St. Maarten / St. Martin: Discussions about Emancipation Day Holiday

Efforts to have Emancipation Day a national public holiday may not be feasible this year on St. Maarten, however, Education Minister Dr. Rhoda Arrindell has asked the Council of Ministers to consider giving all government workers the day off on July 1.

The draft law is currently going through the required legislative process. Arrindell told reporters at Wednesday’s Council of Ministers press briefing that she also held a tripartite meeting with representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), and the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions (WICLU) to “seek their support and urge them to grant their workers the day off also on July 1”.

“I applaud the candour and the cooperative spirit which made the meeting such a productive one in terms of ideas and suggestions and would like to hereby publicly thank all the participants for their input,” the minister said. “There was not one dissenting voice against making July 1st a public holiday. However, since the law is unlikely to go into effect this year, we discussed how to still observe the day solemnly and meaningfully.” [. . .] “We were reminded during the meeting that the labour unions have been at the forefront of efforts to make Emancipation Day a public holiday. It was also stressed that Emancipation Day cannot be tied to making money or the potential loss of business, since it was the exploitation of our enslaved ancestors that led to Emancipation in the first place.

“It was also made clear that we cannot talk of nation-building without recognizing the sacrifices of those who made it possible for us to walk around today without shackles. Emancipation Day therefore is a celebration of the victory of the human spirit over the inhumanities and injustices of slavery. What we are celebrating is freedom and as such this is not just a day for St. Maarteners alone, but for everyone who resides on our island.

“Furthermore, it was strongly suggested that, if need be, the school calendar should be amended to allow students to participate fully in Emancipation Day activities. The suggestion met general approval but still has to be worked out with all the stakeholders in the educational sector. Another contributor recommended that Emancipation Day should be promoted as the celebration of our national culture. In this manner, people would come to the island to celebrate our history and culture. Our cultural workers have in fact been flying our flag high in international arenas.”

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