EMILIO WILSON PARK, Sint Maarten - His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday was one of the dignitaries that addressed the nation on Emancipation Day, July 1st activities that were organized at the Emilio Wilson Park by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports under the leadership of Minister Hon. Patricia Lourens-Philip.
My Fellow Sint Maarteners,
Good Afternoon and Happy Emancipation Day
We are here to celebrate the observance of the 151st emancipation day, today July 1, 2014, and together with Marie-Louise I am pleased to participate in the celebrations with you.
As we do so I wish, considering the day’s theme: The Journey and Beyond”, to emphasize that the observation of emancipation day is one of the most important days in our history. To emphasize that I have – in keeping with the day’s theme and inspired by the Emilio Wilson Estate as the chosen place of this year’s celebration - entitled my message: Sint Maarten’s Journey from Plantation to Nation.
My fellow Sint Maarteners, the July 1, 1863 emancipation day is one of the most important days in our history because it is, as I stated in my 2012 emancipation day address, the day that:
“…….. marked the triumph of the indomitable will of the enslaved men and women of Sint Maarten to be free. …….. …………, it is my hope that today as every Emancipation Day hereafter will be celebrated as the day when the people of Sint Maarten officially became one people. …… because it marked the triumph of humanity on Sint Maarten ……... A triumph of humanity which must be cherished and preserved by all with the same vigor and unrelenting courage as our forefathers.” Standing on the grounds of Emilio Wilson Estate, the former Sentry plantation, in the shadows of trees that holds the accounts of over 300 years of slavery, we are reminded that the emancipation day victory embodied a profound promise from our forefathers: The promise of a free and better future for all Sint Maarteners.
My Fellow Sint Maarteners,
Emancipation day changed Sint Maarten, it redirected our journey as a people. To illustrate the change and the promise I can draw from the experiences of my own family history in this Cul-de-Sac area. I that regard I refer to the fact that just 6 years after emancipation my father’s great grandmother, Present Richardson, bought four and a half acres of the Golden Rock Retreat – part of the former Sentry Plantation – from the plantation owner for 180 guilders. With the purchase of that piece of property she made use of her newly reclaimed freedom and right to participate as a citizen in the opportunities of Sint Maarten. As such she like her contemporaries lived through slavery, fought for and experienced emancipation and forged forward to give content to the promise. In doing so she and her contemporaries started Sint Maarten’s journey from plantation to nation.
As such we owe it – we have an obligation – to those courageous Sint Maarten men and women and to the perpetual sacrifices they made for our freedom to continue to forge forward on the journey from the plantation to our nation.
Over the past years since emancipation we have made great strides in forging our freedom and unity as a people. Strides as reflected in among others:
- First, the achievement of the general right to vote for all in 1949;
- Second, the expression of our unity and solidarity with the introduction of our flag on June 13, 1985; and
- Third, the achievement of our status as a Separate Automous Country and nation on October 10, 2010.
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
Reflecting on these important achievements and progress I wish to note that our journey is far from complete. As we stand on these historic grounds I would suggest that we owe it to our forefathers and has a responsibility to our children to continue the journey of progress. That is we must continue with the same unrelenting sense of determination as our forefathers.
- That is we must continue to build our nation anchored in an education system based on our shared values and a set of common standards of excellence to ensure success;
- That is we must continue to build our nation based on the principle of democracy, the rule of law, the principle of the separation of powers, the dignity and values of the individual, and the entitlement of all individuals to the fundamental rights and freedoms;
- That is we must continue to build our nation to eliminate poverty eradicate crime
- That is we must continue to build our nation by preserving and protecting our heritage – such as this area on which we stand to function as the soul and national retreat of our nation;
- That is we must continue to build our nation grounded in a modern economy with good business and employment opportunities for all and incomes that guarantees a good standard of living.
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
Only by doing so will be meeting our obligation and complying with our responsibility to give content to the promise of emancipation day. I say this because there are many among us who today are not living the promise. As a result we may not waiver on our journey but rather we must continue – in the spirit of our forefathers – to take action to always secure the progress embedded in freedom towards the perfecting of our nation.
In closing, it is with that sense of active direction for our concerted journey towards the perfecting of the promise of Emancipation Day, that I congratulate all of you on and wish you a most wonderful 151th Emancipation Day celebration.
Thank you, God Bless you and May God Bless Sint Maarten and Protect its coast.