PHILIPSBURG – It did not go without some hiccups, but Gracita Arrindell’s People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) did manage to get enough endorsement signatures to qualify the party for participation in the February 26 parliamentary elections. From 86 on Endorsement Day the total jumped on Monday to 249.
During last week’s Endorsement Day, the PPA failed to reach the threshold of 142 signatures – one percent of the number of valid votes in the 2016 elections. But on Monday morning, when the party got a second chance to complete this mission, things were looking up early on. By a quarter past nine, there were already 20 signatures in the bag and by midday, the total count stood at 170. With four more hours to go, the PPA had its ticket to elections safely locked up.
Arrindell did not doubt for a moment that she would get the necessary signatures, but she was not happy with the fact that the tent that had been erected on Endorsement Day to protect waiting supporters from the sun, was absent on Monday morning. Later in the morning the census office sent several people who wanted to endorse the party away because of a system failure.
In the meantime, the party has announced as one of its campaign promises the payment of $1,000 a month to the unemployed. Based on 6,000 jobless citizens, this program would cost $6 million per month and $72 million for the first year. That money has to come from the $660 million Dutch recovery fund.
“This is a plan we want to submit on behalf of those who are unemployed,” Arrindell said on Monday. “There is no unemployment legislation and no plan to accommodate so many unemployed people at such a critical time. There is no safety net and that will become a huge problem for people who have no perspective, no job and no income. It is unconscionable to have fifteen members of Parliament and seven ministers who did not see that we have a human crisis on our hands after Irma. I knew this was going to be a problem when I saw the devastation of the hotels. We are going to work on that plan.”
Arrindell says that the $1,000-plan is not a handout; the money will not be paid out without any strings attached. “No, of course not, but this is about life and death; people have to eat. Parallel to this we want a program of job training.”
The PPA’s previous outing to the parliamentary elections in 2016 did not go too well; the party won just 234 votes; 84 people voted for Arrindell. Will it go better this time around?
Arrindell: “Our expectations are very high. We are very motivated; we will be in Parliament and we will be in the government.”
The difference with 2016, Arrindell says, lies with the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. “The hurricane showed how unprepared people were. This time we truly believe that people are realizing that things cannot continue like this.”
In 2016, the PPA’s energy went into establishing the required association in the run-up to the elections. “The time was very short but this time we are ready. We have a great team of motivated professionals; some of them ran with the PPA when we won in 2003. After that we won some, we lost some but this time we intend to win again.”
How will the PPA hit the campaign trail? “We need to recapture the heart and minds of the people,” Arrindell says. “So many people are hurting, so many are disappointed in the electoral process and in politics. I try to convince them that we are not all the same. You cannot give up on your country because politics disappointed you.”
Contemplating the challenges that lie ahead in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Arrindell sees a ray of light: “This is a great opportunity to rebuild smarter and better; not bigger. I don’t like the concept of bigger. That’s what I learned from the experience on El Hierro. Small is beautiful.”
Arrindell’s reference to El Hierro – the smallest of the Canary Islands – has to do with a visit she paid to this place to take a look at the effect of blue economy projects on this community. Günther Pauli, the architect of the Blue Economy concept visited St. Maarten for a lecture in September 2016. The Huffington Post once labeled him “the Steve Jobs of sustainability” – and that’s a good indication of where Arrindell would like to take the island’s economy.
Photo caption: PPA-leader Gracita Arrindell and candidate Roel Haakmat (center) speak on Monday morning with a supporter of their list who identified himself only as Rutger. Photo Hilbert Haar.
Source: StMaartenNews http://stmaartennews.com/elections/arrindells-ppa-qualifies-elections/