Island tourism chiefs denounce attack on two gay tourists

The commissioners of tourism of St. Maarten and St. Martin issued a joint denunciation of a recent attack against two American men, calling the attacks barbaric and heinous.

New York journalists Dick Jefferson and Ryan Smith were attacked with tire irons outside a bar in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, by three men who had yelled anti-gay slurs. Both were transferred to Miami for treatment where Jefferson has since been released and doctors believe Smith may have suffered brain damage.

The joint statement from Theo Heyliger, commissioner of tourism of St. Maarten and Romeo Fleming, commissioner of tourism of St. Martin, said, the entire community of St. Maarten/St. Martin expresses its deepest sympathies for the pain and anguish suffered by Ryan Smith and Richard Jefferson and their families from the vicious attack that occurred on our island.

The statement went on to say that the destination has long been recognized for its safety, friendliness and absence of crime and that the community is committed to being a welcome environment for persons of all ethnic, religious and social preferences. We consider this to be an isolated incident that is in no way representative of the behavior of our citizens.

These crimes wont go unpunished, the statement said.

Heyliger said St. Maartens chief prosecutor and our police force are leading an extensive and intense investigation and I am confident that we will bring those responsible to justice in a timely manner.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to David Cogswell at [email protected].

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