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Sarah says progress being made on first/national language of Sint Maarten

PHILIPSBURG – Democratic Party (DP) Leader Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot in a press statement on Friday said: "We are finally making progress with English as the first or national language of St. Maarten."

"My day was made", to use a colloquial expression, with the announcement by our Finance Minister that my proposal as approved in 2 unanimous motions of Parliament regarding the English language was being followed up upon by the government of St. Maarten.

“The first motion on this topic was of September 17, 2015 and instructs the government to come up with "a plan to establish English as the first and 'mother tongue' language for St. Maarten.

“The motion continued to ask for a plan to accomplish the aforementioned, with specific attention for the promotion of the English language in the civil service of St. Maarten. 

“In a follow up to this motion, Parliament was informed that the money to execute this ambitious plan to promote English as our national language was not available.

“Hence, a follow up motion I initiated in December of 2016, again passed unanimously, instructed government to allocate a f. 500.000,-- in the first amendment to the government's 2017 budget for development of the plan: "English as the first official language of St. Maarten".

“This matter of English as the primary official language of communication in our society has had my keen attention for several years and in my different capacities, because I firmly believe in language as an enabler. It is part of our heritage and part of our personal, social and cultural identity. 

“Many, many years ago, St. Maarten made a bold step when in a then primarily Dutch educational system, several schools went over to English as the language of instruction on St. Maarten.

“We need that "boldness" now to ensure that students who came and are still coming out of our dual language educational system are not stymied in their further development and aspirations to contribute to their society. This means that we also need to pay attention to the areas, such as our justice system, where for obvious reasons the dominance of Dutch is prevalent. 

“The disparity between the formal and informal usage of our 2 official languages in my opinion calls for a national language policy and ultimately a national ordinance, and professional advice soonest how best to navigate to our desired goal,” the MPs press statement concludes.

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National Detectives to Question Suspects in Connection with Catfish Investigation

PHILIPSBURG - In connection with the criminal investigation code named “Catfish,” the suspects C.H.M. (53), J.M.S. (68) and R.J.L. (39) have been questioned for their involvement in the case, the Public Prosecution Service stated on Thursday. 

“The Catfish investigation started in March 2013 after R.J.L filed an official complaint of attempted bribery to 'jump ship'. 

“A number of witnesses have been interrogated and important documents analyzed. 
As the investigation is in full swing, additional witnesses are asked to come forward and get in contact with the National Detective Agency (Landsrecherche), if necessary via the number for anonymous witnesses (+1-721-527-2623).

“In the coming days, other suspects will also be questioned. Catfish investigation is being carried out by the National Detective Agency (Landsrecherche Sint Maarten) under the authority of the Prosecutor's Office.”

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TelCell pleased with public response to LTE/4G Sim-Swap promotion

POND ISLAND - TelEm Group’s mobile voice and data provider, TelCell, says its campaign to get customers to swap their current sim card for a spanking new LTE/4G Sim card, in preparation for the company’s upcoming LTE/4G network launch, is a big hit.

According to promotion organizers, customers are coming in daily to swap their sim cards and seem very excited about the promised improvements the new network will bring - especially when it comes to their use of data.

TelEm Group Manager, Marketing & Sales, Grisha Marten, says a quick tally of customers already visiting the TelEm Group main building to swap their sim cards shows a “steady stream” for customers who have responded to advertisements in the print media and online about the promotion.

“Our customers are really excited about being amongst the first to use the LTE/4G platform and many are coming in thinking that they will be on the 4G network as soon as they change their chip, which is not the case,” said the Manager marketing & Sales.

She said the Sim-Swap is only to give customers the opportunity to get their new sim card early, and avoid a rush when it is officially announced that the LTE/4G network is activated.

“For now we are asking customers who have swapped their sim card to stand by for further instructions and a specific date from us, when they will be able to switch over to LTE/4G use. Meantime they can continue to use the 2G/3G network as normal, in the knowledge that they are ready to go with our LTE/4G network,” continued Ms. Marten.

The Manager Marketing & Sales has some additional advice for customers coming in to swap their current sim card to the new LTE/4G sim card – “back up the data from your old sim card first before coming in to make the change,” is her advice.

“Anything can happen in the process of changing to the new sim-card, so just as a precautionary measure, please back-up your old sim card in the event to may need to restore your data and information,” said Ms. Marten.

She said TelCell will soon be starting a campaign to make data users more aware of their data use now and once they are on the new LTE/4G network.

“Due to our customers concerns about their quick depletion of their data wallets TelEm will soon release new data packages which will improve the customer’s data usage experience,” explained Ms. Marten.

She said TelCell is working on some new data packages to provide special buckets of data that customers can subscribe to depending on their usage.

“We plan to have something for everyone and to make it as affordable as we possibly can,” said Ms. Marten.

She said customers can be assured that TelCell is listening to their concerns and is busy addressing those concerns, but in the meantime, customers are asked to be patient and look out for some good things ahead for them. 

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TelEm Group and Telecare bringing helpdesk services back to SXM

POND ISLAND - TelEm Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Kendall Dupersoy, has fulfilled one of his early promises since taking up the top position in the company – to bring TelEm Group’s Helpdesk services back to St. Maarten.

In the CEO’s view, the wrong message was being given to customers, who found themselves speaking to a helpdesk based in Curacao, rather than here on the island. He was also strongly against providing employment in other places rather than on St. Maarten.

“It was something I never really agreed with while I was a Board member at TelEm, and it is one of the first things I set about changing days after I joined the company,” says Mr. Dupersoy.

He made the comments during a brief signing ceremony with locally-based company Telecare B.V., operated by CEO, Mr. Oswaine Illis. Also present at the time was TelEm Group Manager, Customer Care, Veronica Browne, who was instrumental in selecting Telecare following an intensive bidding process.

“We carried out a thorough bidding process to find the best company to provide local Helpdesk services and I look forward to Mr. Illis and Telecare taking this opportunity to show what a local company can do given the chance,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

“I strongly believe we should not have our Helpdesk located off-island. That itself was a big motivation to me, not only because of the level of service we were getting at the time, but also because I want to increase our customer service for TelEm customers - a very important part of any improved customer experience,” explained Mr. Dupersoy.

According to the CEO, the locally-based company will have the right people in the right place with a more complete service to TelEm Group customers.

He informed that from its local base, Telecare will integrate into TelEm Group’s various networks so that staff can provide quicker technical response to customers both on the phone and also in the field since there will be less lag time from when a customer makes a call to when a technician goes out, if necessary, to deal with a particular problem.

Telecare CEO, Mr. Illis assured that he has a young team that will be working in shifts and who are eager to show what they can do.

During the signing ceremony he thanked Mr. Dupersoy for the opportunity and vowed to provide the best partnership arrangement to satisfy TelEm Group customers.

“We hope to exceed all of TelEm’s expectations and what the company wants to achieve with customer care on this island and we will be doing that with a young and very eager team,” said Mr. Ellis.

TelEm Group Manager, Customer Care, Ms. Veronica Browne said the new Helpdesk service will officially kick off on August 15th after some in-house customer relations training that will be carried out by experienced TelEm Group staffers themselves.

“The Helpdesk will be open from 7:00 in the morning until 9:00 pm at night, 365 days a year. We are very fortunate that we have the combined experience of Managing Director of Telecare, Ninoska Lambert, who is in the hospitality industry and that of Mr. Illis who has vast IT experience coming together with 11 young local workers to provide this very important service for our customers,” said Ms. Browne.

She noted that Telecare has already taken it upon itself to train its staff very early on about the importance of good telephone etiquette and customer relations practices before starting another training programme with TelEm Group personnel.

“We see that as a very good sign. They are very dedicated, committed and I look forward to working with the Telecare team,” continued, Ms. Browne.

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SMCP SMITH QUESTIONS WHETHER ELECTORAL REFORM WAS A POLITICAL STUNT?

PHILIPSBURG – Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Wycliffe Smith said on Wednesday in a statement: “Prior to the election on September 26, 2016, two expressions dominated politics and the news, namely “ship-jumping” and “electoral reform”.  Electoral reform was the reason for the fall of the Marcel Gumbs Government in 2015. Electoral reform led to the snap election that was scheduled for February 9, 2016.

“Electoral reform was also the reason why this election was cancelled, because the honorable Prime Minister William Marlin insisted that his government needed more time to be able to initiate legislative reform in order to address the phenomenon of ship-jumping that was so prevalent among our parliamentarians. Finally, electoral reform was the reason, in my opinion, why his Excellency, Governor Holiday, collaborated with Prime Minster Marlin to shift the election date from February 9, 2016 to September 26, 2016.

“According to article 59 of the constitution, elections must take place within three months following the dissolution of Parliament. In my opinion and many others share this view, the Governor could have amended the dates in the original national decree so as to have them comply with the election ordinance. We must bear in mind that rescheduling the election date to September 26, 2016 came with a promise, made to the people of Sint Maarten, that prior to Election Day, legislation would be in place by which ship-jumping would be eliminated or at least curtailed to some extent!

“But was Prime Minister Marlin really serious about electoral reform or did he underestimate the herculean task of getting a speedy approval, from the all the partners of kingdom for a constitutional legislative amendment, within a period of nine months? Note that when the Prime Minister was a Member of Parliament in 2012 he told the radio host of ‘People’s Voice’ that, “the time is too short to put something in place before the next elections in 2014. In other words, two years were too short a period to implement electoral reform.  But in December 2015, when asked if nine months were not too short to get electoral reform passed by parliament his response was “the time period will indeed be short, but electoral reform can be completed in time for the elections … I am convinced that it can be done.”

“Even though an Electoral Reform Commission was established and attempts were made to prepare the necessary legislation, Prime Minister Marlin was unable to live up his promise to eliminate or curtail ship-jumping by election day. However, one would have thought that the new government would have continued pursuing electoral reform so that by the time the next election comes, around in 2020, the desirable electoral changes would be in place.

“To my great surprise, the Governing Program ‘Stability for Prosperity’, issued by the Red/White/Blue Alliance, has very little to say about electoral reform. On page 30, under ‘Upgrade Government Operations’ we it reads “initialize the process to enable students abroad to vote and legislate voting day procedure.” Not one word is said about eliminating or curbing ship-jumping. Am I confused? But wasn’t it so that the whole reason for the Governor, rescheduling the election to September 26th, was to give the Prime Minister more time to enable him to come up with legislation to tackle ship-jumping?

“Since the Prime Minister was not successful in getting the legislation passed prior to the election, shouldn’t we expect that the current coalition government would continue to work on getting the laws passed during their term of office? Unfortunately, the matter of electoral reform, specifically dealing with ship-jumping, has been totally ignored in the Governing Program and instead, has been replaced by trying to make it possible for students abroad to vote.

“This is a slap in the face of the people who went to the poles expecting that something would be done to eliminate or curtail ship-jumping. Ignoring the wishes of the people and failing to keep this campaign promise is terribly disrespectful and unethical.

“Now, that the United Democratic Alliance has three years until the next election, in 2020, one would expect the Red/White/Blue Coalition to come up with comprehensive electoral reform that would include among other things: restrictions regarding ship-jumping, expanding voter eligibility to students and others abroad, amendments to the election ordinance such as full disclosure of all functions, amendments to the national ordinance registration and finances of political parties, amendments to the Rules of Order of Parliament, campaign reform to allow for a more equal playing field for parties during the campaign and voting day procedures.

“Because the Kingdom government posed critical questions regarding the ship-jumping draft ordinance, it does not mean that Sint Maarten should drop this issue all together. We know what ship-jumping has done to our country during the last six years. We have experienced the political instability that comes with it and the stigma that it carries. We have also experienced the financial burden that it brings. Therefore, it is important that the Government take those critical questions and use them to develop sound legislation to curtail ship-jumping. Why not look at Julio Romney’s draft ordinance? It might help us take a fresh approach to electoral reform. Let us not wait until another wave of ship-jumpers is upon us,” Wycliffe Smith, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party concludes.

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Travel to be facilitated for Anguillans until Agreement Formalized

POND ISLAND – A meeting recently took place with Anguilla Immigration officials led by Chief Minister V. Banks and officials from Sint Maarten Immigration and Border Protection Service led by Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman regarding travel between Anguilla and Sint Maarten.

Minister Boasman described the meeting as fruitful and productive.  Many persons in living on Anguilla have belonger status.  They travel abroad and use the Sint Maarten airport as point of entry/transit.

Some of these persons were born in countries where a visa is required from Sint Maarten.  The meeting focused on an evaluation of current affairs and how to resolve the bottle necks.

Persons who arrives by ferry and then catch their flight the next day is an issue for Sint Maarten immigration authorities, because they would have to be admitted into the country first by having a visa.

One possible solution is issuing a ‘Caribbean carpet visa’, which is seen as a solution since it’s a simple process.

Both Governments have agreed to promote this visa, and in the meantime, Sint Maarten immigration authorities would facilitate travel that is being done presently until the matter has been resolved by the formalization of agreement points. 

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Be The Change Spotlights Sister Bailia Center

ST. JOHN’S ESTATE - Be The Change Foundation spotlights a different organization each month and donates funds to a project. The organization spotlighted for July was The White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation's Sister Basilia Center.

The White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation provides guidance and assistance for the elderly, disabled and those in the various districts on St. Maarten.

The foundation also caters to the less fortunate by proving food baskets every other month. They also seek job opportunities for those for are intellectually disabled.

The special project that Be The Change supported in July was "A fun educational field trip for the clients and staff of the Sister Basilia Center, clients who are intellectually and physically disabled.

“This project will allow our clients and staff to interact with others in nature, by experiencing the thrill of weightlessness while zip-lining through the trees. Clients and staff will also have the opportunity to enjoy hydrotherapy in the pool on location.

“We would also like for the clients to part take in an onsite lunch, where they will taste the flavors of the French side of our island," Be The Change said in a press statement on Tuesday.

Be The Change Foundation members visited Sister Basilia Center in order to present the donation.

Be The Change is proud to help support such worthwhile foundations and projects in the community.

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Michel Hyman appointed Managing Director of PJIA

SIMPSON BAY - Shareholder Representative of the Princess Juliana International Airport Holding Company (PJIAH) Minister Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher on Tuesday announced that Michel Hyman has been appointed Managing Director of the airport effective August 1, 2017. Hyman held the position of Caretaker of the company since May 2017.

The Minister described Hyman as a hardworking professional who has served the devoted dedicated service to the airport for years. He served as the airport’s Manager of Operations for many years before assuming the role of Caretaker after former Interim Director Larry Donker resigned earlier this year.

“We are very proud to announce this appointment because not only because he is a son of the soil but because he is very capable professional, loyally serving the airport and St. Maarten.

“There are some challenges he has already faced and will be facing but I am confident that together with his team and the Supervisory Boards, the airport is in good hands with Mr. Hyman. We congratulate him and wish him well as he takes the helm of one of St. Maarten’s most strategic assets,” the Minister said.

Hyman is now the Managing Director with the official title of Chief Operations Officer (COO). The Minister explained that the intention for the airport is still to form a management team of a COO, CEO and CFO (Chief Financial Officer).

She said the Supervisory Boards (holding and operational companies) and Management are currently in the process of selecting and deciding on candidates to be put in place for the positions of CEO, CFO.

Hyman nomination was made by the Supervisory Board of the operations company of the airport to the holding company of the airport. The latter executed the appointment in accordance to the articles of incorporation. 

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Port St. Maarten #2 Cruiser’s Choice in Cruise Critic 2017 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Port St. Maarten was chosen by cruisers as the number two port of call in Cruise Critic Cruiser’s Choice 2017 in the top-five rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations despite cruise industry challenges and market fluctuations. 

One cruiser comment selected and profiled on the online website of Cruise Critic said: “My favorite island – excellent shopping, multitude of things to do on the island, lots of beaches, restaurants, shops, etc.  Very friendly locals,” by kbielecki70.

Rankings are based on member review ratings for cruises taken in the last year.  Awards are based on port reviews from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. 

On Wednesday, Cruise Critic announced the winners of its second annual Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards, naming the world’s top cruise destinations, based entirely on consumer ratings submitted with reviews on CruiseCritic.com. The awards name the top cruise destinations across 15 regions worldwide.

Cruise Critic is the leading cruise reviews and information site which hosts the largest online cruise community in the world. The site receives more than 350,000 cruise reviews, covering approximately 500 cruise ships and over 300 worldwide ports, from first-time cruisers to avid cruise fans, who visit Cruise Critic to research and plan their cruises, connect with other cruisers and share their passion for cruising.

Cruise Critic was the first consumer cruise site on the internet, launched in October 1995 by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc. 

TripAdvisor, Inc. through its subsidiaries, manages and operates websites under 23 other travel media brands, whose sites make up the largest community in the world, reaching 390 million average unique monthly visitors in 49 markets worldwide, and offers advice from millions of travelers, with 465 million reviews and opinions covering seven million accommodations, restaurants and attractions.

“Itineraries are incredibly important to today’s cruisers who are more focused than ever on where they’re going and what they can do while they’re there,” explains Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor of Cruise Critic.

“Cruise lines have focused on expanding their offerings to quench that thirst for exploration – and this year’s list of winning destinations shows the wide array of adventures cruising offers,” McDaniel added.

Port St. Maarten will continue with its strategic approach with the implementation of its strategic business plan 2019 and investment plan 2021 in order to maintain growth and continue to expand and maintain the cruise port’s position in a global competitive environment, Port St. Maarten Management said on Monday.

Port St. Maarten Management added: “The port’s strategic approach also takes into consideration capacity versus quality and the emphasis is on improving shore excursions and experience rating numbers which every stakeholder within the cruise and tourism sectors have a role to play to maintain the country’s preferred top tier destination ranking.”

No other single resource covers the world of cruising as thoroughly as Cruise Critic. Since its inception in 1995, Cruise Critic has earned the status of being the most influential cruise site on the Web, and an innovator of consumer-oriented cruise travel news.

The site was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2007, and is part of the largest travel community in the world.

Cruise Critic is the only cruise resource to deliver a complete package which offers: Authority as the market leader for consumer cruise information; The world's largest cruise community; Information and advice on all aspects of cruising; Professional and user-submitted cruise reviews; Cruise planning tools, cruise deals, special offers and more.    

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New National Symbols of St. Martin published

RAMBAUD, St. Martin - National Symbols of St. Martin – A Primer is now available at Van Dorp. The popular book about the island’s history and culture was out of stock for nearly 10 years, said Jacqueline Sample of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

“Mrs. Carty and Mr. Chance of Van Dorp bookstore have been requesting orders of National Symbols of St. Martin for individual customers and schools for a number of years,” said Sample.

“HNP was unable to fill those orders because we had run out of copies from the second printing in 1997,” said Sample on Sunday.

“The new copies of National Symbols are from a limited print-run. I’m happy the book is here for the St. Martin people; for a new generation of students; and for interested persons in the tourism and investment sectors,” said Sample.

The third printing is just in time for university-bound students. “National Symbols is a fact-based, beautiful product of St. Martin for young people leaving home to study abroad in 2017. Don’t leave home without one!” said Sample.

From having a place of pride in some of the nation’s humblest homes to once being listed as a “Netherlands Antilles” source by the US State Department, “I think National Symbols is a trusted companion for students who’ll get homesick,” said Sample.

“It is definitely a resource for some areas of study. It is one of the exciting ways for our young men and women to introduce themselves and their island with confidence to educators, classmates, and new friends from different parts of the world,” said Sample.

“Over the years National Symbols sales helped HNP to commission its junior scholastic readers and to publish other educational and cultural titles like Yvette’s cook book and St. Martin Massive!,” said Sample.  

The St. Maarten Tourist Bureau and other government departments and officials in Great Bay (Philipsburg) and Marigot have on past occasions presented National Symbols of St. Martin as a VIP or heritage gift, said Sample.

The hardcover book, with an extensive bibliography, has long been described by its publisher as: “A first and fascinating labor of love and scholarship highlighting, in text and illustrations, St. Martin’s people, history, culture and natural environment.”

National Symbols of St. Martin, edited by Lasana M. Sekou, is also available at Amazon and SPDbooks.org (https://goo.gl/udDnVa).

PHOTO: National Symbols of St. Martin – A Primer, a new limited print-run at Van Dorp in Madame Estate and Simpson Bay; and at SPDbooks.org.

NationalSymbols 2017

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