PHILIPSBURG–“I know of no country in the world – sovereign or in any form of constitutional relationship with another – that got everything right within the first seven years of its existence,” said Prime Minister William Marlin in his speech for Constitution Day. To expect St. Maarten to be the exception in its strides as a new country is “simply unfair.”
“Could we have done things better? Of course! But this is a country that is only seven years old, not centuries old, and we should be given the time, space and goodwill to manage a crisis brought about by a natural disaster not of our own making, but that may have more to do with the carbon imprints of some of those criticising us today,” Marlin said.
Government “remains open and accessible as our Constitution prescribes and we will continue to uphold and respect the spirit and the letter of said Constitution.”
“We firmly believe that nobody – no matter how well-meaning – knows what is best for the St. Maarten people than the people of St. Maarten themselves,” Marlin said, adding the country is “grateful” for help and assistance received from the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, the wider Caribbean and from the United States.
“And to take advantage of our misfortune of being knocked down by a super Category 5 hurricane, with two other vicious storms in its trail in quick succession in a matter of weeks, to link reconstruction aid to other issues is to unnecessarily politicise a catastrophe like Irma as if we in St. Maarten brought the hurricane on ourselves,” Marlin said.
“Of course, we know that we won’t be able to do it alone. We certainly need help, genuine help, from within and without the Kingdom. But we will not permit anyone to exploit our tragedy to bring in Trojan horses while holding our people to a much higher standard than anyone else in the world,” Marlin said.
It is “rather unfortunate” that there are those who have begun to float the idea of rolling back the autonomous status which we are marking today. They “are in La-la-la land; they have a determined St. Maarten people to deal with.”
He added that the principles upon which the Constitution is based are “irreversible and non-negotiable. Only through the expressed will of the people of St. Maarten can any changes be made to our current constitutional status.”
Focusing on the recovery efforts since Hurricane Irma struck on September 6, Marlin said, “We are basically open for business in what some might call a miraculous way; a mere four weeks after the whole world saw images of a paradise completely in ruins. This was possible because of the never-say-die spirit of our people.”
Nature is recovering quickly around the island. Marlin said it is as if Nature wants to underscore that part of the preamble to the Constitution that states St. Maarteners as a people are resolved to provide for the continuing preservation of Nature and the environment. “If that is not a miracle then what is?” he asked.
There is “a lot of work ahead,” including the rebuilding of the economy and facing housing challenges. “The environment itself will require special attention, even though some of our beaches have been declared safe to swim in. Unemployment will be a formidable challenge.”
Addressing these and other issues unleashed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria “will require a massive infusion of funds,” Marlin said. “Our National Recovery Plan is being finalised as we speak and I am sure these and other pertinent matters will be taken up in the plan.”
Marlin called for “All hands on deck and all minds in a positive mode” for the rebuilding of the country. “I call on all the people of St. Maarten to join hands together in rebuilding a better, stronger, smarter and more prosperous island for ourselves, and for future generations. We have done it before and with God on our side, we will do it again.”
St. Maarten marked her seventh year as a country within the Dutch Kingdom on Monday. The status was attained on October 10, 2010, but in establishing the holiday to commemorate this milestone Government opted to tag it to the second Monday in October.