PHILIPSBURG–Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs has issued an apology Friday for comments he made about suicide at the Council of Ministers Press Briefing on Wednesday. The Cabinet’s Press Secretariat attributed “his outburst to frustration with what he has called the ongoing destructive conduct of certain media and community elements.” An emotional Gumbs on Wednesday heavily condemned persons, who he believes continue to paint the island black with negative comments. He said if these persons “want to self-destruct, and then you have the freedom to do so. Tie a block around your neck and jump off the Pier, but don’t destroy this country.
If you are suicidal, do that. Go get some help at a psychologist. Go jump out a plane or something, but we can’t continue to create instability.”
That statement was countered by the apology made in the form of a press release on Friday. The apology came after Gumbs came under heavy criticism in the social media sphere. Even former Prime Minister Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams took him to task on it.
Gumbs stated: “I apologize for my choice of words during the press conference; I am not a word-smith. It was, indeed, a trying week and passions have been running high. I don’t believe in flowery language to get things across; I find it clouds the message. Nevertheless, my choice of words was not accurate and was indeed insensitive. However, I do not apologize for the intended message.”
The message remains “the same” as it did on the day of the Gumbs Cabinet inauguration on December 19, 2015, said Gumbs. “St. Maarten needs each and every one of her people to come together, forget our differences, forget the positions or contracts or whatever we may have wanted, and move forward as one unit. Some among us may continue to and even enjoy lighting fires; but fire spreads, and that is not a blaze this country can afford.
“In this day and age of social media and the ability for everyone to be able to start a blog and call themselves a reporter, it appears that there is no longer the ‘burden of proof’ to be sure that what is being asked, printed or said is actually factual. And, if I may be frank, that does indeed cause unstable conditions for any small country and community,” Gumbs said.
In a press release issued hours before Gumbs’ apology, Wescot-Williams said, “Let me get straight to the point. It can be at least expected of our government members that they display a fair amount of emotional intelligence (EI). The Prime Minister, I can only conclude, with nothing concrete to share with the people of St. Maarten, but due to public pressure for openness, came out shooting from the hip in the first press briefing of the Gumbs cabinet. Sad!”
She added: “To suggest that persons “commit suicide” and even explain graphically how to do so, is outright wrong, insensitive and unbecoming of any leader, let alone the Prime Minister of this country. Maybe this particular press briefing gave the prime minister bragging rights in other circles and ‘public houses.”