The late Mavis Brooks-Salmon. (Photo from website of Council of Advice)
PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten’s lady of indomitable spirit Mavis Brooks-Salmon (69) was taken by death on Friday after her fierce battle with cancer. Brooks-Salmon served St. Maarten with distinction in various posts throughout her life; her last was as vice chairwoman of the Council of Advice. She was a Member of the Order of Oranje-Nassau.
Brooks-Salmon is remembered as a voice of reason and as an educator.
Attorney and Member of the Council of Advice Rik Bergman said of Brooks-Salmon: “She was a strong lady. She shaped and chaired the Council with knowledge, experience and passion. To me, she has been very supportive on a personal level and in professional endeavours. She will be dearly missed.”
Fellow educator and former Social Economic Council SER chairwoman Oldine Bryson-Pantophlet, a close friend of Brooks-Salmon, said she had maintained her passion for teaching, mathematics and singing. Brooks-Salmon was instrumental in the children’s song festival for many years and was in the throes of restarting a choir comprising pupils of the country’s public schools.
The two ladies met in the education field with Bryson-Pantophlet being Brook-Salmon’s successor at the Department of Education. They developed a lasting friendship that combined their love of walking and fitness.
Bryson-Pantophlet and Brooks-Salmon were part of group of “girlfriends” who took on the trials and fun of life together. “She is a loving person and very forgiving. … I think Mavis … she would give away her heart. People abuse that. … If she had more than you, she never minded sharing,” said Bryson-Pantophlet, who spoke with emotion and still in the present tense about her friend. “Oh, and her soups were delicious. She loved making soups.
“To me, she was much more intelligent than she thought. … She was strong, but hard on herself and felt she had to take everything on herself. If there was hurt, she wanted to take it and relieve you of it.”
Brooks-Salmon was a strong believer in God and held to her Catholic faith. She was a regular congregant and could be found at Mass every Saturday afternoon; only missing Mass when not on-island.
In the professional sphere, Bryson-Pantophlet described her late friend as “a very confidential person,” adding, “Although we were close, I never knew anything about her job.”
Brooks-Salmon’s great love were here family. She was very committed to her family – husband Leonaris Brooks and children Najhilah Brooks, a speech therapist with the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation, and Earlon Brooks, an entrepreneur.
Brooks-Salmon was a mentor of incumbent Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs (NA).
She leaves to mourn her family, a very close network of friends and a wide net of professional acquaintances.
Brooks-Salmon started her career as a teacher at St. Margareta School in Curaçao, the island of her birth, before relocating to St. Maarten where she shaped several generations of St. Maarteners at Lionel Connor School in Cole Bay and as principal of Sister Borgia Primary School.
She continued in education with postings as the acting head of the Department of Education and as Superintendent of St. Maarten Public Schools until she was called to a different kind of public service: as a Minister.
Following the elections for the then-Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles of 27 January, 2006, when National Alliance won two seats, Brooks-Salmon was called on by the party to serve as Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary for the then-Netherlands Antilles Government. She continued in that post until 2010 when the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and St. Maarten became a country within the Kingdom of Netherlands.
At this stage, Brooks-Salmon became the vice chairwoman of St. Maarten’s first Council of Advice. She brought with her experience from her time as a member of the same council for the Netherlands Antilles.
The High Council of State, as designated by the Constitution of St. Maarten, is tasked with providing the government and Parliament with advice on legislation and administrative actions. It is considered a part of the system of checks and balances provided for in the Constitution of St. Maarten. The High Councils of State are institutions established by the Constitution and are independent of government.
Like the description of the Council of Advice on which she served, Brooks-Salmon is also described as fair and balanced, and strove to maintain the independence of the organisation she was tasked with guiding. She was known to apply her academic knowledge and practical sense to her tasks.
Brooks-Salmon held a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the Pedagogical Academy, a Master’s degree in Constitutional Law and Political Science, Master’s degree in Dutch Antillean law from University of the Netherlands Antilles, and a Dutch Master’s degree in International and European Law.
Kingdom democratic deficit
In 2009, she served as President of the Democratic Deficit Committee of the Dutch Kingdom.
The committee produced the report titled “Choosing for the Kingdom”, which explored the shortcomings of the democratic functioning within the Kingdom, pointing to, among others, the very limited possibility of influencing kingdom policy by Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, the absence of a directly chosen Kingdom Parliament with representatives of the people of the four countries of the Kingdom, and the absence of a Court of Arbitration to solve mutual judicial conflicts or constitutional issues among the countries.
The report of the committee suggested solutions to the democratic deficit, including making public Parliamentary documents and other relevant information digitally available via the website of each parliament and intensifying the twice-yearly Inter-Parliamentary Consultations IPKO.
The Parliaments of the Caribbean countries of the Kingdom were urged by the report to each appoint a permanent liaison, comparable to a minister plenipotentiary, to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament to follow developments, and for the Kingdom Council of Ministers to publish a yearly strategic policy document that could be called “The State of the Kingdom”.