Emancipation Day 2017 ended with a lecture by former Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil Douglas, on the topic “The Realities of Independence”. At the opening, the moderator announced that the St Kitts/Nevis Anthem would be played, followed by the Sint Maarten Song: “Sint Maarten is my Home.” Mr. Isidore York did an excellent job on the steel drum but the contrast between the two melodies was like day and night. Listening to the St Kitts/Nevis anthem, one could feel the “official-ness”, the respect and patriotism as the melody filled the hall at the USM. However, when “Sint Maarten is my Home” was being played, the melody could have represented any of the popular tunes of the day. I wondered what the former Prime Minister and his entourage were thinking: is this their national anthem or is it a pop song? I hung my head in shame!
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I believe that “Sint Maarten is my Home” is an excellent song with powerful lyrics that celebrate the natural beauty of the island and the strength of its people. It is a tune that, after hearing it once, its catchy melody remains ringing in your ears for a very long time. However, I do not think that Lino Hughes, the composer, intended it to be the national anthem of Sint Maarten.
The other song that has unofficially been accepted as the national song on both sides of the island is “Where over the World Say Where”, composed by the late Father Gerard Kemps, former Roman Catholic priest on the French side. In four stanza’s, Father Kemps celebrates the natural beauty and the animal kingdom but devotes only two lines to the people of the island. Hence, from a lyrical perspective, I think that Lino’s “Sint Maarten is my Home” would better qualify as a national song.
A word to the Parliament and Government of Sint Maarten! We cannot claim to be a country, aspiring to become independent and we have not even put the basic national symbol in place, namely the Sint Maarten Anthem. Thank God, we have an official flag and coat of arms, but it is a shame that after seven years of country status, we still do not have a national anthem! The very first article of our constitution states: “by national ordinance the national flag, the coat of arms and the national anthem of Sint Maarten shall be enacted.” Parliament should have already instructed the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (ECYS), via a motion, to draft the ordinance for the official national anthem. In the legislation, the flag-protocol related to the singing or playing of the anthem, such as where, when and even how to behave when the national anthem is sung or played should also be established. It irks me when I see people, even officials, disrespect the Sint Maarten song by talking, walking and even doing other things whilst it is sung or played. By the way, even though the ordinance promulgating the flag, designed by Rosie Richardson, was adopted by the Executive Council on June 13, 2005, we also have not yet learned to treat this national symbol with the necessary respect and honor. How in God’s name can the Parliament of Sint Maarten ignore our own national flag? Yet two weeks later, in a Central Committee Meeting of Parliament, they are discussing which four members of Parliament will represent Sint Maarten at the “Dia di Bandera” (Flag Day) in Curacao?
Thus far, several attempts have been made to establish a Sint Maarten anthem. However, due to politics and the many changes of governments these attempts failed. Another issue that played a major role was the fact that politicians vacillated as to whether to make Father Kemps’ Song the official anthem or whether to establish a brand new anthem. I believe that Father Kemps’ Song has served its purpose. It was written in a different era and it makes very little reference to the people who built Sint Maarten. Besides, it gives no future outlook for the country. In this respect, Lino’s lyrics do a better job because they speak about “one island, one people, one destiny”. I am sure that we can still remember the years when the Netherlands Antilles had no anthem that spoke to all the people on the various islands. In the year 1999, an anthem contest was held and one of Sint Maarten’s daughters of the soil, Zahira Hiliman, won the competition. Her lyrics and music were adopted as the national anthem for the country’s five islands. The anthem described the natural beauty of the islands but also addressed the love and respect for country and the desire for unity. I still get goose bumps and chills when I listen to this anthem.
I think that our people should get the opportunity to participate in selecting the new national anthem. Organize a contest and after selecting the three winning entries these should be played on radio, TV and social media and the people should be given the opportunity to select the one that resonates best with them.
Parliament must realize that a crucial factor in the preparation for independence is having our own national anthem. Hence, this is one of the first things our Members of Parliament should do if they are serious about independence!
Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party