Wednesday: a celebration or another funeral? Two years country St. Maarten

POSTED: 10/8/12 4:03 PM

St. Maarten – On Wednesday, St. Maarten marks its second anniversary as an autonomous country in the Dutch Kingdom. “October 10 is a day for us to reflect on St. Maarten becoming its own country,” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said in a press release issued yesterday. “Despite the challenges always associated with constitutional change we have indeed come a very long way and made significant strides in country building. I therefore urge the community to come out and celebrate constitution day on Wednesday.”
The celebrations begin on Wednesday at 8.30 a.m. with an ecumenical service at the Saint Simon and Jude Anglican Church on Back Street. At 10 a.m. the parliament meets for a commemorative session.
In the evening there is a constitutional celebration at the Clem Labega Square with a variety of cultural manifestations.
Whether the parliament will turn its session on Wednesday morning into a celebratory affair remains to be seen, though it is interesting to note that the politicians that were part of the opposition last year are now supporting the second Wescot-Williams cabinet.
The atmosphere was highlighted last year by Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Franklin Meyers: “What a difference a year makes. It’s like we are at a funeral in here.”
That observation came after independent MP Frans Richardson and National Alliance leader William Marlin set the tone for the meeting with highly critical observations.
Richardson, the first to speak last year, had this to say about the expectations that country status would improve life for everybody: “Many shortcomings were blamed on the central government and on the lack of resources. Many in our community today still feel left out and abandoned. They have seen no improvement in their lives; neither do they foresee any progress in the foreseeable future.”
NA-leader William Marlin criticized the fact that October 10 had not been declared a national holiday. “I propose to put this in place starting in 2012.”
It is remarkable that, one year later, October 10 still is not a national holiday – and Marlin who was the opposition leader a year ago, is now Vice Prime Minister.
Marlin said last year that the difference between the opposition and the government hamper the development of St. Maarten. “People are looking forward to change; this is not happening and there are no signs that it will happen soon.”
Marlin furthermore criticized high electricity bills and said that the parliament was not living up to the standards of good governance: there are no minutes of the meetings and the rules of order are not followed, he said.
But maybe Marlin’s most important criticism was aimed at the lack of support from some cabinet members for the high councils of state. “Some ministers want to do away with them because they say that these councils are hampering the development of St. Maarten.”
But even on the side of the government not everybody was enthusiast about the state of affairs. Education Minister Rhoda Arrindell labeled the country’s first year as “rather disappointing,” adding that “St. Maarten has to grow up and take responsibility for its own actions. The ultimate goal for any country is freedom – and for St. Maarten that is very much a work in progress.”
The key player who is still in the same position as last year is Prime Minister Wescot-Williams. She acknowledged that the country did not get off to a smooth start. “Absolutely not, but our country is taking shape. Our focus must be the creation of a vision for St. Maarten that takes everyone into account. This requires a collective mindset. So far we have met our challenges head-on and there are more challenges ahead.”

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