A pleasant good afternoon on this special - and may I say historic day - in the development of our Country Sint Maarten. In particular I would like to acknowledge the presence here this afternoon of Prime minister Wescot-Williams, Colonel Van Zanten and the marines of this Marine base, which I will like to Christen as: "Marine Base Point Blanche".
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In a few moments I will officially open Marine Base Point Blanche but before I do so I would like to reflect for a moment on how it came to be. Namely shortly after I was appointed as Governor of Sint Maarten in September 2010 I decided that it was important that as a new Country Sint Maarten should like the other countries in the Kingdom have a fixed military presence. And thus on my very first visit to the Netherlands at the end of September 2010 – Sint Maarten was not a Country yet – I took the initiative to request the establishment of a Military Base on Sint Maarten. And I can tell you that it was not an easy case to make in financially difficult times and with major budgetary cutbacks taking place in the Netherlands. However, after some interesting discussions with former Minister of Defense Hillen, Admiral Borsboom and General Swijgman the foundation was laid for this opening today.
In that regard it is important to mention and emphasize the three pillars behind the case for this military base:
The first pillar is the important role which the Marines play in the event of hurricanes not only for Sint Maarten but also for our Sister Islands Saba and St. Eustatius. The presence of marines for emergency assistance is, as has been proven over the years, invaluable to our islands and our populations. We only need to mention Hurricane Luis or Lenny and those of us who experienced these storms can attest how important it is to have the marines working with our voluntary corps, police and fire department to maintain order and ensure our safety.
The second pillar is the great sense and feeling of safety and security that comes from the presence of the military on the island. This positive influence on the sense of safety and security is important for the population as well for the tourists which frequent our Island. The expected impact for the people and economy of Sint Maarten through the sense of increased protection cannot be overstated.
And the third and final pillar is the potential role which this military base can play for our youth and thus for the future of our Country. In particular through the setting up and running of a "social development program" for enrollment of our youth. This can be beneficial for the preparation of our youth for the labor market and for their role and place in our society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These are in brief the pillars for the establishment of this Military Base. It is therefore important to thank all who contributed to making it possible today. In particular I wish to thank Former Minister of Defense Mr. Hans Hillen for his decision to agree to execute this plan and the Current Minister of Defense Mrs. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert for maintaining the plan for this important base for Sint Maarten despite the difficult financial situation. I would also like to applaud Prime minister Mrs. Wesco-Williams and successive councils of ministers as well as the Parliament for their support for this project. A special thanks also to the management and board of the harbor for their cooperation in making this "Marine base Point Blanche" possible at this location. And finally, thinking back on my discussions with Admiral Borsboom "in het koude Den Helder" I wish to express my appreciation to him for helping make the case in The Hague on behalf of Sint Maarten.
Ladies and gentlemen with these reflections and words of thanks I wish to congratulate General Swijgman, Colonel van Zanten, Commander Wokke, the Marines present and the people of Sint Maarten with the opening of "Marine Base Point Blanche".