SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - On behalf of my husband, Roy Cotton Jr., the board members and volunteers of Victorious Living Foundation, my heart-felt love and compassion go out to the family, friends, colleagues, well wishers and admirers of Officer Gamali Benjamin who fought valiantly unto the end to protect his nation and people. May the spirit of his courage and bravery live on in each of us to bring healing, deliverance, restoration, order and peace to this beautiful land of salt, Soualiga.
Today is a day that requires much soul searching, reflection and concern for the state of our nation, however. For if truth be told, if the majority of our leaders in every sphere of this nation led with vision, compassion and the best interest for all persons, perhaps we would not be in mourning today for our brave Officer Benjamin.
When our Government, the Church, business leaders, and families put our priorities in the right place, we will begin to lead with the right motives. When we begin to seek God's face for guidance and wisdom and allow ourselves to be used as instruments of His peace, then we will have a truly vibrant and excellent nation where everyone contributes to this beautiful isle's development and no one is left behind.
When I consider the past thirteen years of my life in which I have been crying out sometimes feeling like a lone voice in the wilderness, for us to invest in preventative programs to safeguard the future of our youth from the criminal elements, I have to shake my head, knowing that we have wasted so much time as a nation by not putting our priorities in order. Instead of investing in the most precious resource that we have, our children, youth and people, we have chosen instead to invest in buildings and structures, which have no soul and can only be significant by the people who occupy them.
When I consider the fact that I have literally cried on the radio and TV to our elected officials and citizens of this nation to invest in mentoring our youth so that we would not cultivate a nation of criminals, and often being laughed at and taken for granted, then indeed it is time for us to make some radical changes here on beautiful St. Martin.
Officer Benjamin's death, allegedly by a 17-20 year old speaks volumes. It speaks to the neglect of a generation of young people whose parents, Government and society have marginalized and neglected to equip them to be contributing citizens of our society. A growing element of youth, though still in the minority, are negatively impacting our economy and our quality of life, and should be taken seriously. If these issues were addressed with urgency fifteen, twenty years ago, we would not be at this place today. However, it is not too late for change. It is up to you and me; young and old, to be part of that change.
When In 2012 Victorious Living Foundation sought the support of Government, funding agencies and the business sector to continue our then, ten year old mentorship program, Family & Friends Network™, which helped to turn around the lives of youth who were incarcerated for crime; or help prevent others from going into crime or dropping out of school, we were told that no finances were available for such. Consequently, we had to drastically down-size this successful program which provided training for caring adults who volunteered to be mentors, mentorship for our youth, parental support and training, social and life empowerment skills for our youth, tutoring and home work assistance.
Yet, when crises hit, and many of our youth fall prey to negative influences there is always a public outcry. When there needs to be an outcry for us to put a proper infrastructure in place on this 37 sq miles island, very few people stand in solidarity to protect our children who ultimately will determine the strength and vitality of this nation.
I make an appeal to all of us not to let Officer Benjamin's bravery and death be in vain. May his death be like a seed, which when buried germinates and bears many fruit. St. Martin, Soualiga, it's time for us to be the salt of the earth that God created us to be. It's time for change!!
Anyone knowing the whereabouts of this young man who perpetrated this crime, it's time to turn him in. When he's apprehended however, let us put the infrastructure in place to rehabilitate him and many others like him who are out there; who have allowed themselves to become victims of a very vicious and diabolical system.
Yes, it's time for change!!! Let us start by being the change. Officer Benjamin, we salute you. We salute your courage, strength and willingness to place yourself in harm's way so that we the citizens of St. Martin may be protected.
We salute all officers who daily put themselves in danger to protect us. I ask each of you, to allow God's Holy Spirit of peace and love to reign in your hearts. I ask each officer to do your part to transform the police culture so that the general public may be willing to trust you and confide in you when a crime is committed and know that their identity will not be disclosed.
Citizens of St. Martin, South and North, we have the capacity to turn this island around. We have what it takes to become a thriving nation with equal opportunities for all. Let us do it for Officer Benji that his life would not be in vain. Let us make that change for our children and our children's children, and ourselves. May God's grace, peace and wisdom be with all of us.
Dr. N. Erna Mae Francis-Cotton
Visionary & President, Victorious Living Foundation
(COMMENTARY – The views expressed here in this commentary are the sole responsibility of the author.)