Opinion: Flag protocol (breach)

POSTED: 11/4/11 12:12 PM

The flags at the government administration building and the police station remain stubbornly hanging the wrong way around. One may well wonder whether H.M. Queen Beatrix noticed yesterday that the local government sticks to its own interpretation of the flag protocol.
If there was no flag protocol to begin with we would not waste any ink on the subject. But there is such a protocol in place and the government simply ignores it.
When we brought up the subject early yesterday morning with the head of the communication department Erno Labega, timely enough to correct what we consider a breach of protocol before our Queen would set eyes on it, we learned something interesting.
But first, let us explain one more time what the flag protocol has to say. The basic rule is like this: when two flags hang in front of a building the place of honor is reserved for the Dutch flag as the symbol of unification in the Kingdom. Standing with one’s back to the building, that place of honor is on the right hand side. We don’t know why the protocol does not simply state that, looking at a building, the place of honor is on the left hand side; the result would be the same. At the government building and at the police station the St. Maarten flag hangs in the place of honor. When there are three flags, the middle position becomes the place of honor and that is where the Dutch flag then ought to be.
Erno Labega told us yesterday that flag protocol had been extensively discussed by the cabinet ahead of the royal visit. Guess what the brilliant and surprising conclusion was. According to Labega, Prime Minister Wescot-Williams concluded that the flag protocol was wrong!
We usually stay away from using exclamation marks in our text but if there ever was a sentence that qualifies for its use, the previous one certainly does.
Please keep reading, because the story will get even more interesting. When we brought up the matter with the chairman of the committee that organized the Queen’s visit, Keith Franca, he told us that at the port proper flag protocol is followed. In other words, at the port facility the Dutch flag hangs in the place of honor as prescribed in the protocol. By the way, the university also follows proper protocol.
So why has our Prime Minister concluded that not the government but the flag protocol is wrong? Are we now free to start driving on the left hand side of the road, make phone calls on our cells while driving, never wear a seatbelt and ignore red traffic lights because the traffic ordinance is wrong?
We start to suspect that snubbing the flag protocol is a political statement, a bit like the bright red hat the Prime Minister was wearing when she received the royal delegation yesterday, keeping in mind that red is the color of her Democratic Party, and also a bit like the UP color green that was used to paint the government administration building. To be fair we’ll add here that Vice PM and UP party leader Theo Heyliger let us know already sometime ago that he had nothing to do with the color scheme.
Our government is making its own rules and even better – keeping in mind that at some point in time a previous administration put the flag protocol in place – it also apparently feels free to break its own rules at will. While flag protocol seems to be something of a non-issue, the deeper significance of all this is not lost on us. It reveals a mentality that does not belong in a constitutional democracy.

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