The abandoned yachts on St. Maarten
Ten months after the disaster with Hurricane Irma, St. Maarten is still in ruins. Between the rubble of broken houses, roads and cars, lay expensive yachts that have been thrown onto the land by the hurricane and left behind by the owners. Many of those boats were bought with illegal money, experts told me.
The insurance has compensated the damage and the owners laundered their money. But they have left their mess behind. While many residents of St. Maarten are waiting for the insurance to pay, or have received too little money, these rich people seem to have left with their profit. Hurricane Irma has destroyed the lives of families, but made these rich people even richer. Partly because of the efforts of the residents, a lot of rubble has been cleared up and because of the help of companies, tourists can return to the hotels, to the casinos and to the beach. You see many new yachts coming in already. Who knows, maybe these are the same people who left their wrecked boats behind after the hurricane.
Last week I briefly visited St. Maarten, with the Kingdom relations Committee of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. The Netherlands is investing more than 500 million euros in the reconstruction and we wanted to see if this money is being spent well. I have spoken to many people on the island who complained that it takes so long before the damage is restored. The person I unfortunately did not see during the visit is Christophe Emmanuel, the Member of the St. Maarten Parliament who wants to take me to court, because I have called him a fraud in this newspaper. That is unfortunate, because I like talking with my colleagues in the Kingdom. If Mr. Emmanuel is really hurt, he could have told me so last week. That’s better than sending threatening letters. But Emmanuel was nowhere to be seen. However, I was approached in the street by people who told me that I should not be intimidated and should continue my criticism, because many people share it. Citizens came to me with more stories about fraud and intimidation by Emmanuel.
Of course I don’t know which of these allegations are true or not. But there are enough things that I would like to investigate. I also heard people say that they are angry about the giant flag pole that Christophe Emmanuel had put up after the hurricane, as a sign of national pride. However, at this moment there is no flag, which has happened before. People say the large sum it took to erect the flag pole could have been better spent repairing their roof. We also spoke with the new St. Maarten government and I must say that I have faith in these ministers. But behind these ministers are also people I trust less. However, these are the people that are pulling the strings on the island. Politicians who have done little in the past for the ordinary people, but seem to have good contacts with the people on those expensive yachts. Much of the wealth on St. Maarten is in the hands of foreigners, who refuse to contribute anything to the island. But all those abandoned yachts must have an owner right? We could track these people and see if they have honestly obtained their boat. And we can also force them to clean up their junk.
Ronald van Raak is a Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament for the Socialist Party (SP).
Photo credit: Persbureau