Letter to the Editor: Acres of Diamonds

POSTED: 01/25/13 12:22 PM

Dear editor,

There is a story of a South African farmer who farmed his rocky land for years, without reward. His life was miserable as he tried to feed his family and sell a few of his crops to the local townspeople. In desperation he finally realized the futility of trying to live off the proceeds of his land so he decided to move on to other opportunities. He then sold his land to a neighbor and moved away, seeking a better life elsewhere. The new owner, while walking his new land noticed something glittering in the water of the stream on the property. Bending down and picking it up he found a diamond! The story goes on to describe how he owned acres of diamonds on his property and became extremely wealthy.

What is the moral of this story you ask? Each of us in our own way are living our lives repeating day after day what we have done the day before. All we need to do is look around us at the opportunities which are waiting for us to discover them.

From my perspective St. Maarten is the farmer who was unable to survive on his land, and was looking for opportunities somewhere else. This is illustrated by the grand plans outlined by Minister Romeo Pantophlet, who proposed the building of four hotels on the island. My first response was regarding the physical or environmental impact this would have. Other than at Maho, where land is available, the island has lost most of its visual appeal as a result of overbuilding and bad planning. Think salt ponds, cricket, drag racing, and uncontrolled development.

Upon further reflection though, I thought of the thousands of timeshare owners who have left the island, never to return. Here is a diamond worthy of finding. They have left as a direct result of the government’s inability to communicate with or assist the timeshare owners in any meaningful way. Are we welcomed to the island in any way? No. Legislation has been promised for years without any news as to its progress. Have we been asked to participate, as key stakeholders in the legislation? No. Has the government provided any forum for the timeshare owners to communicate their thoughts and concerns? No.

So you ask, why are you timeshare people leaving? Maybe my personal experience will answer the question. I own timeshares in several countries and have never experienced the timeshare owner abuses that I have on St. Maarten. They are too numerous to enumerate here, but suffice it to say that timeshare developers have clearly been given a license to steal from the timeshare owners, and there is no accountability or legislation to protect us. We have never been given a voice to speak or an ear to listen.

We timeshare owners are not hotel guests who come for a week or two and rarely return. We are not cruise passengers who come for a day and spend on taxis, tours and some Front Street businesses. We come for a week or multiple weeks and use the taxis, rental cars, grocery stores, restaurants, Front Street businesses, and tours year after year. We have purchased our rooms at the costs of thousands of dollars each and continue to pay maintenance fees every year. Many of us have established long term personal relationships on the island and feel a strong attachment to St. Maarten.

So in closing, I would challenge those in authority, and those who can influence those in authority, to open your eyes and see that the timeshare owners can be the Diamonds on the island of St. Maarten. We only need to be discovered and appreciated. We have been here for many years, we just need to be discovered and appreciated for what we bring to the financial and social wellbeing of the island. We are asking to be part of the solution, but need a vehicle by which we can have some input.

Jerry Wordhouse

P.S.: Another Diamond may appear in the form of unpaid taxes. I have been told that there is a resort on the island that has/had not paid its taxes in years. If true, can there be others?


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