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Fair distribution of Government Land in A small island state.

It speaks to our political immaturity when the distribution of state lands takes center stage in the 2018 Parliamentary Election. It was only on the 10th October 2010, with the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, Sint Maarten became a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Most of us already know that the island of Sint Maarten-Saint Martin is the smallest land mass in the world to be shared by two different nations. Only 37 square miles are owned by France and the Dutch Kingdom, with Dutch St. Maarten on the South spanning only 16 square miles and French Saint Martin on the North covering 21 miles. But what we did not know, was that Sint Maarten is possessed of a bunch of fork tongue politicians who take issue with ordinary citizens receiving a small allocation of land.
We say this to reflect on the absurdity of pronouncing on the former Minister of VROMI Christopher Emmanuel’s decision to give out government lands in long lease to tax paying citizens of Sint Maarten. To start with, the current interim office holders are laying bare their lack of knowledge of what a Minister can or cannot do, as it is permissible, and not illegal for a Minister to issue long lease for government lands. When William Marlin secured Emilio Wilson Estate for the use of the state to secure a National Park for citizens of Sint Maarten and then government changed, the same noise makers of today quickly gave away “below market price” government land on long lease in a non-transparent manner to the Rain Forest Foundation; a profit making concern, and it appears those detractors and other serving Ministers and prominent technocrats were muzzled, as they said nothing.
In the current scenario it is already established that these leases were issued at market rates, so these recipients are not getting a peppercorn rate, they are instead paying market rate sums of 10 Guilders per square meter, paying to "KADASTER" and paying the notary, it is no gift.

On further scrutiny the citizens’ of Sint Maarten will be happy to learn the recipients are not aliens landed here, but all indigenous citizens of Sint Maarten. Some of the family names that are said to have gotten lands, have lived on the island for decades, with family both on the Dutch and French side. There is no one parcel that exceeds 10,000 square meters, there is no single parcel that any individual received that is in excess of 5,000 square meters. What will shock citizens is that this much ado about nothing is over no more than a total of 11,000 square meters.

In the final analysis it is irrefutable that the issue is not with the awarding of long lease of significantly small parcels of land, but the salient issue for the sitting interim government is their utter abhorrence that the former Minister of VROMI Christopher Emmanuel elected to distribute lands to citizens who are not of the bourgeois class. The Sarah Westcott-Williams and Theo Heyliger Team are beyond themselves at the audacity of this Minister Christopher Emmanuel, to attempt to empower the working class families by putting government land in their hands for which they have to pay.
There is a big hue and cry about Christopher Emmanuel actions as if a serious breach in protocol occurred during his short window of opportunity to serve, to not have allowed technocrats with vested interest in self-serving to have frustrated his efforts to locate government land for “ordinary” Sint Maarten citizens. Emmanuel has upset the apple cart, where the usual order of the day is that large non-traditional business interests snatched large pieces of land in prime locations; like next to the airport.
Good governance necessitates for national economic development pursuing policies that facilitate equitable distribution of limited land resources and with proper spatial planning ensuring country’s development agenda in a small state.

The casual non transparent distribution of water rights to proprietors already in control of large blocks of government land at Mullet Bay did not even result in a murmur. Today a minuscule amount of land for locals is too much, and the citizens’ names are plastered in the public domain as if they have broken laws. The only thing broken by Christopher Emmanuel is the glass ceiling that existed before Emmanuel that made ordinary people believe that it was only a privilege extended to the rich and those of lighter hue that are entitled to land. Today Christopher Emmanuel is the “Equalizer’. To hear Sarah and Theo busy across the land wooing would be voters and condemning Emmanuel’s actions as if it borders on treason, is a clear signal to voters that they plan to give nothing more than rhetoric and a T-shirt.
To his credit Emmanuel has not even blinked at this absurdity other than to promise that he is committed to continuing to place citizens in a position to access government lands through his housing platform.

Name withheld upon authors request.


Colonialism On Some Caribbean Islands.

The Editor

The winds of colonialism still tend to pose threat to life on some Caribbean territories, who will stand for them if they will not stand for themselves.

In September 2017 Hurricane Irma displaced the imagery of sand, sun and sea synonymous with favourite Caribbean destinations like the French-Dutch territory of St. Maarten, Barbuda, St. Thomas, British Virgin Island and Dominica, instead, the pictures captured destruction, devastation, and death. People would have seen these islands decimated by Irma, the many people who were rescued, the families who were separated from each other, and some who still remain displaced. Irma, a category five "major" hurricane according to US authorities, had wind speeds up to 185mph. History to date records Hurricane Irma as the most powerful ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean.

Caribbean territories who were spared the worst offered assistance to the best of their abilities, as they epitomized ‘my brother’s keeper’. The Miami Herald could not help but praise “the 15-member Caribbean Community regional grouping known as Caricom... for its cooperation among governments.”, while European countries and the United States came in for a wave of criticism over their handling of the response and relief efforts after Hurricane Irma battered their sandy tropical outposts in the eastern Caribbean.

In a tremendous show of solidarity and support, CARICOM members stepped up to help, offering relief, refuge, police officers and even prisons to aid storm-ravaged nations.

Prime Minister Skerrit of Dominica addressed the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly told the world body:
“The time has come for the international community to make a stand and to decide; whether it will be shoulder to shoulder with those suffering the ravages of climate change worldwide; .....; or whether the international community will merely show some pity now, and then flee....; relieved to know that this time it was not you.”

The UK Government committed £92 million to help recovery and long-term reconstruction of its territories in the region.

But on the island of Sint Maarten something peculiar occurred, but only for those who may suffer from the same Dutch collective amnesia when it comes to Dutch merciless suppression of opponents least we forget their actions in the Indonesian independence movement in the jungles of Java. The Dutch, quick to moralize about human rights abuses by other nations, would while Sint Maarten lay bleeding and gasping for breathe after Irma, offer Sint Maarten a “conditional” lifeline of aid. With the eyes of the world watching a brazen Dutch government without diplomacy said to the duly elected government of Sint Maarten, surrender your border control or no aid. While the Dutch Kingdom declared to the world a €550m aid package, they held Sint Maarten hostage; no compliance no disbursement. They went further and dictated like despots are prone to doing, that an Integrity Chamber be established that reports directly to the Hague, by-passing the Parliament of Sint Maarten and defined that its membership be constituted by two Dutch appointees and a token St Maarten member.

To his credit, and with his characteristic fortitude demonstrated, throughout his tenure in service to his country, Prime Minister William Marlin stood up to the Dutch. He tried to reason with a what was more a despotic order,the likes of a not to be forgotten colonial era and negotiate, hoping that Sint Maarten be afforded the dignity befitting its seven year old country status. But there were those within his coalition, long standing self-serving politicians, whose lust for office would see them sacrifice the crowning glory of 10-10-10 for thirty pieces of silver. In a final effort to protect his country, Prime Minister Willaim Marlin did not allow the Dutch to undo his stewardship by seeking to dismiss him with his Ministers who had all pass screening and install a compliant puppet cabinet. History will record William Marlin exacted a brilliant stroke, and put the power back in the hand of the citizens of Sint Maarten. William Marlin resigned with dignity and called an election.

The citizens of Sint Maarten may be Hurricane worn but they are also election worn, yet they can ill afford to take this election for granted. The example of Dutch controlled Statia is an indicator of what can occur under the Dutch. The world is watching to if Sint Maartener’s will reward William Marlin’s sacrificing his long awaited opportunity to govern, where he choose instead to protect the right to his people to self-determination or will Sint Maartener’s squander an unique opportunity to give a government that was able to reinstate services in record time after Irma, a resounding mandate to govern uninterrupted for the next four years.

The next hurricane season looms and promises to be even fiercer than 2017, but the winds of colonialism can keep Sint Maarten flattened and in chattels, they must choose wisely.
Aubrey Richardson

It’s far from normal on St. Maarten/ St. Martin.

Nearly six months after parts of the Caribbean were ravaged by Hurricanes Irma & Maria the situation remains far from normal. Or perhaps it should simply be accepted that there is a new normal in place. And that’s not a particularly good thing.
St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport was trashed by the storm. The main terminal building is no longer a viable operation. PJIA recently opened a temporary “pavilion” to handle passengers. That tented facility includes check-in counters and some concessions, major improvements to the prior post-storm work. And unlike the “temporary” facility at Dulles airport this one truly is intended to serve a short-term role.
The airport faces some $100mm in repair costs according to its COO Michel Hyman and getting those paid could prove interesting. The government-owned facility is insured but some on the island are questioning the remuneration process and just how much of the policy payout will ultimately be reinvested in the facility.
MP (Member of Parliament) Perry Geerlings in particular is challenging decisions made around the demolition and reconstruction process. In a recent Parliamentary hearing Geerlings questioned the need for three insurance adjusters to handle the claim. Each will take a significant chunk of the settlement funds as their fee, potentially leaving the government on the hook for funding more of the repair than expected.
Hyman suggests that the demolition and rebuild work could be completed in as little as a 9 months. Given the limited progress so far that seems a terribly optimistic outlook. The airport must also contend with passenger numbers down some 70% year over year on a similar capacity decline. With much of the tourism infrastructure on the island still out of service those numbers should not come as much of a surprise. Even with the airport rebuilt those numbers are expected to remain depressed as the other recovery efforts languish.
Just over 100 miles to the west the St. Croix airport also moves towards recovery, though that work is more focused on the business jet side of the ledger. Bohlke International Airways is the sole service provider at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport and its facilities were also trashed by the storms. It operates today from another hangar at the field that remained in place after the hurricanes tore through. By next year Bohlke hopes to have a new, 20,000 square foot hangar in service. The new facility will allow Bohlke to serve larger aircraft than it could prior to the storm. The company hopes this will give it – and the island of St. Croix – a leg up on the neighboring competition. The fact that portions of the island are still without power or full tourism facilities suggests that it could be some time before that investment pays off with significant returns.

Seth Miller

Work together and develop an equal Kingdom.

When your house is on fire you do not fight about who is to blame or how the fire may have started. Before you do anything else, you try to minimize the damage and then you try to extinguish the fire.

Burning houses. That seems the best way to describe the current situation on Sint Eustatius (Statia) and Sint Maarten: Caribbean parts of our Kingdom. The Statian government has been sent home by Secretary of State Knops. According to the Dutch government, this is due to an administrative culture best characterized as lawless and severe financial mismanagement. Politicians on sister island Sint Maarten are similarly accused of corruption and bribery by the Mafia, not only by other politicians but also by their own electorate. A well-known example is that of the Italian chief of gambling Francesco Corallo who is accused of maintaining close ties with Theo Heyliger, one of Sint Maarten’s political leaders. At their turn, these and other local politicians accuse The Hague of neo-colonial intentions. The house is on fire. Poverty and unemployment on Statia and Sint Maarten are increasing while those in charge on both sides of the ocean are fighting about who is to blame. They conveniently forget what their task is: making sure that all Dutch citizens can lead a decent and dignified existence. For good order: citizens of these islands are also citizens of the Dutch Kingdom.

What makes the situation even more horrifying is the literal fire that is burning on the dump at the center of Sint Maarten. Schools and corporations have had to shut down while local residents have to keep their doors and windows closed. A dark cloud is covering the sunny island. And again people are discussing who is responsible: who or what caused the fire? Was it done intentionally? But as we already indicated, the fire needs to be extinguished before this discussion can take place.

This fire can only be doused when representatives from different departments (the departments of Environment, Public Health, Infrastructure, and Finances) from Curacao, Sint Maarten, Aruba and the Netherlands, work together. Such a Kingdom-wide, management group, based on equity and solidarity, should also include experts from the corporate and the academic worlds. The management group is tasked with wisely spending the money that has been made available for the reconstruction of Sint Maarten in public-private partnerships. This sustainable development will transform Sint Maarten into an environmental friendly and financially profitable, tourist island.

But this plan does not only concern Sint Maarten. This cooperation should lay the foundation for a Dutch Caribbean that takes the lead in social, ecological and economic development, both regionally and internationally. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, the Netherlands has become renowned for its abilities to adjust landscapes to the force of water and to protect her people. Their knowledge and expertise should now be made available to also make the Caribbean infrastructure resistant to the destructive forces of hurricanes and earthquakes.

A similar approach shall extinguish the figural fire that is burning on Statia. Professionals and politicians of the BES-islands, Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten and the Netherlands should be selected to collectively fight poverty and develop a well-functioning daily administration. Experts from the island itself should play a prominent role in this. Selection and strategy development lay with the Kingdom Government: The Dutch Cabinet complemented with the plenipotentiaries from Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. This Kingdom Government is accountable to a Kingdom Parliament that is in dire need of being established. It will emanate from the Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation (IPKO), through which Caribbean and Dutch parliamentarians now meet each other twice a year. This is not nearly often enough. Moreover, the Kingdom Government is currently not accountable to the IPKO which leaves this institution rather powerless. By collectively extinguishing the fires on both Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten, we can finally give shape to an equal and democratic Kingdom.

Dr. Francio Guadeloupe (University of Amsterdam).
Jordi Halfman (University of Amsterdam)
Nicole Sanches (University of Utrecht )

Co-signed by:
Prof. Dr. Monique Volman (University of Amsterdam)
Dr. Yvon van der Pijl (University of Utrecht)
Dr. Guiselle Starink-Martha (University of Amsterdam)
Sanne Rotmeijer (KITLV, Leiden)
Lisenne Delgado LLM (University of Curacao)
Oldine Bryson (former head of the SER, Sint Maarten)
Benjamin Ortega (head of the St. Maarten Development Movement)

PRIDE Foundation wants Dutch Intervention to combat dump fire.

On behalf of Sint Maarten Pride Foundation, I recently delivered a letter to his Excellency, Governour Holiday. In that letter Sint Maarten Pride requested the intervention of the governor in the situation with the dump. Pride also asked His Royal Majesty, King Willem-Alexander to intervene and the letter was also sent to the Dutch representative on the island.

Sint Maarten Pride has no faith in our local government to find solutions and so called upon the Governour and the Kingdom to intervene. This situation has gone beyond local politics.

This letter was publicized in the newspapers as well as on several social media sites. The response from the public, residents and tourists alike, has been overwhelmingly positive. It is clear from those responses that not only PRIDE , but the community at large, has lost faith in our government officials to solve this problem.

As I write this Letter to the Editor, I can see the fires still burning. Kudos to our brave fire personnel who have been fighting this day and night.
The truth is, however, that they are woefully under equipped to handle landfill fires of this magnitude.

In fact, this dump has taken over our lives and is completely unmanageable. I personally, along with many others, including PRIDE, have been warning about this for years and years and years. And nothing, nothing, has been done.
There is a discussion about this being arson. This is an old story and, in my opinion, is used as an excuse by government to deflect blame from themselves. The statements government needs to be making are statements about solutions not about causes. The fires can start for many reasons. People need to educate themselves on outdated land filling methods, which is what we have. If a landfill is not properly maintained, these fires are what occur. Google it!
I believe at this point we need outside intervention and professional advice. As a major public health concern this issue isn’t going anywhere until a modern day solid waste solution is finalized. All intertested parties need to come together to make this happen. Stop the bickering between yourselves and the politics, and join together to get something done.
Our people are being poisoned by this monstrosity and yet our politicians and government officials sit and have already started the blame game. There is plenty of blame to go around, and I blame every party and every elected official that has ever sat in government and done nothing about this dump. It has never been a priority for any of them, and we the people of St Maarten are paying the price.

How sad is it that the Nature Foundation is the one handing out masks? That the Nature Foundation needed extra donations to buy more masks? Kudos to them, but why isn’t our government handing out masks? Why does it take a NGO to shoulder that responsibility?

It is time for the people of St Maarten, and tourists too, to stand up and say we are not taking this anymore. Please write letters to Governor Holiday and letters to King Willem-Alexander (through the Dutch Representative Office of Chris Johnson). Demand an immediate solution!

Regards
Barbara Cannegieter
Sugar Hill Drive #16
Cul de Sac


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