Member of Parliament (MP) George Pantophlet wants all names of public entities including buildings and streets with a Dutch European reference to be “eradicated” (see related story) because of their (neo)colonial context. He mentioned the capital Philipsburg, Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and Prins Bernhard Bridge.
Mind you, this is not just a local but global issue. For example, the removal of statues honouring pro-slavery Confederates could regularly be seen in the US during past years.
The National Alliance (NA) faction member suggested last month’s slavery-past apology by the Dutch government was a mere attempt to divert attention from international criticism of its violation of human rights. He said agreeing only to an awareness fund but no reparatory justice confirms that while St. Maarten’s debts to the Netherlands are not cancelled its people will remain enslaved.
Without getting into that discussion, the question can be raised how far one wants to take eliminating symbols of colonial history here, but also elsewhere. Would, say, Colombia and the entire American continent consider changing their names because these supposedly refer to respectively Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespuchi?
The coalition member had obviously been annoyed by a recent debate in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on the apology and statements from some of his counterparts in The Hague. However, if that should now make what the elected representative proposes a major priority is another matter altogether.
Let’s face it, the country – still – has many significant social, economic, financial and other problems impacting the daily lives of its inhabitants. Resources needed to revise all these names are therefore currently scarce, to say the least.
This column is not intended as argument against making such adjustments, but rather to ask about the urgency with which and to what extent this is to happen, as well as whether the public should not be consulted first via referendum in any case for fundamental changes like calling the country “Soualiga” instead of St. Maarten.