Sint Maarten Continues to Struggle Five Weeks After Irma, Still No Request For Dutch Assistance

We’ve all seen the images and, by now, we know the storyline. Hurricane Irma was a beast that ravaged Sint Maarten, chewed her up and spit her out. People on the island started to suffer from the moment the storm hit and continue to suffer today.

In the wake of the worst storm to hit this island in it’s history, a political storm is now getting in the way. And while I’m admittedly not much of a political expert, I’m fairly clear on the fact that governments are supposed to be in place to help and protect its citizens. Instead, it seems that the government of Sint Maarten, particularly Prime Minister William Marlin, is only concerned with their own political agenda.

Earlier this week, Marlin issued a decree stating, “We will not permit anyone to exploit our tragedy to bring in Trojan horses while holding our people to a much higher standard than anyone else in the world.” This statement says so much about what is wrong in Sint Maarten.

Marlin is holding a beaten island hostage as he concerns himself only with keeping control. Control of the government and, more significantly, control of the finances of the island. He is refusing to allow the Dutch any semblance of oversight when it comes to aid for the island. He prefers an open purse and no further questions.

As of today, over five weeks removed from Hurricane Irma, the government still has not requested funding from the Dutch, nor have they come up with a formal recovery plan. Perhaps the two go hand in hand, but this delay is tantamount to looking at a person who just had a severe heart attack and saying, “Give us a few weeks to figure your situation out. We’ll call you.”

To make matters even worse, Parliament was scheduled to meet on Thursday to hear Marlin’s responses to questions they posed to him regarding the island’s preparedness and response to Irma, only the session was cancelled because Marlin was not on the island (more here).

At this point, it’s up to Prime Minister Marlin to yield and agree to Dutch terms, namely the seating of two Dutch officials on the proposed Integrity Chamber, and formally request Dutch assistance immediately. The Dutch have stated that the Sint Maarten government have until October 31 to agree to conditions before they step in (more here).

“If your government agrees on the preconditions, the Dutch Government is willing to set up a fund with a substantial financial contribution for the reconstruction, which will keep a future perspective for the St. Maarten people.” Dutch Minister of Interior Affairs, Ronald Plasterk

The bottom line is that the people on this island need help and they need it now. Not tomorrow, not by the end of the year, or sometime next year, but now.

Here’s a post I received earlier this week, talking about the conditions on the island. So, for all the rah rah, well-produced videos — many of them I’ve shared on this site — being pushed out by the government, this is the reality.

Red Cross St Maarten got Millions of Euros, when are you going to help the people who can’t afford to repair their roofs? Karl Doorman brought all kind of materials, where and who are supposed to get assistance. I am not hearing anything from anybody, including the government and members of Parliament.

This is worst than the eye of Irma, everything is on a standstill.

In Middle Region alone, according to Red Cross survey, there are 694 homes without roofs. People are going through hell and another ship is coming in with materials from Holland. So many people sleeping in cars you will not believe it. Journalists do your job, question government and demand solution from government for the people. If the Ministers can’t solve these problems or handle the situation, please do the honorable thing and resign. Let your party put some one in office who can get things done.

There’s plenty more out there from Sint Maarten citizens saying the same thing. In addition, here’s a video about the refugee situation, that has no chance of getting better until housing on the island can get rebuilt:

Let’s hope the government of Sint Maarten can come to their senses soon and get the people of Sint Maarten the assistance they deserve. I’m sure we’d all much rather be talking about the strides being made to rebuild the island, than politics.

Please help rebuild SXM and give today. Click here to visit the SXM Strong donate page. Thank you!

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Jon Ferlise

I fell in love with the island of Saint Martin the first time I visited to celebrate my 40th birthday in May of 2009. Since then, I've spent most birthdays there, and have visited countless other times getting to know this wonderful place and the friendly locals that make it so special. I adore the culture, the people, the community, and the beauty of this stunning island. SXM Strong is a website that I started to support humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Irma. There was no plan, it just evolved as I witnessed the devastation that Irma caused the island and the huge need to communicate and disseminate information about what had happened and how people could help support this island and its people.

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