PHILIPSBURG–It’s about inclusion and “embraces every St. Maartener” no matter their religious or personal background, says retired Pastor Wycliffe Smith of the newly founded St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP). However, that inclusiveness does not extend to the acceptance of gay marriage by the party.
Marriage equality is “not high” on the agenda for the party as the country has more pressing and urgent issues such as the need to tackle crime, revamping of the tax system and attending to the country’s many laws that have loopholes or are flawed.
“My belief is ‘no’ to same sex marriage. Government cannot judge a person’s private life, but legislation for this is not a priority,” Smith told The Daily Herald. He was backed by other party representatives. They are not in favour of civil unions (a legal contract) or the marriage of a same sex couple by a member of the church.
The sex industry will also see reform and better application of the laws by the party should it gain seats in Parliament.
The elections, whether snap ones on February 9, 2016, or regular elections in 2018, are for Parliament and SMCP will focus on what it can do to better St. Maarten through its existing laws, the promulgation of new ones and the enforcement of all laws (old and new).
Smith along with SMCP Secretary Benjamin Bell, Treasurer Jacqueline Godet and Board Member Elijah Singer said their party’s goal is “serving the people for a change.” It is time, they said, for the people to be listened to again and their needs be catered to. For that reason, the SMCP is in favour of the decreed snap elections for February 2016, and is against a postponement, saying that the right to go to the polls has been given to the people.
“You cannot change the decree. We have to work with it and prepare for electoral reform,” Smith said.
Considering the government chaos in the country for the past half a decade, Smith said elections are necessary to start afresh. He said people who believe it makes no sense to vote when election comes, are not helping to better the country. There is a “Christian alternative” and one that is strong and ready to guide the country.
Smith hopes SMCP will get a majority (eight seats or more) in Parliament come Election Day. “The tug of war is strangling the country. Coalitions are not good for St. Maarten,” he said.
SMCP is busy formulating its manifesto and is gathering comments and information via a questionnaire from the community. The party, now fully registered with the Electoral Council, will take consultations further this week when it holds an information session on Tuesday, December 1, at Belair Community Centre starting at 7:30pm.
It’s a party founded on Christian principles and not a party of the church, said Smith. The party’s aim is “to return Christian norms and values to the nation.”
“We want to bring back balance to the country with Christian principles,” said SMCP Board Member Elijah Singer. “The party is an avenue and platform for the Christian community to have a voice.” He and Smith said anyone who is “comfortable with the principles” of Christianity and the party is welcome to join no matter their religions. Members only need to be “willing to work” for the benefit of the country within the Christian norms.
Creating a nation where people are able to prosper and have an improved quality of life is high on the party agenda. Achieving that would require changes to the tax regulations to increase compliance and broaden the tax base, said SMCP representatives.
The idea of the party was born over a decade ago when a group of pastors from both sides of the island got together weekly to pray for the island as a whole, its leaders and its people. The pastors still meet to pray for the country and put focus on the most prominent prevailing ills.
The need for SMCP became pronounced after the “Mexican Standoff” of 2013. After the standoff and the political chaos of the past years that have led to five Cabinets of Ministers in five years, Smith said, “We realized we need to pray, but we also needed to act. The people needed to get involved.”
The pastors continued their devotions and at one of the session there was a “prophetic word” about the formation of a party led by Christians with the determination to shape the country to become a better place for all residents.
“It is not my party,” Smith said. “It is a Christian party and a party of the people. The church is not taking part in politics. It is the people who are following Christian principles.”
Smith added that there was another prophetic word about him as the lead of the needed party for change in the country. He rose to the challenge and as a retired pastor took up the mantel and is now readying for the February 9, 2016, snap elections.
Having a Christian party is not a new phenomenon, said Smith, pointing out that all parties in St. Maarten have a Christian base. That base can also be found in the Netherlands and in other parts of the Dutch Kingdom. “While the Christian foundation is there, many parties don’t have the word ‘Christian’ in their name.”
Source: The Daily Herald Christian Party for inclusion, but not same sex marriage