Published On: Sat, Feb 10th, 2024

MP William Marlin bids politics farewell with a flourish

PHILIPSBURG — National Alliance stalwart MP William Marlin said farewell to his political career in a speech during his last appearance as an MP on Friday, February 9. The family-tradition will continue though, as his son Cloyd Ondhae has in the meantime taken his seat as a member of the newly elected parliament.

Marlin’s political career began 45 years ago, of which he spent 37 years as an elected candidate – be it as commissioner in the Executive Council of the island territory, a member of the parliament of the Netherlands Antilles, a member of parliament, as Minister of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) and of course as Prime Minister.

Marlin was one of the founding members of the St. Maarten Patriotic Movement (SPM) on December 15, 1978, but it took until 1987 before he was elected for the first time as a member of the Island Council, together with the late Vance James.

Marlin recalled how being a member of the opposition in the late seventies was “not a good thing at all,” adding that “one became a pariah not only in society but sometimes even within one’s very own family.”

All this was due to the powerful grip the Democratic Party had on the island’s affairs. The DP was founded by Clem Labega and led by Claude Wathey. “Very few people dared challenge them,” Marlin said.

Later on the SPM morphed into the St. Maarten Patriotic Alliance (SPA) “when it became evident that we needed to expand our tent to accommodate all those who were opposed to the iron-clad rule of the DP.”

Marlin said that he coined the phrase “the people have a right to know” when he was in the opposition after exposing the government “for not having any policy whatsoever.”

The SPM formed the very first coalition government with the PDP in 1991, though its time in office was limited to just six weeks. “This taught me a very important lesson” Marlin said. “Politics makes strange bedfellows and there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, only permanent interests.”

In 1995 Marlin gave up his seat in the parliament of the Netherlands Antilles to make room for MP Roland Duncan and to begin serving as a commissioner in the Executive Council.

After the devastation caused by Hurricane Luis in 1995, the SPA formed a coalition with the DP. “Some observers still believe it was one of the best coalition governments the island has had. We set aside our political differences, buried our egos and worked assiduously to get St. Maarten back on its feet again.”

After the constitutional referendum in 2000, Marlin, by then the leader of the SPA, changed the party’s name to National Alliance.

It took ten years before St. Maarten obtained the status of autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. That vision, Marlin said, is far from complete because there are still two major outstanding issues: independence and reparations. “The people will have to decide on the question of independence in a constitutional referendum.”

Reparations should also remain on the agenda: “Reparatory justice is a discussion we must insist on having with the government of the Netherlands.”

Marlin briefly touched upon the conditions the Netherlands imposed in exchange for financial aid after Hurricane Irma in 2017. At the time, he described those conditions with a reference to the movie Indecent Proposal.

Marlin furthermore emphasized the importance of working together with the French side of the island. “We cannot profess to be one island one people with one destiny only one day of the 365 days of the year.”

He said it is “groundbreaking” that the outgoing government leaves 68 million guilders in place for capital projects and a surplus of 20 million guilders for the years 2023. (In November 2023, the government received a 61 million guilders loan for capital investments).

“The incoming government will find a robust treasury, perhaps the healthiest balance sheet any outgoing government has ever left for its successor in modern times,” Marlin said.

The construction of a new parliament building is a topic that is close to Marlins heart as the chairman of the new parliament building committee. He suggests letting pension fund APS build, own, rent, maintain and transfer this building that will be located at the site of the old government building at Clem Labega Square.

Marlin suggested to rename Princess Juliana International Airport as Vance Wentworth James Jr. International Airport and to rename the Dutch Quarter community center after the late Edgar Lynch.

Marlin also brought the matter of US Pre-clearance to the attention of his fellow MPs. “I will forever remain an ardent advocate for US Pre-clearance because I am convinced of the transformative impact it would have on our economy and our livelihood.”

Lastly, Marlin called for civility among his fellow-politicians with a reference to “the level of acrimonious and gutter-style language some people resorted to, all in the name of freedom of expression. It is my fervent hope and prayer that we restore civility to our political discourse. We must be able to disagree agreeably and abstain from malicious personal attacks on one another and work for a better St. Maarten.”

Download a copy of the full farewell speech of MP William Marlin here>>>


Closing meeting of Parliament on February 9, 2024>>>