CUL DE SAC--Voters were urged to head to the polls on Friday and make a change by voting for the United St. Maarten Party, headed by independent Member of Parliament Frans Richardson. The party leader and thirteen other candidates shared first final messages of campaign for Parliament at the party's final public meeting at the party's headquarters on Tuesday.
Richardson told supporters, "We are ready for change in this country." He called on voters "to send a message" to the "expired politicians" that the "time has come to get out of office."
He criticised the plans of the United People's (UP) party to build a new hospital as expensive and burdensome for the people as it will cost about US $300 million. It would be better to work with the existing hospital upgrading plans.
Voters should be weary of plans to dollarize the economy as indicated by UP and the Democratic Party (DP), because this will only increase cost of living further, Richardson.
He also called for better cooperation with the French side, saying that some of the politicians who have election posters on that side of the island are the very ones "who have been stopping progress" on the French side.
Other political parties are "going after the heads" of young St. Maarteners such as the heads of the Harbour Group of Companies, St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation and Postal Services St. Maarten, said Richardson. This will not be stand for by the US Party thus the needs for "a change" of the other parties from Parliament.
The party's number two candidate Leona Romeo-Marlin started her speech with a moment of silence as a stance "to end political victimization." She said many people are "scared to expressed who they want to back" fearing for their jobs. She called on them to "stand out and promote the people you want." Policy wise, she said US Party will change whole tax system to better the country.
Education is "an injustice" to the country's children, because it allows them to graduate too early and without being properly equipped for the world, said Anna Rabess-Richardson (#3). She is keen on tackling poverty, other social ills of the country and the establishment of a military academy, paid for by the Dutch Government, for youngsters. The US party, she said, is "the new opportunity for St. Maarten."
Rueben Thompson (#4) asked the voters to look around the country and take in the state of the roads, sewage running on the streets, the filling-in of Great Salt Pond and ever-growing landfill. With that picture is asked voters to question if they have "truly benefited from tourism-based economy." He said the present and past government have been destroying natural beauty of the country that tourists come to see.
Lisa Alexander (#5) said there is "massive corruption" in government caused by the way the Constitution is written. She plans to champion changes to the constitution. "The laws have failed us, time to rewrite them." She wants government-owned companies to be privatized and sold in shares to residents.
Harlec Doran (#6) said UP promised jobs and only delivered a bridge, "but people can't eat a bridge." US Party "guarantees" voters that government-owned companies will no longer "make millions on the back of the people."
Richinel Burg (#7) said the president government has "failed us, because of the people living in poverty" and no poverty line study has been executed to guide and fix the promises.
Fernando Clark (#8), who was also the meeting's master of ceremonies, said the UP leader "was condemned by court for wrongdoing" this week. He was referring to the so-called vote buying case that was thrown out by the court. He told supporter UP will approach them "to buy your vote" and they should not sell their vote. "UP leader is not a leader, he's a briber," Clark said.
Earl Duzong (#9) said there is a need for a "cultural arts facilities," sports facilities in every district and a new multi-purpose facility to boost sports tourism. He told supporters: "We need you, just like you need us."
Myrna Richardson (#10) said the pre-election polls are "only there to distract" voters and should not be paid attention. The US party has "been ready for four years" to govern the country. Her message to the people of Saba and St. Eustatius who can vote here was that if they didn't vote for the US Party, their "lives will not be good ... you will suffer."
Sergio Bryson (#11), said voters deserved a government who will listen to the people.
Curtis Thomas (#12) said people "can't afford bread, sardine or corned beef" in St. Maarten and people are in need of jobs.
Jeanine Espacia (#13) said job creation is a priority for the US Party as are a youth-to-employment programme, and the upgrade of educational level to make St. Maarten "the most educated country in the Caribbean."
Lloyd Paul (#15) said the party will ensure there is no tax levied on pensioners, will bring relief "to the lower class people," and tax breaks for small businesses.
Roberto Hunt (#14) was not at the public meeting. He had been missing from the candidates' line up for several meetings now. No mention was made at the meeting about the reason for his absence. There has been talk in the community about him leaving the party, but there has been no formal statement from Hunt and the talk of him abandoning the party has been dismissed by people close to the party.