted that one of the things about the United Nations that have been “so useful for us over the years” is that they have developed annual seminars that permits the cross fertilization of ideas between Pacific territories and the Caribbean territories. Dr. Corbin said this has been very useful in terms of how each party has dealt with issues that the other is grappling with.
Meanwhile Dr. Rhoda Arrindell explained that the foundation has recruited a number of dynamic young persons to carry on the struggle for independence because at the end of the day ‘this is their struggle to move forward with.” She noted that she has witnessed the struggle from Jose Lake senior and others like him for most of her life. “Some of us may not live to see it happen and that’s the reality but we have to get it moving and get it moving forward,” Dr. Arrindell said. The foundation invites the general public to attend their conference this evening being held under the theme, “The last colonies in the Caribbean.”