(From The Daily Herald of St. Maarten)
The social unrest in St. Maarten remains a serious concern that is starting to have island-wide implications. Both the United States and Canada, two of the destination’s top tourist source markets, issued minor-level travel advisories for this French side.
And it’s no wonder, with stories of guests made to pay a self-imposed “toll” to be allowed through the barricades by demonstrators, of a taxi driver – thankfully with no passengers – having his vehicle taken and set on fire, of throwing stones at boats with visitors passing under the Sandy Ground bridge, etc. So far, no major injuries or – God forbid – casualties have been reported, but where violence occurs and/or force is used, there are often innocent victims.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs announced that her government did not honour a request from Préfète Déléguée Feucher to offload a cargo ship with military transport vehicles at Port St. Maarten. These were to be ferried on to Galisbay. She also “could not” give permission for a convoy of four trucks and 10 cars with extra gendarmes flown into Grand Case to drive from Oyster Pond via the Dutch side to the Bellevue border point, which was reportedly no longer needed later as they went through one of the French-side barricades instead.
The prime minister explained her motives for these touchy decisions in what is clearly a sensitive situation, primarily, not wanting to add fuel to the fire. At the same time, the day might come when similar assistance is requested from authorities in Marigot by those in Philipsburg.
When inquiring about dialogue with the protesters and possibly meeting them halfway, Jacobs said she was told by the préfète that the main problem is rebellious youth not connected to the demands made. While there may be some truth to the latter, reaching some type of compromise on the way forward regarding the issues listed is probably the key to restoring peace and order.
Make no mistake, doing so quickly is very important for the entire “Friendly Island” and its tourism economy that provides the livelihood for practically the whole population, especially with the high season now underway. Hopefully, wisdom and common sense will reign on the streets of St. Maarten, in Marigot, and in Paris. Let cool heads prevail.Editor’s note: We have seen images of a few areas of St. Maarten on fire, and we are deeply concerned that the call for cooler heads to prevail is not being heeded. We have also seen images of heavily-armed personnel leaving military-style aircraft, and we are fearful that this could further incite the protesters. It is not difficult to imagine that this powder-keg situation could spiral out of control rather quickly, and that there could be much bloodshed and loss of life. In light of this, we are urging our brothers and sisters in St. Maarten to answer the call for reasonable minds to come together. The issues must be resolved in a spirit of comity and goodwill. Our thoughts and prayers are with St. Maarten.