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PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - It’s a new year!   Many of us have made new year’s resolutions, new dreams and hope that everything will be even better in 2016.

We are blessed that we live on a paradise island with great weather and friendly people but like everywhere else in the world we all have our personal challenges we face on a micro level and when we put everything on a macro level we see that everyone and everything that happens to our island affects us directly or indirectly.

We have a new government that has the tasks of bringing forth electoral reform by appointing a committee of experts and they will have to formalise a plan by March to address “ship jumping” which seems to be the main issue that has our country in this unsustainable governing situation of the last 5 years. The consequences have followed as we now have been made aware that our country is in a financial crisis and we have to try to amend this in 2016.

I would love to encourage everyone that has the capabiltiy, ability or an idea to send in your suggestions to our Government to help on this task. We as people and citizens we RIGHTS but we also have a responsibility to our community . If there is a way we can help each other on this quest to bring forth a sustainable governement in order for our island to develop then we should contribute to the developing process which we hopefully can all share for many generations to come.

Crime is of grave concern and to our people and citizens of our island. We have seen many persons become victims of terrible crimes and we have lost loved ones, and grieved the deaths of many persons that made up part a this community aswell. History was also made as one of our Police officers namely Mr. Gamali Benjamin was also gunned down in the line of duty. I also experienced the patience and professionalism of Officer Gemali Benjamin . It truly indicates that the times are changing where crimes are concerned. We all would like to live in a safe environment and we also have to protect our main source of our economy which is our tourism product.

Crime on our island should be a priority and again we should all work together to see how we can help each other in combating crime. Through neighbourhood watches, reporting things we see that are out of the ordinary to the authorities , surveillance systems in our businessess these are just some suggestions on how we can start working and try to be more proactive against crime.

Of coarse it is easy to suggest things but we would have to find ways to make them work effectively as that means we need to work together on all levels with Government, public , private sector and our police force.

This is a reality we all face together so we should tackle it together in 2016.

Education and awareness of peoples rights in our country is something also a priority. People have to know what their fundamental rights are. Many of our rights are to be found in our constitution. But with our rights also comes duties. So we too as citizens have to take our innative and see what your rights are as citizend and people of St. Maarten, like this you empower yourself but you empower others aswell. So I encourage you to get a copy of the constitution and read up on what your rights are.

Our duty as an elelctorate is also holding our government and elected officials accountable for the governance practices and also more transparency should be available to the general public of St. Maarten. We have already start to see things coming to light by newly appointed Ministers who also have a very hard task of bringing continunity and good governance practices to our citizens. There is a change on the rise St. Maarten and change will be needed as we develop as a country.

As we find ourselves on an election year a year of democraticially changing of government, you will be faced with promises, you will be confronted with politicians including myself asking for your support, you will be faced with serious issues that are affecting our island and it’s developing process.

As an electorate you must ask the critical questions to the politicians.

It is your right to shop around for the right persons that you believe will represent you and the citizens of the island of St. Maarten. A person that is critical, one that is responsible in performing duties, be willing to shape a country and it’s interests, a person that is humble in approach to the people of this community. I can continue on and on but it is your right to be informed and get informed and do your checks and balalcnes if needed for the people you wish have represent you in government. St. Maarten use your right to VOTE. You have the mandate for change!

I would also like to wish everyone the best for 2016 and many moments of laughter and love and happiness in our island. We cannot deny the basic need of feeling fullfilled and being able to support ourselves and our families to be able to have a good quality of life on our island of St. Maarten. Everybody should have a fair chance to be able to do this. Minimun wages need to be looked at to match the cost of living in St. Maarten and also the pension of our elderly who have paid their dews to help shape St. Maarten to what it is today which sometimes we forget that these elelcerly people also need proper pensions to be able to cope with the cost of living in St. Maarten. Everybody should have to right to be insured for good health care on our island.

HOPE is a word that can be filled in and interpreted in many ways. We have chosen Helping Our People Excel for the same reason you can choose Have only positive expectations for 2016.

As we start this year think positive, act positive use words that are positive and hopefully we will have a more positive St. Maarten country within our Kingdom. With HOPE everything is possible.

It takes a whole community to bring unity and HOPE!

HOPE President Mercedes “Elektra” van der Waals Wyatt and HOPE BOARD.

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