the Governor's Speeches

Back to Speeches Indexmay 03, 2024

New Council of Ministers appointed and sworn-in

Chairlady of Parliament; Members of Parliament; Vice-chairlady of the Council of Advice; Acting Chairlady of the Audit Chamber; Prime Minister; Ministers; Chairman of the Integrity Chamber; Chief Public Prosecutor; Chairlady of the Central Voting Bureau; Vice-Chairlady of the Electoral Council; Commander of the Marines detachment on Sint Maarten; Distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen;

Good morning,

We are here today on the occasion of the appointment and swearing in of the Prime Minister, Ministers and the Minister and Deputy-Minister of Plenipotentiary. All on the basis of and as a result of the unwritten rules and Constitutional norms that our Country has been consistently applying and carrying out since October 10th 2010 and that we have been adhering to even before that, in the days of the Netherlands Antilles. Those unwritten rules, Constitutional norms are the norms that dictate that a majority in Parliament is responsible for nominating the Ministers for appointment.
Similarly we have consistently been applying and carrying out another set of unwritten rules, Constitutional norms since October 10th 2010 and we have been adhering to these unwritten rules, Constitutional norms since even before that, in the days of the Netherlands Antilles as well. Those unwritten rules, Constitutional norms are the norms that dictate that candidate Ministers ought to be screened in order to ascertain if the conduct of a candidate Minister is impeccable.

[And to be clear, as Governor I sign the laws but I am not a lawmaker. It is not my task nor within my authority to change these norms, that is the role of the legislator, I simply apply them and adhere to them.]

St. Maarten’s governing system is that of a Parliamentary Democratic Rule of Law. Democratic because we the people elect our representatives. Parliamentary  because those representatives are elected to serve in Parliament. And the Rule of Law because a majority in Parliament in turn selects a group of (candidate-)ministers that have the trust of that majority to serve in the executive branch; Government. A government that is tasked with carrying out the duties of the country in accordance with the law. The government is bound by the law just like everyone else. No one, not even government is above the law. This is the Rule of Law. The aim of which is to protect the people of St. Maarten from abuse of power, by dividing the powers; in the Legislative branch, the Judicial branch and the Executive branch. The branch that has just taken the oath before you here today. An oath to upholding that Rule of Law and in doing so, no matter how difficult, consistently and resolutely putting the Country's interest above personal and individual interests.

This is not always as easy as it seems. That is why we screen candidates for these positions. In order to protect the St. Maarten people from those that would be acting in self, personal or individual interest and therefore being unfair to others and not putting the Country's interest first.

Every one of these individuals here today, the Prime Minister, Ministers, Minister and Deputy-Minister Plenipotentiary, who have freely given up there direct democratically obtained seat in parliament as well as those not elected to Parliament, in order to be indirectly democratically appointed to these positions in government, are screened to protect us the people of St. Maarten. Likewise is the case for other indirectly democratically obtained positions in Government such as, members of the High Councils of State; Council of Advice, General Audit Chamber, Ombudsman as well as Governor. Candidates for these positions are also screened and are also indirectly democratically appointed, the latter as is the case for those appointed today, does not in any way diminish their legitimacy.
The fact that all these positions are indirectly democratically appointed does give reason for a screening to take place. It is necessary for the public to have confidence and trust in those persons taking up those functions. As a result and in line with practices of good governance those candidates are screened to ensure that they are capable of carrying out the functions they are about to be entrusted with and that they are competent and integer individuals.

Prime Minister, Ministers, the year is 2024. We are about to complete the first 25 years of the 21st century. Next up are the second 25 years, completing half of this first century of the 2000's. This newly appointed government has the opportunity and potential to lay the foundations for a 2025-2050 vision for St. Maarten. I need us to think about that and to think about where we are at this moment in history. And I need you to realize the significance of this time and your place in it. The latest data from the World Bank has the average life expectancy on St. Maarten at 74 years. That means a child born this year with a slightly above average life expectancy will live to see the 22nd century. You know who on average won't live to see it? All of the rest of us here in this room...because it is 76 years away. Although humans are living longer these days, humans are not living those amount of years on average…yet, for us to see the 22nd century. I say all of that in order for us to realize the significance of this time and our place in it.
It is sometimes difficult to make long term plans. Because they are just that, so long from now. But when you change the perspective from long term to life term, then the significance and importance comes more to the forefront of those plans. The 2025-2050 vision is not only a long term plan, for all of us in this room, on average it is more or less our life term plans. When we realize that, then the significance and importance of the foundation for the rest of our life term which is the next 4 years comes to the forefront and with it, this government that has it in their hands. So to you the incoming Council of Ministers, quite a significant weight on your shoulders and an important role that you have. It should not be taken lightly. In all your deliberations, individually as well as collectively on policies, plans, collaborations and cooperation I urge you to have this significance at the forefront of your decision making process because remember, it impacts the lives of not just us in this room but the lives of all the people of this country and the lives of those not yet born.

And if I have to single out one major policy area at this time for the 2025-2050 vision it would have to be sustainability as it pertains to climate change; extreme weather, flooding, the rising of sea levels, coastal erosion and stronger and more frequent storms and hurricanes. The United  Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative states and I quote. “Climate change is increasingly impacting our ecosystems, with disruptive effects on the social well-being, economic development, and financial stability of current and future generations.” End quote.

In closing,
The January 11th 2024 Parliamentary elections resulted in a new group of parliamentarians of which the majority created the basis for this new government, after a formation period that saw the appointment of two Informateurs Dr. Nilda Arduin and Drs. Candia Joseph and the subsequent appointment of a Formateur in the person of Dr. Luc Mercelina. I would like to thank the Formateur Dr. Luc Mercelina and everyone who contributed to this formation process, culminating in this our new government.
The formation process and in particular the screening as well as the role of the Governor seems to customarily be the subject of much discussion during this process, but more so this time around I dare say, than in years before.

At the completion of the full governing term of 4 years, and as we witness here today the peaceful transition of power, let us not take that for granted. When we look globally and right here in our Caribbean we see that democracy, freedom, the Rule of Law and peace are principles that should not be taken for granted and that they have to be fought for continuously. As individual Ministers, collectively as the Council of Ministers, as  Government it is your task to protect, support and maintain these principles and ensure that the people of St. Maarten do not lack of these in any way.

I wish you much dignity wisdom and discernment not only in your deeds but also in your conduct individually and collectively particularly considering the oath you have just taken to the King, the Statute, the Constitution and to the People of St. Maarten.

I leave you with an excerpt from the preamble to our Constitution of which you have just taken the oath.
We, the people of St. Maarten…being determined to work with each other…declare that we are a people that believes in the principle of democracy and the rule of law.

Congratulations to every one of you and your family and friends.
Congratulations to St. Maarten on the installment of our new government.

God bless each and every one of you and God bless St. Maarten.
Thank you.