Opinion: Opening of St. Maarten’s parliamentary year a festive event

POSTED: 09/11/13 3:33 PM

The opening of the parliamentary year is basically a festive event where the governor presents the government’s plans for the coming year. In a way, this is our “troonrede” akin to the address King Willem-Alexander will deliver next week Tuesday in The Hague.

That the parliament chose for a piece of music by the French composer Joseph-Maurice Ravel to entertain its guests waiting for the arrival of Governor Holiday could be understood in different ways. Ravel will always be remembered for his orchestral work Boléro. The composer wrote it in 1928 and he did not think much of it. He thought it was trivial and he also has described it as a piece for orchestra without music.

That is not what the late American film director Blake Edwards thought: he made Boléro prominent fifty years after Ravel wrote it in his iconic 1979 romantic comedy Ten, starring his wife Julie Andrews, Bo Derek and Dudley Moore. Since that blockbuster big screen hit, Ravel’s composition is generally considered the ideal background music for lovemaking.

The music may have put everybody in the right mood for a festive event. The ladies wore hats, or course, and the gentlemen – at least most of them – showed up in suit and tie, something the likes of Richard Branson certainly would not have appreciated.

We noticed that one Member of Parliament showed up (almost) late: Louie Laveist. We’ve always thought it not-done to walk into a room with dignitaries wearing dark sunglasses, but apparently Laveist had a different opinion on this issue of etiquette.

There were also a couple of no-shows: Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce and Patrick Illidge. NA-stalwart Drs. Rodolphe Samuel was there but he sat in the tribune, leaving the chair for his party-leader William Marlin symbolically empty. Marlin will be sworn in as a Member of Parliament again today.

For Samuel it was no big deal: he told us that when he entered parliament he had already agreed with Marlin that he would give up his seat in case of a change of government.

Most remarkable among the guests was Justice Bob Wit, who appeared in the full regalia of the Constitutional Court. No word on which way the ruling of his court is going about the cock fights yet: that will have to wait until October.

Governor Holiday placed many items on the table – all about the things the government will do in the time that rests until the next elections.

We’re just picking a few random elements from the address that caught our attention. One is the introduction of a system of justice certification. We’re not sure what that is, but we’ll get to know more about this issue in the near future, we gather. There is also going to be an audit-unit checking for compliance with anti-corruption and anti-money laundering measures.

What was not in the address? Well, for instance, there was not a word about human trafficking, not a word about how this government is going to deal with the position of women that work in prostitution, and not a word about what this government has in store for businesses (the Border Bar comes to mind) that break the law by engaging in human trafficking. That would have been a nice touch to complete the image of an active government that is there not only for successful people, but also for people at the bottom of the totem pole.

Not a word either about the care for patients with for instance autism and Down Syndrome. Ah, we forgot, that is not the government’s problem, at least not according to MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson. Did he not say that families with such patients would do better by emigrating to a developed country? Did he not say that St. Maarten “has to generate income to deal with its own problems?”

Such remarks are easily forgotten. But they do signal an undercurrent that is almost Wilderian (as from Wilders). At least this government pays attention to the wellbeing of civil servants (fitness programs, flexible working hours – didn’t they have that already?, and a parent-school for young parents.

And fortunately, to be fair to this government: it recognized “that the people of Sint Maarten want and expect their health care, social development and labor systems to be there when they and their families need it most.” At least that sentence defies the statements MP Lloyd Richardson vented about families with autistic children and children with Down Syndrome, because this government is “committed to promoting and protecting the health, safety and general wellbeing of the population.” There is justice, after all.


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