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‘Soualiga isn’t who she used to be’

soualiga25012023Dear Editor,

Words can’t describe how distraught I am at this moment. I can only imagine how my ancestors would feel if they were here to witness this atrocity. The historical structure at Diamond Estate has been completely destroyed at the cost of what? It begs one to wonder who ensures that proper policies and laws are put in place to stop these presumed “illegal” acts.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports (ECYS) through the Department of Culture ensures a re-enactment of the Diamond Estate 26 Run for freedom as part of the yearly Emancipation Day celebrations. Which seems to be NO MORE! The responsible agents for this great act of cultural and historical damage seem to be very oblivious to the importance of the site. Diamond Estate was a plantation on the border between Cole Bay and Bellevue, Marigot, where 26 slaves ran to their freedom on May 29, 1848, two days after the abolition of slavery was announced in French St. Martin.

Slaves on the Dutch side of the island protested and threatened to flee to the French side to seek asylum. The local Dutch authorities relented and emancipated the colonies' slaves. While this decree was respected locally, it was not until 1863 when the Dutch abolished slavery in all of their island colonies that the slaves became legally free.

Editor, the Diamond estate was the very place where my ancestors journeyed to get to a better life and many didn't make it. This site was their ray of hope, their chance to choose freedom, not bondage. What will we tell our young generation about their history and culture when all traces of it are gone? Will the Diamond estate be the first and last or is there more to come?
Editor, someone must have seen something, someone knows something and it is their duty as a citizen of this nation to report what has happened without fear of repercussions. The individual/s responsible must pay for their crimes against this whole nation. Additionally, I call for the government to review existing policies and laws (if any) or create new ones that will protect and preserve our history and culture. Also, I urge the government to either replicate the building that was destroyed or create a monument that is greater than any monument that this country has ever seen.

Soualigans we need to stand united NOW more than ever and make sure justice is brought to us all. We can’t and should never forget these acts that were done to our culture and history.
Let the words of Faizah Tabasamu in the poem "Soualiga" resonate in our minds about the loss in our great nation.

“Soualiga isn’t who she used to be
she is slipping away from me
most of her children don’t look back
most won’t see her dull expressionless eyes”

“Soualigua has remembered me
I am one of her daughters
and the fire in my tongue
will speak for her.”

I am one of her sons and I will speak for her!
Kelron J.P. Bellot
Young concerned citizen


Sustainable Road Infrastructure or Quick Fixes?

Dear Editor,

Traffic is a combination of three components: people, roads, and vehicles (motorised and non- motorised). Safety on public roads should be of great concern to everyone; therefore, it calls for both citizens and the government to play equal parts in ensuring that safety is maintained. But to what extent are both groups playing their part?

Last Saturday afternoon’s motorist and pedestrian accident in Point Blanche, among others, has really shown many gaps in the island's traffic system that need to be addressed urgently. As a concerned citizen, I believe that these cracks must be analysed through the three main traffic components.

THE PEOPLE 

The issue that arises with pedestrians as a traffic component mostly stems from a lack of paying keen attention while using the road, along with disregarding their responsibility as commuters as outlined in the island’s road traffic code. According to the Road Traffic book, using the roads in Sint Maarten, “Commuters must conduct themselves in such a manner that does not hinder the free flow of traffic unnecessarily, endanger road safety or create the risk of endangering road safety.” 

Upholding the guidelines stipulated in the road traffic codebook includes pedestrians using the designated pedestrian crossing, adhering to walking on the sidewalks provided, and being aware of motorists while on the road to ensure their safety. However, can pedestrians truly play their part while on the road according to the road traffic book? 

The need for more pedestrian crossings is an understatement. The nearest pedestrian crossing is just too far within areas that people need to cross frequently, which forces pedestrians to cross wherever and whenever. This increases the instances of road accidents with pedestrians by them just merely bringing their groceries across the street. The government needs to create more pedestrian crossings and ensure proper signage is erected where necessary, especially in busy commercial areas. 

THE ROAD AND VEHICLES 

The road tax ordinance was enacted to allow citizens to contribute directly to the development of the road infrastructure, which includes road creation and road maintenance,  through the collecting of an annual sum that is supposed to go into the road fund. “However, in practice, the money flows to the government’s general coffers and is used for general government expenditures,” according to the 2021 General Audit Chamber report. This practice creates distrust and a sense of unreliability between the government and the people of Sint Maarten, which results in hurt in citizens' pockets to replace tires, axels, and shocks, etc. Why should we pay this price, when our annual road taxes are supposed to alleviate this cost?  

For many years, the government has turned to patching sections of road surfaces, which is just like putting on a bandaid on a cut without applying proper medication. In other words, the government just employs ‘quick fixes’ to the large issues of inadequate road infrastructure and improper drainage on the island, and this is just not enough. 

The government of Sint Maarten needs to use the road tax for its intended purpose and invest more in sustainable road resurfacing and maintain them frequently.  

The cries of the public for proper road maintenance, more pedestrian crossings, and better traffic signs is constant, but is anyone listening? We need answers NOW!

Kelron J.P Bellot

Young concerned citizen 

Respect for Prisoners’ rights--- ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Dear Editor,

Whether you believe that “criminals” are good or bad people, I’m sure that we can all agree that they are human too. Moreover, that also means that they are deserving of their basic human rights and the rights lawfully approved to be instated by the government. The Minister of Justices over the last few years has come in and out of the prison for photo ops promising change but nothing has yet to be done. There are many areas in our local “Point Blanche” prison in Sint Maarten that lack the attention it needs. Don’t be surprised these injustices are not only to the inmates but to the prison guards as well. After numerous pleas to the director of the prison and their superiors, today we would like to shine some light on these areas as follows:
1.) Medical- on November 4th, 2022, an inmate requested medical help at around 8 pm, but he was not attended to until 9:45 p.m. Reason being, there are no nurses or doctors on call not even a medical assistant in case of any emergencies at the Pointe Blanche prison. It is a game of Russian Roulette with our lives.
- Another inmate has had a cyst for the past 2 years and has been given antibiotics by the nurse here most of the time. Whereas we know antibiotics are usually administered for a 2-4 weeks period followed by a doctor’s recommendation just to name a few of our more minor medical issues.
2.) Rehabilitation- whether you care about our well-being of us or not, once our time is served, we have to re-enter society. Consequently, with a stain on our records and a frown from employers and without learning a proper trade or being given the tools inside to progress outside you end up with repeat offenders. Sometimes we believe that is what the system wants, to keep the prison filled. Meanwhile, there are broken homes, children
without a parent and misery for the inmates when it has been proven by research that inmates do better when treated better.
- Fundamentally, we’ve suggested that the ones who can make the decision, would initiate a collaboration between the prison and NIPA school for trade and educational programs for inmates. For funding, they should start by creating more jobs in the prison that can partially be used to fund their education.
People believe that by sending people to prison they should change and become great again because of severity, which usually has the opposite effect. Reform, patience, and the right tools are what enable change.
3.) Verlof and Labor (time off)- it is being picked and chosen as to who gets ‘verlof’ (leave of absence) or not. Usually, verlof is given to an inmate to seek medical care with a family member, to attend a funeral, or to even witness the birth of his child. Some inmates get the authority to leave more easily due to connections and others are given a hard time. That is inhumane and unjust and not to mention a legal violation; it needs to be rectified!
Time off- when we work in the prison, we are entitled to time off of our sentence. Not forgetting that we are legally entitled to be considered for up to 18 months off of our sentence with electronic supervision. This has yet to be practiced for quite some time now. I would like the readers to understand that we are not asking for anything that isn’t already written in black and white as our rights of the Dutch system.
4.) Communication with family/ friends- without a doubt what keeps inmates sane and grounded is communication with their loved ones. There are no phone privileges in the prison whatsoever. People have to wait on a visit to communicate or beg for favors to reach the outside world. Again, it is so unjust! Solution: three phone lines that are
recorded of course where everyone gets phone time is the bare minimum that can be provided. Needless to say, the authorities can revoke phone privileges as a means of punishment as well.
5.) Food & menu- the foods being served are not based on a well-balanced diet. In the long run, we are looking at heart disease which is the leading cause of death, high blood pressure, and lack of nutrients. We were accustomed to getting a fruit once a day and now we’re getting them twice a week on a good week if we’re lucky just to give you a small insight.
6.) Prosecutorial misconduct- to request an early release, a submission is given to the parole/release board. Vindictively enough, only in Sint Maarten, the prosecutor sits on the board which of course usually prohibits inmates from getting their early release. These are the same prosecutors who put us away in the first place. Keeping us in here keeps the taxpayers' money spending on us when in reality the money is mainly going into their pockets. No other Dutch-governed island nor the Netherlands itself has the prosecutor involved in this decision. Why are we being treated this way? We are just a dollar sign for them.
No one from the parole board ever comes to visit or explore our legal right of early release for the inmates who meet the requirements and it is unacceptable.
7.) Lastly but certainly not least:
Prison Guards- are not always as helpful and attentive as they should be but we understand that sometimes it isn’t even their fault. They are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed. For example, a day shift should consist of 8 prison guards. Right now, most
days consist of 2 to 3 prison guards for 80 male inmates. I would like you to picture how would 2 to 3 guards separate a fight or an act of violence even towards them. It is a setup for failure, injury, and even death.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are not asking for anything much or anything that isn’t within our rights. We are requesting the tools to be better so we can do better. We are requesting our basic human rights! I hope the governor is reading, I hope the Minister of Justice is reading, I hope the Parliamentarians are reading. This is our cry for help before we just have to help ourselves the way we know how to. –ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!--

Open letter to Caricom Secretary General and CARICOM Heads of States.

CARICOM Secretariat Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown Guyana
December 19, 2022
Subject: Apology for slavery in a colony

Honorable Caricom leaders,
With this letter, Nos Ke Boneiru Bek(NKBB) wants to inform the Caricom leadership of the Dutch attempt to deviate the attention from their continued crimes against humanity by a halfhearted Dutch apology for slavery. The Dutch government continues committing crimes against the Caribbean peoples, by continuing the colonization of their subordinated Caribbean territories up today.
At the same time the Dutch announce apology for slavery and a budget of 200 million euros to raise awareness for slavery, they are funding the War in the Ukraine with 500 million. We would like to remind the Caribbean leadership that with the illegal annexation of our island Bonaire on October 10, 2010, the Dutch acquired 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone in the Southern Caribbean Sea Basin in which they have absolute power by complete colonial rule from The Hague, Netherlands. The threat is real (see our previous letters sent to you in 2018 and 2019 on the Dutch provocation of Venezuela), the Caribbean as a peaceful region is over with Bonaire 50 miles of the coast of Venezuela and the Dutch expanding the airport beyond commercial to military standards.
Furthermore, NKBB has to remind every Caribbean leader of the sudden Dutch interest in Southern Caribbean basin, with Venezuela, Surinam, and Guyana oil and gas as the new emerging Gold Coast.
NKBB urges the Caricom not to be taken in by the Dutch apology ruse. The Dutch are aware that the Caricom leadership is very serious concerning the reparation’s trajectory on slavery. The Dutch main objective should be understood as to divide the Caribbean leadership, meanwhile they continue their colonial agenda depopulating and ethnically cleansing Bonaire peoples by substitution which will inevitably lead to the disappearance of the natives Bonerians as Caribbean people.
The promised 200 million euros for awareness will be mostly spent in the Netherlands and are cut from the budgets for poverty eradication and implementation of MDG and SDG projects. The Netherlands have used this strategy of promising UN and international funding to eradicate poverty to destroy and dissolve the Netherlands Antilles on October 10, 2010 and never kept the promises. NKBB hopes the advice in this letter will find a listening ear with the Caricom Secretary General and CARICOM Heads of States and strengthen the resolve to end coloniality.

Your Sincerely,
James Finies – President Nos Ke Boneiru Bek
Davika Bissessar – President Bonaire Human Rights

The Missing Strength in the Fight against Domestic Violence.

Good Day people of St. Martin.
Last Friday, St. Martin joined the world in commemorating the "International Day for Awareness towards the Eradication of Violence against Women and Girls." Several major local organizations made sure to contribute to the awareness of the above, including the eradication of "Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence."

I had the honor of being invited to several events about violence against women and girls as a panelist or speaker. I noticed that all these events were completely organized and attended to by women, exclusively. Men were almost non-existent in the audience. It was as if the idea of men being involved in events like these were considered taboo. While sitting with an old classmate, who was also invited to the same 3 events, I wondered why? Why are women so appreciative of me and Jamal accepting these invitations and showing up?

Throughout the panel discussions, we have learned that the Caribbean as a region has more instances of violence against women than the global average. Women were admonished to report their abusers; instead, what was evident is more, women protected the abusers.
As the conversations went back and forth, it became very obvious to me why we were invited and what was missing.

What was and is still missing in the fight against violence against women and girls is the men. It's evident men are not a part of the fight at all.

Where are the male organizations speaking out against domestic violence against women and girls? Where are the churches, the sports clubs, the service clubs, and the fraternities? Why aren't groups of men speaking up against domestic violence and respect for women and girls, and why aren't men at the forefront? This is not as much a women's problem, but everyone's problem, MEN included.

Traditionally, women and girls see us (their men, their fathers, their brothers) as their protectors. Are we really protectors? Are we protecting our women and girls? Most men would proudly say: "I'm protecting mine," but is that true?

We are definitely not protecting our women and girls when we laugh at jokes and sing songs about a woman being beaten or mistreated... We as men are definitely not protecting our own daughters when we share a video on social media of any woman being mistreated. This might read harshly, but we need to realize our part in all of this.
Even if a man has never abused or would never ever ever ever think they would abuse a woman or girl but he allows another man around him to tell a story of mistreating a woman, that man is not protecting his daughter or sister or mother from future disrespect by other men.

What about mistakes, we all make them. The Caribbean cultural norm of "If he doesn't bang me, he doesn't love me" needs to be brought into context as well. We have for too long allowed, hidden, and protected violence against women in our culture. The male's integrity is protected, while the female is told to move on and to not aggravate men again. The women are told not to wear short dresses, don't speak up or else. The sad truth is that these statements are sometimes told by other women they trust, too.

Dear Caribbean, it is 2022. Let us forgive ourselves for allowing violence in our culture against our own. Let's collectively change our mindset to protect our own. Caribbean men, you know how we feel about our mothers and grandmothers, we know there is nothing manly or macho about abusing those we are supposed to protect.

We need to immediately begin to change this "Caribbean" way of dealing with violence against women and girls so our next generation of young boys and girls dont continue experiencing this nonsense.

We, as men, can not think we are protecting the women closest to us by allowing the disrespect of women anywhere else. This is a tough thing to realize. Most men would dread having to "pull up" another man if being told a story about how the man had to use violence to "handle his woman" or "put her in her place."

Caribbean men, imagine you have to stand up to your brother, your friend, your father, your faithful pastor, a police officer, a work colleague, a neighbor, a man you respect, about something that most men would consider not your business. Well, if he is that comfortable saying that around you, then he made it your business bro, be a man. You are not protecting women and girls (including yours) if you keep letting it slide and say nothing. Why? Because by not standing up for that woman, we are not standing up for every woman, including our own sisters, girlfriends, wives, daughters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. By laughing as if it's a joke, or feeling a sense of machismo, while hiding behind the onus of "cause that's our caribbean culture" we allow another man to continue thinking violence against any woman is ok, acceptable, funny, or macho.

Men, its never too late to change your perspective on this even if you as a man have committed violence to a woman or girl in the past, if you are sorry, if you feel you were wrong, let us redirect this karma into making a difference in other men and boys lives.

Times change, it is 2022 and everybody has a phone. The violence that would have been hidden 20 years ago is now trending on the timeline, 1 act of violence can be seen, laughed at, and shared by millions of people influencing their own sensitivity about violence. Friday morning on the day, I read a news article about a young man shooting his pregnant girlfriend in the belly, and 2 hours after that saw a picture captioned that another man had thrown his companion out of a moving car, in St. Martin.

There's a lot we #asmen need to talk about, a lot of healing that still needs to happen, most women have no idea whatsoever of what we are going through because we hide it so swaggy. We need to work on that. But let us not forget, Caribbean men, all around the universe are well known as the subspecies with the sweetest words, the best cooks, and the most romantic accents, and for being the best lovers the world about, it is time we change our mindsets, learn to forgive ourselves and each other, begin to hold each other accountable and add 'best protectors of women and girls to that list. #bigmanting We can't protect ours if we can't protect all.

Alston Lourens
A Caribbean Husband, Father, Brother, Son, Grandson, Nephew, Godson, Colleague, Cousin, and friend to many Caribbean women.


Alston A. Lourens


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