~ 20 years following his death ~
PHILIPSBURG–Many things foreseen by the late Dr. Claude Wathey about the state of St. Maarten have come to pass, such as “burdensome bureaucracy, the fate of the country not solely dictated by the St. Maarten people, and the drifting away from oneness with the French side,” said his grandson United People’s (UP) party leader Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger on Monday.
Today, January 9, marks 20 years since Wathey’s death.
“Reflecting on this anniversary brings a lot into focus, from progress to thwarted efforts, determination to damnation,” Heyliger said. “So much of what he warned us about, especially if we did not stand strong and united as a people, have become true. Two decades later, his words and fears echo true.
“My grandfather, the ole man, was a man of his people. He cared for them, was always determined to see progress. Today, our drive to do the same is condemned and our people are left suffering.
“Our hands as leaders now seem perpetually and painfully tied behind our backs and our eyes are forced to look out on our people who are growing more and more hopeless each day. No thanks to bureaucracy, no thanks to red tape,” Heyliger said.
The late Dr. Wathey abhorred progress being obstructed and he worried about the Netherlands having too much say in local affairs, his grandson said.
“Today, we have more oversight committees and procedures that exist nowhere else in the kingdom. We have institutions of our own making and those we have had to accept to not stall the country further.
“The ole man reminded us constantly of the strength we have in our oneness with the French side. That relationship must be reinforced and not allowed to further crumble under bombardment from within our collective borders or outside of it,” he said.
Remembering the late Wathey now is even more telling, he added.
“Coincidentally, 20 years ago we learned of his death in an election season. We were at a public meeting of the DP [Democratic Party – Ed.] in Sucker Garden.
“The ole man did not belong to my family; he belonged to the St. Maarten family. We, each and every one of us who are for the progress of this country, carry a bit of him in us. It is for that reason I am always in favour of moving this country forward; the need for this was instilled by my grandfather,” Heyliger said
The late Dr. Wathey, who died at age 71, even today is considered a controversial figure. He is beloved by many and villainised by others.
“However you view the ole man, one thing is undeniable – he was for all of the people from all walks of life as long as they had his St. Maarten at heart,” said Heyliger.
Wathey championed political independence for St. Maarten in 1989.
After declaring that he was a “proud Caribbean man” he resigned from office in 1992 as a sign of protest against higher supervision imposed by the Dutch Government to ensure what they called “good governance.” In 1994 he was charged with corruption, fraud, and being part of a “criminal” organization. However, he was never sentenced or convicted on any of those charges. He did receive a one-year prison sentence for perjury.
A cross-section of St. Maarten still sees his trial as nothing more than a witch hunt conducted by his rivals and adversaries in Curaçao and the Netherlands to break his monopoly on political power in St. Maarten and to destroy his credibility. Despite this, he remains a popular figure, even after his death.
In an obituary appearing in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant on January 12, 1998, Wathey was described thus: “It was Wathey who woke St. Maarten from its sleepy existence and opened the door for investors who quickly filled the hills and bays with colossal hotels and apartment complexes. … Despite his collision with the law, his name on the island is still pronounced with some respect. He was the one who brought prosperity.”
The late Dr. Wathey was co-founder of the DP, the country’s oldest political party. He served as its leader for 40 years, before passing on the leadership to current DP head MP Sarah Wescot-Williams. Heyliger was a member of the red party until 2009 when he resigned and formed UP the following year. DP and UP have now merged under the banner of United Democrats.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/72557-theo-many-of-the-ole-man-s-prophesies-have-come-true