"When I left , it was late. I was burdened by a tremendous sadness. I understand Florence's predicament well. All the peri-Independent generation shared a common vision of a better life. Unfortunately, too many of us had translated this into a material definition of success. We developed all the symptoms of the Post-Colonial Syndrome, endemic to Africa: acquisition, imitation and a paucity of imagination. We simply rushed to secure what the colonialist had. We bought their homes, attended their schools, leased their offices, spoke their language, played their sports, and courted their company. We denied our own culture, relieved to leave our primitive origins far away, in some forgotten village. And so we believed ourselves sophisticated at last, integrated into the mainstream of cosmopolitan culture. We created an invisible white line of ultimate aspiration: to achieve what the Europeans had. This was the epitome of civilization, the very definition of evolutionary advancement. We ceased to dream, to have our vision of happiness and success. We were able to carry off this farce with aplomb but our children were getting caught in some grey zone that was neither black culture nor truly white either. We had to acknowledge our dual citizenship. We are urban and rural, old and new. We exist in contradictory timeframes; in one we are creating computer programs for artificial intelligence and in another we are carrying a bucket to the river to fetch drinking water. It is our reality, we cannot run away from it. If we cannot fully resolve our dual citizenship as Africans, we must at least be honest with ourselves for the children's sake. It is a commitment that your father and I made when you were born. I could not forsake our determination to expose you to our culture. If in the end you rejected it, that was fine, but we have fulfilled our responsibility as African parents; the rest was up to you."
The above is taken from the novel: 'Zenzele, A Letter For My Daughter' (1996). It was written by Doctor Nozipo Maraire (neurosurgeon) and her book is according to the good Doctor a staple of African literature and is required reading for colleges and schools nowadays. With some imagination, a little more than paucity I pray, the above can easily be translated to Sint Maarten (Sainmat'n) and many other Caribbean Islands. However, despite the obvious similarities, an institution like the Caribbean Court of Justice shows that there is a movement of emancipation.
For the last few years I observed a Sint Maarten in transit, continuously doing the same thing and pretending to expect different results. Now I'm reading that we went from a 'formateur' to two 'informateurs' and I'm left to wonder; what will be next on this mini island nation of ours that will again keep us in transit? Why opt for fictional characters that have no democratic legitimacy? My mind keeps going back to the above quoted passage that helped shape my reasoning years ago. It made me aware that when it comes to building the important things in life, it's best to be part of the designing from the early beginnings, and when building ensure that every building block is thoughtfully or even meticulously selected in order to ensure that whatever we build, we are fully responsible and accountable for. We were not part of the design team of the system we are living under. We do not know the how's and the why's of the system. We don't have all the previous blueprints and we were not there while those blueprints were being drawn. We have been handed a watered down version of the present blueprint and are expected to fend for ourselves. This method of nation building has rendered us into mere repairmen by default. Always forced to 'fix' and never able to design, build, own and operate. We can no longer ignore that the system we are living under is broken, equal to that of the Netherlands Antilles was from the onset, and end the jumping through hoops, the twisting and turning words to the edge of insanity to accommodate feeble agenda's.
By hook or crook this nation is a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands since October 10, 2010. We, the citizens of this nation, are obligated to be more responsible and carry out our obligations as a nation by upholding the rule of law and continuously seek out the general interest in all we do. To ensure success we need realistic laws that are simultaneously sound, reflective of us, executable by us, and enforceable by us.
We can no longer afford to follow models that were created through a long and tedious historic process befitting to those they were created by and for but unknown to the majority of citizens of this nation. We cannot be taken aback nor surprised that we may never be able to fully comprehend, implement nor maintain a system we didn't build. You cannot be riding a bike while at the helm of a space craft. Nor can I expect from myself to be well versed in Chinese (actually I should say Mandarin) just because I have Chinese heritage. You wouldn't go to a store and spend your hard earned money on clothes 5 sizes bigger than your size, would you? Why would a 16 square miles island with a workforce well below 20.000, with limited financial and human resource capacity, and particular ways/cultural expressions want to fit in a model designed for a country that requires a larger (thus more anonymous), more educated, more vocal, more industrious, more regulated, more compliant work force? The result of this is a logical consequence: perpetual dependency on foreign/outside assistance. There will simply never be enough of those from here to fit in any such model that isn't based on our capacity. The true Sint Maarten model must fit the reality and the stage of development we are in. The system must provide us with the necessary incentives to develop in hopefully a right, positive and cohesive direction.
We must reject this failed system as soon as possible. We urgently need to start designing, building and operating a system by us, for us. All hands on deck. Let us actively seek out the assistance of the many successful professionals we have out there in the wider world. Those that are contributing to building the nation of others. Some by choice, some by sheer disappointment with the level of disrespect Sint Maarten bestows on professionals. Whatever we do, we cannot continue to kid ourselves that this model will ever work.
Can we take the challenge? The challenge of engaging each other on all levels from a heartfelt desire to address the many qualms that are systematic. Most of our laws are in disconnect with the norms and values that we yet have to establish for ourselves as a nation. While the present laws are ideally meant to be a reflection of our norms and values as a nation, reality is that we believe in a different set of norms and values. An example of this, is that most of us still believe that prostitution is illegal. Reality is that the term prostitution doesn't even exist in our penal code. The activity of a female adult engaging in transactional sex with a male client is legal. Oddly enough the one thing that we have grown accustomed to, which are the various houses of pleasure, are the ones that run the risk of prosecution. Taking a cut from and/or structurally facilitating the process of a woman providing sexual services for payment is the only act that can be easily prosecuted.
We have mastered the art of facilitating, making the impossible possible. Yes is No and No is Yes. Words, whether imbedded in laws or not, may and cannot stop nor deter, is the attitude of those claiming to power. We have earned degrees in finding patches without actually tackling and fixing the problem. Of course laws must be abided by unless it works out negatively and affects one of us personally. Then enters the reverse 'of course', that same law becomes an unjust law and therefore cannot be applied. Laws are mere words that aren't meant to keep any of us from getting what we want especially if we know who to turn to for an 'exception'.
On the flip side we also developed the amazing skill of creating laws or derivatives thereof out of thin air, actually hot air in our context. We have conjured up a formateur and now informateur(s) as fictional characters based on the process of government formation that is nowhere described in any law. I must wonder what the English translation will be of those terms. We are screening ministers and are happily infringing on their internationally and constitutionally vested right to privacy. Conveniently ignoring that only by the highest form of law (called ordinance in our 'country' context) someone's right to privacy can be trampled upon. Although I can't wait to hear the dissenting opinions I urge you to take keen note of the below mentioned 'traps'.
We have established and lifted moratoriums without any legal basis. We have forgotten the role of institutions like the Chamber of Commerce regarding market saturation. We have come to believe that - I can only get a license through the 'help' of someone in power. No. You have the economic right to engage in business. If you want a taxi license as the source of your main income you may apply for it. If you fit all the criteria you MUST get it. Simple. No one is doing you a favor. It is your economic right. If you were 'helped' means that due process wasn't followed and that a legal stipulation was skipped or twisted in order to 'help' you attain your license. In other words, a law was blatantly broken to accommodate you. Gratefully running the risk of losing that same license that was meant to sustain you and your family because due process wasn't followed. Never mind that you have put your 'helper' at risk of being prosecuted.
We seemingly strive for integrity yet apply non-integer means to achieve the goal of integrity. Odd. Those same institutions, bodies, departments that are supposed to be part of the integrity guarding process are consciously or subconsciously placing internal and external non-compliance above compliance to the principle of the rule of law thus defeating the purpose of their existence. Our misguided need for practicality and servitude of agenda's has rendered this nation of ours defective and at the mercy of any and all outside powers. Outside powers that will oddly do more harm than good as they fall in the 'status' trap, the 'I know it better' trap, the 'expat' trap, the ' I'm going to clean up' trap, the 'sex-drugs-alcohol' trap or the 'any combination thereof' trap.
We are slowly bleeding out and need a blood transfusion. If we don't find our own blood type to revive us and instead continue to use the wrong blood type, well then yes, the writing is on the wall. We are on the verge of not only losing at home but of losing our home. And for what? To say that we believed to be doing it our way? That we were blindfolded by promises, alcohol, bright lights, sex, sweet sounds and smells and didn't realize the destination Air Hot Vision was taking us? The pilot sitting in first class just sent the second pilot in the cockpit a Whatsapp message with the instruction to announce to the cabin crew to prepare for landing. After landing the following is announced: welcome back to Sint Maarten. To ensure your maximum pleasure during your stay, please ignore laws when convenient and create nonexistent ones also when convenient. Please take anything you want out of the overhead bins. For those of you missing anything from the overhead bins, please announce yourself to the gate agent for a full refund of your return ticket, any missing items and a 'likkle' extra's to ensure a pleasurable stay.
We have systematic flaws in the design of our system that need all (well most) hands on deck if we are to steer the course in a positive direction. How long are we not going to hold each other accountable despite living in a small community? Yes the revolving door reality of 'today for me and tomorrow for you' is very much alive on this small island of ours, but we cannot use this as an excuse to hamper, stifle or even stop progress. Ego's will and must be hurt and fears must be overcome if we need to grow up, learn to swim, make our own rods, use our own bait, build our own boats, learn to sail, take to the seas and fish for ourselves.
Eunicio S. Martina