USM President Blasts Dutch Television Documentary For Use of Stereotypes

University of St. Martin (USM) President Antonio Carmona Báez


Pond Island, Sint Maarten — University of St. Martin (USM) President Antonio Carmona Báez publicly denounced a Jeroen Pauw documentary on Sint Maarten aired on Dutch television (NOS) last Monday, 11 February. The television presenter’s 45-minute documentary entitled Pauw op Sint Maarten, which reportedly had 719.000 viewers, was criticised for its use of stereotypes and poor lack of representation of the Sint Maarten People.

Dr. Carmona Báez, a social scientist, stated that the “documentary only reinforced stereotypes of the ‘helpless’ and ‘weak’ St. Martiners that are not able to fend for themselves and must depend on the ‘colonial’ powers to save the country because ‘the government is corrupt’.”

“I spent an hour being interviewed and prepped by the crewmembers on Saturday, 26 January. Pauw finally came by to USM campus on his last evening, Thursday the 31st,  to interview me and our student of Education, with whom he talked for a good 15 minutes. Somehow, our stories did not fit into his prefabricated narrative of victimhood”, said Carmona in written statements to the press.

Jeroen Pauw and his crew found their way to USM but consciously chose to censure any voices from the students, faculty or staff. While being prepped a week before Pauw’s arrival, Carmona Báez was instructed to give a “positive story” about recovery efforts and asked to identify a student who might want to be briefly interviewed.

On Monday morning, Dr. Carmona received a confusing message from Pauw’s assistant, Marjolein Bax, stating that they had no more space and that themes did not fit into their story.

“That’s a pity, because I wanted the Netherlands to know that on Sint Maarten, we have strong, hardworking people who study to make a difference for their fellow countrymen and future generations. We have teachers, scientists, engineers, planners and architects with opinions.”

USM was alerted of the Dutch television presenter’s visit weeks ahead of time, and for a moment it looked like NOS was interested in getting a balanced view on what has happened to the island since recovery efforts began in September 2017. However, not a single expert or scientist from Sint Maarten was interviewed.

“Instead, Pauw insisted on infantalising indigent victims, making a caricature of how they deal with their precarious housing. The only experts were white Dutch people. Black St. Martiners were the victims, the sad, the helpless.”

Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo was also put under a humiliating spotlight, as she was asked to talk mostly about her emotions. Later, Jeroen Pauw asked the Prime Minister “is €500 million too much for your government to handle?” and “do you think it is a pity that the money went to the World Bank and not directly to you?”.

Jeroen Pauw began to talk about corruption as soon as there was footage in the government building. His only reliable source was Frans Weekers, who assured Dutch viewers that corruption is alive and well on Sint Maarten. Meanwhile, current Sint Maarten Representative to the World Bank Mr. Marcel Gumbs only got to talk about his need to go see a Dutch psychologist.

The documentary mentioned that there was a lack of skilled construction men but nothing was stated about the recent (then upcoming) graduation of certified construction workers trained at the National Institute of Professional Advancement (NIPA) -another good news story that would have portrayed empowerment instead of victimhood.

“In Dutch media it is commonplace to make the Caribbean part of the Kingdom synonymous with corruption and helplessness; this documentary feeds into the already existing prejudices. It is distasteful, colonial and borders on racism,” Carmona concluded.