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Open Letter to King Willem Alexander.

Your Majesty:
We, members of the One St. Martin Association (aka One SXM), feel duty-bound to address you, respectfully, on the matter of your pending visit to our homeland, part of which is still colonized by your kingdom.
We write you as St. Martiners, as Caribbean people, who do not see themselves as subjects of any other humans.
We note with deep regret that from your position of power and privilege, you have chosen to parade these islands during the month of Black History celebrations, showing off the people to your daughter and heiress to your throne and patronizing their culture. More dehumanizing is the expectation that our people should bow to you and your family, as a way to give legitimacy to an anachronistic and fading political system.
As the head of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, you hide behind political unaccountability, refusing to apologize for your family’s involvement in Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Furthermore, the kingdom you head has refused at every opportunity to denounce racism and xenophobia at several United Nations fora.
The people of St. Martin did not choose to be a part of the kingdom, and we do not embrace you as the king of our people. We expect that you can relate to this position since your country fought an 80-year war to gain its independence from Spain as your people refused to be subjugated by the Spanish.
We believe that the only way for St. Martin to become a true “equal partner” with your kingdom is for our island to become an independent, sovereign state. We reiterate that we are not subjects of any monarch, and we definitely do not want our children to bow before anyone’s children.
As a first step in repairing the relationship between the Kingdom of the Netherlands as the colonizer and the St. Martin people as the colonized, we demand that you issue a sincere apology for the Dutch Kingdom’s involvement in Slavery, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and continuing colonialism. This month of Black History Celebrations and your presence on our island present the opportune time to do this.
May we avail ourselves of this opportunity to reiterate to Your Majesty the assurances of our highest consideration.
February 2, 2023

 

RHODA ARRINDELL


‘Soualiga isn’t who she used to be’

soualiga25012023Dear Editor,

Words can’t describe how distraught I am at this moment. I can only imagine how my ancestors would feel if they were here to witness this atrocity. The historical structure at Diamond Estate has been completely destroyed at the cost of what? It begs one to wonder who ensures that proper policies and laws are put in place to stop these presumed “illegal” acts.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports (ECYS) through the Department of Culture ensures a re-enactment of the Diamond Estate 26 Run for freedom as part of the yearly Emancipation Day celebrations. Which seems to be NO MORE! The responsible agents for this great act of cultural and historical damage seem to be very oblivious to the importance of the site. Diamond Estate was a plantation on the border between Cole Bay and Bellevue, Marigot, where 26 slaves ran to their freedom on May 29, 1848, two days after the abolition of slavery was announced in French St. Martin.

Slaves on the Dutch side of the island protested and threatened to flee to the French side to seek asylum. The local Dutch authorities relented and emancipated the colonies' slaves. While this decree was respected locally, it was not until 1863 when the Dutch abolished slavery in all of their island colonies that the slaves became legally free.

Editor, the Diamond estate was the very place where my ancestors journeyed to get to a better life and many didn't make it. This site was their ray of hope, their chance to choose freedom, not bondage. What will we tell our young generation about their history and culture when all traces of it are gone? Will the Diamond estate be the first and last or is there more to come?
Editor, someone must have seen something, someone knows something and it is their duty as a citizen of this nation to report what has happened without fear of repercussions. The individual/s responsible must pay for their crimes against this whole nation. Additionally, I call for the government to review existing policies and laws (if any) or create new ones that will protect and preserve our history and culture. Also, I urge the government to either replicate the building that was destroyed or create a monument that is greater than any monument that this country has ever seen.

Soualigans we need to stand united NOW more than ever and make sure justice is brought to us all. We can’t and should never forget these acts that were done to our culture and history.
Let the words of Faizah Tabasamu in the poem "Soualiga" resonate in our minds about the loss in our great nation.

“Soualiga isn’t who she used to be
she is slipping away from me
most of her children don’t look back
most won’t see her dull expressionless eyes”

“Soualigua has remembered me
I am one of her daughters
and the fire in my tongue
will speak for her.”

I am one of her sons and I will speak for her!
Kelron J.P. Bellot
Young concerned citizen

Sustainable Road Infrastructure or Quick Fixes?

Dear Editor,

Traffic is a combination of three components: people, roads, and vehicles (motorised and non- motorised). Safety on public roads should be of great concern to everyone; therefore, it calls for both citizens and the government to play equal parts in ensuring that safety is maintained. But to what extent are both groups playing their part?

Last Saturday afternoon’s motorist and pedestrian accident in Point Blanche, among others, has really shown many gaps in the island's traffic system that need to be addressed urgently. As a concerned citizen, I believe that these cracks must be analysed through the three main traffic components.

THE PEOPLE 

The issue that arises with pedestrians as a traffic component mostly stems from a lack of paying keen attention while using the road, along with disregarding their responsibility as commuters as outlined in the island’s road traffic code. According to the Road Traffic book, using the roads in Sint Maarten, “Commuters must conduct themselves in such a manner that does not hinder the free flow of traffic unnecessarily, endanger road safety or create the risk of endangering road safety.” 

Upholding the guidelines stipulated in the road traffic codebook includes pedestrians using the designated pedestrian crossing, adhering to walking on the sidewalks provided, and being aware of motorists while on the road to ensure their safety. However, can pedestrians truly play their part while on the road according to the road traffic book? 

The need for more pedestrian crossings is an understatement. The nearest pedestrian crossing is just too far within areas that people need to cross frequently, which forces pedestrians to cross wherever and whenever. This increases the instances of road accidents with pedestrians by them just merely bringing their groceries across the street. The government needs to create more pedestrian crossings and ensure proper signage is erected where necessary, especially in busy commercial areas. 

THE ROAD AND VEHICLES 

The road tax ordinance was enacted to allow citizens to contribute directly to the development of the road infrastructure, which includes road creation and road maintenance,  through the collecting of an annual sum that is supposed to go into the road fund. “However, in practice, the money flows to the government’s general coffers and is used for general government expenditures,” according to the 2021 General Audit Chamber report. This practice creates distrust and a sense of unreliability between the government and the people of Sint Maarten, which results in hurt in citizens' pockets to replace tires, axels, and shocks, etc. Why should we pay this price, when our annual road taxes are supposed to alleviate this cost?  

For many years, the government has turned to patching sections of road surfaces, which is just like putting on a bandaid on a cut without applying proper medication. In other words, the government just employs ‘quick fixes’ to the large issues of inadequate road infrastructure and improper drainage on the island, and this is just not enough. 

The government of Sint Maarten needs to use the road tax for its intended purpose and invest more in sustainable road resurfacing and maintain them frequently.  

The cries of the public for proper road maintenance, more pedestrian crossings, and better traffic signs is constant, but is anyone listening? We need answers NOW!

Kelron J.P Bellot

Young concerned citizen 

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