St. Peters resident objects to tunnel plan

POSTED: 11/13/12 2:59 PM

St. Maarten –  Community activist Rene Koto Wilson  is up in arms over the recent announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister William Marlin to build at least two tunnels one of which is expected to pass through the St. Peters district, Wilson’s home town.

He read the article this newspaper carried in its November 8 edition and decided that it was time for residents to demand that more important societal ills be remedied.

Wilson said that as an area that boasts the most schools, St. Peters is still not child friendly.

“There are no zebra crossings, there are no signs to drivers indicating that they have to run at a moderate speed, running sewerage water in the streets continues to be a problem for over 50 years.  The lighting system is poor in here and this helps criminals. Right now I am living on a road that has no name. How can you have a tourism destination where there is no name of streets for tourists to know where they are going? “

He believes that there has been a structured neglect of the St. Peters community by the Ministry of Vromi, which Marlin is responsible for, as well as the Public Health Ministry.

“All of this work that government says it is doing is not being done about our plight. Where is the credibility of the inspectors, what have they done for these neighborhoods all these years.”

Wilson vehemently rejects any suggestion of massive infrastructural development in or near residential or heritage areas.

“Nobody can’t come and build no tunnel in St. Peters. We are born St. Maarteners and this is erfpacht (long lease) property that was handed over for families to build homes. Land is being sold all over this island and it is not being given to St. Maarteners. When you go to government and ask for land, they never have. But all of a sudden you have land to build a tunnel. This is very strange to us the people. We are not taking it anymore, our eyes are open and we are watching everything.”

He is also curious as to why no town hall meeting was held to update residents on government’s plans. Marlin, last week, said that it was not entirely a new project since the comprehensive road network plan was crafted more than 15 years ago and only two of the links have been completed to date.

The first tunnel is supposed to be constructed slightly into the property of Louie Constant Fleming near Port-de-Plaisance entrance up the hill in Colebay and then into the hill coming out in St. Peters.

Marlin said that St. Peters was chosen for the tunnel exit because it is government land as opposed to St. John’s which belongs to private developers.

“They did not keep any meeting here about a tunnel. We do not want to hear about it. We have a hospital that needs development, government schools have no fences around them and some of them leak when it is raining.

The Prins Willem Alexander School has sewage water all around it.  This is a school for special kids. How could they have a school that is carrying the name of the soon to be king in that condition? You have money to build a bridge, builds tunnels, cricket field and race track but no money to put into the people for education and to do the right thing,” Wilson said.

For now the tunnel project is being explored by a private engineering firm but it is estimated to cost some $100 million.

Wilson has threatened that if the government “does not do the right thing” he will petition the newly installed Dutch government to impose higher supervision on the island.

“We are willing to send a letter. We don’t want to sit down and deal with our government anymore; if they don’t want to respect us then we have absolutely no respect for us.”

He also lodged a complaint at the office of the Ombudsman for what he calls the failure of the Ministry of VROMI to address systemic neglect of St. Peters.

“We don’t know how last a truck came around to flit the environment and sewerage water everywhere. Is like dogs living here. St. Peters residents are no longer sitting around with their eyes closed waiting for handouts. They will face the consequences of what is coming next,” he emphasized.

Last week United People’s Party parliamentarian Ruth Douglass also spoke out against the project saying that the government can invest some of the $100 million in the upgrading of the island’s lone hospital.

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