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Dutch King calls for community - we need the 'greater we'...

The Netherlands - Dutch King Willem-Alexander has called on people to work towards a sense of community in his traditional Christmas address to the nation. King Willem Alexander - Copyright RVD - Photo Frank van Beek.

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Dear Reader

Sometimes we read an opinion piece or a letter to the editor in The Daily Herald that we have to agree is so on point that we jealously admit why we couldn't get to publish this piece as well.

Luckily, common practice allows us to republish an article as we long as we mention the source of the article. And we are sure our colleagues at The Daily Herald won't mind us republishing a piece now and then. It is a slow news day anyway, coming back in from the Christmas holdays.

Here is the integral text of a letter to the editor by Steven Johnson and see why we took the liberty of republishing this piece. Something for our members of Parliament to consider as well.

Dear Editor,
A week or so ago this newspaper announced the awarding of a building permit for some towers to be built in Cupecoy or thereabouts. The lead editorial made observations about the project and its survivability and the final tag line made by the Editor, when talking about that survivability, was “they get the benefit of the doubt.”
It made me cringe when I read it because in any sort of modern society and certainly in this day and age, Engineering is no longer a matter of guesswork and luck. It is a function of the pure mechanical sciences that define loads and tolerances.
Luck has nothing to do with it and so, with all due respect, Mr. Editor, you are dead wrong. They are not owed the benefit of the doubt. The designers and Engineers should be held to the highest standards and their credentials, work and calculations vetted by individuals at VROMI [Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure – Ed.] or elsewhere if necessary by individuals with real degrees in Engineering and vast experience in these types of structures. Any doubts should be erased before the first shovel of dirt is raised.
I drive around this island and I watch people rebuilding and I see them making the same mistakes they made in the first place over and over again. Long spans with inadequate materials. Incorrect and overly-wide spacings of rafters to save money on materials. Completely nonstructural joints at critical intersections. The most simple and basic correct practices and methods routinely ignored, guaranteeing as a matter of literal fact that the new roofs and structures will fail in exactly the same way as the old ones did.
When I see homeowners doing it themselves I recognize that these guys are doing the very best they can and to the limit of their knowledge. They aren't professionals and they don't know any better and are doing the best they can with the best they have to work with under brutal pressure to get something done. God bless them, and I hope it all works out, but when I see so-called professional contractors doing it simply makes me sad. Clients are paying big money to have things done badly and that is both a tragedy and completely avoidable.
And so comes my suggestion: What VROMI needs to do is simply get a copy of the Dade County, Florida, building code and adopt it as their own. Dade county in Florida has the toughest standards for new construction anywhere in the U.S. with the possible exception of the California earthquake standards. They are the result of generations of storms wreaking havoc on Florida and the Engineers there reacting with tougher and tougher codes and the results getting better and better. Just get a copy, take a Sharpie and cross out Dade County and write in “VROMI SXM“ and claim them as your own.
Then start making and enforcing a licensing and bonding system for contractors. Hold them accountable for their work and their failures. Drive the hacks out of business and allow the truly-skilled to flourish. It would require a rigid professional inspection regime carried out by, once again, professionals that know their job.
It will make a lot of people mad. Cries of “That's the way we always did it before” will ring out from the unskilled and uneducated who will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the realm of competence and knowledge. It will take great courage, strength and determination by someone in authority downtown to make sure that the system gets enforced, but over time and in the end, the culture will change and people will stop building badly and the devastation from bad storms will be vastly reduced.
It's not magic and it’s not rocket science. All that's required are real engineers with real degrees doing the designing, followed by competent contractors utilizing skilled workers to do the building, all being inspected on a rigid schedule by individuals with the power to say “NO, that does not meet code. Tear it out and do it right.”
I wonder if that courage actually exists here.
Steven Johnson
Source : The Daily Herald

The Daily Herald also published an Editor's Note under this article as a response to the statement the writer made in his opening paragraph. Click here to read the Editor's Note as well.

Do enjoy the rest of the newsletter and have a great day as we start the count down to the new year.

The Publisher,

PS: Please email all your letters to the editor via Headline Story
Wycliffe Smith resigns from the USMF Board

Philipsburg - We received the following press release from Wycliffe Smith about his resignation from the USMF board with the request to dissemminate this news via our media platforms. Smith writes in his press release: "The financial woes of the...

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Haviser's Orange Movement wants constitutional referendum

By Hilbert Haar

PHILIPSBURG – Dr. Jay Haviser is on a mission. With the establishment of the Orange Movement he wants to convince the Parliament in St. Maarten to hold a referendum about the country’s constitutional status. His preferred option is controversial: making St. Maarten together with the BES-islands the thirteenth province of the Netherlands.

Why the Orange Movement? Haviser: “After Hurricane Irma I was shocked by the incompetence and the inability of politicians to handle the situation. I talked to colleagues and friends about this and they were in the same frame of mind: this was wrong.”

When he walked down the street after the hurricane, the 62-year old archeologist did not like what he saw: “Gangs of youngsters, actual looting and no sense of security whatsoever. It was like Lord of the Flies.” (For the uninitiated: Google the movie-title to understand this reference; it’s enlightening).

Haviser experienced a breakdown of norms and values and says that it’s a good thing that the marines stepped in to prevent things from totally getting out of control.
But the whole situation put his thought processes in overdrive. Haviser now expresses serious doubts about the autonomous status the island has acquired within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. “We have to approach the question whether autonomy works or not rationally and pragmatically, not emotionally,” he said. “And to be honest: the only real solution is re-integration into the Netherlands. We have had six government in seven years; that shows that autonomy has failed. Independence is of course an option but I am cautious about that one.”

Haviser labels St. Maarten’s current constitutional status as “non-democratic autonomy.”

How’s that? “We are ruled by a few families and the politicians do not speak for the people. There is a carousel at the top of power. Always the same group. Instead of a democracy we have an oligarchical democracy where a limited number of families rule.”

The core of the Orange Movement consists of eight people. Among them is Tadzio Bervoets, manager of the Nature Foundation. “Tadzio is part of that generation that has to take these decisions.” Haviser observes. “I hope this movement will help millennials to wake up and smell the coffee.” He emphasized that the Orange Movement is not a political organization. “We want people to speak up. Afterwards, we’ll see what happens.”

Nevertheless, Haviser acknowledges that politicians are the problem. Unfortunately, under St. Maarten’s constitution, those same politicians hold the key to any referendum. Unlike in the Netherlands, where a civil initiative has to present 300,000 signatures to force a referendum, the population of St. Maarten depends on the willingness of its elected representatives for a referendum.

To put this in perspective: 300,000 signatures represent roughly 1.75 percent of the Dutch population (currently 17,186,360); If St. Maarten had similar referendum-legislation with a proportionate requirement for signatures, it would take (based on 40,000 inhabitants) only 700 signatures to force a referendum – less than the number of votes needed to win one seat in Parliament.

“The first option is to hear the people’s voice.’ Haviser says. “If politicians have nothing to fear, they will let this happen.”

But the Orange Movement is also prepared for a scenario whereby politicians will not go for a referendum. In that case, Haviser says, the Orange Movement will call on article 51 of the Kingdom Charter. This article gives the Kingdom the option to issue a general measure of kingdom administration if a body of St. Maarten does not, or insufficiently do what it has to do based on the Kingdom Charter, an international regulation, a kingdom law or a general measure of kingdom administration.

The Orange Movement wants, if it comes to that point, use article 51 to convince the Kingdom partners to pressure the Parliament of St. Maarten to hold the referendum.
In the referendum, the movement wants to present three options: the status quo, independence and ‘Status Netherlands’. The third option is Haviser’s favorite. It would create a Dutch province, consisting of St. Maarten and the BES-islands. The status would offer social benefits and administrative and logistical responsibilities based on the Dutch model.

Haviser is passionate about this initiative, yet he is realistic enough to say that, when it comes to a referendum, the majority would probably vote for the status quo – St. Maarten as an autonomous country within the Kingdom.

“I would not have reacted so strongly if Irma had not happened.” he says. “Irma has exposed our vulnerability. We are too small a country to deal with these responsibilities. We are not only talking about local issues here but politicians are only looking inward for themselves and only a small percentage of the population benefits.”

According to Haviser the Dutch model is efficient and more productive than the autonomous status St. Maarten currently has. “Look at the airport; a typical example of incompetence and nepotism. The World Bank said that it could have the airport up and running again in four months and they said that three months ago. Look where we are now; we are not handling this properly.”

Haviser does not fear any backlash from this initiative. “Call me what you like.” he says. “Call me neo-colonial, but give the population the opportunity to decide. After the storm racial tensions on the island have increased. If they want to make this about me – fine. Marcus Garvey has said: an earnest man does not fear consequences.”

The you-not-from-here-argument will not work very well against the Florida-born archeologist. “I have lived the majority of my life under the flag of the Netherlands Antilles and I believe in the unity of the islands; that is better than a division. I am also a Knight in the Order of Orange Nassau. Being knighted is not just a pretty title. It comes with the responsibility to stand up for the right decision, also when that decision is not popular. I love St. Maarten and I want the best for our island.”

While the Orange Movement’s core group consists of just eight people, Haviser says that he is amazed how many business people and community leaders agree with his initiative. “But nobody has to courage to stand up for a controversial position like this.” Poll

Status Quo- 27%
Independence - 7%
Status Netherlands - 66%                     

Poll sponsored by, when you need your roof fixed quick.
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