PHILIPSBURG:--- Faction leader for the United Peoples Party Grisha Marten Heyliger in her closing remarks on Monday at the closing of the parliamentary year said that a foundation is a key requirement for any development to be successful.
The Foundational element of building a nation has to include the vision of their people.
That vision can form part of the developmental framework for what St. Maarten will become; if the people are part of the process.
Marten Heyliger said when she started out on this political journey over a year ago, she made a promise to the people that her first objective was to fight to bring about real changes in the way the future is decided. Simply put, she intended to ensure that the incompleteness of the decolonization of St. Maarten and the other Caribbean Dutch islands was addressed at the United Nations, and she did.
After more than ten years of being told that St. Maarten had a right to Self Determination on one hand while being dictated to, on the other hand, they have finally reached the United Nations.
Through the effort of the United People’s Party supported by most of the honorable members of this house of Parliament, the committee of the United Nations tasked with Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has shared their concerns about the decolonization process not being completed as promised by The Netherlands.
As a subsequent thereof, she could safely say, the winds of change are blowing through all four houses of Parliament within the Kingdom. There are a number of new members with fresh ideas who believe in the cause as a nation.
It is also noteworthy to mention that during the recently held IPKO meeting in Bonaire, a consensus was reached on executing the so-called “van Raak c.s. motion by means of a working group, and State Secretary Knops has committed to the start of this process.
The standing Committee on Kingdom relations in the Dutch Parliament has also added article 73 of the UN Charter and reparation to its agenda this year.
This, combined with the commitment of the Dutch Government to assist Sint Maarten with capacity-building by means of cooperation in the region with the assistance of international organizations, provides a much better alternative to the unlawful, restrictive, and inefficient manner in which the Dutch Government is currently attempting to impose its will on the people of Sint Maarten.
The goal as politicians and leaders must be the improvement of the lives and living conditions of the citizens whose right to decide for themselves must also be protected. It is ignorant to assume this can be achieved for St. Maarten by others who cannot appreciate the cultural heritage and who themselves admit that they are unable to handle their own affairs in a competent and lawful manner.
It is asinine to believe that the future of St. Maarten has a place in it for St. Maarteners born here and born to be here without the people having an equal seat at the decision-making table.
History has shown that nation-building is impossible for a people without them having at least the freedom to decide, speak and develop how the people see it fit for themselves. The United Nations has heard St Maarten’s cry and the work has begun to finally receive what were promised.
It is now time to focus on the other promises made here at home.
During the new parliamentary year of 2021-2022, The United People’s Party intends to right some of the wrongs that have been allowed to surface.
The aim is to ensure that St. Maarteners from any political party line receive a fair opportunity to hold on to their jobs and not be made scapegoats for those who refuse to stand up for our country.
“This next chapter in my political life will include ensuring the individual protection of all citizens against outside influence or blind leadership that threatens their lives and livelihood.”
Marten Heyliger said an offense against any citizen of this country is an offense against her and she will continue to stand UP for her people. She will follow the plans laid out for achieving sustainable economic activities by implementing development strategies that allow achieving their goals.
Economic stability for the people will create a strong sense of national identity and continued economic growth. By empowering the leaders and people, they will build a strong and proud nation that is viable, stable, and prosperous.
With a strong foundation, the nation will be able to one day take its place among the other independent nations in the region and the world, as an economic and democratic powerhouse.
Many of those same nations in the region had and still have less economic growth than St. Maarten do and yet they are able to provide homes, free housing, free education, and free healthcare for their people.
Today many of those same nations provide better social security with higher pays for their senior citizens so they can live comfortably, and so must we.
It is against this backdrop and based on continued efforts to fulfill all of the campaign promises to the people of St. Maarten that they will now focus their energy on giving the Ministers the support needed to rebuild St. Maarten.
It is not an easy task for citizens of St. Maarten to be dealing with the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the increased deaths stemming from this deadly virus especially during a hurricane season.
“My heart goes out to those who have lost a friend, family or loved one during the past year, especially because of COVID. This virus will be with us for some time, therefore we must work with the Ministry of Health and do our part, get vaccinated, and for those not vaccinated follow health protocols at all times so we can control the spread of this deadly virus…..simply put: Vaxed or Non-Vaxxed….Don’t Lax.”
While on the subject of healthcare, Heyliger Marten commend the Minister in the UP/NA coalition, Minister Omar Ottley, and his team in ministry VSA for the work they are doing to raise the salary cap at SZV to allow more persons to be insured and to have their children also insured.
A healthy St. Maarten is a St. Maarten better able to fight any challenges it may face. And while we are working to keep you healthy, the UP Party will not stop there, because we also believe that rather than talk the talk we should walk the walk.
That is why the Ministry of Labor is working on amendments to stop the abuse of short-term labor contracts. “We will work towards achieving a level playing field where employers can hire comfortably and employees can be rewarded for dedication and hard work without the long-term insecurity of short term contracts.”
The UPP faction leader vouched to work with the business community to strike the kind of balance that allows them to invest more, thereby offering more employment opportunities to the citizens and people of St. Maarten.
But none of this will make sense if they do not protect the fragile tourism economy and even now, they need to work hard to redefine and improve the product.
With that said, Heyliger Marten said she would like to acknowledge and thank our former Minister of TEATT Ms. Ludmila de Weever for holding down the fort during this pandemic and welcome the new Min TEATT Mr. Roger Lawrence who under the UP-Party’s guidance will be working closely with stakeholders to enhance our tourism product.
Guests must feel welcomed from the moment they land up to the time they leave. To do this we will need to work on the long-delayed rebuilding of the Airport.
But we must also not let the Marine and Cruise Tourism Industry die because of COVID. Important investments such as the widening of the Simpson Bay Bridge and improving the arrival experience of our Mega Yachts and Cruise Passengers will go a long way to ensuring we restore the repeat visits from tourists that have sustained our economy.
This must also be done while taking full advantage of the technologically savvy travelers who are younger and more adventurous. We must redefine our tourism product in all segments to cater to them.
Honorable members and friends, it is still too time-consuming and difficult for investors to receive the support they need for business licenses and to start operations in our Country.
Therefore she challenged the new Minister of TEATT to make it a priority to fast track the business license process. To assist the Minister, the UP Party will be bringing legislation that can create the ease of doing business in our country.
Throughout our communities we still see business activities decreasing. Philipsburg is perhaps the worst hit and we must work to restore activity to this area. Building a proper parking structure in the heart of Philipsburg will encourage residents and visitors alike to come to town at night.
Once we do this, we will be able to reduce the congestion in Simpson Bay and allow traffic to flow through the island, and create an avenue for customers to spend their money anywhere on our island.
As a political party, we will continue to work across party lines within Parliament through the various committees such as committees for C and D, Finance, TEATT, ECYS, Electoral Reform and Justice to champion the cause of our people.
The Inmates at the Pointe Blanche Prison should never have been kept in the deplorable condition they are in, for this long. The Prison Guard shortage should have already been remedied and reform programs should have already been put in place. So we will work with our colleagues in the Coalition to achieve these goals.
We will also ensure that the promises made to the police who serve and protect us daily are finally lived up to because they don’t just promise to protect us, instead, they actually come out each day and night and give us their best effort to keep us, our children and property safe.
And while our citizens continue to wake up wondering about the stability of our government, nothing substantial has been done about Electoral Reform. It is no easy task to address reform of any kind, and electoral reform comes with many challenges.
Despite these challenges, the United People’s Party intends to continue its best efforts to see real reform within a short period through proper legislation that ensures the protection of our democracy.
In closing, she wishes to remind the leadership of this country that it is not for fame or a game to be a leader but the task is a serious one that requires a keen understanding of and appreciation of the struggle, challenges, and desires of those who you lead. None of us as leaders should allow our decisions to be dictated to us, especially when they harm our people, threaten their economic future, and way of life. Standing up to a bully is always a good thing because it shows character and backbone.
If you stand UP for the people of St. Maarten the United Peoples Party will stand UP with you. But if you continue to fall over every time and only show a willingness to play by the rules of others and not respect your roles as leaders, then I remind you that the people will never forget.
When I think back to the many great leaders who paved the way for people like me, to stand in this honorable house and address you the audience and the nation at large, I think about Legacy.
These great leaders like the Honorable Vance James and Dr. Claude Wathey pioneered the economic landscape that St. Maarten has been known to be. They left a legacy that their followers, and family were able to build on.
Today we as the leaders of the day must have the audacity to lead with respect for our former leaders and their accomplishment or we will throw away what is left of our country’s legacy.
Words that should describe us are: statesmanlike, honorable, and visionary. We should be able to bridge the political divide for the sake of our people, and when the time comes we can, as we must, return to our corners and defend our ideology and vision and let the people decide.
We have had difficult times before, and we will again face challenges as a country. But it is leadership that will determine the way we handle our challenges and whether we overcome them.