Nation Building Foundation wants affirmative action

POSTED: 06/28/11 12:21 PM

Leopold James: “Legal recognition and positive discrimination for native St. Maarteners”

St. Maarten – Ahead of Emancipation Day this Friday, the St. Maarten Nation Building Foundation once again made its case for the plight of the indigenous St. Maarteners during a press conference at the library yesterday morning. President drs. Leopold James said that he demands legal recognition and positive discrimination for native St. Maarteners.

The foundation’s initiative to seek publicity follows its criticism of actions by National Alliance leader William Marlin who proclaimed pride in his Guyanese ancestry and had asked the Dutch government to adjust study financing laws to make it possible for foreigners to qualify for this regulation as well.

“We are not here to blame anybody, but to take our cause to the next level,” James said, dedicating the press conference to “our ancestors whose blood, sweat and tears laid the foundation for where we are today. Our elected officials have forgotten St. Maarteners as a people; we are systematically threatened in our existence. We have been crying out for decades for recognition and for first rights, but the silent genocide had continued.”

James said that “our elected officials” are rewarding illegal immigrants with the same rights as our native St. Maarteners. “They are always finding excuses for not helping us while we are being overrun in our own country. They are ready to throw us under the proverbial bus. We will not accept excuses anymore and we demand affirmative action and recognition in the constitution.”

Jeffrey Richardson also used the term genocide when he addressed the media. He used the same term during his campaign as a one-man party for the elections in September of last year. This time around he specified the meaning he gives to the term: putting others first before St. Maarteners. He referred to Alex (Richardson) the Butcher, Tata the Bus Driver (John Brooks), Jose Lake sr. and many others as the island’s pioneers.

But something went wrong along the way: “The director of the Milton Peters College, the Chief Commissioner of police, the director of the Cadastre and many other departments, all these positions are taken by outsiders. We’ve been strategically marginalized,” Richardson said.

“I appeal to politicians to take this very seriously,” he said, with a dark reference to unrest in countries like Egypt and Tunisia. “Don’t think that such things cannot happen here. St. Maarteners lack opportunities and many families are living from paycheck to paycheck.”

Miguel Arrindell added an emotional element to the press conference with a plea from the heart for the cause of the indigenous St. Maarteners. Historian Daniella Jeffrey, who examined the development of the island meticulously in her recent book Destabilization of the French Caribbean, added: “You don’t build a country with people from another country. The past twenty years people have not integrated. How can they become the people of this country?”

James said that his foundation does not oppose immigrants. “I want to make clear that we are in the same boat,” he said, “But we in St. Maarten still have to go through the emancipation process. It is time to stop pretending but we do not see our Caribbean brothers and sisters as the enemy. The government has betrayed the people of this island; they refuse to acknowledge us.”

James does not see a problem with implementing affirmative action that favors indigenous St. Maarteners, even though the Constitution of the Kingdom and the State regulation of St. Maarten both guarantee equality for all citizens.

Article 16 of the State Regulation even suggests that someone’s legal status is irrelevant: “Everyone who is in St. Maarten will be treated similar in similar situations.” The article prohibits discrimination based on (among others), religion, race, skin color, sex and national or social descent.

But James maintains that affirmative action has been the driving force behind the achievements of many members of the black community in the United States. Therefore, such an approach would also benefit St. Maarteners.

Asked whether he is able to identify one or more parliamentarians who support the cause of the Nation Building foundation, James did not give a straight answer: “That is not relevant,” he said.

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