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Prime Minister Wescot-Williams Received Courtesy Call US Consul General James R. Moore

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams received a courtesy visit from the new US Consul General to the Dutch Caribbean James R. Moore. James R. Moore is the Consul General and Chief of Mission to Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten and holds the rank of Minister Counselor.

Moore is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with nearly 30 years of experience as a US diplomat. In his previous position, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia from 2010-2013, he was responsible for US public diplomacy and public affairs initiatives in that region, to which he travelled frequently from Washington DC.

He has held high-level positions in US embassies and consulates in several critical areas of the world. The new consul has served twice in South America. As Public Affairs Officer and Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Quito, Ecuador from 1999 to 2002, he was extensively involved in counter-narcotics efforts in the region.

The Prime Minister commented that she looked forward to a continued close working relationship with the Consul General in realizing closer ties and stronger cooperation between St. Maarten and the United States of America

The incoming American consul earned a Master’s degree in international relations from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Washington, DC and a Bachelor’s degree in English literature from Colby College in Maine. (From the Cabinet of the Prime Minister)

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SHTA asked if the St. Maarten Tourism Authority is still the Solution?

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA), the largest private business representative on the island, is concerned whether the long awaited St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) will after having gone through its 6th revision, still be able to carry out the functions it set out to fulfil when first conceived almost two decades ago, even before hurricane Luis, and having seen at least 8 governments.

Its goal has always been to safeguard the marketing and promotion of the destination through an independent public/private body with its own funding, so that these important activities don't depend on changes in the political arena and can be mobilized as necessary outside of Government bureaucracy. 

Having an STA in and of itself however will not guarantee the solution to our current marketing problems. It is vital that this entity be flexible enough to react to sudden changes and opportunities, fast at implementing the necessary actions and counter the effects of negative developments, without the usual red-tape.

Only experts that are directly involved with the tourism industry should have a seat on the board and be able to make swift decisions to ensure that our island remains competitive within the region, focussing on decreasing the length and depth of our low seasons, while optimizing yield during the high season, all in a sustainable manner and in the best interest of all that live on the unique and beautiful island we call home.   

Rumours of the currently planned structure are different yet again from previous incantations, in which all stakeholders had ample opportunity for input, indicate 2 different Boards.  One advisory to the other, with members from many reaches of our economy not necessarily core Tourism, and even including representation from the French side. Yet somehow it is excluding the Marine Industry, one of tourisms pillars along with Stay Over and Cruise.

The manner in which the STA gets implemented will have a direct effect on the Tourism industry and considering that 87% of the people are directly or indirectly employed in this sector, therefore impact the entire island of St. Maarten. As such, it is pertinent that stakeholders are consulted and have input in the policy portion which will ultimately determine its success. Should the STA become burdened down by restrictive policies and a slow decision process, it could have detrimental effect on our economy, effects that will not take long to become visible throughout the community and could last for years to come.

Marketing moneys do not only take time to show their positive effects, assuming that they have been properly applied, but these effects will also diminish quite quickly, another reason why consistent, uninterrupted and targeted marketing is a must, especially when we have such a limited budget.

We have already seen way too many changes over the years resulting in delayed disbursements of budgeted funds, the efforts of our representatives abroad coming to an almost complete stand-still as contracts are not being signed, St. Maarten not being present at several of the major tradeshows and an absence of short, mid and long term marketing plans.

Already a few days into Summer without any special marketing efforts in place to raise the dwindling occupancy figures, we are wondering what is in place to retain our market share during the upcoming high season, only a few months away. For an island that depends heavily on tourism, this is not the way to manage our country’s main industry, the one that generates the lion share of the income for the island. There is no time to waste stalling our marketing efforts awaiting the implementation of the STA, this will not only have negative effects in the short run but could have lasting effects for years to come. 

Implementing an organisation that is from the onset burdened by a double layer of bureaucracy (for instance by having 2 boards in which one is advisory to the other), and manned by persons, though undoubtedly of good will, not necessarily of the Core Tourism product; will from the get-go not achieve the goals that were envisioned all those years ago.

A nimble organization with core tourism knowledge that can react quickly in particularly to the marketing-environment as it pertains to our sole economic pillar. Putting together the policy-end on which such an organization rests without the timely input of the (private sector) stakeholders, doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence in what is supposed to be a balanced public/private partnership (PPP).

If, 20 years after the initial discussion which ultimately led to the plans to set up an National Tourist Organization (later rechristened as STA) it’s not been possible for mainly the public sector to wrap their head around the fact that a balanced PPP needs to be established, then perhaps it’s time to let the private sector pull this cart and see if she fares better with regard to the establishing of the STA.

The SHTA is dedicated to bringing quality to all aspects of life on St. Maarten by promoting sustainable economic development for its members in cooperation with the social partners and the creation of a fair marketplace. For more information please contact our offices at 542-0108 or visit our website atwww.shta.com. (Contributed by the SHTA)

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Vidanova Pension Fund participates in NV GEBE Pension Awareness Program

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - NV GEBE ‘s soon-to-be-pensioners can be sure their pension is well taking care of and that they can count on it for life, starting on retirement date. 

After having been in St. Maarten in the beginning of June to revise the targets for the current year with the board of Supervisory Directors and to look for more investment opportunities on the island, Vidanova made its return. This time Vidanova participated in the Pension Awareness Program organized by NV GEBE for their future pensioners.

According to Vidanova’s Executive Director, Drs. Charlene Alberto, reaching retirement age is the start of a new phase in life. A phase that involves emotional and social changes and that can be very excited if you plan in advance and if you are well prepared. One aspect that will definitely make things easier is the financial part. If you know that the pension premiums you paid in the past are well managed and if your pension fund is still showing its strength by having a high funding ratio of 117% and no liquidity issue what-so-ever considering its very strong liquidity position, you can rest assured of secure pension payments in the future, which considering the history at Vidanova will also have a very high probability of being indexed in order to cope with inflation.

Besides the assurance of a well-managed pension fund, it is also important for the participants to know which path to follow in order to collect their pension. During the Pension Awareness Program Mr. Luigi Samson, pension adviser at Vidanova Pension Fund elaborated on how to apply for their pension, the way the pension income is calculated, the way to interpret the pension specification the pensioner will be receiving each month and the importance of providing Vidanova in a timely manner with the right information.

Vidanova and the NV GEBE Managing Board wishes all the GEBEs future pensioners a fruitful preparation until reaching retirement and they can be confident that once they are retired Vidanova will keep providing them with the good service they have been accustomed to during their active years.  Vidanova also congratulates NV GEBE with this well organized awareness program since a smooth transition from the phase of being active to becoming a pensioner is very important. 

Human Resource Manager of NV GEBE Mr. Clifford Sasso stated that “the awareness program, aimed to educate the future pensioners to be financially, physically and mentally prepared once they reach retirement age and beyond, is part of educating the employees including the ones that are going on pension”.

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Central Voting Bureau informs about postulation day procedure and its role for upcoming parliamentary elections

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Postulation Day is Friday, July 11.  The lists of candidates have to be submitted to the Central Voting Bureau by the respective representatives or acting representatives of the political parties, who have to be registered in that capacity with the Central Voting Bureau.

The political parties were informed that they have to indicate the names and contact information of their representative and the acting representative to the Central Voting Bureau in advance, in order for these persons to be duly registered with the Central Voting Bureau.

The Central Voting Bureau also requested each party to indicate a preferred time on Postulation Day (between the hours of 9 am – 4 pm) in order to allow the Central Voting Bureau to set up a timetable for the submission of the lists of candidates by the various political parties.

A copy of the Ministerial Decree nr. 2014/1186, regulating the colors which can be assigned to the various lists of candidates was also provided to the various political parties.

The Central Voting Bureau merely executes the procedures as regulated by and stipulated in the applicable laws and regulations. It is the Central Voting Bureau’s duty to ensure the proper execution of the applicable procedures.

As an example, the matter of the required support (“ondersteuning”) for the lists of candidates, based on article 23, section 1, of the Electoral Ordinance (“Kiesverordening”) was not really clear and could be interpreted more than one manner because there is no literally “previous voting number” as this will actually be the first time elections are held for Parliament/Country St. Maarten.

The previous voting number was for elections for the Island Council. However, the Central Voting Bureau decided to use the previous voting number as it was clearly the intention of the legislator that the voting number of the previous elections is used, regardless of the fact that this time it’s for Members of Parliament.

In close cooperation with the census office and the Ministry of General Affairs it was decided to have 14 booths available at the census office on July 14th to accommodate a smooth and orderly endorsement process for the eight political parties. Based on article 23, section 1, of the Electoral Ordinance (“Kiesverordening”) and considering the intention of the legislator, the support requirement (endorsement requirement) has been set to 138 voters, which is a requirement that all political parties will have to comply with.

The Central Voting Bureau is an institution enacted by Government to execute the voting and election procedures as stipulated and regulated in the Electoral Ordinance.

The Central Voting Bureau operates independently from Parliament and Government. Its general function is to ensure that the entire election process, which includes the postulation, the voting and the determination of the outcome of the election, is conducted in accordance with the applicable laws.

The appointed members and substitute members are: Jason R. Rogers LL.M., Chairman; Willem van Asselt, Vice-Chairman; Cindy M. Marica LL.M., member; Maarten le Poole LL.M., member; Clarence Richardson, member; Migdala R. Artsen – Clarinda, LL.M, substitute member; and Khalilah S. Peters, substitute member.

The members and substitute members were appointed by national decree for a period of seven (7) years, considering their relevant expertise and experience.

The appointment is based on the recommendation of the nomination committee, which consists of the president of the Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, the Vice-Chair of the Council of Advice and the Chair of the General Audit Chamber.  

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Nature Foundation Advises Against the Consumption of Shark Meat Due to Mercury Poisoning Risk

COLE BAY, Sint Maarten - The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is advising against the consumption of shark meat due to the flesh containing high levels of mercury and the potential for ciguatera fish poisoning. The United States Food and Drug Administration FDA in a recent CNN article has issued a warning against the eating of shark meat which may expose consumers to potentially dangerous, high levels of the metal mercury. While certain amounts of mercury in the environment is natural, growing worldwide pollution of our oceans appears to be increasing the risk of high mercury levels in some fish, particualry predatory fish such as sharks. According to the FDA too much mercury in one's diet from any source can cause loss of coordination, blindness or even death.

The Nature Foundation has been noticing that a few restaurants are advertising shark on their menus; “This poses two problems; the first is related to the health risks associated with the consumption of sharks, the second is related to the fact that, although shark meat is legal to own the intentional harming and killing of sharks is banned on the island,” read a Nature Foundation release.

The reputation of sharks as blood thirsty creatures are largely exaggerated by sensationalist reports and thousands more people are killed in dog attacks yearly than are bitten by sharks. Countries all over the world have recognized the importance of these animals and nearly two years after the historic decision to legally protect sharks and rays in St. Maarten’s territorial waters sharks and rays are now also under international protection, becoming the latest additions to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The Nature Foundation has also been conducting a Shark Research Project including a study that established that a single live shark is worth up to USD $884,000 to the economy of the island, as is opposed to just a few dollars dead. The majority of divers who come to the island pay top dollar to see sharks in their Natural Environment. These divers also rent cars, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and drink in bars. Taking all of that into account and based on research conducted by the Nature Foundation a single live shark contributes $884,000 to the economy of St. Maarten annually. Sharks are an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs and if we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which in turn keeps the ecosystem in balance. They are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food, produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), and controls our planet’s temperature and weather.  

“Aside from the health threats associated with consuming shark meat it would be a wise and conscious decision to avoid eating these animals because they are close to becoming extinct. Despite their status as protected on St. Maarten sharks are increasingly under global pressure. A quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Therefore we would like to appeal to the community to avoid consuming sharks.” (Contributed by the Nature Foundation)

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Collective Prevention Services Launches Summer Fit Camp, Kicks-off July 19

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - Collective Prevention Services (CPS) of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development & Labour (VSA) starts up its first ever sleep-in camp (7 days/6 nights) for children between the ages of 9-12 from July 19th to July 25th as part of the Get Checked Campaign.

The goal and purpose of the Summer Fit Camp is to promote and educate healthy eating habits and physical activities for children whose parents/guardians are concerned about their child’s weight and eating habits. The children will be able to have fun while learning different ways to be physically active, eat healthy portion controlled meals and snacks and build team-spirit, self-esteem and confidence while taking part in camp activities.

“As a preventative measure to combat malnutrition and obesity Summer Fit Camp will provide a positive environment for the children to learn the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. There is limited space for only 25 children this year and no charge or fee for participation in the camp. Parent/Guardians, take advantage of this exciting opportunity and register today”, said Minister Cornelius de Weever in a press release on Tuesday.

Some of the activities the children will be engaged in include: hiking, scavenger hunts, cooking demonstrations, pool day, beach day, soccer/football, basketball, dodge ball, field trips, and educational health sessions, among others. Camp leaders at Summer Fit Camp will be focusing primarily on teaching about the importance of healthy snacking (choosing snack under 100 calories), limiting sugary foods and beverages, and the importance of drinking water rather than juice. There will be a parent/guardian day to attend an informative workshop on health and to be updated on your child(ren)’s progress and achievements. This will also give the children an opportunity to share their own personal experiences with their parent and reinforce in them what they have learnt.

To register, parents/guardians must fill out a registration form that is available at the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) which is located in Philipsburg by the Vineyard Building. Forms can also be sent to you by email. For more information please contact Camp Coordinator Swinda Richardson at 542-3003/542-2078 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Deadline for registration is July 15th and selection criteria will also include the weight conditions of your child. (Contributed by the Cabinet of the Minister)

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Minister De Weever visits site of new water tank under construction

POINT BLANCHE, Sint Maarten - Minister of Public Health Social Development & Labor, Hon. Cornelius De Weever on Monday July 6, 2014 visited the Pointe Blanche tank area (harbour), where the foundation work for the second new water tank has been completed.

The cast concrete works underwent a curing process. The assembly work of glass fused steel tank panels can start any time soon as all materials are on the island.

Supplier Florida Aqua Store will send an assembly crew as soon as NV GEBE takes the necessary actions. The Minister is looking forward in seeing the tank completed before August 31st this year.

Once completed the total new water storage capacity in the harbour area will be 2x3000m3, an increase of over 20% of the overall island storage capacity. A welcome addition considering the challenges we may face in the upcoming hurricane season, the Minister stated. (Contributed by the Cabinet of the Minister)

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Three Armed Men Rob First Caribbean Bank on Tuesday Morning

COLE BAY, Sint Maarten - On Tuesday July 7th between 09.50 and 10.00 a.m. several phone calls came in to the Central Police Dispatch reporting an armed robbery at the First Caribbean Bank on Welfare road. 

According to the reports three armed men dressed completely in dark clothing stormed into the bank holding the security guard and the personnel of the bank hostage. The robbers then proceeded to rob the bank while threatening to use their weapons.

After committing this act the robbers fled the bank on foot running towards the rear of the building. It is still unclear if the robbers used a vehicle to leave the area. Immediately several police patrols, Detectives and Forensic investigators went to the scene to investigate and searched the area to locate the suspects.

Thus far no one was injured during this robbery. The detectives are questioning witnesses and the Forensic Department is gathering evidence on the scene. No suspects have been arrested in this case thus far.

The Police Department is asking anyone who saw what took place or have any other information concerning this case to give the police department a call using 911, the tip line 9300 or 542-0433. As more information becomes available the media will be informed. (Contributed by the Police Force of Sint Maarten)

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Excellence Service Tourism Training for Immigration & Border Protection Service

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) - The Department of Immigration and Border Protection Service (IBP) of the Ministry of Justice took part in a Service Excellence training that was initiated by both the IBP and the Department of Tourism.

At the start of the training session, Minister Ted Richardson provided some opening words to the officers of the IBP.

“St. Maarten is 90% dependent on tourism; it consist of the environment, the people, the culture—all of the above. Thus it is important to look at the comprehensive picture and understand the idea of tourism well.”

Minister Richardson also talked to the audience about not only those persons coming into to St. Maarten but also those persons here already, whom he said, excluding technical definitions; also contribute to the economy and St. Maarten society.

He added that there are two million tourists who come to St. Maarten, and with the population on St. Maarten being around 35,000, everyone has to contribute to a better St. Maarten product.

As such, the Minister commended all the participants for being at the training session and for them to learn as much as they can.

Geronimo Juliet, Head Border & Mobile Control, of Immigration and Border Protection Service provided some words of encouragement as well, saying that it is important, and a hard job, for Immigration officers to determine whether a person could enter and still be friendly. That balance has to be sought. It is not just about having manners, but about understanding the product of tourism, what tourism actually is, and their role as Immigration officers in this whole endeavor.

At the training session, representative of the Tourist Office, Marla Chemont outlined the function and operation of the office, which is: “to play a leading role in providing information and to be instrumental in developing the economy by means of diversification in industries which are complementary to our tourism based economy.”

And the aim of the mission, Chemont said, “is to be the leading institution to develop policies that stimulate and facilitate sustainable economic development of St. Maarten, by means of providing analytical, objective, comprehensive and reliable information in a timely and professional manner.”

Their main tasks are:

•Social-economic development planning

•The development of employment

•The development and stimulation of the various sectors of the economy

•To offer recommendations pertaining to the harbor, airport, utility companies and companies that provides transport and telecommunication facilities and services.

•The development of and offer support with the execution of economic regulations.

The Service Excellence training was facilitated by Dr. Ackentoolove Corbin, whose objectives as a whole for the group, were for there to be:

Understanding of hospitality & tourism from a global perspective, increase service quality delivery to clients, cope with challenging customers, work on teamwork, and not forget the vision and mission from IBP, understand different types of customers, amongst other important factors. (Contributed by DCOMM)

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Prime Minister Wescot-Williams advises government to comply with verdict regarding former PSS director Denicio Richardson

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The Prime Minister of St. Maarten and shareholder representative for PSS the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams has advised government to make payable to former PSS Director Denicio Richardson the amount concluded by the courts as owed to Richardson.

This advice has been tabled on Tuesday, July 8th in the Council of Ministers’ meeting. “The court verdict is very clear as far as this point is concerned and the request by Government to suspend the execution of the verdict was not honored by the Court. In addition, it has also been made clear that PSS does not have the means to comply with the Court’s order”, commented Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams.

The Prime Minister also indicated that she is awaiting the outcome of the appeal filed by the Government of St. Maarten, but that she is particularly interested in the part where the Court of First Instance in essence agreed that the Government of St. Maarten is also liable. This would mean that the government can be held liable for expenses incurred by a government-owned company.

“This, in my opinion, if upheld by the Joint Court, would set a precedent that would demand a totally new look at the relationship between government and government-owned companies in general, stated Prime Minister Wescot-Williams.”

However, in the meantime, as mentioned above, the Council of Ministers has been advised by the Prime Minister to comply as far as the payment to former director Richardson is concerned. (From the Cabinet of the Prime Minister)

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