Reader’s Letter: What really happened last week!

POSTED: 07/11/11 1:01 PM

Dear Editor,

Please allow me some space in your newspaper to share my observations about how the media has covered the recent story of two real estate associations being formed on our island.  I am grateful for the exposure this topic has received because it has raised awareness about how urgent it is for our industry to have a neutral body that represents everyone’s best interest.

The real story however is not about the local real estate industry being divided. Rather it should be about a young man from Holland, Mr. Francois van der Waarden, who came to St. Maarten for a three month internship with the overwhelming challenge of trying to accomplish something that has never been done before, at least not on our island. He graciously accepted this challenge knowing that there had been several unsuccessful attempts over the years, all by business people who were far more experienced than him. Yet after 2 months of diligent research, Mr. van der Waarden was able to give a solid presentation to a room full of real estate agency owners. When it was all said and done, he had the overwhelming support and endorsement from everyone in the room!  It’s a shame that The Daily Herald has given such extensive coverage to the so called “division” in the real estate industry, but failed to at least acknowledge Mr. Van Der Waarden for all of his hard work and what he has possibly done for the future of our industry. I would like to point out, The Today newspaper rightfully acknowledged him in their headlines about this story on Friday and Saturday!

Earlier in the week, I had sent a press release to both newspapers about our upcoming plans for a presentation to all real estate agency owners. We kindly asked that it be featured in Friday’s paper, the same day that we were planning to share our proposal with all industry leaders. The Daily Herald chose not to run this press release stating they had already given enough coverage to this topic. But in my opinion all the coverage up to this point was rather negative and focused on how divided our industry was. This press release contained NO negative comments towards anyone. Rather it simply extended an invitation to all agency owners to please attend a meeting that could have a very positive impact on our industry and overall credibility of our island, but instead the Daily Herald only ran a paid ad from SMRA, which in my opinion was clearly intended to try and sabotage our presentation.

On the contrary, not only did the Today publish our press release on Friday, but they also added some interesting facts to the story when they revealed SMRA had NOT been officially registered at the Chamber of Commerce. Earlier in the week, SMRA issued a press release via both newspapers stating that they had been “officially registered for over 3 weeks!” Given the circumstances this was an important detail, and I think it would have been prudent for The Daily Herald to confirm the facts before reporting them, or at least acknowledge the facts after they surface, yet in Saturday’s paper The Herald once again referred to SMRA as the association which had been registered for several weeks.

In addition to publishing our press release on Friday, the Today, also took it one step further and printed an editorial urging the members of SMRA to at least go and hear the proposal which was being shared to all agency owners. The Today clearly realized how important the outcome of this meeting could be towards creating progress for our industry and island.

When the story first ran in both papers about two associations, I immediately contacted both papers and kindly requested that they stop referring to our efforts as the “second association.”  Yet Saturday’s headline in the Daily Herald read – REAL ESTATE OWNERS DISCUSS SECOND ASSOCIATION. This may seem like a minor detail, but sub-consciously it has a big impact on how readers interpret the story. The fact is at this moment there is NO genuine real estate association on our island, so why are our efforts being referred to as being in second place?

Whether SMRA is registered or not, a true association still needs the overwhelming support from everyone in the industry, a clear set of bylaws, and a clear definition of who is allowed to join; all things that neither of us have accomplished as yet. The only thing significant that they have done as an association is boycott a meeting of all company owners.

By referring to our efforts as being second, it suggests to the reader that SMRA is already recognized as the association of our industry. This is so far from the truth.

It’s also important to note that at least two of the founding members from SMRA have been involved in previous attempts to try and start an association and failed within a few months. So why are they receiving the benefit of the doubt that they will be successful this time? Just because they have processed their paperwork at the notary before us?

Finally I would like to point out that SMRA has made several comments about other companies being unethical. I would like to know which companies they are referring to and have they looked in the mirror lately?  Both newspapers have shed little or no light on the fact that two of their founding members sat in several brainstorming meetings with myself, Hanneke Snow of Remax, and Mr. van der Waarden (Dutch intern who did months of research about associations around the world). We added both of them to a mailing list on which we openly shared all the findings of our research.  They had firsthand knowledge of the presentation we were working on, and they led us to believe we were all working together to create an association for our industry. They rushed their press release to the media that they had created an association knowing full well all agency owners were scheduled to meet that week to discuss the formation of the same thing.  Rather than use this event as an opportunity to involve others and share their vision, they did everything in their power to try and sabotage our meeting of the minds.

I thank you for reading this

Kind Regards

Arun Jagtiani 


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