NO STORM SHELTERS IN SIGHT
PHILIPSBURG:— Member of Parliament Egbert Jurendy Doran, recently re-visited various districts on Sint Maarten in order to see for himself, what exactly the status was, that people of this country find themselves in, as far as storm readiness is concerned.
MP Doran said that although he is seeing and hearing about it every day, he decided to take time to tour various communities again, in order to assess for himself, how prepared Sint Maarten is for the 2018 hurricane season which has already started.
“How ready are the government and the people of this country, for the hurricane season that is already upon us?” asked MP Doran
“It is extremely heartbreaking to see the situation that our people still find themselves in, no less than nine months after the hurricanes of September 2017”, stated MP Doran.
Stories told to the MP by members of the community, showed desperation and a Nation longing for the much-promised assistance. Apart from the fact that they were still roofless, they also specifically questioned the Member of Parliament about the hurricane shelters that the State Secretary Knops guaranteed reporters and the people of the Netherlands, that there was a sufficient amount of, on Sint Maarten. (See story on webpage https://caribischnetwerk.ntr.nl/2018/04/14/nederland-garandeert-voldoende-schuilplekken-voor-orkaanseizoen/)
This is a subject that was already brought to the attention of Member of Parliament Doran by the people, and despite the fact that he brought this subject forward to the Minister of VSA, during the Budget debate meetings, to this date, the people of this Country have not received a proper response as to why the State Secretary would make such a public announcement, if there were no shelters available.
It is high time for the Government of Sint Maarten to tell the people how many storm shelters are available at this point, and what assessments were made, or are being made in relation to how many people are still displaced or roof-less, versus the amount of shelters that are in store.
Many “storm shelters” are still destroyed by the previous hurricanes in 2017 and the needs of the people as it relates to shelter availability, has increased significantly since last year.
“What studies has the government implemented to assess the needs, security and availability of storm shelters, for the people of Sint Maarten?”
Member of Parliament MP Doran stated that many of the dilapidated areas that he toured, were still never visited by any officials, and he therefore wonders if there was an actual correct thorough assessment done by government officials, as to the number of homes which are actually unfit to reside in at this moment, much less during a storm?”
Despite the fact that the rebuilding process is slowly ongoing, June 1st met many persons still displaced, many businesses still closed, a noticeable lack of skilled workers in the construction sector, tourism figures still low, the announcement that the Princess Julianna International Airport (PJIA) is going to take over a year to be rebuilt, schools still running in segmented time intervals due to the lack of capacity, jobs still scarce, the law enforcement sector unable to operate without assistance, lawyers on strike since May 18, 2018, due to non- payment of fees due to them from government, employees in the retail sector taking their former employers to courts in order to settle labor disputes, and not to mention the wreckage, consisting of countless marine vehicles left submerged and abandoned, still in the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Member of Parliament Doran went on to say that although he understands that these circumstances were created by an act of nature, putting the pieces back together, still requires those in charge to do so to the best of their abilities, in or to avoid an even worst disaster during this hurricane season.
During the tour, one of the most talked about subjects, was the landfill fires. This was described by most as the worst hazard to date.
The landfill fires that have created a national health crisis island wide with fumes that are deemed toxic.
“This is in direct desecration of the constitution Article 21. 1 which reads, the government shall take steps to promote public health”, the Member of Parliament stated.
The recovery funds, promised by the Dutch government, which have not been released, and the ominous way of their entire procedure, are a hindrance in the recovery process, as it seems that this is the one and only way to get the country back up and running.
These truths do not paint the best situation of our preparedness for the upcoming 2018 hurricane season, and it serves as an indication of where we are today, thus also showing how much work still needs to be done in the public and private sector.
“It is therefore important to note, and I must mention, that the recent Disaster Preparedness Conference with the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) on Thursday, May 25, 2018 with their goals of developing a National Disaster Operation Plan that will be the template on how to prepare, organize and manage people, resources and infrastructure within an imminent natural disaster such as a hurricane, is earnestly, although late, most welcome and I wish the government the very best with this.
Plans like these will save lives, homes and businesses, while providing high level assistance to the people. They also provide economic protection, by having the best practice in uniformity and disaster preparedness, thereby preventing loss of stock and protecting buildings and their assets”, MP Doran said.
As the beginning of the 2018 hurricane season commenced on Friday June 1st 2018, with all these unresolved issues and the deterioration of the infrastructure on the island, we are nowhere close to where we need to be in regards to hurricane readiness and progress made from the relief effort since September 2017.
“I have listened to the cries of you my people, and as your elected representative, it is my duty, on behalf of you, to continue to call on the government of Sint Maarten, which is the Executive Branch, with the request to look after your best interests, especially during these critical times.
It is in my opinion, high time for the government of Sint Maarten, to call an open-air general town hall meeting with the people of this country, and speak to them directly, instead of only through articles in newspapers or on radio programs.
Make an effort to reach the people, the same way that it is done during campaigns and such.
Look our people in their eyes and tell them that all is being done to assist them. The people deserve this, as they have been through a lot and are desperate to understand what the way forward is, since the storm 9 months ago.
I am asking the people of this country, not to lose all hope, but to remain steadfast in your belief, that one day, all will be well again. Sint Maarten will rise again. Together we will make this happen, as we all have our various roles to play, as far as the recovery of this country is concerned.
May God Bless you the people, and this our beloved country Sint Maarten.” MP Doran said.