ADDRESS Government Commissioner, Alida Francis Extra -ordinary meeting of the Island Council Appointment new Commissioners

As we gather here this 4th day of October for this latest chapter in the history of Statia, I am minded to revisit a part of the address I delivered for Statia Day last year.

It was a clarion call for every Statian of every background, every status and stature, every field and every dream, every idea and opinion, to work hand-in-hand, align our efforts and unite our approach, to craft our story and build our island into a most wondrous paradise.

If ever there was a time to respond to this call to join our hearts, our hands and our voices together to take on the task of further strengthening our democracy, now is the time.

If ever there was an hour to stand and be counted as a purveyor of Statian pride, this is the hour.

If ever there was a moment to make room for each other and help one another on this road to the return to full democracy, now is the moment.

For we cannot allow this moment to pass without a most powerful and striking statement to Statians young and old, and to the world at large, that we stand firmly in unity and togetherness for our democracy.

Yes, democracy is sacred, but, as we all know, the fabric of democracy is fragile. And over the past years, ours has been bruised - some may even contend it has been on life support.

But, slowly and assuredly, we have been nursing our democracy back to full health again. We have adopted all the island ordinances, revised the procedures and work instructions of the Island Council, updated the work processes and the system for the issuing of permits and exemptions, ensured the electoral register is ready and established an audit office. And that is just some of the important achievements.

It is a gradual process, and, as the then US senator John F. Kennedy observed in his Profiles in Courage back in 1956, we must show patience, restraint, compassion, as well as wisdom and strength and courage, in the struggle for solutions.

We are finding and implementing the solutions and we are well on our way to the finish line. And never will we abandon our ambition to keep getting better and better.  

There is a line in the 1940 satirical comedy-drama film, The Great Dictator, by the British comedian Charlie Chaplin, which might have you reminiscing on how we got here.

While Chaplin was known mostly as a comic actor, there is something utterly serious in the message in his final speech in the movie.

The speech, seen as one of the best ever written, says in part: “the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”

You can be forgiven for believing this line, written over 80 years ago, was written for today’s occasion, when the authority is being returned to us. And though no one perished in the process, getting to this stage was in itself a gruelling exercise.

Everyone involved – members of the Island Council, the Government Commissioners, the civil service, the mediators and most important the community of St. Eustatius – displayed extraordinary patience, restraint, strength, courage, flexibility and compromise. Everyone deserves our heartfelt thanks.

The Chaplin quote may also leave some reliving the reasons we got here with a degree bitterness, thus diluting somewhat, the significance of the progress we have made.

However, we must be careful not to allow the process of gaining our rightful place to be tainted by our anger, pain and resentment.

While we should never attempt to bury the past, we cannot afford to be the sort of problem solvers who make it our business to only stoke negative sentiments and ensure the patient never recovers.

We cannot keep flying the flag of pessimism, cynicism and distrust, much to the detriment of our progress.

As Martin Luther King said in his ‘I have a dream’ speech, “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

Instead, let us draw on the good experiences of the past, while learning from the bad ones to ensure we never find ourselves in this position again where we have to negotiate our democracy. In the interest of Statia, let us all focus on one single goal: that is to complete the necessary tasks that will get us to the final stage as soon as possible. This must be our priority.  

I would like to congratulate the two newly appointed  Commissioners (Mr. Glenville Schmidt and Mr. Derrick Simmons)  and assure you of our complete and unconditional cooperation to ensure a smooth transition.

We now have the opportunity to live by each other's success, not celebrate each other's failures. We have the opportunity to build on each other’s dreams, not destroy each other’s spirit. We have the opportunity to make this a beautiful life for the Statian population. In the name of our democracy, let us grab this opportunity with both hands and make it count.

I thank you.