Former Government Administration Building – gone

~ Its historic significance is everlasting ~

Dear Editor,

The former government administration building wasn’t just a structure. Located in Philipsburg opposite a parking lot, it was a place where many civil servants and government officials spent a significant portion of their adult lives serving the citizens and residents of St. Maarten. It was a site that held the power brokers of decisions that affected the level of the quality of the lives of the people of St. Maarten.

The derelict structure was an eyesore for many years destroyed in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017. The location is finally cleared except for parts of a few leftover structures, making way for what is alleged and projected to be the site for the new Parliament building of St. Maarten.

I support this notion for the simple reason that Parliament must be situated prominently and accessibly for the people it serves.

Our island administration’s constitutional – and administrative history has seen many personalities pass through the corridors of the building. These include but are not limited to figures such as Dr. Claude Wathey, Clem Labega, Sam Hazel, Vance James Jr, Joseph “Joe” Richardson and Rene Richardson, Abby Richardson, Ms. Elaine Vlaun-Gumbs, Mario Hodge, William Marlin, Sarah Wescott-Williams, Theo Heyliger.

Island Secretaries included Vacueqlin Connor, Mervin Scott, Raphael Boasman, Joan Dovale-Meit. Amador Muller. Former Lt. Governors include Mr. Max Pandt, Mathias Voges, Russel Voges, Dennis Richardson and Mr. Franklyn Richards.

A political icon still among us who graced the halls of the government administration building with his larger-than-life personality is former Minister of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles Mr. Leo “Captain” Chance.

The Island Secretariat was the center of operations of the government administration that administered to both the Island Council (now Parliament) and the Executive Council (now Council of Ministers).

The monistic system of government, meaning that members of the Executive Council were also members of the Legislative Council made way on October 10, 2010 for the more democratic, dual system of government through the separation of these powers. Noteworthy is the fact that Island Council members received a monthly stipend of NAf. 2,000 guilders for this (part-time) representation.

The Department of General Affairs was led for many years efficiently and effectively by the late Mr. Louie Duzanson and staff.

Many historical decisions were taken in the A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall of the government administration building. Among others:

* Island Council resolution to organize the 1st Constitutional referendum held on October 14, 1994. The resolution called to hold the 2nd Constitutional Referendum of June 2000 that cleared the path towards our current new constitutional status.

* Establishment of the Permanent Committee for Constitutional Affairs (PCCA) and Work Group Constitutional Affairs (WGC).

* It is the location where historic and heated meetings were held on the November 2007 Constitutional draft agreement leading to the disolution of the Country Netherlands Antilles and the creation of a new Constitutional status for St. Maarten.

* The first Initiative law is presented to establish the Ombudsman office.

* It is the place where the last Island Council members took their oaths of office prior to October 10, 2010 (10-10-10). It is the place where the first Parliament meeting of Country Sint Maarten was held.

I have been privileged to be part of this history previously outlined in this article, including being chairwoman of the first referendum committee and as President of the Parliament of Country St. Maarten.

It is incumbent upon the historians and new generation of researchers to peruse and record our constitutional history. Like a sphinx rising from the ashes, so will there be a new structure fit for future generations of great leaders and public administrators.

A new House of Parliament that will be surrounded by a clean and green environment and built to last generations and includes a state of the art library and a flawless administrative system. It’s time to make St. Maarten beautiful again.

Let’s make way for a place where elected and appointed decision-makers are held accountable for their actions, execution of their tasks and responsibilities on behalf of the people of St. Maarten with integrity, good governance, transparency and accountability heeding the mistakes of the past.

Gracita Arrindell

The Daily Herald

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