PHILIPSBURG–The Anti-Poverty Platform has started a petition and signature drive to highlight its call for residents, vulnerable groups and in particular seniors who were affected by Hurricane Irma to be granted more structural relief, amongst other things.
The petition was launched at a press conference on Wednesday. The Platform’s intention is to garner as many signatures as possible from the community via the various organisations and unions, to be presented to King Willem-Alexander via the Dutch Representation in St. Maarten on Kingdom Day.
Present at the press conference were Anti-Poverty Platform co-coordinators Claire Elshot of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU); Alberto Bute of the St. Maarten Consumers Coalition and Raymond Jessurun and Frances Rovelet, both of the St. Maarten Seniors and Pensioners Association (SMSPA).
The representatives expressed disappointment in the manner in which the aid distribution has been conducted, noting that many persons have been missed and have not received much-needed aid and assistance in rebuilding their homes. The representatives want the aid to be given in a structural manner.
“We have received some emergency aid, but many people are complaining that they have not received anything. There are still people who have been left behind,” Jessurun said. “The little help that came after the hurricane is not enough. People are still in dire need.”
Bute said residents in need should receive assistance in the form of food vouchers for six months as well as relief for their utilities for a similar period as they rebuild their lives. He said it is not good for residents to be given the run-around to receive assistance. He said also that authorities should assist residents by putting their roofs on before Christmas.
Rovelet said many seniors were living in deplorable conditions following the hurricane. While some are sheltering with their children, friends and relatives, others have nowhere to go and they refuse to go to shelters, so they remain in their homes covered by tarpaulins that are infested with mould.
Many seniors are also becoming ill due to the conditions in their homes. Additionally, the yards of many seniors are still littered with debris such as zinc from the hurricane, as no one has come to their aid to assist with clean-up. While it was said that the Dutch military would assist, many seniors have not received this assistance.
While the Youth Brigade and K1 Britannia have been assisting, Rovelet believes more youth organisations should assist. The seniors, she noted, are in desperate need of assistance.
The petition calls for the King to use his influence to “stand up for the rights of all people from Caribbean origin in the Kingdom of the Netherlands in general and the rights of the people of St Maarten in particular and to assist people with vouchers for the necessary repair of the homes damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, or provide them with the necessary material and qualified construction personnel to realise the home repairs and stop immediately the putting-up of hindrances to this repair.”
The petition calls on the King to also use his influence “to provide temporary housing for those still without a home, living in shelters, sleeping in cars or having to live under insufficient housing conditions with family or friends; to assist with the financing, the design and the construction of adequate quality housing, affordable and sustainable hurricane- and earthquake-resistant homes and to provide all this construction (emergency repair and sustainable home construction) without any financial condition to pay back, as part of the reparations obligation for unpaid labour of ancestors, colonial and neo-colonial exploitation,” amongst other things.