St. Maarten Parliament approves Emancipation Day legislation

POSTED: 06/5/12 12:02 PM

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Silveria Jacobs shakes hands with National Alliance MP Hyacinth Richardson after parliament unanimously approved the law making Emancipation Day – July 1 – an official public holiday. Leo Brown Photo)

St. Maarten – The parliament unanimously passed legislation yesterday afternoon to designate July 1 as a national holiday to commemorate Emancipation Day. It was a done deal even before the meeting started, but MPs still took almost three hours to express their support to the proposal brought to parliament by the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Silveria Jacobs.
The minister said that there is a 75,000 guilders (a bit more than $42,000) budget for this year’s celebration.
“But there is also a budget of 648,000 guilders ($364,000) for national holidays. We could use some of that,” she said.
July 1 will “kick off the education project” MPs have asked for, the minister said, adding that the culture department will produce a booklet about slavery.
Jacobs outlined the program in broad strokes, saying that the ponum dance will be a center piece as the freedom dance and that the commemoration will lead participants past among others the monument of the salt pickers on Walter Nisbeth Road. She invited MP Laveist as one of the speakers for the day, and encouraged other MPs to participate.
Most MPs limited themselves to thanking the minister for presenting the legislation that was first proposed by her predecessor Rhoda Arrindell. But next to that they used their speaking time to reflect on the history of slavery and its relevance today.
MPs, especially National Alliance-member Louie Laveist, stressed the importance of educating people about the significance of this national holiday.
“It is not just another day off,” they stressed.
“Our forefathers were kidnapped from Africa. We are better off today as a result of what our forefathers have done for us,” MP Jules James (UP) remarked.
George Pantophlet (NA) quoted from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long walk to Freedom and stressed the need for true emancipation:
“We have to tell our black people that they are not inferior. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”

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