Opinion: Too early?

POSTED: 06/26/11 9:26 PM

Attending the launch of a web site at eight thirty in the morning proved to be a stretch for eleven of our fifteen parliamentarians. And so it happened that dozens of acting secretaries-general and department heads were staring at eleven empty chairs for what should have been a simple and happy occasion – the introduction of the web site for country St. Maarten’s Parliament.

Was it too early for the well-paid representatives of the people? Was it maybe to early? There is a remote possibility that our parliamentarians are working so hard that they desperately need some extra nap time in the early morning – though George Pantophlet, Sylvia Olivacce-Meyers and Ruth Douglas all looked chipper and wide awake.

Maybe the event failed to attract the attention of the other MPs because it happened at home. There were no planes to board, no hotels to book, no expenses to be claimed, and there were also no upcoming elections. For professional politicians attending such non-events is a waste of time.

We’re exaggerating a bit here of course – encouraged by the thought that humor never killed anyone. But the disappointment about the no-show by most MPs was evident.

That makes us wonder why they did not show up. If it was an attempt to snub the President of Parliament, because the MPs’ absence did not stand in the way of the site-launch. If it was an attempt to demonstrate that parliamentarians have more important things to do at eight thirty on a Friday morning, the immediate question that arises is: which important things?

Other than that, the site itself is a great idea, provided of course that the content will be kept up to date. There are already too many web sites floating in cyber space that once upon a time were launched with the best of intentions, only to fall in disrepair within the first six months of their miserable existence.

We expect a different fate for sxmparliament.org. Not only will the site make all kind of standard information available that people would never be able to find in a phone book (if it is possible to find something in our phone books at all), but it will also release documents like draft laws. That in turn will contribute to the public debate about matters that concern our citizens.

In this context it is important to note that the Parliament intends to translate the site-content in Dutch and in Spanish. We have a large Spanish-speaking population on the Dutch side and these citizens have as much interest in government and Parliament related activities as everybody else.

We could think of a couple of other languages – like Chinese and French – but the site will have to start somewhere and it is not like the Parliament has unlimited resources for expensive translations. And besides, as Parliament President Arrindell pointed out yesterday – adding Spanish is already a bit like going the extra mile because the official languages of St. Maarten are Dutch and English.


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