If you were the Prime Minister, what would you say?

A letter I got in the mail, from the UK

Dear Prime Minister Mike Eman and Chief Minister Victor Banks,

Let me start out by saying that as an Aruban expatriate living in London, UK, it gives me great pride to see how the Government of Aruba and its Citizens have stepped up to the plate by immediately rendering humanitarian assistance to our Dutch Kingdom Brothers and Sisters of Sint Maarten who have been so greatly impacted by the destructive forces of Hurricane Irma over the past week.

I understand from media reports that as many 90 ‘Aruban volunteers’ have been dispatched to the island of Sint Maarten and that among these are Law Enforcement Officers, Medical First Aid Responders and Public Works Engineers and Technicians, in order to assist the Local Authorities in Sint Maarten on the ground with their emergency humanitarian relief and infrastructure rebuilding efforts. I furthermore deeply admire and respect the good efforts by the Dutch Ministry of Defense as well as similar contributions by the Government and good people of Curaçao.

Prime Minister Eman, you may recall that between 1998 and 2010 I lived and worked in Anguilla on a full-time basis and during this period I was fortunate to be able to establish a close working relationship with the Government of Anguilla in general and current Chief Minister Victor Banks in particular, with whom I still maintain a close personal friendship. In the past I have spoken to Chief Minister Victor Banks about the generosity of the Aruban people and I recall telling him with pride that during the Haitian earthquake of 2010 not only did your Government mobilize humanitarian resources akin to what you are now doing for Sint Maarten, but the people and commercial entities of Aruba provided an extraordinary charitable contribution to this effort by donating approximately 10 million florins to the relief effort (which was equivalent to approximately 100 florins for each Citizen of Aruba!).

You may have heard that Sint Maarten’s ‘Sister Island’ of Anguilla has also suffered tremendous damage due to Hurricane Irma. In particular, I have been told that the hospital, the primary and secondary schools, many churches and the Senior Citizens home have all either been badly damaged or rendered completely uninhabitable. Many government administration buildings, the House of Assembly, the Police Station, Prison and hundreds of private homes have also been partially if not totally destroyed.

Sint Maarten’s tight bond with Anguilla is obviously well known since there are quite close familial relationships between the Dutch and also the French side, as there are many Anguillans who are also Dutch Passport holders. Anecdotally, it wasn’t until I actually moved to Anguilla that I came to realize were some very familiar ‘Aruban Family Surnames’ such as Hodge, Gumbs, Carty, Richardson, Webster and quite a few others actually had their origin, but I’m sure that you are very familiar with all of the back stories and history of our fascinating Caribbean Diaspora!

Prime Minister Eman, given our collective Dutch/English Caribbean history I hereby kindly and respectfully request if your Government would be willing to extend a ‘helping hand’ to Anguilla also during tomorrow evening’s Sint Maarten fundraising telethon to be held in Aruba. Anguilla is after all a fellow ‘EU-OCT’ (for the time being, at least…) and furthermore a Member in Good Standing of OCTA. Note too that Anguilla is considered one of the ‘Least Developed OCT’s,’ with a per capita GDP of around U$ 12,500 per annum (i.e., about 50% less than Aruba’s…). May I respectfully ask if your Government would kindly consider reserving up to 10% of the funds raised during tomorrow’s telethon for the benefit of the Anguilla Red Cross?

I have taken the liberty of copying the Right Honorable David Lammy in this email too. David is a highly regarded and distinguished Labor Member of Parliament here in the United Kingdom who, coincidentally, has degrees from the University of London and Harvard University. David is furthermore a ‘Fellow West-Indian,’ who traces his family roots back to Guyana (which, as you know, is where our highly respected Aruban-American international broadcast journalist’s Maureen Bunyan’s family also happens to be from…). David Lammy called me earlier this morning by telephone to ask how he and other British Members of Parliament may assist the UK Overseas Territories most affected by Hurricane Irma in their rebuilding efforts, and it goes without saying that I appreciated his kind and considerate gesture very much.

In February and July of this year I had the opportunity to meet with Chief Minister Victor Banks whilst he was on working visits in London. During our meeting we talked extensively about Anguilla’s ambitions to implement renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and he mentioned to me that Senior Anguilla Government officials had been invited to Aruba’s Green Conferences which has proven extremely helpful to them. So far Anguilla has a total of 2MW of installed solar power plant and is looking forward to increase this to as much as 10MW by 2020. Chief Minister Banks furthermore mentioned that Aruba’s ‘example’ in the area of renewable energy development in general, and your firm and Progressive Leadership in particular, has been an invaluable catalyst for other likeminded OCT’s in the Caribbean region!

In short, I hope that you will give fair and ultimately favorable consideration to my humanitarian request on behalf of the people of Anguilla and the local chapter of their Red Cross relief organization.

Kindest regards,

Paultje Sjiem Fat

London, UK



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September 12, 2017
Rona Coster