Published On: Mon, Apr 13th, 2020

Minister Richardson: “I can’t let the men and women of service down”

Minister Anna RichardsonPHILIPSBURG — Justice Minister Anna Richardson expressed her thanks this morning to the St. Maarten Medical Center medical team and all first responders. “I want to thank you for your sacrifice,” said the minister, who has designated the nearby Econofood supermarket as a sales location for first responders and medical staff only. The measure has provoked much criticism.

The police drove this morning with the minister to St. Maarten Medical Center. Flanked by police chief Carl John and numerous police officers, she addressed the medical personnel who gathered at the gate of the hospital. “I must express that there is much emotions going through me right now, because I didn’t even know about this. Chief John sent me a message this morning saying that these great men and women wanted to show their solidarity with you, all the doctors and nurses, and appreciation to you for your hard work, dedication and sacrifice that you are making.”

Econofood Supermarket 2020041301After an honorary salute of the officers, the sirens of vehicles sounded in Cay Hill for a minute. The line consisted of dozens of cars from the police, customs and militia. After the tribute had ended, the minister went to the Econofood Supermarket, where a dozen employees of the judiciary and medical sector waited in the parking lot to be able to go in to do their shopping.

Minister Richardson has come ‘under fire’ for singling out one store that justice and medical workers should go to shop. “When all supermarkets are opened and one supermarket is singled out, without more, as somewhere your workers can shop the questions surrounding the principle of natural justice and fairness crops up as there is a preconceived bias to the supermarket in question,” someone wrote. “You people remain accountable to the people even in crisis. Watch dogs, activists, citizens, advocates, rights defenders, journalist and the lot have every right to ask the hard hitting pertinent questions.”

On her visit to Econofood, Minister Richardson had a video message recorded in which she emotionally defends her choice. “The first responders said to me: ‘Minister, it is very unfortunate that we have to be up all sorts of hours, working different shifts, on and off, and we don’t get the chance to buy food to put in Econofood Supermarket 2020041302our homes for us to eat and for our family.’ I cannot neglect the men and women who are getting up every day and come out here to be of service to the island of St. Maarten. It is amazing to me that a negative spin would be placed on this.”

She goes on: “Today or tomorrow you have an emergency and you want the same police officers to be there and assist. The same ones you don’t feel is entitled to get something to eat. You want the same medical staff to be able to assist you. You not thinking that they are human as well and they too need to be able to get supplements.”

The criticism on social media is of a different order. Followers do not complain that first responders do their shopping, but ask why the minister has chosen Econofood. Others believe that during the corona pandemic, cleaners, garbage collectors and teachers also play an essential role, as well as those responsible for payroll. “In contravention of article 16 of our constitution, we are continuing to create the impression that these workers are not important and essential,” reads a post on Facebook. With hashtag: All persons must be treated equally by law.

Econofood Supermarket 2020041303