Opinion: Integrity

POSTED: 12/13/13 5:12 PM

Define integrity – easily the word of 2013 in St. Maarten. With two integrity investigations in full swing, this seems to be an appropriate time to reflect on what exactly we mean by this term. The focus is obviously on politicians and civil servants. They should not steal (actually, nobody should) they should not enrich themselves, they should stick to the rules.

But integrity is more than that. This occurred to us when USA Today launched its 10Best competition, inviting readers to vote for the best island destination in the Caribbean.

Th prime minister, the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association SHTA and Richard Kahn’s public relations bureau all jumped on the bandwagon by encouraging citizens in St. Maarten to vote for …. St. Maarten. It brought to mind the indeed very funny TV commercial of a company that produces a toilet cleaning product: “We from WC Eend recommend WC Eend.”

Okay, we get the business principle of be good and tell about it. But rigging popularity contests by encouraging non-visitors to vote in favor if St. Maarten is, as far as we are concerned, a blatant form of self-deception and nothing good can come of it.

As we have written before: imagine that St. Maarten comes out on top in this USA Today competition with, say, 50,000 votes and all these votes are from people that live on our island, work for the SHTA, the Tourist Bureau, the Ministry of General Affairs, and so on? Are we then, by our own admission, the most popular island destination in the Caribbean? Or are we just fooling ourselves, wallowing in a world of make-believe, telling ourselves how brilliant we are?

We received an email from the SHTA that called for our cooperation. “Every island does this and it we don’t do it we will fall behind. Unfortunately these are popularity contests. If we ended in the top three it would be a boost for St. Maarten. This requires few marketing dollars and we all know that we do not have many of them. So we are doing our best to let everyone vote every day, it could only bring more tourists to St. Maarten.”

The SHTA asked for our cooperation in this matter, and we made it clear that we don’t want to have anything to do with this.

Why? Because we feel that rigging a vote – even a bland popularity contest – violates our principles of integrity.

When the SHTA awarded the Public Media Award to this newspaper at the Crystal Pineapple Awards ceremony in November, Today did not do anything to influence the decision. We did not beg the SHTA to give us an award, we did not stuff any pocket with dollars, we just did what we do best: producing a great and above all critical newspaper.

We appreciate any effort that promotes St. Maarten as a tourist destination, as long as these efforts focus on improving the quality of the destination. To us, the goal, honorable or not, does not justify the means.

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Comments (1)


  1. Ben says:

    Wow! Great article. Just to show you how integrity is so rampant in our society that it is now tolerated. If the authorities mentioned saw this article before the voting competition was held, they won’t have asked for help because they are so accustomed to the practices.

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