Knops praises resilience of St. Maarten community

Knops praises resilience
of St. Maarten community

THE HAGUE–“The resilience of the community gives hope for the future. However, structural vision of improvement will only evolve when recovery work makes it possible for tourism to resume and the economy to recover,” stated Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops in a letter to the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.

Knops said he had witnessed the real challenges St. Maarten is facing during his visit to the harbour, a boat ride with the Coast Guard through Simpson Bay Lagoon and a tour over the island during which he spoke with people who were severely affected by the hurricane.
The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will play a crucial role in the recovery phase to book sustainable results and to cope with the social challenges, he said. He met with representatives of a number of NGOs during his visit to St. Maarten last week.
“The staff of these NGOs literally made the difference in the initial period after the hurricane. The Red Cross and the White and Yellow Cross are good examples of this. We will have to make use of this strength to achieve successful results during the reconstruction,” he stated in the letter to Parliament in which he described his familiarisation visit to the Windward Islands from November 27 to December 3.
Knops had a meeting with Governor Eugene Holiday during which the Marlin Government’s actions after Hurricane Irma were discussed as well as the current political situation. He also met with caretaker Prime Minister Raphael Boasman and caretaker Ministers Richard Gibson of Finance, Silveria Jacobs of Education and Culture, and Christopher Emmanuel of Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure.
Topics of discussion in the meeting with the Ministers were the reconstruction, the funds the Dutch Government has made available and the associated conditions. According to Knops, Boasman thanked the Netherlands for the 550-million-euro Reconstruction Fund and said the decision-taking process for the Integrity Chamber would now quickly move to its final stage.
“From my side I emphasised that concrete results needed to be booked rapidly in the interest of the St. Maarten people. I underscored the importance of a solid cooperation with French Saint Martin. It was explained that the Netherlands was looking at involving a third party, preferably the World Bank, in the recovery efforts,” stated Knops, who also discussed these matters with Chairperson of St. Maarten’s Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams.
Knops spoke with caretaker Minister of Public Health and Social Affairs Emil Lee later in the week. Discussed were, among other things, the plans to build a new hospital which is also in the interest of the residents of St. Eustatius and Saba.
Knops further met with French St. Martin Préfète Anne Laubies. During this meeting the need for intensive cooperation in the reconstruction phase was established. “The St. Maarten Government lately has avoided these contacts,” he said. A follow-up meeting was held with French Overseas Minister Annick Girardin on Thursday, December 7, on how to reinforce the mutual efforts.
Knops said his visit to the Windward Islands once more underscored the ties within the Kingdom. “The phase of reconstruction will start now after the emergency assistance. The people of the islands need quick and visible results during the reconstruction of basic facilities, the limiting of social consequences of the disaster and a restart of the economy. Other recovery efforts will require a longer period. We can succeed with the effort of everyone who carries responsibility.”

Source: The Daily Herald