Save our young people, our economy and our country.


PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — We have taken note of an article in one of the dailies stating that 13 million guilders was secured for the expansion of the prison in Pointe Blanche. Further in the statement mention was also made that this contract was awarded to Liccom Construction Company. Based on the above we have forwarded a letter to the Minister of Justice, Mr. Dennis Richardson for more information on this major expansion at the prison. We want to know if there were other construction companies that submitted a bid for this project. If yes, which other construction companies and how much were their bids? Was this a public bid or was it awarded to Liccom because the company was already involved in carrying out certain work at the prison?

In the Council of Minister press briefing the minister stated that the expansion project was prepared in 2014 and should have started in that same year. We want to know why the project was delayed until this year 2015 and has the cost increased from 2014 to 2015? If yes, how much was the increase?  Did the minister ever consider that the delay was for a good and that his ministry had sufficient time to reflect on the real needs of St. Maarten as oppose to expanding a prison?

Did the Minister of Culture, Mrs. Rita Bourne-Gumbs have an input in the discussion of this expansion to request a portion of this funding go into the improvement of our district community centers for the performing of the arts?

Was our former Minister of Tourism, Mr. Claret Connor asleep at the wheel not to have demanded at least one million guilders to launch our loan guarantee program that would have assisted many young people to start their own business, thereby creating new jobs?

We don’t doubt that certain renovations and expansions are necessary at the prison but we are somewhat amazed of the amount that is being allocated for this expansion especially in these tough economic times that we are going through with so many young people unemployed. The decision to allocate these funds for this expansion is sending the wrong signal to our people, especially the youth. Just recently I attended a crime forum that was organized by the Council of Churches and it was mindboggling to hear from one of the community officers how the gangs are operating here in St. Maarten and especially some of our school going children. Is this government more interested in making preparation to incarcerate our young people as opposed to establishing social programs tailored to assist them in finding employment and them not falling through the cracks?

Would part of those funds had gone to better use by implementing the GB3 program (get of the block, get on the bus and get busy) that was introduced by the former Minister of Education, Dr. Rhoda Arrindell? Isn’t one of the goals of this government to introduce programs that would prevent our young people from committing all type of crimes by keeping them occupied in sports, cultural activities and agriculture? One hundred pounds of prevention is better than one hundred pounds of cure.

After these additional cells are constructed is it the goal of this government to fill them with inmates otherwise it would be considered a waste capital investment?

The OSPP strongly suggests to Minister Richardson now that the contract has been awarded and no amendments can be made to it, for him take up contact with Liccom NV and have them make a corporate financial donation to the community councils of St. Maarten. The Community councils are the backbone of spearheading the positive development of our communities but they are in desperate need of funds to execute some of their programs. Some people may consider this an unorthodox proposal but we have to do what we have to do to save our young people and this young nation. Let’s take a negative and make it a positive. “Save our young people, save our economy and save this country” says Lenny Priest.