PHILIPSBURG–Word from Government that it is following up on the instructions given in two motions passed by Parliament in 2015 and 2016, to take steps to establish English as the “first language and mother tongue” of St. Maarten is welcomed by Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams (Democratic Party).
Her comments come after Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr. announced this week in Parliament that provisions will be made in the budget to get this process started with the one of the first steps being the presentation of laws to Parliament in English, instead of Dutch, the first official language of the Dutch Kingdom.
“My day was made, to use a colloquial expression, with the announcement by our Finance Minister that my proposal as approved in two unanimous motions of Parliament regarding the English language was being followed up upon by the government of St. Maarten,” Wescot-Williams said in a press statement.
The first motion on this topic was tabled on September 17, 2015, and instructs the Government to come up with “a plan” to establish English as the first language of the country. The unanimously accepted motion added that the plan should pay specific attention for the promotion of the English language in the civil service of St. Maarten.
In a follow up to this motion, Parliament was informed by Government, that money to execute this plan was not available. This led Wescot-Williams to initiate, in December 2016, what would become another unanimously passed motion that instructed Government to allocate NAf. 500,000 in the first amendment to the country’s 2017 budget for development of a plan titled “English as the first official language of St. Maarten.”
“This matter of English as the primary official language of communication in our society has had my keen attention for several years and in my different capacities, because I firmly believe in language as an enabler. It is part of our heritage and part of our personal, social and cultural identity,” said Wescot-Williams.
St. Maarten took the “bold step” more than a decade ago to change then primarily Dutch language-based educational system in its public schools to English as the language of instruction.
“We need that boldness now to ensure that students who came and are still coming out of our dual language educational system are not stymied in their further development and aspirations to contribute to their society,” she said, adding this means attention must be paid to areas such as the justice system, where the dominance of Dutch is prevalent.
“The disparity between the formal and informal usage of our two official languages in my opinion calls for a national language policy and ultimately a national ordinance, and professional advice soonest how best to navigate to our desired goal,” Wescot-Williams said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/68262-sarah-progress-on-english-designation-as-1st-language