PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The early morning of September 6, 2017, is a morning that residents of St. Maarten/St. Martin and Anguilla will never forget. That morning, the strongest hurricane ever recorded on the Saffir-Simpson scale struck our island. Thousands of homes were damaged. Many people lost their homes completely, and our economy came to a complete standstill. Our lives changed forever.
The Category 5 hurricane slammed into our little island, and wreaked havoc. No one was untouched. Flooding, the likes of which we had never seen before, was recorded on the French Side, while Dutch Side residents battled 250+mph winds in a struggle to preserve their homes and belongings. This battle was lost, along with a number of lives.
“As mentioned in Part 1, we are now 5 years removed from that catastrophic event. Yet, 5 years, 60 months, 1,826 days later, persons are still struggling with the aftermath of Irma. Not only are many people still jobless due to businesses that closed or have gone bankrupt, to date, only a few hundred homes have been fixed. What is worse is that the current Government is now blaming the Covid-19 Pandemic for their incompetence and inability to build a better more sustainable St. Maarten 5 years after Irma,” commented Gromyko Wilson.
“They want you to think that it is Covid’s fault that we do not have Zoo, that we do not have a Library building, that windows and roofs of classrooms are yet to be repaired while they were supposedly insured by the Government. It’s Covid’s fault that a little rain will make our roads flood because they did not finalize a public tender for the cleaning of our trenches. It’s Covid’s fault that TelEm has not put up all of its cell sites in 100% full power working condition since 2017. It is also Covid’s fault that GEBE has not repaired the damaged street light poles as yet.”
“Covid-19 is the reason why 5 years later schools, that are supposed to function as hurricane shelters, are not fixed, and the emergency alarm system in neighborhoods has not been replaced.”
“What about proper post-Irma building codes? During election time, aspiring, and returning politicians campaigned on the ‘building back better,’ platform. What homes were repaired or built according to this new building code? The Prins Bernard and Causeway Bridges have Irma scars.”
“Remember the Old Government Building that was brutally damaged by Hurricane Irma? The Government should be honest and tell the people of St. Maarten, why nothing has been done to that building, which is now an eye-sore in the middle of our Touristic City of Philipsburg. Is that building Government-owned? Who does that building belong to? On whose land is it? Who can actually decide on the future use of that building?
“I must conclude that this Government, which does not enjoy a majority in Parliament, considers her people stupid. This Government is coming up with all sorts of tactics to pay civil servants vacation allowance illegally by taking their vacation days, and by organizing youth entrepreneurial initiatives months before an election. Worse yet by informing the police officers to expect their monies in January 2023. Remember how that went last time they did that to the Police?” Wilson observed.
“If there is one thing that Hurricane Irma and Covid-19 taught us, it is the importance of being a Country that is self-sustainable. Remember the food shortages during Covid-19? Remember the threat of food shortages now again with the war in Ukraine? Can someone please explain to the people why St. Maarten should purchase land in Suriname for agriculture? What happened to all our local farmers here? And to the remaining land we have available that the Government can allocate to agriculture? What happened to the young man they so campaigned on during election times for his brilliant ideas on agriculture? Remember that one politician that made this nice political pitch about neighborhood tourism based on agriculture in St. Peters? Oh, I forgot, his own minority Government is blocking that same young man!”