MARIGOT/PHILIPSBURG: — More than three weeks after hurricane Irma devastated St. Martin/St. Maarten, telecommunication has remained one of the biggest problems facing the people whose livelihood depends on technology.
Orange, Dauphin Telecom, Digicel, Mediaserv and other telecommunications companies operating on the French side chose not to open their doors to provide much-needed information to their clients. These companies that are operated by French Metropolitans have made millions over the years on St. Martin but they have not done anything to safeguard and protect their businesses from hurricanes or any other natural disasters. While most of these companies have their parent companies in France there is no contingency plan for the Caribbean islands that used their services.
While Orange and Digicel have been providing services to clients that have a plan with them, clients living in areas such as French Quarter has absolutely no services, and these clients some of which are reputable businesses have no way of getting information as to how they will move forward. Companies from the Dutch side of the island that are up and running have no way of serving their clients simply because Dauphin Telecom has chosen not to reach out their business partners and are not doing anything to get their cell-towers up and running. It is a well-known fact that Metropolitans use situations such as these to grab as much aid they could get from Paris, and in most cases will shut their doors once they get the monies. The defiscalization that was granted to St. Martin some years ago gave several business persons the opportunity to fill up their pockets and leave the island.
UTS, the Curacao based company that is providing services to both French and Dutch St. Maarten is also one of the biggest failures for the Dutch side. Even though the company has been trying to compete with TelEm and to even merge with TelEm is not able to provide proper telecommunication or internet services to its clients on the Dutch side while they have wiped their clients on the French side off their books, without even telling those clients that they would not be able to get services for the next few months. CEO of UTS Glen Carty told SMN News that the French side will take a while when he was asked on Saturday when services will be restored, Carty said Naked Boy Hill towers are up but they are too low thus residents in Dutch Quarter and French Quarter are not getting services. Even the UTS office in Marigot is not open to the public even though their main office is open in Philipsburg.
Dauphin Telecom managed to put up a few hotspots, one at the Cul de Sac round-a-bout and one in French Quarter which is not working.
As for TelEm, they managed to stay afloat during the passing of hurricane Irma and after, it is the only telecommunication company that managed to restore a level of internet and telephone services to their clients on the Dutch side of the island while their clients on the French side are still without services.
During a Parliamentary meeting today, Prime Minister William Marlin said that there is a lot of misinformation since hurricane Irma. What the Prime Minister did not realize is that because the people lack vital information which was supposed to be provided by government, a chaotic situation was created. Government radio station which was created to inform the populace during natural disasters did not work and most off it was not properly implemented in the first place. This situation left the government and people of St. Maarten to rely on Laser 101, whose team did their best they to inform the people of St. Maarten/ St. Martin especially after hurricane Irma and the days leading up to Jose and Maria.
While Sécurité Civile has been busy distributing relief supplies in several areas on the French side a lot of elderly people, mothers of new-born babies or young children along with disabilities are left without any relief. The COM distributed at least 1-6 bottle of water per family last week and some of the workers of the COM chose to give water supply to their friends and families leaving residents without. Almost twice per day relief supplies are given out in selected areas such as Oyster Pond, French Cul de Sac and Orient Bay.
Tents, tarpaulin and other needed supplies are hard to come by even though many homes on the Friendly Island are without roofs while the past days the island has been drenched with water.
Indeed the King and President of France visited St. Maarten/St. Martin a few days after Irma devastated the island but the much-needed relief that is yet to reach the common man, woman and child.