~ “We were heading down the wrong path” ~
PHILIPSBURG–Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Franklin Meyers on Wednesday broke his silence on the political shakeup of government as a result of his pulling his support from the United Democrats/St. Maarten Christian Party (UD/SMCP) coalition, but gave no clear indication as to what his next step would be.
Meyers said in a lengthy statement that had it not been him pulling his support, it would have been someone else, as the country had been heading down the wrong path.
“In the past, when any other Member of Parliament made a decision to withdraw their support from the government, a replacement government was already negotiated. My actions had nothing to do with forming another government or trying to use my position as a power move. Rather, it was to take a stance for what I believe is right. We were heading down the wrong path, with the wrong intentions, and as such I could not continue to follow.”
He said “the recent shake up” was “not an easy decision” and was one that he had been pondering seriously for many months.
“Looking around me how things unfolded, when push came to shove, I found myself in a position having to defend government policies that, in the beginning, I was reluctant to agree with. However, for the greater good and for the general wellbeing of St. Maarten and its people, I put my personal feelings and convictions aside so that St. Maarten could receive the much-needed financial aid after the passing of Hurricane Irma [which left us totally devastated – Ed.].”
Meyers said he is aware of the frustration of his colleagues in the coalition concerning the directives of the coalition agreement, which had not changed, and as such preferred to blame Ministers rather than, as a united front, accept responsibility for having been misled.
“This is one part of what led to my inevitable withdrawal. I can assure the people of St. Maarten that, had it not been me, it would have been someone else. I could not stand by and see a concerted effort by members of the coalition as well as opposition trying to ‘pick-off’ Ministers, one by one, until the COM [Council of Ministers] would have not represented the coalition, rather it would reflect individual Members of Parliament. This would have set a dangerous precedent,” he said.
There are some MPs, he added, whose intentions are good, but because of a lack of political mentoring, decisions were made without taking the larger political ramifications into consideration. Because of these actions the coalition was faced with a lack of cohesion, communication and common goal.
Alluding to the oath taken by MPs when they were sworn in, Meyers said this is a serious commitment that he takes to heart and it is the environment in which he found himself when coming to his decision.
“In addition to this, I have to confess that Hurricane Dorian triggered something in me. Everyone knows that while I can be passionate, I am not easily moved but now, two years after Irma, as I witnessed the devastation that our brothers and sisters in the Bahamas had to suffer, this hit home. Dorian slammed them for hours, families left homeless, and countless unaccounted for.
“This was frightening. Frightening, in the realisation that this could have been us, again and that we are nowhere ready to deal with such a calamity. I asked myself, if this would have been us, would we be able to stand up and muster, once again, the resilience that I am so proud we are able to show time and time again?” Meyers said. “I reflected on the current political environment and I got even more concerned.
“The current political environment cannot handle another blow like Irma. I considered the stage we are in with the reconstruction and the need to speed that up, and realised that we would be no better off than the Bahamas should we get struck again. I also looked at the potential impact of some of geo-political trends on our economy and our stability as a country and concluded we are not addressing them to mitigate any impact.”
These issues include the impact of migration from Venezuela on St. Maarten’s socio-economic construct; Brexit and the yet-unknown impact for Anguilla; the much-needed intensification of relationships with French St. Martin; and the threat of being blacklisted if St. Maarten does not comply with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) guidelines and the impact de-risking will have on the country’s tourism product, its ability as a country to be a trading hub.
“While we are promoting US pre-clearance for hub connectivity throughout the world on the one hand, we are cutting off ourselves from the rest of the world due to us not taking a decision to comply with the guidelines set forth by the CFATF.
“These are just some current geo-political challenges we are not looking at. We should be thinking about them and get a good understanding so that we can protect the interests of St. Maarten and mitigate the impact. Instead we go about picking petty local fights for selfish or grandstanding reasons, blaming everybody else and not taking our own responsibility where we can, whilst the world moves on and potentially leaves us behind.
“The St. Maarten I once knew, and still believe exists, was always at the leading edge of new frontiers and we were not afraid to boldly explore those possibilities so that the general population could have a better life. We voice great ambitions for our country, but as we are handling things now, we are falling short of that very goal which we want to achieve for the people.”
Meyers said he found himself in a setting where the language used in political debate is divisive, unconstructive, negative, demeaning, and where defamation of character was the new order of the day.
“There was no regard or respect for the truth in the highest body of government, leadership was not being acknowledged, let alone respected, and too many people wanting to go in their own direction. This is played out in Parliament by grandstanding individuals with a great feeling of self-importance, but lacking self-reflection and thinking through the consequences of their actions.”
The norm no longer seemed to be the pursuit of the interest of the country and the people being represented, he said.
“This manifested into a rudderless coalition with a total absence of cohesion and unity within; worst of all, blatant sabotage for all the wrong reasons. … For months, over and over again, together with some others in the coalition members, I attempted to charter and pursue a cohesive and unified course, and over and over again we found ourselves startled by badly-timed and unconstructive surprise actions.”
Meyers said that after long reflection, sleepless nights, seeking inspiration in the teachings of Joseph Richardson, soul searching and seeking solace from God, he had decided that the insanity needed to stop.
“Martin Luther King Jr. once said, and I quote, ‘There comes a time that one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.’ That was the decision that I took.
“It is for some time now that I constantly caught myself feeling frustrated about how the political process of our beloved country was unfolding. This frustration was not unique to me. Prior to making the move to declare myself independent it was clear, after having talks with coalition members, that not only the most loyal coalition member, the SMCP, but also other coalition members shared this frustration perhaps for different reasons.”
Meyers said he has had the honour to serve St. Maarten for a very long time – before and after October 10, 2010.
“Since entering politics I have had the privilege of enjoying great mentoring by some of the most seasoned professionals, most importantly my political guru Joe Richardson, who I miss dearly at times like this. The frustration that I have felt for months became so dominant in my life that I found myself disengaged with politics.”
He said his decision might have come as a shock to many, but he maintained that the insanity had to stop.
“We need to start doing things differently in order to achieve a different result and to bring about the desperately-needed direction for this country. Hopefully, my decision will force the realisation of the negative environment we have created for ourselves, and jumpstart the fostering of a positive mindset and a can-do mentality, to contribute to the much-needed continuity of governance, cohesion and unity.
“There’s a saying ‘You did nothing to be ashamed of” and my reply to that is, ‘I’m ashamed because I did nothing.’ I am at peace with my conscience, knowing that I did what I had to do, after ample reflection, and did so with integrity and best intentions to make a final attempt, from my side, for the country to go forward on a more stable basis in the best interest of our sweet St. Maarten land and its people, because we deserve that.”