Philipsburg, Sint Maarten — On Wednesday, January 25, 2023, Independent Members of Parliament S. Ludmila Duncan and Grisha Heyliger-Marten, as well as Party for Progress (PFP) Member of Parliament Melissa Gumbs submitted a request for an urgent public meeting on the matter of heritage protection.
Following the recent demolition of the ruins at Diamond Estate in Cole Bay and the outrage by persons in community, the Members have moved quickly to request a public meeting to discuss the incident but more importantly the regulations that would prevent such from occurring again in the future.
The Minister of ECYS and the Minister of VROMI have been requested to come to Parliament to debate the current legislation and policies regarding the preservation and management of heritage as well as to provide updates on the current work of the Monument Council and the long-awaited Monument Fund.
“What is extremely disappointing is that this year marks the 160th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Emancipation. The reenactment of the Diamond 26 Run for Freedom has become a valuable source of pride and ancestral connection for me and many others. We are also currently in discussion throughout the Kingdom on the impact of slavery and colonialism and how we need to move forward as a people and yet, on this island, we continue to let our heritage be destroyed in the name of capitalism and overdevelopment.”
“I am looking forward to an in-depth debate on the bottlenecks facing Government to ensure that such a blatant act and disregard for heritage is never repeated. Marcus Garvey once said, ‘if we as a people realized the greatness from which we came we would be less likely to disrespect ourselves.’ When will we stop disrespecting ourselves?” concluded Duncan.
Gumbs expressed similar sentiments, noting that at some point, members of society also have to decide if they are intent on protecting the country’s historical assets and legacies. The ruins at Diamond Estate were on private land, which had been sold by the original owners.
“We very often see privately-owned buildings and plots of land sold to investors or otherwise,” Gumbs said, “but even in this scenario, persons can be more discerning with who they engage with for these purchases. We talk a lot about the responsibility of outsiders towards us, but never about our responsibility towards each other and towards the country. It’s just one in a long line of slaps in the face.”
Heyliger-Marten added that her main concern is about Government not taking the necessary measures to preserve heritage sites.
“Heritage provides footprints to our past and shows how our society has evolved. It helps us to examine our history and traditions and enables us to develop an awareness about ourselves. This is key in understanding where we come from. To also quote Marcus Garvey; ‘a people without a knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots’ and I believe wholeheartedly in preserving what’s left of our heritage.”