MARIGOT/PHILIPSBURG:----The annual St. Maarten/St. Martin day celebration was this year blighted by a marked lack of unity as the absence of members of the St. Maarten Executive Council was apparent at the usually joint commemoration activity on November 11th.
A decision was taken by the afore mentioned Executive Council not to attend the celebratory activities which were held this year on the French St. Martin. Both sides of the island alternate the hosting of activities to observe St. Maarten/St. Martin Day each year with elected officials from both sides attending Church services, parades and jointly laying wreaths at the border. This year, however, the only elected officials of St. Maarten who were in attendance at the St Maarten/St. Martin Day celebrations were former Prime Minister of St. Maarten and Democratic Party leader, MP Sarah Wescott-Williams, DP number two Emil Lee and MP Maurice Lake, none of whom are part of the ruling coalition.
Reports reaching SMN News indicate that the decision of the William Marlin lead coalition government to boycott the celebration was communicated to St. Martin authorities on the morning on November 11th. News that the St. Maarten delegation had boycotted the celebrations was not totally unexpected since tensions had been rising for almost a two week period over an Oyster Pond border dispute.
This border dispute is an existing bone of contention for both sides of the island with officials on both sides staking their claim. Representatives of the Dutch Government and of the government in France with representatives of the local government on both sides met roughly two years ago to discuss the border issues and it was agreed that the status quo would be maintained until future discussions. Bad feelings arose again recently after a permit for work was granted to Captain Oliver for work in the Oyster Pond area which the French interpreted as not sticking to the agreed upon status quo and retaliated with barricades being placed in the area.
Prime Minister Marlin called on the powers that be on St. Martin to have the barricades removed at once and the situation culminated with the November 11th boycott. Officials from French St. Martin in their St. Maarten/St. Martin Day address noted and lamented the absence of their Dutch counterparts with St. Martin's senator Arnell citing the lack of unity and questioning the thinking of the St. Maarten officials.
While the absence of the St. Maarten elected officials at the ceremony was a topic of conversation among many, the audience gathered to witness and cheer the parade, listen to the speeches of the officials and socialize with friends and family was a good mix of persons from both sides of the island.