St. Maarten – It was supposed to be a solemn press briefing by the Council of Ministers yesterday morning but in the end, Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs turned up the heat and let all his frustrations fly. “I got a bit carried away, but I feel good about it,” he said at the end of his tirade.
The prime minister first tackled the question about the closed-door meeting of parliament that took place on Monday.
“I want to make one thing abundantly clear,” he said. “The Council of Ministers did not request this meeting. We were invited to a closed-door meeting. The MPs that are now asking why it was behind closed doors – all fifteen of them – need to do some soul searching and ask their chairman how this meeting came about. Again, I want to make that abundantly clear.”
PM Gumbs said that there is no insurance in place for police officers – or for civil servants for that matter – but that the complete insurance policy of the government is currently under review by a recently established Insurance Work Group.
Under the Netherlands Antilles, there was an insurance provision for police officers that came about after a sniper in Saba shot Officer Charles on his way to the airport.
“When St. Maarten became a country, that insurance provision was not put in place for the police force by those who were in government at the time and who have been in government for the four years that followed,”
Gumbs said. Firefighters and ambulance personnel do have such a provision because they transferred from the island territory to the country.
After clearing up this matter, the prime minister went on a mission.
“Since we took office we have been busy for the past seven months with two things: outing fires we did not start and cleaning up mess we did not create. On top of that, we had to deal with the Dutch.
Also, the government had to deal with publicity that did not exactly help matters – like two baseless reports on a blog about the fall of the government.”
“I am not trying to restrict anyone’s freedom of press, thought or speaking,”
“But you have to look in the mirror and see your eyes, your soul and ask yourself what you want to do for your country. Do you want to make a contribution or do you want to be popular by saying and doing things to destroy our country?”
Gumbs mentioned “a radio program on Tuesday night” that constantly talks about the fall of the government and that makes wild allegations about corruption. Later it turned out that he referred to the radio program On Line, hosted by Fernando Clark.
“Are we on a track to self-destruction?”
“If you want to destruct yourself, you have the freedom to do that. Tie a block around your neck and jump of a pier, but do not destroy our country. If you are suicidal, do that. Get some help from a psychologist, or jump off a plane or something.”
Continued instability has an adverse effect on the investment climate, Gumbs said.
“Who wants to invest even a thousand dollars in a country where the government could fall any minute? Explain to me how you want to move forward. In the first four years we had three different governments.”
What happens when a government falls? Gumbs gave the answer:
“Everything comes to standstill. There is no trust and investors stay away. The civil service does not know what to do. By the time you make a plan a new ministers comes in with different ideas, and nothing gets done.”
The prime minister had still more to say on the subject.
“Continuously we have people who have nothing to do but to air their mouth and their frustration instead of going somewhere and get a life and make a contribution to themselves, their families or their country. As long as we have this attitude we are going nowhere.”
Gumbs noted that elsewhere in the world – in Washington, Paris, Trinidad and elsewhere in the Caribbean – there is a shared concern about the future of St. Maarten.
“I always hear in those places, when are you going to have some stability in your government? How long are we going on breaking down each other?”