SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - I’ve lived on this island my entire life. Sint Maarten is the only place I call home. From attending school, being a “good” Methodist, exploring different beaches, watching and admiring the hills, hearing ‘You Thelma granddaughter right’, this is the island I know. However, this country (Sint Maarten) has been driving me crazy for the last month and change.
In a previous post on my blog – islandgalting.weebly.com, I spoke about how natural disasters bring out the different colours in people.
Post Irma showed the true colours of every politician, high governing board and persons who consider themselves as “high and respectable” in the community.
As a holder of a Dutch passport, coming from a country within the Kingdom of The Netherlands, I am grateful for all of the support the other countries and the Dutch government gave to us post Irma with help from the Royal Dutch Marines to help with security and the rebuilding process.
As a Dutch national, I do not appreciate how our lovely outgoing Kingdom Affairs Minister, Plasterk, wants to manipulate the small man. When I heard about the proposal, that the relief money from The Netherlands would arrive but needs to be implemented through the integrity chamber, I laughed to myself.
“My country isn’t going to be so foolish to agree with this plan.”
Let us talk about the problem with the integrity chamber.
The Dutch wants to establish an integrity chamber on Sint Maarten, to do investigations and make sure that our government isn’t corrupt and is functioning fair and square.
Okay, we have corruption on Sint Maarten, I’m not going to lie. But there is a problem. The Constitution Court of our country has already ruled that key provisions in the initial regulation to establish this chamber are unconstitutional. So it’s back to the drawing board to meet the constitutional test. The Dutch cannot come down and open an entity that we didn’t ask for, which is in direct violation of our constitution.
It is against the laws of the land.
IT IS ILLEGAL... spell it out with me.
Boom. Illegal. Wouldn’t that be a form of corruption?
Now let us go to present day.
Our Prime Minister, Mr. William Marlin, said that we would refuse to accept the proposal from the Dutch as he doesn’t want them to undermine his country. Here is the problem, nobody is listening to William Marlin. Why? Well the main problem is communication.
Our current cabinet has some serious communication issues, which has transpired into a lot of problems and setbacks pre- and post-Irma. There appears to be a lack of communication between the ministers and parliament; between the various ministries; and even within the Council of Ministers. This has resulted in everyone showing true colours and they aren’t pretty what so ever.
Our prime minister has lost (I personally think he never really had it) the skill to communicate effectively with his people and our other ministers do not seem to know how to give out proper instructions.
Another problem, is the serious show and tell immediately after the hurricane. Ministers and Parliamentarians felt that they needed to be everywhere doing the heavy work. I get it, photo ups are cute and everything, but don’t you have legislations, policies and ordinances to go over and analyze and plans to deal with? No?
Another issue is our Parliament. Both sides are not helping our situation. They call the ministers in, ask a couple questions and the minister gives an answer, they nod their heads and don’t put on a serious debate on the issue.
After the meeting these same parliamentarians go on every radio station, write articles in print and social media, talking and giving their input on what they think should happen. Isn’t that what the floor of parliament is for? Effective Debate! I will say it here and I will say it now… Our Parliament is soft. SARFFF.
I’m not asking for quarrels over political matters in the House of Parliament, what I’m asking for is proper discussion so that we can get somewhere as a country. It has been seven years and I feel that we are going backwards.
Back to the integrity chamber and relief fund story....
It is obvious that we need the money in order for us to function properly. Tourism is our main industry and our product is our Island. That is what we are selling. Sun, Sand, Sea and Sex.
Unfortunately many of our major hotels got extremely damaged, which means less tourists will be staying on the island. Our airport is damaged, so our hub function is impaired. But that doesn’t mean we cannot bounce back and that relief fund to help rebuild from the Dutch is a stepping stone for us to reach to our goal.
Now I understand where the Dutch is coming from, you don’t just give anybody money of such great quantity without monitoring it. I mean I wouldn’t give this government or any of our previous governments such large funds and not monitor it.
Where I have the problem is the integrity chamber. That is not the tool needed to monitor development funds. In fact, our Governor, Ombudsman, General Audit Chamber and Council of Advice have proven to be effective counter-corruption tools. It is up to us as a people to use them more effectively.
Unfortunately, our President of Parliament and our Opposition leader don’t seem to see the whole issue here. Or maybe they do, and are just playing the politics game to make sure they win the next elections.
THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO BE PLAYING POLITRICKS.
It is not the time to be playing mind games with vulnerable people. The people of Sint Maarten are in a state where they believe and agree with any and everything that they THINK works in their favour. Stop using vulnerable persons for your advantage. It is morally wrong and it makes me sick.
This why I am scared for “The Dutch To Come In”.
- 10/10/10. The day we became Country Sint Maarten, isn’t going to make sense anymore. Why? We aren’t going to be in charge of our own nation anymore. All that hard work that went to achieving this status is going to go down the drain.
- We are going to suffer economically. Irma already damaged our industry and added the Dutch putting their regulations can make things worse. A prime example, the BES Islands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba). The currency change from Antillean Guilder to The US Dollar messed up their entire economy and cost of living. For such small populations, they are struggling to keep everything afloat. Cost of living is higher than before and people are suffering. To make things worse, the local governing powers and the Dutch government could never get along.
Imagine our local government who can’t get along with each other, trying to negotiate with a higher body. We aren’t going to reach anywhere.
Also, to the SHTA, did you guys really sit down and talk about the potential effects of the Dutch conditions before you sent out that article agreeing with the Dutch? Do you not remember basic high school Economics?
So here is my advice to the government of Sint Maarten.
- Learn how to communicate. Everyone has a smart phone. Go on WhatsApp and talk to your colleges, no matter what side you are on. Talk out the issues. Write down discussion points. Bring them to the floor and discuss them properly. Find proper and adequate solutions. Speak with persons in your ministry and always have proper reasons for the orders you send out to prevent any more confusion.
- Think about the people and not yourself. You are in government to represent the PEOPLE of Sint Maarten. Not to give them promises, not do things that are going to benefit you and your supporters. Do things that is will benefit, EVERYBODY. This isn’t the National Alliance, United Peoples Party, United Sint Maarten Party or The Democratic Party soap opera (and even if it was, I wouldn’t stay up to watch it, Basketball season is starting), this is about making our country better.
- UNITY. For two political parties with United in their names, our government isn’t united at all. We need to stop playing “Oh I don’t like he, Oh I don’t like she” and start working together. UNITY is yelled and chanted every time we talk about how great our nation is but our political leaders cannot work together. It is a shame.
- Work diligently. We are all human and we can mess up sometimes, but that doesn’t give you the excuse to mess up every time. Unfortunately our first four years focused on which cool kids I should sit with (ship-jumping) that all our legislations that were “implemented” have way too many cracks in them, since so many persons had a say. Please. Analyze. Use adequate critical thinking when coming up legislation for this country.
Now after reading this, you must be thinking to yourself, “She really came and ripped off everyone’s head.” Well you are right. This isn’t a nice post or feel good story. This isn’t me trying to be friends with anyone, support any party or government official. This is me giving everyone a wakeup call.
And if this call doesn’t wake you up, must I waste my breath yelling to stubborn persons who refuse to listen? Man I have an education to get and an island I have to help rebuild. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I’m honestly just sick and tired of this madness.
By Kamilah Gumbs
COMMENTARY: The comments made in this oped are the sole responsibility of the author.