THREE YEARS AGO ON THIS DAY, OCTOBER 10, 2010 ST. MAARTEN BECAME A COUNTRY WITHIN THE DUTCH KINGDOM. TODAY, WE ARE THEREFORE CELEBRATING OUR THIRD ANNIVERSARY AS COUNTRY ST. MAARTEN.
THE ONE ST. MAARTEN PEOPLE PARTY WISHES ALLTHE PEOPLE OF ST. MAARTEN HAPPY CONSTITUTION DAY AND WE HOPE THAT NEXT YEAR ON THE FOURTH ANNIVERSARY THE ENTIRE NATION WILL CELEBRATE IT TOGETHER. THE PEOPLE MUST FEEL AND KNOW THE SIGNIFANCE OF THIS DAY AND THE HARD WORK AND DEDICATION THAT WAS PUT INTO IT BY OUR LEADERS. THIS DAY DIDN'T JUST HAPPEN AND MAKING IT A HOLIDAY ALONE IS NOT SUFFICIENT. THERE MUST BE CELEBRATION IN ALL THE COMMUNITIES IN ORDER TO MAKE IT MEANINGFULL AND THE ORDINARY PEOPLE MUST BE PART OF THOSE CELEBRATIONS. IT IS NOT BY CHANCE THAT WE SELECTED THIS DAY FOR THIS FORUM, BUT IT IS ALSO PART OF THE CELEBRATION.
ONCE AGAIN HAPPY CONSTITUTION DAY TO YOU THE PEOPLE OF ST. MAARTEN AND MAY ST. MAARTEN CONTINUE TO GROW AND GROW.
LADIES & GENTLEMEN, THIS BRINGS US TO WHY WE ARE HERE TONIGHT.
Over the past three years and even before, we have had many discussions about political and campaign reform. Many articles have been written, by numerous persons on this subject. Recently, a Draft Motion on campaign reform was accepted by the Parliament of St. Maarten on April 18, 2013; then on June 28, 2013 an Electoral Reconciliation Ordinance was proposed by Mr. Julio R. Romney. Even more recently a forum on electoral reform was organized by the New Era Foundation of Mr. Jeffrey Richardson and the CPA. Our Prime Minister, Mrs. Wescott-Williams has mentioned on numerous occasions the need for electoral reform and one week ago the Leader of the Opposition Mr. William Marlin also spoke about electoral reform on People Voice.
In spite of these, no meaningful changes have been introduced to affect the laws, systems, practices or expectances relating to our methods and practical approach to election and election campaign on St Maarten. For this reason, and because we in the One St. Maarten People Party believe strongly in the principle and advantages of "free and fair elections", and since we, the newest political party on the block, fully intend to be a part of the next parliament of St. Maarten, we thought it important to organize this forum this evening on the topic Electoral and Campaign Reform, under the theme "A Change Must Come".
Our theme was selected because we believe that the public should not approach the next election with the same mind set as in the past. We are living in a new age, we cannot continue with the same habits and practices of the past. We made changes to our social, economic and financial systems and practices, and we should also make changes to our electoral and campaigns systems. The public must demand change, and it starts with being educated on the topic, as you will be at this forum. Thus the One St. Maarten People Party is being a catalyst for change, though we are not yet in parliament. But we hope to be after the next election in 2014.
In my opinion, there isn't one individual in this hall who doesn't see the need for changes to the present electoral and campaign system, perhaps to adopt a completely new system.
In the space of three years we have had three different governments because of members of the parliament crossing the aisles to support different coalitions, another government. Even though it is allowed by law, totally legal, it has created a lot of uncertainty and instability in the community and government itself, causing our people to suffer at the process.
We hear about seats being stolen, seats belonging to the party, etc. and what should or should happen if the holder of a seat chooses to switch allegiance.
With this and other questions on the mind of the public, the One St. Maarten People Party felt compelled to organize this forum wherein persons with the necessary expertise may provide information on different types of electoral systems and practices, as a foundation on which we will build ideas of the kind of system we wish for ourselves.
We look forward to their presentations, and an opportunity to pose questions at the end.
It is important for me to note that with the exception of my brief remarks, nothing that will be said from this platform tonight will be political in nature. None of the presenters or the moderator is associated with the One St. Maarten People Party. They are experts in their field who have consented to impart information that we can use. We are very grateful for their accepting the invitation to be here, and to graciously consent to share their knowledge with us, and in this way assist in the process of bringing about the changes that we are desperate in need off.
The One St. Maarten People Party strongly believes that if this present Parliament of St. Maarten wants to make meaningful changes to our electoral system it can still be done before the next election in 2014. We have seen magic worked during the process of St. Maarten becoming a country and many of those players that made it happen are still around in even higher position. Where there is a will, there is always a way.
We welcome you all, and look forward to a very fruitful sitting. Together we will make St. Maarten S.H.I.N.E. Mr. Moderator, let the discussion begin.