Opinion: A request for Minister Duncan

POSTED: 01/19/12 1:41 PM

Suppose you happen to have the Haitian nationality; that you have lived for decades in St. Maarten; and that you have a child living in Haiti. We all know that the place was devastated by an earthquake in January 2010 and that there is a cholera epidemic. Many people are still homeless, and children live on the streets. It is the perfect breeding ground for abuse and criminality.

The reason you did not bring your kid to St. Maarten is that you don’t have legal status. But when you finally manage to legalize your stay, what would you do about that kid in Haiti?

Right: everything to take it out of there.

Not everybody is familiar with that jungle called bureaucracy, even though the constitution states for obvious reasons that every citizen is supposed to know the law. Nobody gets away with breaking a law by arguing that she or he was not aware of it.

And what do those rules really matter when you talk about children of ten or twelve years old? They mean absolutely nothing to parents that care about their kids.

Here is the situation. The Haitian fathers ended up in court yesterday, together with the man who facilitated the transport. What we saw in court – and this is a rather subjective observation – were two distraught fathers accompanied by a man who came across rather slick; he was neatly dressed in dress pants, black loafers, a blue shirt and a tie, with a cell phone clipped to his belt. The name Slick Willy easily came to mind, even though this defendant claimed that the children whose trip to St. Maarten he facilitated were actually relatives of his. On further questioning he admitted that he did not know exactly who these kids were because he had such a large family. That’s the way they do things in Haiti, we figure.

Oh, Slick Willy also let it be known that he suffered from prostate cancer and from severe headaches. The latter inconvenience he attributed to the fact that he had shared a prison cell with Robert Reid, a man suspected of murdering his 13-year-old daughter Tiffany last year. Reid hanged himself in the bathroom of the cell while the other inmates were apparently sleeping.

From Slick Willy’s account we understand that it is possible to share a prison cell in Pointe Blanche with several inmates, and that nobody disturbs you when you quietly go hang yourself in the shower. Remarkable.

But let us not diverge. The organizer of the transport, our Slick Willy, is facing 18 months imprisonment with 6 months suspended, while the distraught fathers are looking at 6 months conditional and 200 hours of community service. We gladly leave it up to our resident judge to figure out how to handle all this, but there is another aspect that requires attention.

The fathers said that the children are currently in St. Maarten, and that’s at least something to be grateful for. They are here obviously without legal title, and it is now up to our Justice Minister to take a decision about them.

Dear Mr. Duncan, we know we bugged you a lot about the gun license policy, but that was in the past. As you may know, the past does not exist. So this one time we ask you to show how big your heart is, and to grant these children the right to stay with their fathers for as long as they want to. Please do not create St. Maarten’s own Mauro; it will make us look bad. And you’re not going to send a ten-year old and a twelve-year old back to Haiti, are you now? Right?

On behalf of the two fathers, we thank you very much.

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