SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Lionel R. Joseph) - I'm not sure what "revisionist history" has to do with anything when a man speaks of present-day issues. I'm not sure what it means at all. Something is either true or it is not. But it was an odd thing to say. Maybe there is something deeper at play within the mind of MP Gumbs. Resentment perhaps? Who knows.
What we do know is that Sint Maarten faces many problems today. Some of them are home grown and some are not. One of the greatest obstacles to both progress and simple, everyday governing is the broken Charter and Kingdom structure.
Regardless of how we got here, no one can deny that the current Kingdom arrangement is dysfunctional. And the consequences of this are clear. Since 10-10-10, progress and basic decision making is either studied to death by overpaid consultants or suffocated by more and more entities we never asked for nor ever needed. We don't need to look much further than the recovery after Irma to see this. Something Theo and others try to point out. Is it a "bold faced lie" that Dominica benefited from international aid while after almost 3 years only a drop of what was promised to Sint Maarten has actually been spent? Even a child can see the obvious.
Is MP Gumbs saying that the roofless homes we see around us is also a bold-faced lie? Are the stars people see at night where once they had a roof a bold-faced lie made up by Theo? Believe the excuses around the trust fund, not your own eyes, is what MP Gumbs is telling people. Don't trust yourself, but trust the experts. It has been 3 long years of waiting and trusting these experts. She wants us to wait some more apparently.
The MP cites the Citizenship by Investment Program, where islands sell a passport for a hefty price to foreign investors, as the only fund Dominica benefits from to rebuild homes. Now that is a bold-faced lie. MP Gumbs conveniently forgot to mention that the same World Bank successfully provided funds to Dominica's recovery after Hurricane Maria. Speaking about the World Bank funds, Prime Minister Skerrit publicly stated that US$40 million from that international fund will go to housing in Dominica. This fact was published by the World Bank itself back in April 2018. Is this another "bold faced lie"? Why did it work over there and not here? Did she bother to ask herself that? Perhaps MP Gumbs should spend more time researching these facts than she does on a retired politician. It was a transparent attempt to distract from local reality.
The truth is that something is clearly wrong when our Caribbean peers can rebuild while we wait on more requirements, more new entities, more bureaucracy, and more expensive consultants before one nail can be hammered. That is just madness.
Some may be puzzled why MP Gumbs would throw a tantrum over a casual radio interview about the simple issue of fixing roofs. I certainly was. What could get her so hot and bothered? Her response was to shoot down any further talk about fixing roofs, like some uptight kindergarten teacher lecturing small children for asking too many questions. I mean, how dare you point out that almost 3 years later and countless committees, reports, and entities there is actually little to show. But then, who exactly does MP Gumbs serve, if not the St. Maarten people?
Perhaps the truth is that it is a personal matter too close to home for the MP. The NRPB, the local guardian of the US$500 million promised to St. Maarten, is coming under closer scrutiny by a skeptical population. Sint Maarten's representative on the NRPB is MP Gumbs' father, a career politician and former Prime Minister, who has enjoyed more government positions over the past 40 odd years than anyone else. So, the tantrum was nothing more but the same protecting of personal interest over the national interest. MP Gumbs is not really concerned with fixing roofs, and certainly not the truth, but protecting the bureaucrats who tell you that what you see with your eyes is not real. In other words, ordinary folks must not criticize what is close to home of those with power and privilege, like an MP. Her message was to sit tight and shut up for another 3 years, and count your lucky stars above instead.
It's an easy and a cost-free exercise to stab Theo when it suits the moment. It doesn't make MP Gumbs brave. It makes her common. We've seen it before. It's pathological, especially among those who have accomplished little or nothing in their lives.
The really difficult job is to take on the greatest challenge we face: the broken Kingdom and the very real consequences of it on people's lives. For a change, let's hold ourselves and the entire Kingdom accountable for the broken promises. Hold the invisible bureaucrats accountable, because they are the only few who quietly benefit while St. Maarten falls apart. But that would require taking on real risk and facing the brunt of our mighty European partners. That is a cost MP Gumbs is unwilling to bear.
If that challenge is too difficult for some politicians, like MP Gumbs, then we'll offer her a simpler challenge: start by creating one real job first. Just one. The clock is ticking.
Lionel R. Joseph