Opinion: Connections

POSTED: 05/9/12 2:09 PM

That the Central Committee would welcome departing Culture Minister Arrindell’s proposal to make July 1 a national holiday is no surprise. Now we’ll have to see if the parliament will act speedily enough to make all this happen this year.

Minister Arrindell, during her last appearance as a minister in the parliament, gave a brief overview of the history of slavery. That story went back to 1848 (when France abolished it) and to 1863 (when the Netherlands finally followed suit).

On July 1, of that year, slaves in the Dutch colonies Suriname and the Antilles became free citizens. They had to stay on their plantations for another ten years and work against a modest compensation. But the system was history – at least, in 1863. That July 1 is now linked to Emancipation Day in St. Maarten leaves some question marks though, because Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Declaration did not come about until September 22 of that year. In some Caribbean countries Emancipation Day is part of Carnival – but that won’t happen in St. Maarten. We’d rather mix up that party with Labor Day.

What remains remarkable of course is that the debate in yesterday’s central committee remained restricted to the history of slavery in the 1800s. There is no argument about the inhumane and brutal character of the slave trade and the exploitation of the slaves.

But the thing is, and we’ve pointed this out before, that slavery is still practices in St. Maarten to this very day. Politicians like to turn this argument a bit sideways by referring to the so-called exploitation of employees at timeshare resorts like the former Pelican Resort.

At the same time they close their eyes for the real slavery that is taking place in local brothels where women are routinely robbed of their freedom and their passports. The recent court case against Border Bar-owner Angel Priest has made abundantly clear what is going on in these want to buy valium places.

But so far not a single politician has spoken out about this issue. It is of course much easier to wallow in the injustice that was done to the slaves on our long gone plantations, then to actually take some action to call the slave drivers that operate whorehouses to order.

That action will never come, because of, well, how to put this? Connections is probably the correct word.

This is not the place to reveal these connections. Some of them are well known, and they don’t matter that much because, prostitution is a condoned economic activity. What does your daddy do? Oh, he manages a whorehouse. That’s more or less okay as long as daddy is not a politician. But if the interests in the prostitution business – that even according to official policy documents amounts to human trafficking – and politics get intertwined, the explanation for the continued silence about the subject becomes more understandable, but not less shameful.

We just learned from our departing (and returning) Prime Minister that those who have taken the responsibility to govern should lead by example. We could not agree more.

Once the connections we referred to have been full exposed it will be possible for the electorate to judge who is leading by example and who is misleading by example. It will be an interesting exercise. It will still take some time, because it is prudent not to come up with accusations and revelations without proper proof, but the proof is out there and it will come to light in its own time.

Until that time, politicians have some time to decide where they stand on the slavery-issue. And we are not talking about dead plantation owners and dead slaves; we are talking about today’s salve drivers and the salves they keep under their thumb to this very day.

We’ll keep you posted.


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