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Our Constitution, Cornerstone for Nation Building

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 quote:

 

“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 lives.

 

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 nation. 

 

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 Day;

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.

 

Thank you

 

God Bless you and

 

May God Bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.

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