St. Maarten Airport officially unveils bronze pelicans: “This roundabout is for you”POSTED: 03/25/14 8:18 PM
Simpson Bay, St. Maarten – “Our island is the smallest landmass in the world divided by two European nations, but our airport is the busiest in the region,” airport Managing Director Regina Labega said yesterday, before the large bronze pelicans were officially unveiled at the SXM Airport roundabout. “The brown pelican has unmistakable features, and so does St. Maarten.” The large bronze pelican statues are the first time the national bird has been immortalized on the island, and they are at the center of a political controversy over their cost.
Labega gave a description of the natural characteristics of the species, which she said also fits the characteristics of St. Maarten, including its resilience in the face of adversity. The brown pelican, she said, is a natural choice for the island’s national bird. Such a bird, Labega explained, deserved the utmost respect and consideration. Labega said the statues would become a landmark, “further advertising our tourism product. This is why we have invested in over half a million (dollars – ed.), not only in the statues, but in the roundabout itself.” Labega added that it’s the corporate social responsibility of the airport to prevent these birds from becoming extinct.
“This roundabout is for you,” she said, addressing the population of both halves of the island.
“Landmarks are synonymous with developing countries and their growing economies,” chairman of the airport board Clarence Derby said. “They symbolize the national heroes, they demonstrate economic progress. This roundabout is proudly showing off the symbol, the national bird, the brown pelican,” the chairman continued. “This is a gift from the airport to the people of St. Maarten. This landmark was built to stand the test of time.”
A number of government officials gathered for the unveiling yesterday, including Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, who personally removed the cloth covering the statues, Minister of Public Health Cornelius de Weever, and independent Members of Parliament Romain Laville and Patrick Illidge.
Minister De Weever said he was pleased to see the national bird at “our international airport.” This was part of national building, he said, “step by step, block by block.” The minister recognized the airport’s contribution with its “iconic display.” The statues will provide a “fond memory” to those who visit the island, the Minister added.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams expressed some “hopes and wishes” regarding the handover of the roundabout to the government of St. Maarten. The Prime Minister felt the national bird should get as much recognition “and be talked about as much as these pelicans have been spoken about. And I truly and honestly mean this.”
The symbols of St. Maarten, Wescot-Williams said, “have made us what we are today. I truly hope that if there is one attribute that we can derive from all of this, it will be to talk about who we are.” The Prime Minister expressed hope that the brown pelicans are not only represented in bronze but “do all that we can do to make sure that we repopulate St. Maarten with the brown pelican.”