Leaders send message of resilience on St. Maarten/St. Martin Day

Leaders send message of resilience  on St. Maarten/St. Martin Day

Officials from both sides of the island stand at the Cole Bay border monument on Thursday.


PHILIPSBURG--Leaders from Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin conveyed a message of resilience during their respective addresses on the 62nd annual St. Maarten/St. Martin Day, Thursday, November 11, 2021.

  President of the Territorial Council of St. Martin Daniel Gibbs said the theme chosen for this year’s celebration, “We stand triumphant in the face of adversity”, has a significant meaning for those who have faced the COVID-19 global pandemic not long after having gone through the worst natural disaster in the island’s geographical area.

  “We overcame adversity after Hurricane Irma, despite the obstacles, the blockages, and sometimes the sarcasm. Reconstruction has been progressing well. Clearly, much still remains to be accomplished, causing at times frustrations. I am thinking here, for example, of the Simpson Bay Lagoon clean-up operations,” Gibbs said.

  “But day after day, the scars of Irma are fading from our landscape. We have been overcoming adversity since March 2020 and the eruption of COVID into our lives.”

  He said the efforts made over the last months were often difficult and restrictive. However, the island had avoided another lockdown like many of its neighbours.

  “Our efforts have been undertaken on a daily basis with courage, civility and determination. They have yielded encouraging results and are today paying off as the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations have dropped considerably. We can therefore almost live normally, even if, of course, we must remain vigilant and continue to adopt certain gestures, which, let’s remember, are basic preventive measures once practiced in ancient times. …

  “Together, we will overcome adversity and face the threats to come.”

  For short-term threats, the island will have to face attacks on its civil liberties and endless restrictions.

  “As we all know, Saint-Martiners are freedom-loving people. However, in the next few months, if not the next few years, we risk being confronted with a different kind of adversity, one that is more deceptive,” said Gibbs.

  “Indeed, for nearly two years, the rules of the democratic game have been put on hold. Our fundamental rights have been undermined in the name of combating COVID. By this I mean the right to freedom of movement, the freedom to have a say over our bodies, of equality before the law, the principle of non-discrimination, as well as key elements of employment law.

  “The very recent parliamentary episodes suggest that, throughout the French Republic, the exception is becoming the rule and democracy the exception.”

  He said St. Martiners who are attached to their freedoms would have everything to lose if ever democracy became a relative value that can be activated or deactivated according to health crises.

  “That is to say, a kind of zapping democracy that would no longer protect any of its citizens of France, and even less its overseas territories, against the inconsistency and authoritarianism of authority. Here again, if all St. Martiners remain attentive, brave and united, common sense will prevail and we will be able to preserve our freedoms, our values and our way of life. We will work for this every day: let us therefore be vigilant, but above all, confident in the future and in ourselves,” said Gibbs.

  Prime Minister of St. Maarten Silveria Jacobs said November 11 is a day to remember oneness as the island celebrates “our sweet St. Maarten land” despite all that it has been through. She said it was a time to reflect on the lessons learnt and on the accomplishments achieved.

  The theme, she added, is apt and should be the goal of the nation as it toils through the challenges and builds strong communities. Challenges will always exist, but it is how one reacts to and overcomes them that makes a difference. The island, she noted, has a strong history of overcoming challenges and rising victorious.

  She said the goal several years ago and even a year ago included making November 11 Unity Day, an official day of the people represented by one flag. However, the challenges the island faced have pushed back the execution of this goal yet again.

  “We won’t give up,” Jacobs said, adding that the collaborative platform is still in its early stages and the challenges in identifying how to celebrate the many joint celebration days and other structural priorities that remain with each government still remain unresolved.

  “We remain committed,” she stressed, noting that parties continue to strive for more unity, more collaboration and more cooperation. “As a country, it is my goal for us to dialogue and finally make decisions that define how we mark these important dates in our history and make sure that our national pride and our cultural heritage are well preserved.”

  This, she noted, is why government officials of both sides of the island continue to strive in collaborative efforts in decision-making in projects and continuous dialogue in the best interest of St. Maarten.

  Finance Minister Ardwell Irion said he is always filled with pride to stand with the people of the island – two countries on a land mass of 37 square miles, who are as unique as they are powerful.

  Irion said he takes St. Martin Day very seriously. “It is serious because every day in St. Maarten hinges on the decisions I make as a minister along with the Council of Ministers. St. Martin Day as a Minister means I am now part of a team accountable for moving St. Maarten forward into a place where we are not just resilient, but where we are strong enough to stand triumphant in adversity, no matter what face it displays.”

  He said the island is going through a time of great change. “Fresh off the heels of life-changing natural disasters, and smack dab in the centre of a global pandemic, we cannot help but feel the tremors of a shift erupting on a global scale.

  “As a nation, we are young – closer to a stage of learning and growth – but that is something that works well in our favour. Recently, we have made advanced strides closer to a world more compatible with technology and it behoves us to preserve what is culturally significant. We must find ways to translate our heritage into our future, so that the foundations of our past may hold us steady and not be forgotten,” Irion noted.

  Culture Minister Rodolphe Samuel said it is important for leaders to come together. “It is important for the people of the whole island to see the leaders and church leaders come together like this. The people of St. Maarten see this and take notice of this. We need to realise that St. Maarten is a blessed island and as we push its limits, let us continue to pray that our blessings from above will continue to come,” Samuel said.



President of the Territorial Council of St. Martin Daniel Gibbs and Prime Minister of St. Maarten Silveria Jacobs laying wreaths at the border monument on November 11.


A scene during the St. Maarten/St. Martin Day celebrations at the Cole Bay border monument on Thursday. 


Dignitaries during the ceremony at the Cole Bay border monument. 


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