All dignitaries present
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our islands are small and our history is based on personal relationships. While in other countries you have long histories and monumental buildings here we have family and friendship relations which form our histories.
Today I want to thank the friends who made this recognition of my service to the people of these islands possible.
First of all Senator Theo Heyliger. I started public speaking in 1962. My first speech was on the square in Philipsburg. I had assistance from a friend Mr. Cooper of Nicaraqua, Dr. MacDonald and a number of others in preparing my speech. They all advised to stay positive and gave me some pointers. Theo’s great grandfather Mr. Cyrus Wathey was up in his house at the window looking down. When I was finished speaking someone said to me: Mr. Wathey coming down into the crowd. He came directly over to me held my hand in the air and told the crowd that mines was the best speech for that night. Mind you I was there speaking for his son the legendary Claude Wathey.
In 1969 I was the opposition to Theo’s grandfather Claude on all three Windward Islands. One night during the campaign I was invited to a birthday party. It was for Theo’s mother Aggie Wathey. When I got in the party I realized I had made a mistake. I was in the headquarters of those whom I was opposing. I can never forget how when Theo’s mother saw what was happening she came over and asked me to dance with her. That was a message to all who were there: “Will is my guest here tonight and that must be respected.”
When Claude was in trouble I was still in opposition to him yet I was the only one who went on radio and defended him. His family remembered that and when a ceremony was held at the Government Administration Building after his passing, I was the one invited to deliver the keynote address on their behalf. On another occasion I was invited to deliver a speech on the history of his life which was broadcast live to both sides of the island on radio and television. On Theo’s father’s side we go back very far as well.
Former Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs who is not here with us today I have known since he was a little boy when his family came back to St. Maarten in the early nineteen sixties. Marcel and I served many years together as members of parliament. A cousin of mine who would have been 94 years now and who lived in New York used to tell me when he grew up on St. Maarten that Marcel’s grandfather Daniel Beauperthuy had 119 children. Marcel would tell me:” Lord Will don’t exaggerate, he only had fifty foive”. Our history is written in friendships which cross the separation made by Caribbean waters dividing us from one another.
Island Governor of Statia the Honourable Julian Woodley and I go back far as well. I served with his father Mr. Charles Austin Woodley on the Executive Council of the Windward Islands and the Island Council as well. A man of great principles and qualities of integrity which were passed on to his son Julian. Statia should be proud to have a man of such quality to be their Island Governor.
I remember once travelling with Mr. Keith Franca and his nephew then state secretary Mr. Erno Labega. I was headed to Washington to attend a National Prayer Breakfast with President Bill Clinton and they were going to New York. We shared a row of seats in the economy class. I was sitting in the middle. As is usual with we West Indians there were jokes and reminisces back and forth all the way to Miami. I noticed a young African American stewardess pausing each time she passed us and listening with amusement to the three of us. When I got up to go to the bathroom, she politely approached me and asked me where I was from. She said that the accent was not from her country. She was also intrigued with the familiarity of the three of us. I told her that I was from Saba and that I was travelling with Mr. Keith Franca and his nephew Erno Labega. She told me how she wished that in her country there could be friendships between races like that
which we obviously shared.
Keiths sister Rosie (Erno’s mother) is also from a large family. Her father was a policeman from Simpsons Bay. I recent wrote that he had 32 children and one of his descendants Henderson Williams corrected me and told me that I was wrong, that the correct number was 56. Henderson who calls me Cuzz as we are related through his mother’s side of the family wanted to make sure that his grandfather got the correct upgrade.. Our history is not tied up in old buildings and past wars but rather in relationships between families and the blood which joins us.
The Honourable Mr. Keith Franca Esq.
On small islands our history is in the people we know and the friendships we form as we move through life.
On the initiative of Senator Theo Heyliger and then Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs they formed a Committee and invited Mr. Julian Woodley to form part of that committee and Mr. Keith Franca was the point man in getting this recognition done on my behalf.
I have been through many bitter elections. I remember once a lady asking me: Will do you have any friends at all? I told her I have many friends but they live mostly on St. Maarten, Statia and such places. This statement now proves itself in the fact that this initiative to honour me came from those who I mention here.
Last year on Saba Day Senator Heyliger in a speech on St. John’s announced that he questioned the delay in putting up this bust and said that he wanted it placed in front of the Government Administration Building.
It is here now and it would be remiss of me not to be truthful and to thank Senator Theo Heyliger, Former Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs, Island Governor Julian Woodley, and Keith Franca for recognizing my work done in the Netherlands Antilles and in particular in the Windward Islands.
Thank you and I appreciate what you did.
Finally I wish to thank Commissioner Rolando Wilson for organizing this reception here today.
And I want to thank His Majesty King Willem Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Maxima for being here with us at the ceremony of unveiling of this bust honouring my person.
Thanks to all also for being present here today.
The Man on the Hill.