SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison is calling on Minister of Culture Wycliff Smith to explain his apparent lack of urgency and care for many of the island’s national monuments which sit in disrepair. Brison recently dispatched a letter to the, through the Chairlady of Parliament, expressing his faction’s (USP) concern over the status of many historical buildings in Philipsburg and around the island.
The MP also focused his concerns around the Monument Council and if the members of the Council have the support required from the Minister to function optimally and efficiently with regards to protecting historical buildings and monuments that are of immense historical and cultural significance to the people of St. Maarten.
“Since the Minister has been to parliament for the appointment of members of the monument council, we have not heard back from the Minister on this body’s plans for ensuring Philipsburg historical icons are preserved and designated as monuments,” Brison said. “This is particularly concerning, considering that the parliament has already approved since September 26th 2018 the members of the monument council.
“During this meeting, the Ministers assured parliament that ‘this will allow for the council to be extremely active in ensuring that all of our national monuments received the necessary urgent attention’” Brison said. He added the reports he has received however, are much to the contrary, where many of the monument holders in St. Maarten are frustrated by the Ministry’s and the Council’s lack of effort in addressing various issues they face such as repairs, building permits, funding and information.
MP Brison said he has in the meantime learned that the members were only installed March 2019 and called on the Minister to explain why he would allow such a major delay to occur, and not respect the wishes of Parliament who approved these members to be installed in September 2018.
He questioned if the Minister understands the implications of his lack of urgency having affected the ability of many monuments in St. Maarten to undergo urgent repairs and preparation for the hurricane season. He said of particular unacceptable state are the cistern just before Walter Plantz Square, the property Watkins House on Frontstreet #113 and the Frontstreet property “The Old House” (Meetingbrief 363-1997).
“These are just three in historic Philipsburg, but island wide there are more. Why has the council not replied to owners in regards to their urgent requests to begin repairs to the properties? Does the monument council have the correct number of members on board, and sufficient expertise? How many “urgent” requests versus how many “regular” requests for advice were sent to the Monument Council? Is the Minister allowing sufficient time for the Monument Council to conduct their proper due diligence in advising on reconstruction efforts of Monuments? Does the Monument Council have any sort of budget for assisting monuments? How many requests and from which monument holders did the council receive requests for funding assistance,” the MP asked among other questions. He goes on to also question the status of the monument Passangrahan Hotel and why is the property being split up.
MP Brison stressed that the value and significance of a national monuments cannot be measured. “Natural and cultural treasures benefit all citizens – today and in the future. It is also important for our economy as historic attractions. The importance of protecting these sites and buildings cannot be overstated. We are counting on receiving on update in writing as soon as possible. The only other recourse then would be to call the Minister to parliament to answer to the members and give assurance that these things are being handled,” the MP said.