Opinion: A subdued celebration

POSTED: 10/11/11 1:37 PM

Minister Franklin Meyers put his finger on it when he compared the atmosphere during the parliament meeting for the celebration of country St. Maarten’s first anniversary to a funeral.
The remark came after independent MP Frans Richardson and National Alliance leader William Marlin had showered the meeting with their criticism.
That criticism was not unwarranted, because the people who thought that country status would lead them into the Promised Land know better by now.
Also remarkable was that no less than three ministers had found better things to do. Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger – not a big fan of celebrations to start with – Public Health and Labor Minister Cornelius de Weever and Justice Minister Roland Duncan (who was further down the road at the police station for a ceremony that started one hour after the scheduled start of the meeting in parliament) all shunned the meeting.
William Marlin announced that he will push for making October 10 a national holiday. In itself this makes sense, but we’d think that somebody, anybody really, could have come up with this idea on, say, October 11 of last year. Fact is, nobody did, and if we turn out to be wrong, then that somebody failed to pursue the matter.
Across the board there was no argument about the fact that country status has not brought improvement in people’s lives. Sure, St. Maarten is now the ruler of its own destiny, but that is not something citizens are able to eat. They still need jobs; they still need decent schools for their children; decent roads to drive their cars; they still need a sustainable living environment and affordable electricity bills.
This is not happening, we heard several times during the meeting. And it is true: it is not happening. The question is, however, whether this is due to the transition to country status or due to the fact that the global economy is faltering.
Country status freed St. Maarten from the Netherlands Antilles, but it did not put bread on the table. It is fair to say that not switching to country status would have had pretty much the same effect.
And still, the government had the gall to publish an advertisement on its government information page in the local newspapers that read: “Congratulations to the people of St. Maarten on the first anniversary of country St. Maarten.”
If we follow the arguments of MPs Richardson and Marlin, the people do not have a lot to celebrate. They are “on the sidelines,” “left out and abandoned” (Richardson), pensioners, postal workers and all GEBE-clients are dissatisfied (Marlin). In this context, the congrats sound a bit hollow – like a soccer coach who congratulates his star player after telling him that he won’t be needed anymore.
To be fair, we’d like to add that country status is not the cause of anything – positive or negative. We heard pastor Philbert hold a fiery speech at the police station wherein he made one thing clear: change never begins with someone else. The pastor’s speech, though directed at the police force, would have done well in parliament, because it addressed responsibility. Nothing will ever change if nobody takes responsibility.
That’s easier said than done, but the bottom line is that not only charity, but change begins at home as well. Michael Jackson, the dead King of Pop, expressed that perfectly in his song Man in the Mirror: “If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place, Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make The Change.”
Politicians have a hard time with that concept because it is easier to point to someone else. That’s why some things never change.

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