Published On: Tue, Feb 20th, 2018

Colonialism On Some Caribbean Islands

Dear Editor,

The winds of colonialism still tend to pose a threat to life on some Caribbean territories. Who will stand for them if they will not stand for themselves.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma displaced the imagery of sand, sun and sea synonymous with favourite Caribbean destinations like the French-Dutch territory of St. Maarten, Barbuda, St. Thomas, British Virgin Island and Dominica. Instead, the pictures captured destruction, devastation and death. People would have seen these islands decimated by Irma, the many people who were rescued, the families who were separated from each other, and some who still remain displaced. Irma, a category five “major” hurricane according to US authorities, had wind speeds up to 185mph. History to date records Hurricane Irma as the most powerful ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean.

Caribbean territories who were spared the worst offered assistance to the best of their abilities, as they epitomized ‘my brother’s keeper’. The Miami Herald could not help but praise “the 15-member Caribbean Community regional grouping known as Caricom… for its cooperation among governments.”, while European countries and the United States came in for a wave of criticism over their handling of the response and relief efforts after Hurricane Irma battered their sandy tropical outposts in the eastern Caribbean.

In a tremendous show of solidarity and support, CARICOM members stepped up to help, offering relief, refuge, police officers and even prisons to aid storm-ravaged nations.

Prime Minister Skerrit of Dominica addressed the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly and told the world body:
“The time has come for the international community to make a stand and to decide; whether it will be shoulder to shoulder with those suffering the ravages of climate change worldwide; …..; or whether the international community will merely show some pity now, and then flee….; relieved to know that this time it was not you.”

The UK Government committed £92 million to help recovery and long-term reconstruction of its territories in the region.

But on the island of Sint Maarten something peculiar occurred, but only for those who may suffer from the same Dutch collective amnesia when it comes to Dutch merciless suppression of opponents least we forget their actions in the Indonesian independence movement in the jungles of Java. The Dutch, quick to moralize about human rights abuses by other nations, would while Sint Maarten lay bleeding and gasping for breathe after Irma, offer Sint Maarten a “conditional” lifeline of aid. With the eyes of the world watching a brazen Dutch government without diplomacy said to the duly elected government of Sint Maarten, surrender your border control or no aid. While the Dutch Kingdom declared to the world a €550m aid package, they held Sint Maarten hostage; no compliance no disbursement. They went further and dictated like despots are prone to doing, that an Integrity Chamber be established that reports directly to the Hague, by-passing the Parliament of Sint Maarten and defined that its membership be constituted by two Dutch appointees and a token St Maarten member.

To his credit, and with his characteristic fortitude demonstrated, throughout his tenure in service to his country, Prime Minister William Marlin stood up to the Dutch. He tried to reason – with a what was more a despotic order, the likes of a not to be forgotten colonial era – and negotiate, hoping that Sint Maarten be afforded the dignity befitting its seven year old country status. But there were those within his coalition, long standing self-serving politicians, whose lust for office would see them sacrifice the crowning glory of 10-10-10 for thirty pieces of silver.

In a final effort to protect his country, Prime Minister Willaim Marlin did not allow the Dutch to undo his stewardship by seeking to dismiss him with his Ministers who had all pass screening and install a compliant puppet cabinet. History will record William Marlin exacted a brilliant stroke, and put the power back in the hand of the citizens of Sint Maarten. William Marlin resigned with dignity and called an election.

The citizens of Sint Maarten may be Hurricane-worn but they are also election-worn, yet they can ill afford to take this election for granted. The example of Dutch controlled Statia is an indicator of what can occur under the Dutch. The world is watching too if Sint Maarteners will reward William Marlin’s sacrificing his long awaited opportunity to govern, where he choose instead to protect the right to his people to self-determination or will Sint Maarteners squander an unique opportunity to give a government that was able to reinstate services in record time after Irma, a resounding mandate to govern uninterrupted for the next four years.

The next hurricane season looms and promises to be even fiercer than 2017, but the winds of colonialism can keep Sint Maarten flattened and in chattels. St. Maarteners must choose wisely.

Aubrey Richardson
St. Peters