Opinion: Silent genocide

POSTED: 06/28/11 12:22 PM

Last year in August we wrote something on this page about genocide. Yesterday the term resurfaced during a press conference of the St. Maarten Nation Building Foundation: silent genocide. To refresh our memory we looked up last year’s article, which was inspired by an invitation we then received from the Concordia Political Alliance. This is what we wrote:

“From Wikipedia we took the following definition of genocide. Not because we do not know what genocide entails, but because we want to be exact. Genocide is “the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.”

While a precise definition varies among genocide scholars, a legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG), Wikipedia notes. Article 2 of this convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Because of the insistence of Joseph Stalin, this definition of genocide under international law does not include political groups. In other words, one cannot commit genocide on, say, the Democratic Party, or any other party.

This weekend, we received an invitation in our email from the Concordia Political Alliance, or CPA, led by former Democratic Party’s number eleven candidate Jeffrey Richardson.

And what did we read in this invitation?

“Come out and witness the launching of St. Martin’s people voice-, best hope and only alternative to the genocide committed on us St. Martin people by the DP, NA and UP. The CPA offers the last chance to a peaceful change to preserve us the St. Martin people and our ancestral rights, without trampling on the legitimate rights of others. It is now or never. Be part of this historical launching of the only ‘pro St. Martiners first’ political party.”

We won’t get into splitting hairs about grammar, because the message is clear.”

That was a year ago, and what we then predicted became a reality: the Concordia Political Alliance did not appeal to voters – at least not enough for it to win at least one seat in the Parliament.

But the fight for the rights of indigenous St. Maarteners continues. Up to a point we are able to sympathize with the drive, the emotion and the determination that James and his followers bring to the table.

But where they do themselves a huge disfavor is when they start using terms like silent genocide that are so totally out of whack that they overshadow the legitimate claims they may have.

Affirmative action, as the foundation is calling for as a way to protect indigenous St. Maarteners is a debatable solution, though the Nation Building Foundation is obviously free to believe in its positive aspects. But in parts of the black community in the United States, led by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas this well-intended scheme (in cases of equal qualifications certain jobs and positions went to blacks) is frowned upon. According to Thomas it is a thinly veiled attempt to keep blacks in their place, in other words, to hamper their progress.

“Government cannot make us equal; it can only recognize, respect, and protect us as equal before the law. That affirmative action programs may have been motivated, in part, by good intentions cannot provide refuge from the principle that under our Constitution, the government may not make distinctions on the basis of race.” Thomas wrote in one of his legal opinions. He also sided with of Chief Justice Roberts, who concluded that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

The neglect, the exclusion and the perceived hostility towards indigenous St. Maarteners is not measurable in a balanced way. The fact that, as Jeffrey Richardson stated, the chief commissioner, the Cadastre director and the Milton Peters College director are not locals is not proof that locals are neglected or excluded.

We remember, from instance, clearly, from the appointment of Peter de Witte as Chief Commissioner, that he was the best candidate, also according to the police union. To move forward as a country, St. Maarten needs to put the best candidate in every available position. Undermining this process with affirmative action will in the long run not benefit the country, and therefore not benefit the indigenous St. Maarteners either.

To get where they want to be, indigenous St. Maarteners have to acknowledge that the job market is extremely competitive, and that companies and institutions look at qualifications first. We know plenty of indigenous St. Maarteners who are studying hard to get the best out of themselves. They do not ask for affirmative action, because they know that to be successful, they depend on themselves and not on others.

There is obviously no objection possible against a regulation that would say: in case of equal qualifications, an indigenous St. Maartener gets the first choice. But that is, in our perception and unless we are mistaken, not what the Nation Building Foundation is asking from the government.

Looking at the same issue once again from a different perspective would therefore be helpful. Dropping the term silent genocide from the vocabulary sounds like a good idea to us as well.


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