PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (ECYS) Wycliffe Smith, who addressed Members of Parliament (MPs) for about three hours on Monday responding to their questions on the lump sum subsidy system and other education matters, responded to United St. Maarten (US) party MP Frans Richardson, who said last week that Smith should not have assumed the culture portfolio because he did not have culture at heart.
Richardson said also that Carnival 2019 suffered because Smith was not part of it.
“I understand that the 2019 Carnival was one of the better and biggest Carnivals ever. I consider it flattery that the Member of Parliament considers that my absence from the various crowd-packed shows could have adversely impacted the turnout for those events,” Smith said as he wrapped up his first round of answers in the continuation of the urgently plenary session.
“To think that my presence could have yielded even more persons coming into the island … that my presence could have caused more persons to spend more money for the shows and could have boosted the GDP [gross domestic product – Ed.], is quite humbling. Am I therefore to conclude … that my absence was the reason for the biggest Carnival ever on St. Maarten?”
He made clear that Carnival falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism. Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT).
“From 2011, the subsidy for Carnival was placed under the Ministry of TEATT, and as such the Minister of TEATT is directly responsible. The reason Carnival was placed under the Ministry of TEATT was because of its economic impact. And this is the reason that the subsidy of NAf. 350,000, allotted to Carnival is mainly for marketing the Festival.
“This is what the Chairman of the Carnival Foundation said in a radio interview at which I was also present. Let it be known that the Ministry of ECYS does not have a budget for the promotion of Carnival,” Smith made clear.
He said the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs VSA subsidises Turning Point Foundation and Safe Haven Foundation and they are accountable to VSA Minister Emil Lee for the ways the subsidy is spent
The TEATT Ministry subsidises the St Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) and they are accountable to the Minister of TEATT. The ECYS Ministry subsidises school boards and in turn school boards are accountable to Smith as Minister of ECYS for the subsidy they receive.
“Now, if there is a function organised by the Turning Point Foundation or the Safe Haven Foundation, which Minister will be invited to give the opening remarks? At the graduation ceremony that the schools organise, who will the school boards invite to speak at the graduation ceremony? It would be very inappropriate for school boards to invite the Minister of VSA or the Minister of TEATT, when the Minister of ECYS is the one responsible for the schools.
“And so, when the SCDF has a function is it not correct and appropriate for Carnival Foundation to invite and have the Minister of TEATT, who is responsible for Carnival, officiate at the events?
“I was accused of not having culture at heart. … It is my view that St. Maarten’s culture is much wider than the event of Carnival as has become the celebration of today. …
“I may not be a big cultural activist, but I do know a little about culture and have actively been involved in the cultural development of this country, St. Maarten, particularly in the field poetry and literature. I have written and published poetry. I have written a book on the history of poetry in the three Windward Islands. And I am also the editor of an anthology of poems from St. Maarten.
“Besides, I have given lectures, presentations and recitals on literature and poetry, here in Sint Maarten, as well as on all the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles, and also in the Netherlands and in Germany.
“Prior to the 2019 Carnival, I sat down with the Minister of TEATT to discuss bringing a stronger cultural aspect to the Carnival festivities. I also presented the idea to the Chairman of the SCDF, who welcomed the suggestion. The Head of the Department of Culture, Ms. Clara Reyes together with the Chairman of the SCDF further worked out the details for the cultural parade and the Night of Culture Showcase. We will continue to promote the visibility of traditional Sint Maarten Culture during the Carnival events.”
He said the ECYS Ministry does not have a budget for Carnival. The budget post that was used to assist the groups that participated in the Cultural Parade this year was the post entitled “Promoting Culture Nationally.” This post is used to fund all types of cultural activities.