Lake’s help to fire victims irritates Minister De Weever

POSTED: 08/7/14 11:21 PM

St. Maarten – “We have seen politicians who exploit the system for political mileage and interfere in the process, which makes our job more difficult,” Minister Cornelius de Weever (Public Health, Social Development and Labor) said at yesterday’s press briefing about the move by Vromi-Minister Maurice Lake to provide housing for some of the victims of the fire of last weekend in St. Peters.

“Minister Lake and his ministry secured housing for some of the victims but that is not his responsibility,” De Weever said. “It appears that he secured housing in the St. Peters Community Center that did not have electricity and water. Calls had to be made to reconnect the center.”

The minister said that the actions of his colleague were “an adequate example of undermining” and of not understanding boundaries. “Ironically, Minister Lake saw me and my team at the scene doing our job, but he never communicated with me or with any of my team members.”

De Weever added that the coalition forms one government and that the partners in it need to work together in the interest of the people. “I guess we can blame this on the elections,” he said about Lake’s intervention. “It is clear that his ministry and its policies – or the lack thereof, as well as the lack of enforcement have created and allowed shanty towns and sub-standard housing to mushroom all over our beautiful island. Our emergency staff is risking health and life carrying patients out of these fourth-world living conditions.”

The minister added that Lake’s real responsibilities are within the realm of public housing, urban planning, environment and infrastructure. “All these fields need serious attention and they have been neglected for the past 18 years,” he said. “We have gone way past the back to basics approach when we look at the living conditions in these shanty towns. There is no proper sewage and that poses health risks every day.”

De Weever referred to a report that appeared after Hurricane Luis in 1995 that declared that there would be no more shanty towns on the island. “Still we are seeing them go up – no pun intended,” he said. “The report also said that there is no political will to address the issue of the shanty towns. Former commissioners of Public Housing have not addressed these issues.”

Before he attacked Lake’s meddling in the affairs of his ministry, Minister De Weever explained that there is a very clear arrangement for the assistance of fire victims. The Fire Department, the Red Cross and the Department of Social Affairs, Community Development and Humanitarian Affairs play a role in it. “The is an established policy and we have executed it many times,” he said. “The system has proven to work every time. We need to coordinate our efforts to avoid people from exploiting the situation. There are those who will collect food, clothing and even money for the victims and then the victims never see any of it.”

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