Published On: Mon, Nov 7th, 2022

MP Melissa Gumbs on Unity Flag meeting

Dear Editor,

Please permit me some space to address the general public. You see, there’s bound to be the usual political rhetoric about what the opposition did on Monday, 7 November 2022, in not granting quorum for the CC meeting about the unity flag, so let me be ahead of the circus.

The coalition showed up in full force to remove a President of Parliament who was actually acting in an unbiased manner: scheduling meetings requested by both coalition and opposition members of Parliament. Note that there are meetings on the docket since 2021 that have not been called, as outlined by the dismissed President of Parliament, MP Grisha Marten.

Some members of this new coalition, of which we have yet to see formal proof, only show up when called by one person to do so, and they vote as they are told to vote, too. One is consistently out of office or off island for personal reasons not related to medical leave. We have another MP who will soon be off island again, FOR medical leave. This consistently leaves Parliament at a deficit, in terms of members available to grant quorum. If the coalition is strong and the numbers are there, why do you need any opposition members to sign in to grant you a quorum? Never mind the fact that it has been opposition members holding quorum for many meetings since 2020, especially since the two latest members have joined the coalition. So I cannot and will not stand by as the lie of “opposition is working against the country” is crafted by a coalition that lacks the strength and conviction to hold its own Ministers accountable.

In a previous meeting, the 1st Vice President MP Marlin stated that when he is gone for medical purposes, it will be for all remaining MPs to do “what is right” and support meetings etc of Parliament. I stated afterwards that it is not for any MP to compromise/sacrifice their right to vote or act according to their conscience due to one MP’s refusal to relinquish their seat, leaving Parliament at a 7-7 split for months. For example, if I, as an individual MP, do not agree with the 2023 budget, must I then set aside my valid concerns and vote “Yes” just because coalition has decided to leave Parliament at a 7-7 split? No. “Going along to get along” is not the way I intend to represent the people.

I, personally, do not recognize nor support the flag, but I support the idea behind it. The narrative being spun is that because the PFP faction does not support the unity flag we do not support unity, since that’s all they can say as they lack substantial arguments. Disliking the flag, the process for how the flag came about and the colonial symbol on the flag doesn’t make me or PFP, villains in this fantasy that coalition will try to create.

Fact: no faction in Parliament, pre or post 10-10-10, has spoken, pushed and argued for more cooperation/collaboration with our Northern neighbors than the PFP Faction, at all times. From my time in the Netherlands, organizing St. Martin’s Day forums with USC and Pelicarus, geared towards bringing our students and young professionals closer together in collaborative spirit, this has been a cause I have championed.

During COVID, when my fellow MPs were calling for us to stop containers of FOOD from going to the French Side due to their border restrictions, it was THIS MP who stated that it cannot be our intention to starve out our brothers and sisters to the North.

It is the PFP faction that has submitted a proposal to Parliament to end our Parlatino membership and channel those funds into developing closer ties with the French Side, as well as our immediate neighbors. Because it’s one thing to talk a big game about unity and have a “symbol” of unity, but quite another to do the work. Performative actions have been the norm and that must stop.

In September 2020, due to the Prefet maintaining border restrictions for COVID, there was a large demonstration where the unity flag was carried as a symbol of unity. It is important to mark that distinction; that the Prefet closed the border. Because in 2021, when the people of Saint Martin blocked their own border to protest their own valid issues with their state of affairs, the same folks who cried unity were crying foul. Unity is recognizing that our brothers and sisters to the North have usually blocked the frontier when they are protesting, so I was unsure why so many were surprised and upset at this. Support must be universal and consistent, not performative, and conditional, and only when we like it.

Another fact: in 2016, when the then-President of the Collectivite, the late President Aline Hanson, signed off on a stop-order for illegal works happening at Captain Oliver’s in Oyster Pond, it was the National Alliance, UP and USP factions that BOYCOTTED the St. Martin’s Day celebrations of 2016, held on the French Side. And now they are the vanguards, the heralds, of UNITY on this island? I think not.

The silencing of MP Wescot after the informal meeting was streamed on Facebook serves as a spotlight on this kind of behavior. They have shown us who they are, time and time again; nothing has changed.

I understand that previous opposition members have measured their success by how swiftly they were able to throw down government and call elections, so it’s difficult to process an opposition who is working with government while working against the cognitive dissonance the coalition seems to share, with these lofty ideas while ignoring the very real ones facing the people they claim to represent.

Ultimately, my sentiments about the flag are not unique. I have been inundated with messages and phone calls from especially young persons on both sides asking why these decisions were made without community input or consultation. Many do not feel represented by the unity flag and do not see themselves in it. This is a valid thing to feel, especially when you are a member of the public that was not consulted regarding what is being used to represent you. But when they voice this, they are criticized as being against unity.

And that is the dangerous rhetoric of…nationalism, I guess? That if you don’t align yourself with any and everything brought by private individuals or a government as definitions of our culture and identity, you are clearly against the ideals they claim to promote. That’s not how it works. If persons do not see themselves in a flag that, surprisingly, still boasts symbols of colonialism on it, then that is their right to feel and say so.

Public consultation. And actual actions behind words. That’s what I would have preferred to see regarding this matter. But don’t try to say that I do not support unity. I won’t tolerate that disrespect, especially not from any johnny-come-lately who is doing what he does best: using emotional pressure points that he just discovered and actually does not care about to further his narcissistic manipulation of our democracy.

I wish everyone a pleasant, safe and enjoyable St. Martin’s Day and may we work collectively, in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, to effect real unity and change for our little paradise in the Caribbean Sea.

Melissa D. Gumbs
Member of Parliament
PFP Faction Leader