My fellow Sint Maarteners,
Happy Constitution Day.
Today we celebrate the
11th anniversary of Constitution Day. This in observance of the birth of Sint
Maarten as a Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I shall therefore
in keeping with the theme for today share some thoughts with you on our constitution
as a cornerstone for nation building. A timely subject considering the
challenges we face because of the impact of the corona-virus pandemic on our
social and economic development.
Our country was conceived
on our belief in the principle of democracy, of the rule of law, of the
separation of powers, of the dignity of the individual and of the fundamental
rights and freedoms of all persons. Our constitution therefore establishes our
rights and freedoms and provides for us to establish a predicable framework of
legislation and institutions to protect them. It provides for us to elect and
form our government and outlines the structure, operation, limits, and control
of our government in the running of the affairs of our country. Our
constitution is thus the cornerstone for the building of our nation.
This is best reflected in
the following words of the preamble to our constitution, which states, and I
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF SINT
MAARTEN ……… DECLARE that we wish to establish a constitutional order based on
an open and accessible government; …..”. unquote
These words are a
declaration of our aspiration to participate in, to take responsibility for and
to serve in the building of our nation. Nation building is thus about our
aspirations and actions to build Sint Maarten. It is a continuous process about
government, business and civil society working together to improve our daily
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
Shaped by our history,
geography, and climate we are known as a resilient, hardworking, creative,
independent, and hospitable people with a can-do mindset who cherish our rights
and freedoms. Over the years we have built a reputation, a Sint Maarten Brand
as “The friendly island”.
In speaking about nation
building it is important that we understand that the Sint Maarten we live in,
is the result of the work of earlier nation builders. Earlier nation builders
who, through their love for country and can-do and friendly character,
transformed Sint Maarten from a sleepy island into a premier tourist
destination and beacon of hope and opportunity for many. This in the face of
sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges. That knowledge will serve as a
source of appreciation of the achievements of the past. And it will inspire a
sense of pride, responsibility, and commitment to the further building of our
Looking ahead further
nation building calls for us to invest in our self, in stable and good
government, in smart and sustainable national infrastructure and in the
education of our people.
As the current generation
of nation builders, we must move forward by strengthening national unity, by
placing more importance on our national symbols, such as our flag and anthem.
In fact, the very first article of our constitution mandates that we establish
our flag, our court of arms and our national anthem. As I speak only the first
two items of this mandate have been fulfilled. Witnessing the hoisting of the
Sint Maarten flag or singing the Sint Maarten Song means something; they
generate a unique sense of pride and unity. We should therefor move to complete
the fulfilment of this constitutional mandate. That should be supplemented:
a. by fostering wider
participation in the celebration of our national holidays, such as Sint Maarten
b. by placing greater focus
on our national sports and sport persons; and
c. by preserving and
advancing our cultural and natural heritage.
These are all vehicles of
national unity and nation building.
Anchored on our can-do and
friendly character we must in accordance with the provisions of our
constitution remain committed to creating opportunities and providing security
for our people. This means that we must
continue to modernize our national economic infrastructure, via investments in
a renewable energy system, in a fiber-based telecom network and in effective
air, sea and land transportation networks. It also means that we must continue
to upgrade our national social infrastructure and systems, such as our health
care system, our housing, and our social safety net system.
These investments must be
prioritized and phased given our financial and human resources constraints.
To be successful nation building
must be carried by the population, through active political, economic, and
social participation and in particular by our youth. This at the basis calls
for investing in our education system, to prepare the next generation of nation
builders based on our shared values and on a set of common standards of
excellence. The constitution must, from a nation building perspective,
therefore become a center piece in the national educational curricula.
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
The observance of
Constitution Day as a national holiday should therefore remind us of the
significance of our constitution as a cornerstone for nation building, as a
guide for the development of our country. A significance which follows from its
foundational role as a legal, political, and social framework for the shaping
of our country.
I therefore trust that
today’s celebration and future observances of Constitution Day will serve as
vehicles for national unity and nation building.
God Bless you and
May God Bless Sint Maarten
and protect its coast.