Opinion article: St. Maarten Covid-19 Chronicles



Stuart Johnson

Oh, how I wish deep within my soul we were in better times and better prepared to handle the challenges we are now facing. Like so many of you, I have expressed my opinion and provided my feedback on many issues via Facebook.

Everyone one of us can give our own personal story on how COVID-19 has either directly or indirectly affected us. Some of you are either jobless, on the brink of losing your apartment/home, feeling overwhelmed with mixed emotions or just unsure of your next step forward.

You are drowning in debt, unable to meet your monthly commitments, or worse unable to provide food for yourself or your family. Things are hard, getting harder by the day and there seems to be no plan in place to get us through the mess.

As my sister posted on her social media, being a front line worker she faced the risk of this pandemic every day and that risk of bringing it home daily to even her own two children.

She had tested posted positive for COVID-19 months ago, faced the virus head-on and today has recovered.

In times, like this more than ever we come together and we do what we have to do for each other…..

………. We are survivors, we are patriots of St. Maarten, we are human!

To every front line worker, I want to say thank you for your service and your dedication of serving others above even yourself or your family. You are my heroes and an inspiration to many that regardless of the tough time before us, we face it regardless, but we face it fearlessly.

Don’t we all wish that things could have been different today? Could Government have handled and prepared better for this pandemic affecting us all? Did those who had to make the right judgment calls or decisions ignore the early warning signs?

YES, we clearly expected more of this Government or to say the least a plan to better handle this crisis both health and economic.

A cruise vessel named, Aida Perla, banned from St. Lucia, Dominica and Antigua docked at our Port on February 4th, 2020.

Following that news, I posted on my Facebook fan page, “As I restricted on March 14, 2019 the Boeing 737 Max 8/9 in our airspace, you bet this precautionary measure would have been taken for that cruise call.”

It is from that very moment, our country should have been locked down and the repatriation flights to bring our people home start. It is that very moment where a plan should have been drafted and support from within the Kingdom of the Netherlands be requested. It is from that moment that the Government would have started to safeguard all of our citizens and visitors, ensuring health comes before wealth.

Think about that for a moment, analyze it if you must but truth be told, things would not have been as worse today.

As requested by 721 News Gromyko Wilson and supported by many of us, tax paying citizens, we need a national day of prayer to heal this nation, remember the 22 souls whom have passed away and to give God praise for the gift of life.

It is surely time for a course correction from Government and each one of us taking responsibility for our actions or the lack of actions.

What message are we sending our young people? Social media has become in certain instances a platform for belittling people, parliament has been an echo chamber and the walls of division block us from seeing we are stronger united together.

Our Government needs to lead and lead by example, as it is the majority of this present composition in the Coalition that fought from the opposition to gain power today. It seems comparable to this Government, the Leona Cabinet 2 and the Smith Cabinet was not confused enough, LGBTQ (Gay) enough, power-hungry enough, or simply lacked having a personal agenda for self-enrichment.

How dare I say that?

Well, for starters, we have seen that mostly every plan or project or the projected vision of the UD/SMCP Government continues to be executed. That isn’t the continuity of Government alone my friends, that is being on the right undeniable path.

Despite what we are facing now, I want you to look into your son or your daughter eyes and tell them “everything is going to be okay.”

It is so hard for many of our children today, unable to physically be in school, struggling with virtual learning and trying to make sense of this new reality. We owe it to them to reassure them everything is going to be okay and our Government owes it to all of us to immediately course correct.

Tonight, I ask you to say a prayer for our country, those fighting the battle of COVID-19, those feeling emotional distress, and for our Government.

Take a moment and reflect on this bible verse:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

Practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and disinfect regularly.

May God bless you, your family and the greatest country in the world, St. Maarten.

Stuart Johnson
Former Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs,
Transport and Telecommunications