Lenny Priest launches One St. Maarten People Party “We will not tolerate corruption”

POSTED: 08/2/13 4:31 PM

St. Maarten -Purple balloons decorated several lampposts in Middle Region and the tent set up across from the Calabash bar and restaurant was adorned the same way. Purple tee shirts were also part of the mix, all on the occasion of the birth of a new political entity: the One St. Maarten People Party under the leadership of Lenny Priest.

Around fifty people turned out for the event. University president Annelies van den Assem was there, as were Henriëtte Doran-York, the former deputy minister plenipotentiary and a former candidate on the list of the National Alliance, and radio host Stephane de Robert.

Priest is a gifted speaker and he made the best of the occasion, positioning OSPP as an anti-corruption party that will not tolerate shady behavior of its members and possible future parliamentarians and ministers.

Many people may have wondered about launching a party in the middle of the summer, but Priest explained the significance of the date. “On August 1 it was 68 years ago that the people of St. Maarten voted for the first time in an election. This is a historical day.”

Priest said that a group of people came together six or seven months ago for the first time to talk about the establishment of a new political party. “Talking about a new political party is still taboo to some people, and they backed off, but we decided to continue. We asked ourselves the question what difference a new party would make. Looking at what has happened since 10-10-10 we know that we can definitely do better.”

OSPP will be a truly people’s party, Priest said. “Some of us are doing well, but the majority of the people are not doing well at all. Everybody ought to have the opportunity to improve, but those opportunities must be given to the people. And at the moment those opportunities are not there.”

Priest’s party will contest the next elections. “To compete with the big boys you need a lot of money, but that is not the way we want to take part,” he said. Later Priest added that the party would not solicit money from donors, but that it will instead organize a car raffle for which the tickets will be just one dollar. The draw is on November 3.

The party will seek representatives in all districts on the island and it will make jobs for young people one of its priorities. “There is a need for a party that brings back core values,” priest said. “A party people can trust and a party that will not sell its soul to remain in power. Parliamentarians or ministers that break the law will immediately be expelled from the party, even if this means that the government will fall because of it. We will not tolerate corruption. I am telling everybody up front: if we find someone involved in shady deals he or she will be expelled.”

Such measures will not be in the hands of the president, but of a party council. The OSPP wants to create a membership base and recruit its candidates from it. The party council will be the organization’s most powerful body, Priest said. If situations arise whereby a minister or a parliamentarian is expected “to do the honorable thing” (and resign), the party council will discuss the issue and eventually expel the politician.

Priest said that he wants to contribute to building a just society with equal opportunities for all. He mentioned a loan-guarantee program that would enable young entrepreneurs to obtain loans with having to put up collateral and speedy processing of business licenses. “I know a young man who is already waiting one-and-a-half year for his business license. That is unacceptable,” Priest said.

The party leader also announced that OSPP would demand a serious cut in the salaries for politicians. “Ministers and parliamentarians are the only ones that have really benefited since 10-10-10. Their salaries are astronomically high and we want to deal with that.”

Priest also wants to tackle the pension scheme for politicians that are forced to leave office before their term is up. “We are thinking about drastic cuts,” he said. If citizens have to tighten their belts, you’ll have to start from the top.”

The party-leader said that OSPP is not a one-man show” but that every member will have an input in its policy. In the coming months the party will organize events in all districts, starting with Sucker Garden in September.

The party was incorporated on March 8. Its current board consists of Lenny Priest (president), Dennissen Philips, Ernesto Leoncito Lake (secretary and vice president), Patricia Heidi James (treasurer), Rosiann Rumnit (deputy secretary), Jacquie Peterson (deputy treasurer) and Aureolo Baily. The party has appointed Lloyd Beaton as its full time executive director.

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