Other parties stay away from protest against Kingdom and Plasterk – Green march against instruction

POSTED: 10/28/14 9:22 PM

St. Maarten– Between 300 and 400 people took part in the march People United for True Democracy organized yesterday afternoon in protest against the instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers to Governor Holiday for a stricter screening of candidate ministers – a handsome turnout with one flaw: only supporters of the United People’s party showed up.

UP party leader Theo Heyliger was there, as were his faction leader Franklin Meyers, MP Tamara Leonard and MP Lloyd Richardson. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams did not show her support, nor did National Alliance leader William Marlin or any member of his faction; United St. Maarten party-leader Frans Richardson and Cornelius de Weever also stayed home. It was therefore a green event even though, as Franklin Meyers noted with a sense of humor, the tee shirts were white and the handprints on it red.

People began gathering on the Pondfill opposite the John Larmonie Center from 2 p.m. There were plenty of placards (like, Stop the Insult) homemade signs and a lot of white tee shirts with red handprints. Toochie Meyers even brought a large black chain, a reference to the country’s slavery past.

Around three o’clock the march was on and the group moved over the Pondfill in the direction of the Salt Pickers roundabout. Chanting freedom and respect, the march drew few spectators and the two bike patrol police officers had no trouble at all keeping the road free of traffic. The name of Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk fell, of course, many times and not in a positive way.

Edwin Gumbs, one of the founding fathers of People United for True Democracy, called for an investigation into Plasterk for a picture that surfaced of him with Bada Bing owner Jaap van den Heuvel. The picture, taken in an airplane, suggests that Van den Heuvel knew very well who Plasterk was, but that Plasterk had no clue who Van den Heuvel was.

Nevertheless, Gumbs blasted Plasterk for refusing to shake hands with Patrick Illidge last year during the inter-parliamentary Kingdom Consultation in the Netherlands because Illidge is a suspect in the Bada Bing bribery investigation. “Now I want to know how much Van den Heuvel paid Plasterk for this picture. I want a thorough investigation,” Gumbs said.

UP-leader Theo Heyliger asked whether the situation changes anything about his ambition to become the country’s next prime minister, referred to the statements he made last week in parliament: he never dreamt of becoming a police officer or a firefighter as a boy, let alone of becoming prime minister. He referred again to the 1,942 people who voted for him and seemed at ease with the thought that for the next four years he will most likely serve as a Member of Parliament.

When the march ended at the Clem Labega Square, People for True Democracy co-founder Elton Jones took the mike. “We have been marching for our rights today,” he told the crowd. “We are less autonomous now than we were before. Our vetting system works. The Dutch government cannot handpick who sits in government here. We will not accept that.”

Jones emphasized that People United for True Democracy is not a political movement, though its message at the same time is political: “Our Members of Parliament are not subservient to anyone in Europe. We will not accept dictates any longer.”

Etienne ‘Toochie’ Meyers thanked the crowd for coming out. “You have cojones,” he said, before serving his audience some statistics. “Ninety percent of African Americans have high blood pressure or diabetes. That comes from oppression, Very few in Africa suffer from this. Continue to stand up for the people you voted for,” he said.

UP faction leader Franklin Meyers delivered a fiery speech. “Your presence here shows that you will not stand by the roadside,” he began. “The instruction is wrong. We ain’t taking it anymore, the insults from Bosman and Van Raak.”

“We are not afraid,” Meyers continued. “The Dutch are not coming, they are here already. But we here too.”

He referred to the “blood sweat and tears” of our forefathers. “They did not come on a cruise ship, they came here oppressed.”

Meyers called for equal screening throughout the Kingdom and for the judicial system to do its work.

UP-MP Lloyd Richardson – wearing baseball cap from Trinidad and Tobago – noted that the people had come out to demonstrate their resolve against the instruction. “This is awkward for our governor. Don’t worry about the numbers,” he added with a reference to the size of the crowd. “They will grow. We are just saying that we also have rights. Our current status is a step on the way to full self-determination and we do not want to give up rights we already had four years ago. This government has been put there by you and they are obstructed to do their work.”

Edwin Gumbs said that the election result must be respected. “I will not accept that The Hague is going to tell me who is going to govern St. Maarten.” Gumbs also called for support for governor Holiday – a remark that earned him a round of applause.

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