St. Maarten Parliament wants English as country’s mother tonguePOSTED: 09/23/15 6:49 PM
St. Maarten – Parliament unanimously approved a motion presented by Democratic Party MP Sarah Wescot-Williams that asks the ministers of general affairs and education, culture, youth and sports to present within sixty days a plan to establish English as the country’s first language and mother tongue, to make it the first official language and to devise a plan to make civil servants for whom this is useful in the execution of their duties proficient in the Dutch language.
Before the vote, Wescot-Williams’ motion was already signed by seven MPs: William Marlin, Christophe Emmanuel and Silveria Jacobs (National Alliance), Theo Heyliger, Johan Leonard and Maurice Lake (United People’s party) and Cornelius de Weever (independent). NA-MP George Pantophlet was absent for medical reasons. UP faction leader Franklin Meyers and independent MP Leona Marlin-Romeo also signed the motion.
“I am skeptical about parliamentary motions,” Wescot-Williams said before she presented her motion. “They are but an expression and motions cannot force the government to do anything. I believe however that this motion will fall on fertile ground with the minister of education.”
Wescot-Williams refereed to a vacancy ad of pension fund APS that required applicants to be fluent in English and Dutch, saying that government vacancies often have the same prerequisites. “Many of our educated people do not meet those requirements,” she said.
Government documents are now translated from Dutch to English. “I would like to turn that around,” Wescot-Williams said.
National Alliance MP Silveria Jacobs, a former Minister of Education and a former educator, said that the country should strive for bilingual education. “Children perform better in a bilingual environment,” she said.