Arrindell presses ahead as Laville queries public on St. Maarten anthem

POSTED: 10/20/11 1:57 PM

“I welcome the current debate”

St. Maarten – Minister of Education, Culture Youth and Sport Dr. Rhoda Arrindell is pressing ahead with plans to establish a committee to select a new St. Maarten song. Her announcement comes as party colleague and United People’s (UP) Party faction leader Romain Laville launched a poll on social networking site Facebook to gauge the level of support and/or opposition to the move. At press time 12 people had said they are for the change, but 90 had said they are against. The number of people who like the Facebook page “Make the “St. Maarten song” the national anthem of St. Maarten” has also swelled to 130 while an online petition to Keep the St. Martin Song and make it our national anthem now has 65 signatures.

Before laying out her case for continuing with the setup of the committee Arrindell explained that the information had been disseminated without her approval. In fact what was sent to the Department of Communications, while she was in New York attending the Monroe College’s College for a week program with a group of 12 high school students, was a draft advice on the committee’s setup and some draft criteria for the committee to consider in the preparation of its own criteria. The draft advice is still not finalized and so officially there is no committee and no competition at this time.

The basis of the committee and the planned competition is the fact that St. Maarten does not currently have an anthem and Arrindell believes the competition is the most democratic way to come to one. She also pointed out that the concept is not new by referencing Zahaira Hilliaman’s success in the competition to come to a national anthem for the Netherlands Antilles. The minister also made it clear that the idea of coming to an anthem for St. Maarten is not new and that she is trying to finalize a process that began in 2003.

“By establishing a National Anthem Committee, I wanted to take that process to its logical conclusion as demanded by the constitution. In addition, I wanted to extricate myself from the selection process. I recognize that in matters like this, one cannot be judge and jury at the same time,” Arrindell said.

She’d add later, “A National Anthem is not a Rhoda idea. It has never been and is certainly not about me. A National Anthem is for Parliament to approve, not for me or anyone else to impose. I will bow to the wisdom and authority of Parliament, as I have always done, in making this choice. However, I am duty bound to initiate the process and present a proposal to Parliament.”

The minister also said that the government cannot simply propose Oh Sweet St. Martin Land as the national anthem because Father G. Kemps – a Catholic priest who served here – had copyrighted the song. Even if the government traces his heirs – either his brotherhood of monks or the Catholic Church itself – and they grant permission Arrindell has said it will never be possible to change the lyrics. The government must also contend with the fact that Kemps drafted and copyrighted a French and English version of the St. Martin song and they’d have to pick which one they wanted to propose.

All facts considered, including the existing outcry to devote efforts to making the St. Maarten Song the national anthem, Arrindell still wants to press ahead with the committee and competition.

“I welcome the current debate and would personally like to see it center on the best way to choose the best anthem that would accurately reflect the history, culture, and the loftiest ideals and aspirations of our people, especially in view of our efforts at building a new nation. Do we need a National Anthem? Yes, certainly. Our Constitution demands it, and our people deserve one: the best we can give them,” the minister said.

Arrindell also confirmed that there is money reserved in the budget for paying out the prize money. The amount of 18, 000 guilders ($10, 000) is in line with what calypsonians are paid during the yearly carnival festivities, with the additional consideration that at least two people would together – one on the lyrics and one on the melody – so they could share the prize money.

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