Royal family enjoyed the people’s enthusiasm

POSTED: 11/7/11 4:59 PM

Meeting with the press at the Westin

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar– “The people’s enthusiasm” was a recurring theme yesterday morning when the royal family met the press at the Westin Hotel for an evaluation of the visit to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom that came to its conclusion on Saturday.
Eleven journalists from different Dutch media were admitted to the meeting, together with two representatives of local media: the Daily Herald and the Today Newspaper. During what felt like a standing reception, all journalists got to shake hands with H.M. Queen Beatrix, His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander and Her Royal Highness Princess Maxima. Photographers were not admitted.
In a relaxed atmosphere, the royal family freely shared its thoughts about the trip that took it to Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten, Saba and Statia. Our royal visitors made an upbeat impression and they shared a couple of laughs with the journalists, even when some of the questions they fielded seemed rather cheeky. It is custom not to quote members of the royal family in the media.
One journalist asked Queen Beatrix whether she had knocked down a drink when she surpassed King Willem III as the oldest reigning monarch on Saturday. We’ll never know….
The meeting with the press took place in the upstairs hallway of the Westin Hotel. Kingdom Relations Minister Piet Hein Donner accompanied the royal family.
The memories the royals take back to Holland are those of a fantastic visit. They were welcomed warmly everywhere, talked to a lot of people about the new situation after 10-10-10, and consider the visit as an excellent moment to see how things are going.
That the effect of 10-10-10 is different on all islands is clear, but the islands also have something in common. The royals noted that people everywhere are working hard to make something of their new status.
A reference was made to Aruba that obtained its status aparte 25 years ago. The country is now focusing on cooperation projects with the Netherlands. Curacao and St. Maarten are according to the royal family, occupied with giving meaning to their new responsibilities as autonomous countries in the Kingdom.
In Caribbean Netherlands the BES-islands) the royals noted significant progress in the fields of healthcare and education.
The visit also served as a way to express the bond between the Netherlands and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. H.M. queen Beatrix has maintained that bond ever since she visited the islands for the first time when she was just 20.
The royal family also reacted to the protests they encountered, saying that these are taken seriously. Queen Beatrix will obviously not act upon those protests in person, but the message will be brought to the attention of the responsible ministers. Ignoring those protests or running away from them is not how the royal family wishes to deal with these issues. If there are problems, we heard, then they must be looked into and possible solutions must be found.
But in general, Queen Beatrix observed, there is a lot of satisfaction around as well, and the new statuses offer new possibilities.
That there are problems on the islands and that things go wrong on occasion is a fact of life. But the royal family notes that it is not necessary to always magnify those situations. In general, the royal visitors encountered a very positive attitude among the local population, adding confidence to the notion that the Kingdom is heading for a sunny future.
The royal family refrained from highlighting a particular experience on a particular island, because this would do injustice to the other islands. Still, Saba, the Unspoiled Queen of the Kingdom, received a special mention twice, first for its unique character, and then for its controlled development as opposed to the strong development on St. Maarten.
What the royal family also experienced is a stronger sense of realism compared to the previous visit in 2002.
In St. Maarten the activities of the environmental organizations (Pride, epic, marine park, Simarc) were mentioned, with a reference to the education of children in these fields.
The royal family enjoyed the party St. Maarten organized on Clem Labega Square on Thursday evening tremendously. It was described as “genuine”, and the royal noted that the people were beaming with pride.
Asked about the most special memory the royal family will take home from especially St. Maarten, the focus returned to the people, and the way they make community efforts. But that, of course was not St Maarten’s prerogative; the royals experienced this on all six islands, where many activities are driven by volunteers.
And lastly, a journalist for a royalty magazine asked what the royal family wished for the children on our islands. A good future and a bit of happiness, was the logical answer.

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