By Rhoda Arrindell, PhD
PHILIPSBURG:--- One day in 1982, I wrote an essay entitled “Waarom St. Maarten onafhankelijk moet worden” for Mr. Bijnsdorp’s Dutch class. Though I hated the class (not because of the teacher, but because I hated writing essays in Dutch), I was proud of that essay and my performance. Not only was I pleased with my good mark, but, for the first time, I had written on a topic I felt passionate about. You see, I believed then at the age of 16, as I do now, that independence is the only way for the people of St. Martin to fulfill our aspirations as a nation and realize our full potential.
According to the United Nations Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, “all peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” The UN also states that “inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.”
Choosing to become independent is choosing to exercise that inalienable right to self-determination and complete freedom, as laid down by the UN. Accepting to exercise that right has nothing to do with protecting (alleged corrupt) politicians or making threats. Choosing independence has everything to do with accepting responsibility and accountability for our actions. More importantly, independence is about St. Martiners being able to make our own decisions—good and bad—in our interests. Plain and simple! It is not anti-Dutch, anti-French, or anti-anyone. Independence is pro-St. Martin. Period.
Every society—independent or not—has its share of trials and tribulations, and they will exist here too, whether St. Martin is independent or not. Granted, attaining political independence must be done in a responsible way, and it must be accompanied by social and economic development. These are all part of the discussions and negotiations that will have to take place leading up to political independence.
Not every St. Martiner will be comfortable to exercise that right, and not everyone will be comfortable with St. Martiners exercising that right. This is a normal. However, St. Martiners must not allow scare tactics, innuendos, or interference from outside to preclude us from exercising that inalienable right to govern ourselves based on our values and interests.