The historical structure at Diamond Estate has been completely destroyed.
PHILIPSBURG–In the night from Monday to Tuesday, during a covert operation, the famous ruins at Diamond Estate were destroyed with the help of an excavator. Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran strongly condemns this illegal action, stating that “this atrocious disregard for our tangible heritage cannot be condoned.”
The Daily Herald understands that no permit had been granted for demolition of the historical structure and no requests for this have been made at the VROMI Ministry, nor has an application for a building permit been submitted for this location. Building permits that were requested concern projects further up Union Road, not at Diamond Estate, located near the roundabout at the Bellevue border.
Citing the historical and cultural importance of the site, Doran referred to Diamond Estate as the location for the yearly Emancipation Day celebration in tribute to the enslaved men, women and children who were liberated from slavery in the Dutch Kingdom on July 1, 1863. As part of the commemoration, a symbolic wreath-laying is performed by the Governor of St. Maarten, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sport (ECYS) and the Chairperson of Parliament.
Diamond Estate was a plantation on the border between Cole Bay and Bellevue, Marigot, where 26 slaves ran to their freedom on May 29, 1848, two days after the abolition of slavery was announced in French St. Martin.
A re-enactment of the Diamond Estate 26 Run for Freedom is part of the yearly July 1 Emancipation Day celebration. The event, organised by the Department of Culture, further includes speeches and readings from historical archive documents, in particular the original 1863 Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery.
Former Governor of St. Maarten Eugene Holiday was recorded saying, “As carriers of the heritage of our ancestors, we have a collective obligation to our forefathers to protect and continue to build on their legacy.”
ECYS Minister Rodolphe Samuel reacted with shock to the news of the demolition.
A very distraught Department of Culture Head Clara Reyes and archaeologist Jay Haviser inspected the demolition site in the morning. Reyes can be heard saying in the video that she made: “Diamond Estate is no more.”
Doran strongly condemns the actions of those responsible. “It was revealed that persons yet to be identified used heavy machinery to demolish the structure under the guise of night,” Doran said. “I have instructed the staff of this ministry to take the necessary steps to find the persons responsible for this action. We will be working along with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, as the monuments are under their ministerial scope. Also, I will be in contact with the Ministry of Justice as we seek to bring these perpetrators to justice.”
In reaction to the news of the demolition of “a very special bastion of our St. Martin tangible cultural heritage”, St. Maarten Pride Foundation demands that the Parliament of St. Maarten carries out a parliamentary inquiry to determine how this was able to happen. “Heritage has been taken away from the people of both sides of St. Martin. A great injustice has been done to our ancestors, to us as a people and to our descendants. What are the consequences of this act?”
The foundation demands to receive answers from the Council of Ministers and Parliament of St. Maarten as to what will be done to protect what remains of the nation’s cultural heritage.
The ruins at Diamond Estate served as historical background for the yearly July 1 Emancipation Day celebration commemorating the abolition of slavery.