Claude Peterson Claude Peterson

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Last year September, the St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) contested the elections and received 848 votes. We were close to winning one seat but in elections close if not enough and one vote can make the difference. 

As we took in the results at our campaign headquarters, our brief disappointment about the results was quickly met with an ENERGIZED sense of achievement and gratitude for running a campaign with integrity, void of empty promises and vote buying. We realized this was the first chapter in our long term commitment as a movement to SERVE THE PEOPLE FOR A CHANGE!!

Since then, we have lived up to our commitment to remain engaged in enlightening the people and keeping them informed. We became the EXTRA PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION while UP seemed to have abandoned the people after their failed attempt to execute their hastily signed coalition agreement with NA, when Theo and Frankie did not pass the Minister Screening.

For the last 14 months, unlike most of the 126 candidates in 2016 and other new parties, SMCP has written almost weekly articles highlighting the functioning of Parliament and has maintained a very active presence on the issues plaguing our people via Facebook and in the community. This was always our plan and we actually intended to start our town hall information sessions in all the districts in January 2018.

Since last year we have been monitoring the political scene and were very well aware that all Ministries were operating as individual islands, each making decisions which negatively affected the others. The Council of Ministers was clearly not working in cohesion with one another. I distinctly remember in one of our work meetings, we discussed that this supposedly strong coalition of 10 would not last beyond one year.

Little did we know, Irma would devastate our island in so many ways. Not only did the hurricane destroy people's homes, personal belongings, created looting but it also exposed the now very visible cracks in the shaky coalition held together by the fact that Ship jumping became the new political sin.

It became very obvious the Prime Minister lost control of the island and became a ROGUE PM. It became very evident to me that he would lose his majority support in parliament after he not only alienated his coalition partners and the entire population but also put the island in a  winless feud with the Dutch at a time when they are our only dependable source of relief and reconstruction aid for our island and people.

We lost more than two months in the recovery process while he tried to demonize the Dutch. In the process our people have been suffering as the island sinks further in depression from the trauma, crime, unemployment and homelessness.

During this period we saw another political saga play out which led to a vote of no confidence (article 33), a ship jumping from the US party followed by the PM dissolving parliament and calling new elections (article 59). Finally the postponing of the election dates to line up with the Electoral ordinances on new parties registering and first time voters being able to register. Needless to say it has been another learning experience for our party on exactly what behavior we should never exemplify.

Early on, I was one who called for a NATIONAL GOVERNMENT consisting of a Non politically affiliated Council of Ministers. This COM would be supervised by a Parliament consisting of all the political leaders. They would commission a short term recovery plan as well as a long term Holistic reconstruction plan which should include the following areas:

  • A hurricane proof public infrastructure Including making each district community center and public school a Hurricane shelter with a concrete roof, generator, diesel tank, medical emergency supplies and food supplies. These shelters would be manned as part of the new disaster management plan with nurses, marines, police/vks and community leaders. These would need to be self sufficient for at least 2 weeks in case of another monster hurricane or other natural disaster.
  • An amended building code which should require home owners to have a cistern and at least 30-40 of the house covered by a concrete roof.
  • A new public transportation policy and infrastructure. This policy should address the serious traffic congestions and start to implement measures to restrict the amount of cars on the island.
  • A new energy policy to address areas like solar energy, green energy and waste management. This needs to include dealing with the dump, recycling and Gebe's role in this area not only to secure the future of its employees but mostly to deliver cheap electricity and water to the people.
  • The implementation of a Waste to Energy plant not only deal with the Dutch side waste but also French side, Saba, Statia, Anguilla, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Barths. Taking this approach would secure that the plant would be more sustainable and be able to deliver cheaper electricity to our consumers. Eventually, Government should own this waste to energy plant and it can become a source of revenue for our island as we cater to the region.
  • A sustainable environmental policy including developing eco tourism. Bird watching tourism needs to be developed and other eco friendly sites need to be maintained.  We need to reinforce the Nature Foundation and make sure they have enough funding to protect and preserve our environment. This can be done via an environmental tax.
  • An improved tourism marketing plan to revitalize our stakeholders and reboost our economy. It is imperative we strike the right balance between cruise, timeshare and stay over tourism.
  • An amended labor policy including the elimination of the minimum wage for a livable wage. No longer should our economy be based on the exploitation of cheap labor. This is important if we are to reestablish the family values in our community, prevent and reduce crime.
  • A new agriculture policy to maximize the potential for farming and fisheries in a sustainable fashion. We need to be innovative and seek to implement new methods.
  • A new health care policy which should not only include a new hospital but which should revisit the sustainability of the proposed National Health insurance plan.
  • A new law for tertiary education and the development of a state of the art accredited University. It is time we develop Sxm as the BRAIN HUB of the Caribbean to attract students from around the region and the world.
  • An amended immigration policy to address the land size limitations of the island and the availability of jobs.
  • A Sxm development bank to facilitate soft loans for local entrepreneurs as well as assist in the development of affordable homes.
  • A new tax system such as going to indirect taxes so that the tax burden is spread out over every single citizen amd visitor on the island. This policy should include incentives to boost investment in the island locally and internationally.
  • A redevelopment of our sports and cultural facilities so that the island can be promoted In those areas. Sports tourism can be a great source of revenue for the island if managed and promoted properly.
  • A definition of the Sxm identity in our constitution taking into account our heritage as well as our present social demographic reality.
  • A Unified Congress between the French and Dutch side local governments with honorary observer positions for Holland and France. An idea mentioned by the present President of the Collectivitée. Please note that the reconstruction of the Dutch side absolutely needs to be carried out in synergy with the French side. All attempts should be made to unify forces to combat so many of the common ills plaguing both sides. Both local governments already control many competences such as fiscal affairs, social affairs, transportation, tourism and urban development.

SMCP does not feel now was the appropriate timing for an election but the constitution has played out. We believe our constitution is sacred and should not be trampled on every time our immature and self interested politicians decide to use it to spite each other or grab power. For the last 40, 30, 20 years, our people have been misled and taken for granted while our Politicians have enriched themselves.

Since we have received Status Aparte on 10-10-10, we have seen every single combination of the NA, DP, US and UP coalitions with no tangible results for the island. It is time that we break the political indoctrination which has destroyed our fabric of life, our strong middle class and show the world we can evolve as a people and embrace change. SMCP asks our people to reject vote buying. Do not sell your future and that of your children.

For this reason we feel it is our duty to contest the elections on February 26, 2018. We are more than ever energized to fight for the people of Sxm and bring about the much needed STABLE GOVERNMENT the island will require to rebuild and reintroduce a strong middle class among our people.

Integrity, Transparency, Accountability and ethics should not be used as words only during a campaign or on a rubber wristband. Instead they need to become our way of life as a people and definitely for our leaders of the future.

With stability in mind, we will be asking the population to WAKE UP and vote for a change. It is time we introduce new blood into our political system. After 6 governments in 7 years, it should be more than evident that the present older party leaders and older politicians from the Island Council days are the very same politicians failing the island year in, year out for decades.

If given overwhelming support, SMCP will seek to form a Multi Partisan Coalition majority of Parliamentarians across all party lines who will in turn appoint a Non politically affiliated Council of Ministers to rebuild St. Maarten over the period of 2018-2022. Only the Prime Minister position could be selected from the parties if that candidate can receive unanimous support from this coalition.

It is time we end the fighting to own a Minister and focus on becoming an island with an exemplary Government apparatus, Parliament and Soceity. Both the Multi Partisan Parliamentary Coalition and the Non Political COM will seek to work in an accountable and transparent manner with the Kingdom Government (including Aruba, Curacao, Saba and Statia), the Collectivitée of St. Martin and the French government.

Now more than ever it is time all four governments to honor our forefathers and exemplify the spirit of the Treaty of Concordia which was based on the cohabitation of our people.

The Post Irma Legacy for our future generations should be a NEW ST. MARTIN/ST. MAAREN: ONE ISLAND, ONE PEOPLE, ONE DESTINY FOREVER!!!

Claude Chacho Peterson

COMMENTARY: The content is the sole responsibility of the author.

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