Parliament marks second Constitution Day PM: “Economy too fragile to clamp down hard on businesses”

POSTED: 10/11/12 3:30 PM

St. Maarten – Constitution Day is arguably one of the most significant events on the calendar but five members of parliament apparently had something better to do yesterday when the parliament convened to mark the second anniversary of country St. Maarten. Independent MPs Frans Richardson and Patrick Illidge, DP-MP Leroy de Weever and NA-MPs Lloyd Richardson and Louie Laveist were absent.

Unlike last year, when the opposition came with highly critical remarks, this year there seemed to be more an atmosphere of unity. Coming together, action instead of words, a vision for the country’s future – those were the themes faction leaders most elaborated on.

The Council of Ministers was represented by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, and Ministers Silveria Jacobs, Cornelius de Weever, and Roland Duncan. Minister Tuitt, Pantophlet and Marlin were absent – the latter due to the passing away of his brother. With the council, Governor drs. Eugene Holiday attended the meeting.

Democratic Party MP Roy Marlin was the only one to venture a bit into politics on this day with references to the developments in Curacao. “Look at what took place there in the last two years. They are not realizing the responsibility that was bestowed upon them. I hope October 19 will bring some type of stability and strengthening of democracy. We have not reached that point and I would not want to see St. Maarten reach that state where not even the constitution gives clarity on where they stand today. Our focus should be on the upkeep of the constitution and the upkeep of democracy. Not everything should be politics.”

Marlin, who liked the country to the image of a spider, said that it is time for all parties to come together. “We must come up with a collective vision because right now there is a lack of cohesion.”

Too much laughter in the press room, United People’s party faction leader Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce said that her party had brought St. Maarten 10-10-10. “Now there is another coalition, but it continues to carry out the UP’s vision. With that vision we will all move forward.”

She reiterated her criticism of the St. Maarten Medical Center – without calling it explicitly by name – by wondering why the government subsidizes institutions over which it has no say. Healthcare is a priority and we demand an investigation, the MP added.

Meyers-Olivacce noted that “politics has taken preference over governance” without elaborating, and that she is concerned about “the crime committed by our youth” and by obscenities that seem to have become common place. She said that the country has to take care of its pensioners “so that they do not become beggars in their own country.”

George Pantophlet called on all parties “to come together to deal with the challenges St. Maarten is facing.”

“By October of last year we had made some strides since the transition date of 10-10-10,” Prime Minister Wescot-Williams said. “We had no choice. We voted for country status, we fought for it and when it became a reality we had to make it work. We had to move forward and we did. We were eyed with quite some suspicion, but St. Maarten remained unperturbed.”

The PM called the democratic state with a separation between the parliament, the government and the judiciary “a costly but necessary affair.”

Wescot-Williams said that government’s administration has improved during the past year. “We have invested heavily in ICT, but there is still much more that can be accomplished in the field of technology that will benefit the population.”

The PM noted that several ministries will go “online” in the coming months, while others will “branch out into the districts.”

“Our focus is on service, the cost of living and the cost of doing business. Our economy is too fragile to clamp down on businesses with a heavy hand.”

Wescot-Williams announced that the government will soon come to parliament with plans to bring relief to senior citizens and that initiatives are being taken in the field of utilities and controlled goods to bring down the cost of living.

The PM said that the government will never win first prize for swiftness. “But that is the nature of the business called government. We appreciate checks and balances but they were never meant to frustrate government.”

Minister Silveria Jacobs (Education, Culture, Sports and Youth),  noted that the country still struggles to provide quality education for everybody. She also referred to the need to define the St. Maartener and its anthem and expressed her support for turning constitution day into a national holiday – a feat Curacao has already achieved.

Theophilus Thompson, president of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions and Alberto Bute, President of the Chamber of commerce, also addressed the parliament. Thompson dove into longstanding pledges by the United Nations to eradicate colonies from the world. those pledges started in the sixties of last century, and the deadline was 2000, before it was extended to 2010. Now there is a new target date: 2020. “I challenge all leaders to make sure there are no more colonies by 2020.”

Thompson further referred to a possible reunification of the island, but mostly he pleaded for a vision. “What is our vision on the future for our children and grandchildren?”

Chamber of Commerce President Bute hammered on the importance of bringing about the necessary changes through public-private partnerships.

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