Opinion: Grassroots perspective

POSTED: 07/2/14 10:58 PM

For the third consecutive time, I was invited in my capacity as president of the St. Martin Grassroots People Movement to attend the Governor’s Symposium, which I did along with vice-president, Mr. Albert (‘Jesse’) Adams this year’s theme was Education for Democracy. As usual and admittedly, this symposium was extremely well organized and all the presenters were indeed of high quality – kudos to the Governor, the organizing committee for a great job.

Collectively, His Excellency the Governor himself, the keynote speaker and panelists – all from their own professional perspectives – gave their take on the importance of education for democracy. For us, being invited to attend these symposia, certainly is a privilege, as well as a learning experience for which we are grateful to His Excellency, Governor Holiday. It is indeed interesting to observe that, although our grassroots movement initially has been met with much skepticism, over time our role in representing the voice of the grassroots, native, indigenous St. Martiners, omni-present on this island, clearly is not only being understood, but encouraged and respected as well by many in authority. However, something would be amiss, if we did not have to add our observations and recommendations in regards to the Governor’s symposia.

In short, while we fully subscribe to most of the presentations and remarks made vis a vis the importance of education to our democracy, there are some angles to the presentations we missed. First of all, we do not believe that education should be ‘country’-, or ‘people’ neutral. Meaning, there must be a very clear link, or correlation between the two. One simple reason for such being, that education should have perhaps the highest priority in promoting the preservation and love for a specific people/country, without ignoring the existence, or the genuine human rights of others in the process.

In other words, as long as we live in the real world with real countries and real boundaries, real take-over threats and with real constitutions – education should be the key instrument in preserving self among all others. Talking about education, no matter how professionally, how technically – as long as it does not relate to self – read the St. Martin native, indigenous people and their cultural-heritage /identity it all loses relevance for our people. Therefore, I suggest to consider for the next time not to side-step the relevance of the St. Martiner and the St. Martin identity as a condition sine qua non in discussing any form of development in future symposia.  At least, if these symposia are meant for St. Martiners to be able to relate to, believe in and support.

As a matter of fact, I care to remind the readers of the promises made by several office-holders in the past to secure our cultural-heritage and to define the St. Martiner in the constitution. Hallo, MP William Marlin – are you still with me ? Also, who does not remember the great words of Silveria Jacobs, former Minister of Education pertaining to her Decade of Revitalization of our Cultural Heritage?

And what about His Excellency himself during one of his symposia, stressing that protecting our cultural heritage was not incompatible with development?

So what happened since ? And by the way, do not forget Prime-minister Sarah Wescot William’s assertion some years ago about the defining the St. Martiner still being an outstanding matter in the constitution ? Were all those nice words simply rhetoric?

Anyhow, back to the Governor’s symposium. Other elements unique for our country and people, we missed in the various presentations, are the following. 1. All native St. Martin people are one, indivisible people. 2. St. Martin is a land with an open border and whatever effects one part, effects the other part – education is no exception. 3. Focusing only on one part, is a colonial-based approach and results in the breaking up of the St. Martin people (genocide). 4. Family-planning education, especially for immigrants over-populating and over-burdening our infra-structure and exceeding our tolerance capacity should also play key in the overall education process.

We were very happy to see that our own native, indigenous historian and educator Daniella was in attendance, because that was a clear sign to involve the other side of the island. Perhaps, in future symposia, considering the very unique reality of St. Martin, North and South, there should always be a St. Martiner in the line-up to highlight such. One person, who comes to mind and who always spoke up for the uniqueness of this island, is Marcel Gumbs, former senator of the Netherlands Antilles and a typical, traditional authentic St. Martiner.

In ending, I thank His Excellency Governor Holiday for having once more invited us and for his very kind courtesy afforded to us during this symposium and at all other occasions. We therefore assure the powers that are and all other relevant entities, that our St. Martin Grassroots People Movement, established on both sides of the island, promises to be a willing partner, where it comes to representing the concerns, needs and aspirations and making sure that all native, St. Martin people are duly recognized, preserved and protected as the foundation for inclusion, nation building and unification.

Leopold James,

President St. Martin Grassroots People Movement.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Grassroots perspective by

Comments are closed.