During the reign of the late Claude Wathey, he disposed of St. Maarten as though it were his private piece of real estate. He filled in the lagoon and cut down a large portion of Fort Willem Hill to fill the Salt Pond. It did not matter to him that he would expose the residents of Fort Willem to the danger of landslides and falling boulders, which today threaten their lives each time the island receives heavy rainfall.
Neither did it matter to him that Philipsburg suffered serious flooding each time our island was visited by a tropical storm or a hurricane. The least of his worries was that he made the once green and lush hill into an eye-sore. Of course, I can give Mr. Wathey the benefit of the doubt, because in those days there were no environmental groups or environmental specialists or engineers, who could warn him of the potential disastrous results of his actions. The older people did warn of the flooding potential, but he did not listen as he doubted their expertise.
Today, his grandson, Theo Heyliger, is truly following in his grandfather’s footsteps! He too is disposing of this island as though it is his private plantation. He destroys the natural beauty of the island in his so-called beautification attempts and replaces it with bricks, cement and imported palm trees! He is finishing his grand-father’s legacy of filling up the Salt Pond, thus destroying the legacy of the St. Maarten people and exposing them to even more danger as he is filling it with the sand that he took from the sand bank, which once offered natural protection to our island during heavy sea swells caused by bad weather.
The environmental groups have issued serious warnings for potentially disastrous flooding that could be worse than Hurricane Lenny in 1999, should we be hit by another hurricane.
But is Theo Listening? No, he does not care. His only interest is the land that he is creating in the Pond to give out to his relatives, foreign investors and a few of his local rich friends. Mind you, his relatives already own half of the filled-in lagoon, part of the boardwalk and in addition half of St. Maarten.
Our once beautiful Salt Pond has been reduced to a dirty little puddle full of sewage. The water birds that were often photographed by tourists have all either died or moved elsewhere. More and more of the pond is being filled in: much more than he originally said he would. No one says anything so Theo and “Tochi” keep on filling!
The environmentalists attempted to make an issue that they were filling in too much and their lives were threatened by “Tochi,” who has carte blanche from Theo to fill in as much as he wants and is grinning all the way to the bank.
Should it surprise anyone then that Theo decided to replenish the beach without asking anyone’s permission? Public Works department knew nothing about it, the environmentalists knew nothing, but since St. Maarten belongs to Theo, he felt as though he was just replenishing the sand by his backyard pool, so he did not need to ask anyone’s permission or inform anyone.
St. Maarten is Theo and his family’s private piece of real estate: He does with it what he pleases with the money that he receives from the harbour, which he treats like his private cash cow, as my friend Gracita rightfully stated. Monies intended for projects that would benefit the community and improve the quality of life for the people on this island.
St. Maarten’s history is lost because of Theo. St. Maarteners will drown because of Theo, who will be safe and dry in his million-dollar house on the hill, while the rest of the island is flooding!
Continue destroying St. Maarten and its people, Theo. Continue treating it like your private plantation. Continue endangering the people’s lives. God forbid that one day the blood of several drowned St. Maarten residents will be on your hands!