Possible demonstration to catch MPs’ attention

POSTED: 01/10/12 3:12 PM

St. Maarten – The grouping of societal organizations that have come together over the past few days around the matter of equal pensions and equal healthcare standards in the Kingdom of the Netherlands have not ruled out having a demonstration in order to get the attention of the 55 MPs who are participating in the Inter-parliamentary Kingdom Consultation being held here. The grouping has been pulled together by the St. Maarten Senior Citizens and Pensioners Association and is being supported by the Curacao Confederation of Pensioners and Senior Citizens. They’ve decided to unite because they believe the issues they’re highlighting are a concern for everyone.

“If we see more action is needed, we will do it. You, the media, can help us to bring out the people. We will be evaluating things day by day and we don’t rule out a demonstration,” 1st Vice President and Public Relations Officer of the St. Maarten Senior Citizens and Pensioners Association Raymond Jesserun said on Monday.

“We have one goal and that is to eradicate poverty and create equality. We have met the government and gotten no reply, but they need to give us an answer so we know what they will do for us. We’re going to continue until we reach our goal. Maybe we should go and march,” the association’s President Patricia Flanders added.

For the moment the grouping plans to stick to individual lobby with particular MPs, daily meetings amongst themselves, planned meetings of each entity with its members and interviews with media and on talk shows to spread the message about the inequalities that exist. The eventual decision on a demonstration or other courses of action will be taken during the consultations each entity has with their members.

“If France is able to give equal treatment to their citizens in their overseas territories why can’t the Kingdom government do the same, especially since they have responsibility for the international covenants and treaties. We want people to know that the constitutional constraints don’t meet international covenants and standards that the Kingdom has signed on to,” Jesserun said.

The decision to launch a broad information campaign is based on the fact that the organizations did not receive a reply to the request to meet the delegations from the parliaments of Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands during their consultations from January 10 to January 13. The parties have noted that health care is on the agenda, and while they welcome that, they want the discussion to be broadened to include pensions and poverty. The grouping also hopes that MPs from St. Maarten will represent the country’s people by raising their concerns with especially their Dutch counterparts. The Curacao delegation wrote the Curacao Confederation of Pensioners and Senior Citizens on Friday to state they will be tabling that bodies concerns at the forthcoming meeting.

“The government has not responded to our requests for information or our petition to instruct the Minister Plenipotentiary to raise our concerns about social inequalities in the Kingdom Council of Ministers – at least we have not heard of such – and we hope our Members of Parliament will raise our concerns about this inequality. This Inter-parliamentary consultation is a chance to stress cooperation and address issues,” Jesserun said.

Unity

The matter of equalizing pensions in the kingdom is central to the grouping who feels that current retirees and those who are in the work force now and will retire in the future. To bolster their case and to ensure that there is an understanding that all the islands are united in this effort the local group has decided to collaborate with the Curacao Confederation of Senior Citizens and Pensioners. One of the bodies in that grouping – Fepesco – started the push for equal pensions in the Dutch Kingdom and its current president Silvio Dap realizes the movement will not go further unless a united front is made.

“We are here to provide support. We must unite to reach our goal. Let’s hope that together we will reach our goal. You have big companies like KLM and Air France that are doing joint ventures because they realize that there is strength in unity. If we do this separately we won’t reach our goal so I hope we stay together and fight together,” Dap said.

Edgar Wanga of the Curacao Dry Dock Company added, “We are glad for the support on St. Maarten. We are here to build common ground on fighting poverty in the Kingdom and ending discrimination. There must be mutual benefits.”

First Vice President of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions Claire Elshot, who is also President of the Windward Islands Teachers Union, confirmed that the unions are on board to “make one fist of solidarity.”

“WICLU and WITU have always spoken out against any undermining of the position of our pensioners and those in the workforce who are becoming pensioners. We want to be heard and seen,” Elshot said.

President of the St. Maarten United Non-Governmental Organizations Federation (Sunfed) Alberto Bute said they’ve joined in because they believe in the continued struggle for equality and against poverty.

“As an umbrella organization we took it seriously because someone has to pick up the slack. That’s why we joined with the pensioners. Standard of living is of paramount importance. We ask one and all to pay attention to the information that will be coming out this week because we have one message and cause and that is the good of the people on the islands,” Bute said.

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