Published On: Tue, Nov 23rd, 2021

What others do not dare to share

By Hilbert Haar

Bad things happen when good people do nothing. I have been unable to source this quote but it feels appropriate for the topic I want to discuss here (again): corruption. More in particular: corruption in St. Maarten.
When I wrote about it earlier under the headline Mar, bribe and destroy I could not begin to imagine the number of reactions it would trigger. Those reactions did not come in the form of signed letters to the editor; they simply flooded the Whatsapp of the publisher of StMaartenNews.com. That showed, at the very least, that there are people on our island who actually care. At the same time, these people are not bold enough to attach their name to their criticism.
I understand that. In a small community like St. Maarten, kicking the establishment in the nuts is akin to economical suicide.
Who remembers the iconic José Lake Sr.? He founded the Windward Islands Opinion in 1959 and embarked on a journey of fearless journalism. He challenged the political establishments on both sides of the island. The French declared him persona non grate for it. His opponents threatened his life and burned down his office. He wrote about political corruption, environmental destruction and – far ahead of his time – about Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) as a racist symbol.
Lake’s efforts were not appreciated by everyone. His son José Lake Jr. once told me that Claude Wathey expressly forbade businesses to advertise in the Opinion, threatening to never give them a government contract again if they dared to ignore his order.
And here we are, more than sixty years later, stuck with good people who think that giving the establishment a piece of their mind is a bad idea, or at least something that is not good for their careers and wellbeing.
I had to laugh when I read one particular reaction: “Leave it to Hilbert Haar because he is in Cambodia.” After I stopped laughing I realized that this is not funny at all, but it also dawned on me that I have a job to do: sharing what others do not dare to share. This is about what these people are thinking, so bear in mind that what follows is not necessarily true.
One reaction attached a price tag to the activities of several politicians: from Frans Richardson ($400,000), to Claudius Buncamper ($300,000), to Theo Heyliger ($14 million – but should be corrected to $17 million) and Silvio Matser ($2 million). Other private persons were listed, but they are not politicians. Somehow Mark Mingo was missing in that line up.
“St. Maarten could have had over a billion dollars for a rainy day since 10-10-10 if the government knew anything about financial management,” another reaction read. “Then St. Maarten could have made a pitch for independence. Now the ones crying for independence are the ones who would like to get out of their legal problems by being independent and having their own justice system.”
Others claim in these reactions that politicians like Theo Heyliger, Frankie Meyers and Frans Richardson all have American passports, “and yet they profess to love St. Maarten.” That sounds interesting but it is unlikely, because Dutch law does not allow for double nationality.
But the idea of putting all this in a letter to the editor signed “name withheld upon request” fell flat: “I don’t like faking my writings.” And: “Hand it over to Hilbert Haar; he is in Cambodia anyway.”
Done; except, I am not in Cambodia anymore. COVID-19 had driven me via Malaysia to Indonesia where I am currently residing on the island of Bali. Not hiding, just having the time of my life while keeping an eye on the island that will always have a big place in my heart: St. Maarten.