Published On: Wed, Jan 25th, 2017

Arrindell fuels drive for independence

Rhoda ArrindellGREAT BAY – Former Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Dr. Rhoda Arrindell has expressed optimism about the independence movement for St. Maarten. In her opinion, most of the current parliamentarians are realizing that independence is best for St. Maarten and this she believes will help propel the movement to another level.

Petition for referendum to Parliament this month

Arrindell is calling for a referendum to determine the constitutional course St. Maarten should embark on as in her view, that referendum is long overdue. “We are looking for a referendum at the earliest possible time that parliament can call it,” she says. “It’s now 17 years since the last referendum. It’s more than due and I think the parliamentarians recognize that as well. So more than anything else that referendum is way overdue.”

A signature drive has already started and the St. Martin Independence Foundation is already mobilizing to act. “We have been asked to petition the Parliament with an official meeting in Parliament. We are busy now with the signatures of the petition. That is going before Parliament before the end of the month,” Arrindell says.

One of the primary tasks for the independence movement is to garner international support, Dr. Arrindell notes. She posited the intention to get St. Maarten placed on the United Nations Decolonization list and to dispel what she believes is the impression created by the Dutch that constitutional issues in St. Maarten are being handled internally within the Kingdom.

“We have until 2020 to get on that list and that’s our aim,” she said, adding that Bonaire and St. Eustatius have been working hard in this regard. “What the Dutch are doing in these islands is isolating them from the rest of the international community and from the Caribbean. It comes across as if it’s an internal matter in the Dutch Kingdom. That’s an old trick that has been used over and over in these types of situations.”

In Dr. Arrindell’s opinion, St. Maarten is too precious to the Dutch as the island is strategically poised in the Caribbean as a commercial hub for air and seaport traffic. This she views is vital to Dutch competitive interests in the Americas. “The Dutch gets opportunities that they would not get as merely European countries. This is a geographical space that permits the Netherlands and France to compete against other Caribbean nations for certain things. It is also a very strategic transshipment point. The Dutch are maritime people. Traditionally that’s their history. Pay attention with what’s happening to St. Maarten at the harbor and the airport. Those are not accidents. And why is it important to control justice and finance? Those are no accidents.”

But if parliamentarians are more poised to support independence for St. Maarten, are the people confident that the island can go on its own? Some opponents of independence have expressed fears for several years that the island is too small, that a St. Maarten passport may not be as valuable as the Dutch passport and that St. Maarten cannot remain viable economically as an independent nation.

Dr. Arrindell dismisses all these arguments. “St. Maarten is economically viable to stand on its own. Not a dime out of the St. Maarten annual budget comes from anywhere else than from St. Maarten people. All of the money that comes from the budget that governs this little territory is generated right here on St. Maarten.”

Regarding the passport issue, she believes a St. Maarten passport will be just as valuable and usable like that of any other nation. Persons, she said would also have the option of dual citizenship. “That argument is slowly dying a natural death. It’s a big argument but again, it has no value. Because everywhere I have traveled in the world I have met people from everywhere else that have their own passport so it doesn’t prevent them from traveling,” she said. She also does not buy the argument that the island is too small.

Photo captionDr. Rhoda Arrindell. File photo Today