Jadira Veen: “Monument permit Rainforest park highly questionable”

POSTED: 06/20/12 12:32 PM

“Unlawful” procedures outrage Pride Foundation”

GREAT BAY / By Hilbert Haar – St. Maarten Pride Foundation President Jadira Veen is outraged about the fact that the former Minister of Culture Rhoda Arrindell issued a monument permit that clears the way for the construction of the Rockland Estate Rainforest park at the Emilio Wilson Estate. She is also extremely concerned about the fact that former Minister Theo Heyliger did not renew the provision for planning permits, because this means that now anybody is able to build, excavate or demolish anything without a permit.

Pride Foundation President Jadira Veen

“During the last few months it has become clear to Rueben (Thompson, Pride’s vice-president – ed.) and I that certain procedures to grant the permit to for the Rainforest theme park were done unlawfully,” Veen says. “It appears that in January the former Minister of Vromi, Theo Heyliger, did not renew the provision for planning permits.”

Veen says that the system of planning permits was put in place because the island did not have completed zoning plans. “Planning permits are required for situation where there is a subdivision, not for the construction of a single house,” Veen explains.

The planning permit provision expired on January 1 of this year. “As a result planning permits are no longer required,” Veen says. “The same goes for excavation and demolition permits.”

While the permit-issue is a topic of grave concern to the veteran environmentalist, what really has her outraged is that former Culture Minister Rhoda Arrindell signed off on a monument permit for the Rainforest project.

“It is highly questionable how this was achieved,” she says. “There is no Monument Council and that council ought to give an advice before any decision is taken. That did not happen. The shocking part is that, so shortly before Emancipation Day, this permit was issued by ministerial decree by someone who positions herself as the protector of our slave history. She gave permission to destroy our heritage. Let’s not forget that the whole Emilio Wilson Estate is on the Monument list.”

“Arrindell had two years to form a Monument Council,” Veen notes. “The impression she gives is that she holds the history of slavery close to her heart. How then can she give such a permit to turn the Emilio Wilson Estate into a theme park?”

Veen says that she is disappointed that the current government is not ready to look into the paper trail that led to the permits for the theme park. “It just was not done properly,” she insists, “and that decree from Rhoda Arrindell was never published.”

The Pride President desperately wants to see some action on the administrative level: “I urge the government to look into this, otherwise they become accomplices to the unlawful things the previous government did.”

And Veen has another bee in her bonnet: “I take offense to another print medium that wrote that the project will at least create some much needed employment. It is normal for every country to have a national forest or a national park. All we are asking is that the Emilio Wilson Estate becomes our national park. And does such a park not create employment? Don’t we need park rangers, and people to maintain the park? Right now we are giving away the last piece of precious nature on St. Maarten to accommodate 600 to 800 cruise passengers per day. I take offense to that.”

This morning Rueben Thompson, as a board member of the Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation and Jadira Veen, as president of the Pride Foundation, submitted a letter to the department of general affairs addressed to Vromi-Minister William Marlin and Culture Minister Silveria Jacobs.

In this letter Thompson and Veen point out that the government is obliged to hear the Monument Council when someone asks for a permit to demolish a protected monument. Since this Monument Council does not exist, as far as Thompson and Veen have been able to establish, this procedure was obviously not followed.

The decision to issue the permit was also not published in local media or in the national gazette.

“The foundations therefore urge you to take the necessary measures to retract any permit issued for the Emilio Wilson Estate, to halt any and all construction activities taking place on the Estate and to ensure that future requests follow proper procedures. As stakeholders in the protection of St. Maarten’s Natural and Cultural Heritage, the Foundations are hereby requesting you to provide us with copies of any and all permits issued for the Emilio Wilson Estate,” the letter concludes.

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