PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten/St. Martin Day was celebrated once again with a myriad of colourful special events, including an especially grand Cultural Parade.
Themes such as goodwill, unity, belonging, progress and being faced with similar challenges were a common thread in the speeches of the island’s leaders as they addressed the nations. St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday called the urgency for unifying “great and increasing” in his official speech.
Hosted on the Dutch side this year, St. Maarten/St. Martin Day was celebrated under the banner “Though culturally diverse, St. Maarten/St. Martin unity comes first.”
Proud island leaders reflected nostalgically and respectfully on the past, but humbly called attention to the present-day issues facing both sides of the island, including crime, political instability and sometimes disharmony.
Putting the wellbeing of the island’s people first was a common theme, even though there may be different ways and even disagreement in how to solve issues and move forward.
“The urgency to join forces and unify our resources with mutual respect is great and increasing,” Governor Holiday said. “We live in challenging times, times of troubling national debate regarding important developments across our island”
Some of these are strengthening the social fabric by combating unemployment, crime and poverty; safeguarding national patrimony; ensuring sustainable finances in the face of budget imbalances; and political tensions and instability.
“Whatever side of the debate you are on regarding these issues, it is evident that how we resolve these matters will directly or indirectly affect the lives of our people,” he said.
The Governor called on the community to recommit and act according to the principles on which St. Maarten/St. Martin Day is built: seeking to understand each other through accepting and respecting each other.
The need for working together towards “a common future for our two countries, and a common future for our children,” also was reflected in Préfète of St. Martin and St. Barths Anne Laubies’ speech. She said the two sides, each with its own competencies and strategies, would have to find common solutions to timely issues such as violence and robberies.
Progress in working together was a key point of both St. Maarten Prime Minister (PM) Marcel Gumbs and Territorial Council of St. Martin President Aline Hanson.
The Dutch side Council of Ministers has enjoyed a good relationship with governmental leaders of the French side, Gumbs said, citing preparations for the visit of French President François Hollande and for this year’s tropical storms as examples of good teamwork.
He also stressed the urgency of continuing to work together without delay for projects in the making such as a Cole Bay/Marigot sewage treatment project, a Dutch Quarter/French Quarter water drainage project and essentially the local implementation of clauses for a police cooperation treaty that now has become law and will help law enforcement agencies combat cross-border crime.
Hanson also reflected on more cross-border cooperation achieved, including the joint health observatory, sharing experiences and educational projects for children, and the fact that various cross-border networks are being reconsidered, such as those for water, electricity and transportation.
Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Rita Bourne-Gumbs reflected on what unity and diversity mean: “a balance of happiness, harmony and togetherness of our people on a national level.” She said some people had expressed frustration at the threat of losing “who we are” and finding it hard to enjoy social harmony. She called on the island to recommit, and reclaim communities by promoting harmony.
Local traditions were reflected throughout the day’s celebrations in cultural activities such as traditional games, sport and kite-flying, while diversity also was exemplified in the Cultural Parade in particular, where various groups included banners “paying tribute to Smaat’n.”
The grand Cultural Parade was said by some to be comparable to Carnival, although evoking a different feeling. Various groups, including many recognisable faces from Government, Carnival stakeholders and even the Court, could be seen taking part. Music trucks and marching bands played live music and creative floats were themed after traditional life, Simpson Bay Village and various monuments.
Uniformed troupes of both sides of the island also were honoured for their role in society, taking part in their own parade that also included drumming.
The traditional ecumenical church service was held at Philipsburg Methodist Church, and the day’s activities, which ended with a fireworks finale, started with the respectful wreath-laying ceremony by the countries’ leaders at the Cole Bay monument.
Source: The Daily Herald Emphasis on moving forward through unity on St. Maarten/St. Martin Day