Airport, St. Maarten–Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, accompanied by the State Secretary of Interior and Kingdom Relations, Raymond Knops, concluded their working visit to St. Maarten on Monday.
It was the Prime Minister’s first visit to the Dutch Windward Islands since the passing of the hurricanes in September of last year. Prior to visiting St. Maarten, the Prime Minister and his entourage visited the islands of St. Eustatius and Saba, where he was brought up to speed regarding the recovery process following hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.
The Prime Minister and his delegation arrived on St. Maarten Monday morning. Upon their arrival at the Princess Juliana International Airport, the Prime Minister and the State Secretary will meet with the Police Alpha Team at Princess Juliana International Airport; this was followed by a meeting with St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday.
They also paid a visit to the White and Yellow Cross, which has been playing an important role in St. Maarten’s reconstruction after the hurricane. The delegation also visited the St. Martin Home, where they met with officials as well as occupants of the home.
After an introductory meeting with Prime Minister, the Honorable Leona Marlin-Romeo and the other members of the Council of Ministers, the Dutch delegation moved to the Simpson Bay Lagoon, where they boarded a boat for a tour. St. Martin Préfet Anne Laubies and President of the Collectivité of St. Martin Daniel Gibbs also joined the group for this tour on water.
During the tour, Rutte and Knops were not only be able to witness the destruction that the hurricane caused to the boats in the lagoon, as they had the opportunity to have a conversation with Laubies and Gibbs about the cooperation between the countries, which is especially important now in light of the entire island’s reconstruction.
Before returning to the Netherlands late Monday, Rutte and Knops were given a tour of Princess Juliana International Airport, at which time; the Prime Minister was able to see some of the damages caused by the hurricanes.
Shortly after, a press conference which also included Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin was held. Also present was the Minister of Finance, the Honorable Michael Ferrier.
Whilst speaking at the media briefing, Prime Minister Rutte told journalists that following the hurricanes, a lot has been done, but at the same time, still a lot needs to be done.
He also said that he was struck by the resilience of the society, the way government, societal organizations and the business community are working together to improve the situation.
Prime Minister Rutte also acknowledged the work that the Prime Minister of St. Maarten, the Honorable Leona Romeo-Marlin has been doing. He remarked: “We hope of cause the Prime Minister will stay the same, as there is a lot of confidence in her personally, and that continuity, we badly need here in St. Maarten.
This government and we also hope the new government will be fully aware of what needs to be done as a clear agenda, a clear path forward.” He specifically made mentioned of shelter capacity.
According to him, that is not yet 100% guaranteed that if a new hurricane was to strike the island at a 4 or 5 level that there would be enough shelter capacity for people.
As it pertains to the dump, Prime Minister Rutte stated that it is very important that this is dealt with, as this will be one big problem on the island, in the event that a hurricane should make land fall on the island.
“There are many issues, and the prison is another one of them. The Netherlands is very happy that we have an agreement on border controls and the Integrity Chamber which was necessary for us to make available over half a billion Euros through the world bank for the reconstruction of St. Maarten, which will be handed out in installment.
Meanwhile, also echoing the sentiments of the Prime Minster that there is still a lot to be done was the State Secretary of Interior and Kingdom Relations, Raymond Knops.
He specifically spoke about the situation at the Princess Juliana International Airport. “We were at the airport today, where we saw that a lot has to be done to reconstruct the airport, the life line to the outside world, an economic life line as well.
As it pertains to the dump Knops said, “It is a shame for a country to have such a dump in the center of you country, and I saw a lot of Ministers very committed to remove it quickly, to solve this problem from a health care prospective, but also from an economic attractive prospective.”