Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the fourth annual Governor's Symposium to deliberate on "Governance: The Value of Checks and Balances". In the next few minutes I shall develop this symposium's theme by drawing your attention to the societal imperative of checks and balances.
It is commonly said that ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Some persons would say that, that is what it is supposed to be. Without taking sides I wish to draw your attention to the opening words of the preamble to our constitution and I quote:
" WE THE PEOPLE OF SINT MAARTEN ....... ........ Declare that we wish to create a constitutional order based on an open and approachable government AND THEREFORE to record these objectives ........, the following provisions shall enjoy the force of law as the constitution of Sint Maarten". Unquote
I quoted the preamble to emphasize the principal and initiating role of THE PEOPLE in the creation of government. I do so to underscore that our constitution dictates that governance in Sint Maarten must be first and last all about the wishes and interest of the people of Sint Maarten. And to make that happen it is imperative that we as a people, as a society play our respective roles. [IT IS THEREFORE GOOD TO SEE SO MANY OF YOU HERE THIS MORNING]
As Governor, governance as a practice to advance the well-being of the people of Sint Maarten, is the domain of my activities, and it is therefore in keeping with my pledge to uphold our constitution, my aim to foster and encourage excellence in governance in all its facets. It is for this reason and considering the ongoing governance debate on our island that I have chosen the topic of this symposium.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Governance in its core refers to the way in which our society is managed and controlled by decision-makers and decision-brokers based on formal arrangements as well as on traditions, customs and attitudes. Essential principles in that regard as established in our constitution are: democracy, the rule of law, separation of powers, transparency and accountability. These are important checks and balances principles because they hold within them immeasurable societal value. They do so because they, among others, provide:
a. for the democratic freedoms you and I enjoy;
b. for the protection of our fundamental rights; and
c. for the curtailing of concentration of decision-making powers.
History has taught us that failure of governance through a breakdown of checks and balances invariably results in the weakening and collapse of businesses and countries. And that such situations always come with high costs to the people. It is therefore in our individual and collective interest as a society to guard against such situations. It is in other words a societal imperative to have effective controls i.e., checks and balances through among others functional accountability, transparency and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that decisions are made effectively, efficiently, fairly and with integrity. To further emphasize the need for and value of checks and balances I have paraphrased the words of Thomas Hobbes as follows; checks and balances is a societal imperative not because man is naturally bad, but because man is by nature more individualistic than social.
Checks and balances is as such a societal imperative because it is required to promote and frame decision making to benefit the public good or the interest of the people. It does so because it promotes decision making based on laws, regulations, policies, governing programs and business plans and in doing so it builds trust and confidence of the people in government and the managements of corporations. Such trust and confidence represents significant value to the community because it provides the order and stability required for planning, investments and sustainable development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a small young country with a one pillar tourism economy, Sint Maarten is susceptible to the impact of global events and developments over which we have no control. To chart a balanced and sustainable future for our people, it is imperative that we have effective national governance responses. Responses that are anchored in a comprehensive national development strategy that includes well-functioning checks and balances within our governance infrastructure. For at its best governance anchored in checks and balances, is an interactive partnership of trust and confidence between civil society, corporations and government.
Experience has taught us that that partnership is not automatic and that it requires work. And I sure you would agree that we have our fair share of challenges and work to do in that respect. To meet this challenge I invite you to inform yourself about the many forces and complex realities that influence checks and balances in governance.
It is with a view of this ongoing challenge and the societal imperative of checks and balances in mind that I – with the assistance of the Organizing Committee – organized this symposium.
At this symposium regional and national speakers will speak to you, on the value of checks and balances, each from their own perspective. I hope that these speakers will cause you to reexamine how decisions and actions by government, by civil society, by the private sector and by the media have shaped and continue to influence our society. It is my hope that they will inspire and help you to identify opportunities for you to play your role in enhancing checks and balances as a part of our governance infrastructure.
It is against that background and considering the many discussions about governance and checks and balances in newspapers, on radio, television, and social media that I wish to remind you to act on checks and balances as a societal imperative. I do so because I am convinced that it is our obligation to strengthen checks and balances as an essential public, corporate and civil governance pillar for the overall functioning of our society. And to reinforce that I wish to leave you with the following thought:
there are no laws, policemen or judges,
there are no shared values, churches or media, and
that there is no government of, for and by the people
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With that thought I hereby declare this symposium on "Governance: The Value of Checks and Balances OFFICIALLY OPEN and wish you an enjoyable and fruitful symposium.