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DH | Ajamu Baly takes the torch as Governor of St. Maarten

The new Governor of St, Maarten reviews the guards who are lined up in front of the Courthouse where Baly worked as substitute judge.

PHILIPSBURG–“I stand before you today not as a product of my own concern, but of one moulded, encouraged, invested in, loved and inspired by my village,” incoming Governor Ajamu Baly said in Parliament on Monday, before notifying the residents of St. Maarten of his acceptance of the office of Governor.

His village, he said, “is a village built on blood, sweat and tears inspired solely by a vision of a better tomorrow – the tomorrow of then that we experience today, a heritage of our ancestral village.

“We are all here as a result of the struggles, actions and triumphs of our direct and distant ancestors.

“You see, it took a village to raise this child. You brought me to this point, it is only right that I do my part to ensure that we are able to bring the next villager to this or whichever point they wish to arrive at, this in order to keep the circle of life flowing, maintaining our human capital.”

“So, what is the greatest asset of our village?” Baly asked. “Is it our beautiful beaches, the sunshine, our lush green hills, our expansive hilltop views, our world-class cuisine, uniqueness of our French and Dutch sides and the list goes on and on? I once read that a person/people will never rise above the opinion they have of themselves. What opinion do we have of ourselves?”

Baly concurred that St. Maarteners are a traditionally hard-working, friendly, proud and resilient people. “We were entrepreneurs long before entrepreneurship was a thing. My grandmother, Mrs. Olinie Sherwood-Romney, ran a successful bakery right here on Back Street selling, amongst others, some of the sweetest sweet breads you ever tasted. And I say the following with all respect to those baking sweet breads today: I have yet to taste another that comes even close. But hey, I am biased.

“My great-grandmother Ms. Eler Brown (we called her Gran) farmed cattle on Bush Road, right here in Cul de Sac where I was raised. Gran fed that cattle with the best grass that Gran herself would go to Beacon Hill to cut.

“Gran used to go to Great Bay very early in the morning where she closed deals on the sale of the milk and meat of her cattle, then travelled back home to Cul de Sac to instruct the eldest of her 10 children, Mrs. Floricia Baly-Brown, my grandmother, to deliver the products – said milk and meat – to her clients in Great Bay and this was all done by foot mind you, before the midday hour. Yeah, I don’t know how either, I guess time really moved slower back then.

“But I digress. … These are just two examples of some phenomenal women of our island.”
There are many more examples of phenomenal men and women alike, Baly said. “You see, it is important for us to remember where and who we came from, the challenges that our ancestors have overcome for us to be here. Our resilience is no happenstance, it is engrained in our DNA. So, we owe it to them to give it our all every day, but we also owe it to ourselves and to the future.”

It’s a tremendous responsibility, he acknowledged. “But, with our individual and collective brilliance, tenacity and propriety we are determined and destined to continue to rise to this challenge and, in doing so, inspire the next generation as we are inspired by the generations before us.
“In the event it is not yet evident, or I have not been clear on what our greatest asset is, it is you, our people of this great nation St. Maarten/Soualiga.”

As leaders of this, our beloved village, Baly said, “we should take decisions with this asset always in mind. Those decisions taken today ought to be taken with reverence for our villagers that came before us and with determination for a sustainable future for the villagers that are to come after us. As it states on our coat of arms, Semper Pro Grediens: Always Progressing.”

Initial steps to be taken

As a country 12 years young, St. Maarten needs to develop a vision towards the future, Baly said – “a vision towards the future; a clear course has to be charted moving forward into the future. And whatever that course may be, it needs to be rooted in a commitment to giving the best of yourself, a commitment to caring for the most vulnerable in our society and a commitment to creating a level and fair playing field with opportunities for all. Decision-making ought to be steered by this humble commitment to the collective good.”

In this process, he said, “we need to hold each other accountable.” More specifically, he said, “This applies first and foremost to government, Parliament and the entire public sector in relation to each other and in relation to the citizens of this country, but this also applies to NGOs [non-governmental organisations – Ed.] and the private sector businesses and this in addition to their corporate social responsibility.

“Society, you see, is but the sum of all its components. If we all play our part, take action in the best interest of all our people and pay our fair share, the wealth of this village can be distributed more fairly and every single individual will be able to provide for their family, with dignity.”

Equal opportunity

Baly is an advocate of servant leadership, decision-making in the best interest of the people. “We serve for our village, its villagers – its greatest asset, for their progress.
“True progress is only achieved when every single one of us has that equal opportunity to do so. When all in society do not have equal opportunity to prosper, we all fail!

Ensuring that the vulnerable within our society are cared for is essential in this: the elderly, the youth, those living with a disability and those living in poverty. This just to name a few. The topic of mental health is also not to be forgotten in this aspect.”

Other steps to be taken, Baly said, are financial independence via enhanced sound financial management and increasing our human capital. “Continued improvement of our financial management is needed in order to create fruitful ground for economic and social development,” he said. “We have to continue investing in the youth and, as a result, they and society shall reap the benefits far into their retirement age.”
Economic stability requires greater self-sustainability, Baly said. “In order to be less susceptible to external shocks we have to lessen our dependence on imports where possible. Think of alternative energy, produce and fisheries.”

Here to serve
Baly explained that, in his role as governor: “I am here to support government, irrespective of party lines. Know that each and every one of you can count on my support, for I am here to serve on behalf of the people.”

Baly thanked the St. Maarten government and the Kingdom government for the confidence placed in him.
To outgoing Governor Eugene Holiday, he said: “Mention has been made in the past couple of weeks of filling of shoes and the like. With all the respect due to you, I prefer the African proverb that says, ‘Wisdom is like fire, one takes it from the other.’ So, thank you, Excellency, for passing on the torch of wisdom. I shall do my utmost to keep the fire burning.”

Bron: Daily Herald

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