the Governor's Speeches

Back to Speeches Indexjul 02, 2012

Emancipation Day, A Triumph of Humanity to Cherish and Preserve

Delivered by His Excellency Eugene B. Holiday
at the Occasion of the First Observance of
Emancipation Day as a National Public Holiday

My Fellow Sint Maarteners,

Good Afternoon and Happy Emancipation Day.

I am immensely proud and pleased to stand before you today July 2, 2012, to share in and address you on this first observance of emancipation day as a National Public Holiday on Sint Maarten.

On July 1, 1863, the emancipation proclamation issued by Governor J.D. Crol, on behalf of His Majesty the King, went into effect abolishing slavery and declaring the affranchised population of Sint Maarten free persons.

With that proclamation an official end was brought to the slave system of forced labor, brutally imposed for over three centuries  by white slave owners on black men and women merely because of a difference in color. With that proclamation an end was brought to a system which goes against the core of human nature, that is against the will of all men and women to be free.
My fellow Sint Maarteners, that proclamation marked the triumph of  the indomitable will of the enslaved men and women of Sint Maarten to be free. A triumph which at the time echoed throughout our island’s hill tops,  valleys and bays, and forever redefined our collective destiny as a  Sint Maarten people.

We the people of Sint Maarten have since realized major achievements, made possible by the concerted efforts, of many Sint Maarteners, the sons and daughters of former slaves and slave-owners. Achievements which are increasingly documented and recognized. Noticeably overlooked for recognition however, has been our defining moment of July 1 , 1863, the moment when the freedom of all the people living on Sint Maarten, was officially recognized. Today we can proudly say that we have corrected that omission.
Today one hundred and forty nine years later, the Parliament based on a proposal by the Government of Sint Maarten passed the National Ordinance declaring July 1,  a National Public Holiday. As a son of this soil upon which my forefathers have toiled and as Governor of my beloved, our beloved Sint Maarten, I was deeply humbled to have the privilege to affix my signature, along with the respective ministers, towards the ratification of that historic National Ordinance. Paraphrasing  the National Ordinance, in summary it stipulates:

Having Considered:
• That as of 1980 the call has increased to commemorate July 1, 1863, the day that slavery was abolished in Sint  Maarten, because of its historic importance, its importance for the self-consciousness and the cultural turnaround that it has brought about;
• That it is therefore desirable to introduce an annual public holiday on July 1, called “Emancipation Day”;
• That it is thereto necessary to amend a number of national ordinances;
• And, having heard the Council of Advice, with general consultation of the Parliament;
it is established that effective June 26,

Emancipation Day shall be celebrated annually on July 1, unless the day falls on a Sunday, in which case Emancipation Day will be celebrated on the first following workday.” (i)

We are, as a result, gathered here today, Monday, July 2, 2012 to observe Emancipation Day. As a result I hereby commend  all who over the past years have called for, championed  and advocated the commemoration of Emancipation Day.
My fellow Sint Maarteners, history – from the bible to books of contemporary times – contains the numerous struggles of the peoples of the world and of the subsequent triumphs over oppression and their respective commemorations. Those commemorations generally serve to draw from the lessons of the past and to build thereon for the future.

In that regard Sint Maarten should be no different. What then are our lessons from our collective past and how are we collectively building thereon for our future. That is a question for each of us individually and all of us collectively. In answering that question it is my hope that each of you will recognize and appreciate the immense courage, struggles and sacrifices of our ancestors who fought for the collective freedom we share today. It is my hope that you will draw from the immense personal strength of freedom fighters like One-Tété Lohkay and others like her. It is my hope that you, instead of focusing on our individual differences, will celebrate the victory of the struggle for freedom and equality of all. And finally, it is my hope that today as every Emancipation Day hereafter will be celebrated as the day when the people of Sint Maarten officially became one people. Yes as the day when the sons and daughters of the former slave-owners and slaves were no longer restricted by law, but instead were free to hold hands and move forward as one, united people.

My fellow Sint Maarteners,  July 1, 1863, created the foundation for a unified and thus strong and resilient Sint Maarten people. It did so because it marked the triumph of Humanity on Sint Maarten, a triumph towards a more free, equal and just Sint Maarten for all its people. A triumph of humanity which must cherished and preserved by all with the same vigor and unrelenting courage as our forefathers. It is thus my conviction, grounded in my belief in the people of Sint Maarten, that today’s first and future observances of Emancipation Day as a National Public Holiday, will function as a source of greater consciousness and understanding;  and as a result help to foster greater togetherness as we continue to collectively pursue and perfect the protection of the rights and freedoms of all the people as stipulated in our constitution. I am thus confident that together we will, with the help of  God, continue to take Sint Maarten, forward building a strong, stable, responsible and just society.

My Fellow Sint Maarteners, it is with that ideal for our Emancipation Day that I congratulate all of you on and wish you a most Happy Emancipation Day Celebration.

Thank you and God Bless you.


(i)   This text is a summary translated and paraphrased for presentation in this address. For the exact text I refer you to the original text as published under AB 2012, no. 19.