Emancipation Day Message July 1st, 2012 By the Leader of the United Peoples (UP) Party Theo Heyliger

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - This is our country's first official observation of July 1 as Emancipation Day, a national holiday for all. Our country Parliament approved the legislation recognizing our ancestry and the period leading to our emancipation as a people.

The entire island was emancipated in 1848 from enslavement by the Dutch and French European powers, marking this July 1st as the 164th joint anniversary of North and South.

While our brethren in the North became free, our ancestors in the South did not sit by, but protested and led own revolution to gain freedom.

July 1st 1863 is the official date marking when slaves from the Dutch side were proclaimed free, 149 years ago.

Our nation has been on a path of constitutional emancipation.

In 1983, Sint Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius broke free from being a colony of Curacao; becoming the Territory of the Windward Islands. Additional change came in 1985/1986 when each Windward Island became an Island Territory on their own right with direct representation in the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles.

Constitutional emancipation did not stop there. Referendums in the 1990s (related to the future of the Netherlands Antilles) and 2000 (related to the future of Sint Maarten) has brought us to October 10, 2010 when as a nation we became country Sint Maarten with our own national Parliament, the highest legislative body of the people.

Our journey as a people does not stop with Country Sint Maarten in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Our constitutional emancipation has one more step to take, and that of total independence.

Emancipation is a process about our future and the growth of our country. As a people we must be committed towards the continued successful sustainable development of our country. Our ancestors took the necessary steps to gain their freedoms; and with that we have created a country to be proud of, but building a nation does not stop, but is an on-going process that will be carried forward by our children and their children's children.

Hail the Brave Ancestors! Surrender not one day of Freedom won.

Happy Emancipation Day to the people of Sint Maarten

May God bless you all and our nation

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