PHILIPSBURG–The comments “gay cruise” made in Monday’s sitting of Parliament by National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament Christopher Emanuel are irresponsible and have offended one of St. Maarten’s biggest international partners in the hospitality industry, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), and members of the LGBTQ community, according to the Tourism Minister Stuart Johnson.
Johnson said in a press release that Emanuel’s comments put St. Maarten at risk, as this kind of negative and discriminatory comments are heard around the world and harm an already-fragile tourism economy. There are lessons to be learnt from the challenges of other Caribbean tourism destinations whose homophobia resulted in physical attacks on visitors and a negative image of their destination.
Johnson is calling on the NA through its leader, Member of Parliament Silveria Jacobs, to distance herself and the party from the comments made by fellow MP Emanuel or to state for the record that it is the NA’s position to discriminate especially based on “gender expression”.
During an urgent meeting of Parliament on the liquidity support for Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) on Monday, MP Emanuel asked whether the Cruise Summit Johnson had attended was “a gay cruise.” Emanuel had attempted motivate a motion of no confidence against Johnson, claiming that Johnson has “never attended any meeting of Parliament.”
Parliament does have a critical role in addressing matters of concern regarding the Executive Branch’s function. However, Johnson pointed out that it is also a responsibility of parliament to uphold the constitution and the laws of St. Maarten, one of which speaks directly to the equal treatment and rights of all individuals regardless of race, colour, religion, creed, gender, national origin or gender expression.
Johnson said in the press release, “On the subject of my attendance at Parliament, I have been to Parliament in my capacity as Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication four times. Meanwhile, the MP when he was a minister never attended and called parliament meetings a puppet show.”
The concern now within Government and throughout the community is that MP Emanuel’s comments may have a damning impact on St. Maarten’s image and its relationship with the LGBTQ community and its international partners in the hospitality industry, according to the release.
The Cruise Summit which Johnson attended was the recently held FCCA Platinum Associate Member Advisory Council (PAMAC) Cruise Summit consisting of more than 100 FCCA PAMAC top executives. He held several meetings with top decision-makers in the cruise industry to discuss and further develop initiatives for mutual success.
His objective was to offer assurance to the platinum partners of St. Maarten’s continued commitment to improving its cruise tourism product and to find ways to return St. Maarten’s cruise numbers to what they were before Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017.
Johnson said he hopes these comments do not live a life of their own. He has expressed fear that it they result in people becoming verbally abusive towards others whose gender beliefs are not aligned with theirs. This will harm St. Maarten’s “Friendly Island” image and can cause irreparable damage to its community and economy if left unchecked, he said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/84744-emanuel-s-comments-offensive-to-fcca-lgbtq-community