Will now serve as member in the Council for law and order
PHILIPSBURG--Outgoing Lt. Governor Franklyn Richards expressed hope in his farewell address that the welfare of the island's people will not be taken lightly as St. Maarten moves from Island Territory of the Netherlands Antilles to Country within the Dutch Kingdom. He retires from office after almost a decade.
Richards said on Wednesday, "Looking back at the past decade, I do so recognising a most fascinating period during which so many have played a crucial role in the development of St. Maarten. I am most grateful that I have had the opportunity and privilege to serve the island territory of St. Maarten for almost 10 years as 'Gezaghebber' [Lt. Governor]." He added that he leaves office at a time "great changes are taking place."
"Prior to 10-10-10 [date for country status], elections will, on September 17, be held for members of the island council, which is to be extended by 15 members [of the first parliament]. This [is] in view of the coming change in status," he continued.
"...I call upon members of this council and future members of parliament and council of ministers to speak and act in the general interest of the citizens of St. Maarten. I also called upon them as representatives of the people to promote good governance and transparency and participation of the people in the deliberation and decision-making of Government. The presence of proper checks and balances is an indispensable condition for the proper functioning of authorities. I trust that the preparations for the introduction of an ombudsman, General Auditing Bureau, a Code of Conduct are in its advanced stages, as anchored in the constitution for country St. Maarten," Richards said.
He chaired his final Island Council meeting on Wednesday morning in which he was praised and wished well in his future endeavours by Island Council and Executive Council members. He served as chairman of both councils until he was honourably discharged by decree of the Central Government over two months ago.
Commenting on this during his speech in the Island Council, Richards said, "To set the record straight, on September 12, 2000, I was appointed by Royal decree as Lt. Governor of the island territory of St. Maarten by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix, and as I approach retirement age I'll be consequently discharged by no other than Her Majesty the Queen on August 10, 2010." Richards will celebrate his 60th birthday on that day.
Although retired, Richards will serve as St. Maarten's representative on the Council for the Maintenance of Law and Order. This appointment was announced by Leader of Government Commissioner William Marlin in his address to the Island Council. Marlin said Richards had "humbly accepted" the position as a way to continue to serve St. Maarten. The council will be tasked with supervising the justice chain to ensure the laws are adhered to and are carried out accordingly in new Countries St. Maarten and Curaçao.
Speaking on behalf of the police, the former local chief of police said a well functioning police force is essential for the safety of St. Maarten and its people. "The image of the police force has not always been what it should be, and it is my expectation that the police organisation will continue to evolve and become what is should be. I wish the new chief of police, the rest of the police management team and all the police officers the very best in their endeavours."
Richards is the last in the line of Lt. Governors for St. Maarten as its constitutional state as an island territory of the Netherlands Antilles will cease to exist on 10-10-10 when it becomes a country within the Dutch Kingdom. Richards along with former Acting Lt. Governor Millicent Acuña Lopez-de Weever, Acting Lt. Governor Reynold Groeneveldt and second Acting Lt. Governor Nilda Arduin-Lynch are now part of this island's history not only for their service but for their place in the island's transition.
In Country St. Maarten, the Governor, the function that will replace that of Lt. Governor, will be a very ceremonial position as he/she will not chair parliament or meeting of the Council of Ministers as the Lt. Governor does in the Island Council and Executive Council.
Richards expects the introduction of the dualism - parliamentarians not allowed to also hold the post of minister and vice versa - which is to characterise government in the future, to have "a positive effect." In the present system, Island Council members can also serve as commissioner.
"I express the hope that there will be a constructive relation between Ministers and the Parliament and this will always manifest itself in working constructively with each other together, counting on the necessary support of parliament."
Giving a vote of thanks, Richards first honoured God and thanked the people, present and past members of the Executive and Island Councils. "Thank you for being my travelling companions along a large and important part of my way. I am forever grateful for your stimulating company and the enormous collection of shared experiences indelibly printed on my mind."
He expressed gratitude to officials of the public and private sector, colleagues, staff, family, friends, the media for "all they have contributed towards keeping my nose to the grind wheel during my career as Lt. Governor." He also thanked former Acting Lt. Governors Mathias Voges and Millicent Acuña Lopez-de Weever for their time, support, sincerity and trust.
"A special thank you goes out to the lovely first lady [Angela], my wife, my lover, my best friend, who has supported me through thick and thin and helped kept my ears to the ground during my tenure as Lt. Governor," Richards said.
"I've been asked what I'm going to do now. I'm going to do a lot of things and very few of them conform to the notion of retirement. I am going to read books that have been waiting on my "must read" list for years. I will set up a business, assist in building Country St. Maarten, learn new skills, travel to countries that I have never been before, enjoy being around friends," he said.
"And lastly, I leave you with this thought. There is only ever one of each of us: there's one Sarah Wescot-Williams, there's one William Marlin, there's one Theodore Heyliger. We are unique. We are neither better nor less than anybody else but rather the best or least of ourselves. I am still working on finding the best of me. It is an exciting on-going journey," Richards stated.