Opinion: Disasters

POSTED: 08/9/11 12:03 PM

Yesterday’s Central Committee meeting about disaster management was revealing in more than one way. Fire Chief Winston Solomon was right on target with some remarks that address the overblown expectations people have of the protection the government has to offer when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan, and – we may add – about the way politicians like to portray this.
Solomon said what politicians will never admit: the government is not able to offer one hundred percent protection. People must understand that they live in a place where hurricanes do occur and they have to prepare for such events themselves. This is not what is always happening, Solomon said. In spite of public awareness campaigns that are launched year after year with endless repeats of the same information, some (if not many) people just ignore this. They only start screaming when something happens.
This is not uniquely St. Maarten. It is a universal innate habit of people the world over. Protecting yourself against something that might or might not happen is boring most of the time – and the more boring it becomes, the less people are inclined to take measures.
Of the ten parliamentarians that attended the meeting apart from chair Gracita Arrindell (only Leroy de Weever called in sick; George Pantophlet showed up when the meeting was almost over, and Louie Laveist and Hyacinth Richardson did not come to work) the clearest and most sensible questions came from Jules James. He addressed cooperation with the French side.
But others, like Johan Leonard, made an attempt to get in on the action by suggesting that the disaster management team should use the experience some MPs could bring to the party. Leonard is a former police spokesman, and there are also two doctors in Parliament: Lloyd Richardson and Ruth Douglas.
That suggestion triggered some sniggers in the press room and rightly so. There is a reason why politicians are kept at bay if only because they are capable to start a two-hour discussion before reaching a decision. That’s not helpful during extenuating circumstances as they occur during and after natural disasters.
But the sad impression that emerged from the questions parliamentarians posed is that the representatives of the people lack knowledge of subject matter. Of course, Solomon and Martens had come to the Parliament to inform its members, but especially from longtime residents among the MPs one would expect that they have a better general knowledge of the local situation.
That’s probably why National Alliance leader William Marlin left the meeting early, shaking his head in dismay about what is supposed to be, as he said, “the highest legislative body in the country.”
And indeed, many of the questions that were posed to Martens and Solomon appeared to be not theirs to answer. A lot of questions belong on the desk of the responsible minister – either Vromi-Minister Heyliger or Prime Minister Wescot-Williams.
We heard rather senseless remarks about how the hospital and the new building of the fire department are “built in a valley” and about how one MP is “the living proof” of the fact that when it rains a lot houses near the Great Salt Pond are inundated. And so on.
The professionals on the other side of the table kept a straight face and that sure deserves our admiration.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Disasters by

Comments are closed.