MPs preparing to vote on the motion during Thursday’s meeting.
~ Pass motion to this effect ~
PHILIPSBURG–Taking legal action against the persons who demolished the Diamond Estate ruins, rebuilding the historical site at the offenders’ expense and having government expedite efforts for the area and the remaining rubble to be placed on the protected monument list were among the actions Members of Parliament (MPs) want to see executed in a motion passed on Thursday.
The motion, which was tabled by United People’s (UP) party MP Rolando Brison, was passed by 10 MPs voting in favour and none against. Some MPs were not in the hall when it was time to vote.
The motion said that, pursuant to the relevant national ordinances, government could have legal recourse to restore the monument to, as close as possible, its original state as was expressed by the Department of Culture, the Monument Council and many citizens.
The motion calls for government to expedite efforts by the Department of Culture and the Monument Council to determine the historical significance of the remaining Diamond Estate rubble which could lead to the area and remaining rubble still being placed on the protected monument list
It also called on government to investigate who the ultimate offenders are in the demolition of Diamond Estate, in order to restore the monument based on the ruins that remain as recommended by the Monument Council.
The motion also requested that if offences and the offenders have been established, legal action be taken to rebuild the Diamond Estate ruin at the expense of those that are responsible for demolishing the monument in the first place, in accordance with the penal provisions of the Monument and Spatial Planning Ordinance.
Government must report back to Parliament on the actions it has taken on the resolutions within three months.
The motion alluded to the profound sadness and anger expressed by the Monument Council regarding the demolition of the ruins and indicated that while the property on which the ruins once stood may be private, this does not give persons the right to devalue property in pursuit of their own interest.
The motion also alluded to sentiments expressed by the Monument Council that, as a way forward, the Department of Culture in consultation with the Monument Council issues an advisory document to undertake a survey of the property to determine the full historical scope of the site and the ruins that are still present.
Voting in favour of the motion were National Alliance (NA) MPs Hyacinth Richardson, Angelique Romou and George Pantophlet; independent MPs Ludmila de Weever, Solange Duncan, Christophe Emmanuel and Grisha Heyliger-Marten; Party for Progress MP Melissa Gumbs; and UP MPs Brison and Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani.
In motivating his vote, Emmanuel said that while he does not have much faith in government executing the contents of the motion, he would love to see the Diamond Estate ruins rebuilt. He believes that monuments should be protected. He supported the motion with strong reservations. He was critical that the motion was presented at the 11th hour, but said he could still support it.
Gumbs said that while she too would support the motion as she shared its sentiments, she doubted whether it would be executed by government. She said the Diamond Estate ruins were not the only monument destroyed in St. Maarten for the sake of development, noting that slave walls and others were also destroyed.
De Weever believes that the motion would be “opening the doors” for further improvements, further corrections and further protection of the country’s heritage, environment and society.
She supported the motion because she said it would give the responsible parties a “bit of a push” to ensure that they protect the country’s heritage and she noted that the motion is also “a step in the right direction” for protecting other resources such as beaches, waters, ponds and mangroves.
Get legal advice
Heyliger-Marten urged Brison to get legal advice on the motion, as she was not sure whether government would be able to execute its content. She stressed that whoever had demolished the ruins without permission should be fined. She supported the motion because its goal is the preservation of monuments.
Support civil servants
Duncan said that while she would back the motion, she is cognizant that civil servants are the ones who will need to execute the work and, given that the country has a capacity crisis, she hopes that government will give its workers the support they need for this.
Brison said the motion will allow government to set a precedent moving forward.
Pantophlet said the onus is on the sitting government to ensure that the contents of the motion are fulfilled. He looks forward to government returning to Parliament within 90 days and said it cannot be that a motion is passed and dies a natural death, as this has happened too many times in the past and nothing had been done about it. “This is a very important motion,” he stressed.
Romou challenged Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) Rodolphe Samuel to ensure that answers are provided within three months and that the motion is worked on. She also said that many motions had been passed in Parliament and nothing had come out of it and she hoped Samuel would not allow this to happen with such an important motion.
Prior to the handling of the motion Samuel provided answers to questions from MPs posed in the first round of the meeting.