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Sint Maarten on track in combating human trafficking and human smuggling

GREAT BAY (DCOMM) – The National Coordinator for human trafficking, has the lead in combating human trafficking and human smuggling in Sint Maarten.

The Director of Immigration & Border Protection Service (IBP) is tasked in overseeing these responsibilities. The National Reporting Bureau on Human Trafficking (NRB), is the executing agency for prevention & protection on Human Trafficking.

On Monday, June 26 marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. It is also an international recognized day in support of Victims of Torture.

In December 1987 the UN General Assembly decided to observe June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Sint Maarten has been paving its way to address the aforementioned problems, as part of the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) 16, on Peace, Justice and strong Institutions, from a local perspective.

The establishment of the NRB is a major step in combating Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling in Sint Maarten, using an organized and structured approach.

Since its inception in September 2013, the NRB has worked intensively to present themselves to the public and its stakeholders and thus creating support in the execution of its duties. The NRB has been actively engaged during this period with the implementation of the agreements set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling as well as the actions to be implemented within the framework of the U.S. Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports.

In its short existence the NRB has acquired results from its intended objectives. The number of comments and messages received by the bureau so far testify to the successful approach of this organization.

For crimes against personal freedom, including human trafficking, the Penal Code provides heavier penalties compared to the old Penal Code of the former Netherlands Antilles.

Moreover, the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings of May 16, 2005 has led to strengthening of the criminal law in Sint Maarten on the subject of human trafficking.

The change in the new Penal Code expressly addresses the criminal offence, different forms of participation, and penalties as well as aggravating circumstances. This broadened legal blanket ensures that a perpetrator at every level and degree of involvement in trafficking of persons is able to be held accountable for the role they play in this heinous practice. In addition special attention is given to the protection of child victims of trafficking.

It is worth mentioning that in the US TIP report 2016, St. Maarten fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons and has been elevated from tier 2 Watch list to tier 1.

The Government of Sint Maarten is extremely proud of this, particularly because of the large amount of effort that has gone into combating and addressing any issues related to human trafficking. In addition, a number of workshops bringing together relevant stakeholders including senior law enforcement, Red Cross, and medical officials have taken place on Sint Maarten to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking.

The different aspects of Human Trafficking can be broken down in: Domestic Servitude; Forced Labour and Exploitation and Sexual Slavery.

A major accomplishment was the implementation of the “Temporary Residency”- policy guideline by the Minister of Justice in December 2015. The National Reporting Bureau on Human Trafficking granted the first temporary residence permit to an exploited victim and his family while their case was under investigation.

The temporary residency regulation serves as a way to encourage the victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of offenders of human trafficking.

In 2015/2016, several investigations in Human Trafficking was conducted in brothels, targeting the owners. Appeals were made by the Public Prosecutor’s Office to Government requesting that administrative measures be taken against establishments which were involved in Human Trafficking violations, such as revoking their licenses. 

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Preparatory workshops for students begin shortly

PHILIPSBURG - Preparatory workshops are being conducted for study financing recipients who will be pursuing their studies in the Netherlands. These sessions are being held at NIPA during the hours 9.00 A. M. - 1.00 P.M.

Various topics are being presented such as: Academic accountability, Dutch rights & obligations, Do’s Don’ts & dangers of life in the Netherlands, budgeting and understanding the educational system among others.

The students who are scheduled to pursue their studies in the Netherlands will depart on July 30, 2017. Two staff members of Division Study Financing will accompany them.

An orientation week is being organized for the students in the Netherlands during the period July 31-August 5. Various activities and sessions will take place in order to ensure a smooth transition from St. Maarten to the Netherlands.

On Wednesday July 05, 2017, the Division Study Financing will be conducting a preparatory workshop for study financing recipients who will be pursuing their studies in the USA, Canada, England, Curacao, St. Maarten at NIPA.

The main goal of the preparatory workshop is to ensure that study financing recipients are well prepared for living and studying abroad, to promote financial responsibility and good study habits.

Attendance to these preparatory workshops is mandatory.

This session will be held during the hours 08.45 A.M. – 12.30 P.M

The dates of departure for the students leaving for the USA and other countries/islands within the region may vary. However, students who will be pursuing their studies at Tallahassee Community College are scheduled to leave on August 8th, 2017.

The Division Study Financing has also organized the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (P.E.R.T.) preparatory workshops for study financing recipients who will be pursuing their studies in the United States.

The main goals of these workshops are to ensure that study financing recipients are well prepared for the P.E.R.T. test.

The Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (P.E.R.T.) is Florida’s common placement test. The purpose of the P.E.R.T. is to determine accurate course placement based on the student's skills and abilities. It is aligned with the Postsecondary Readiness Competencies identified by Florida faculty as necessary for success in entry-level college credit course work. The P.E.R.T. assessment system includes Placement and Diagnostic tests in mathematics, reading and writing.

Attendance to these preparatory workshops is mandatory.

The P.E.R.T. workshops will be held from Monday July 10th 2017 through July 14th 2017, from 8:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at St. Dominic High school.

For more information, please contact the Division of Study Financing at +1721 542 5497 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Dutch food producers agree to stop adding sugar to jars of vegetables

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Food producers have reached agreement with supermarkets to stop putting sugar in jars of summer vegetables from next year, following pressure from consumer groups.

Jars of sweet corn, peas, carrots and marrowfat peas currently have added sugar but this will stop next year. Producers have also agreed to reduce the salt content of jars of French and runner beans and look into reducing the amount of sugar and salt added to winter veg such as red cabbage.

The deal covers both branded and own label products. Food lobby group Foodwatch published research last year showing sugar was added to 79 out of 170 different jars and tins of vegetables found in Dutch supermarkets, including organic products.

Absurd

The organisation welcomed the industry change of heart, describing it as ‘absurd’ to add sugar to the most healthy part of a meal. The sugar reduction is part of a wider agreement between the food industry and government to reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat in processed food.

The agreement is self-regulatory and in April, the public health institute RIVM said not enough had been done to cut back on salt, despite earlier pledges. (DutchNews)

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Prime Minister William Marlin receives annual report and audited financial statements 2016 from SMDF

POND ISLAND -  Prime Minister and Minister General Affairs the Honorable William Marlin following a briefing on recent activities of St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) was presented the annual report and audited financial statements 2016 for the Foundation.

SMDF reports five times annually which includes four quarterly reports and an annual report.

Presenting the update and report were from left to right, Program & Development Manager, Makhicia Brooks and Managing Director Keith Franca.

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Scientists identify rock that crashed through shed roof as meteorite

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A rock that crashed through the roof of a shed has been confirmed as only the sixth meteorite to be recovered in the Netherlands.

The 4.5 billion-year-old lump of stone, which weighs around 500g, landed in the village of Broek in Waterland, Noord-Holland province, in January.

The owners discovered it the next morning and contacted Naturalis museum in Leiden after looking up meteorites on the internet.

Two experts confirmed that it was a L6 chrondite type, which dates from the birth of the solar system.

It is believed to be the same meteorite recorded by a Belgian motorist who filmed it blazing through the sky on January 11. (DutchNews)

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Herbert Domacassé new Cft member for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO - The Council of Ministers of the Kingdom appointed drs. Herbert F. Domacassé on June 23rd as a member on behalf of the public entities Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba as per July 1st, 2017.

He hereby succeeds Mr. Hyden Gittens, who has recently submitted his resignation to the Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations.

Mr. Domacassé has fulfilled a number of functions within the banking industry in Bonaire, Curaçao and Aruba. He has been Minister of Traffic and Transport for the Netherlands Antilles and Lieutenant Governor for Bonaire.

Currently he is member of the Supervisory Board of the Caribbean Netherlands Pension Fund. He succeeds Mr. Gittens as a member of the board of financial supervision for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba.

Mr. Gittens was granted an honorable resignation by Royal Decree. Just before the termination of his three-year appointment term, Mr. Gittens offered his resignation to the Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations in connection with his acceptance of a contract for the public entity Sint Eustatius.

This way there will be no blending of the supervisory function from the Cft Bonaire Sint Eustatius and Saba, and his advisory work performed via his consultancy company.

Chairman prof. dr. A.F.P. Bakker thanks Mr. Gittens for the enjoyable cooperation, thereby speaking for all members of the Cft. Mr. Bakker is pleased that Mr. Gittens will uninterruptedly continue use his knowledge and expertise to the benefit of the Caribbean Netherlands. The new Cft chairman, prof. dr. R.H.J.M. Gradus looks forward to working with Mr. Domacassé.

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Central Committee meets on Tuesday about the Civil Code

PHILIPSBURG – The Central Committee will meet in a session on June 27. The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor will be present.

The Central Committee meeting has been set for Tuesday, June 27 at 14.00 hrs in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda point is:

Ontwerp van Landsverordening tot wijziging van het Burgerlijk Wetboek en enkele andere landsverordeningen in verband met de vervanging van de zevende titel A van Boek 7A door een nieuwe titel 10 van Boek 7 regelende voorschriften voor arbeidsovereenkomsten (Draft National Ordinance amending the Civil Code and some other national regulations relating to the replacement of Seventh Title A of Book 7A by a new Title 10 of Book 7 Regulatory Arrangements for Employment Contracts)

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. 

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

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Blue Point Awards Prizes to Prom Night 2017 Winners

PHILIPSBURG - Blue Point teamed up with Teen Times for Prom Night 2017 to award various prizes for winners of the night and gifts bags filled with tech items for attending students.

Blue Point took the initiative to reach out to Teen Times to make the night a little more memorable for the graduating students most of whom will be leaving to further their studies.

The company donated smart phone, tablets, blue-tooth speakers and more to Teen Times to give away to students.

Prom Night is the annual black-tie affair for high school seniors of St. Maarten. 2017 marks the 21st year that Teen Times has organized the highly anticipated end-of-school-year event. 

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CAft Bakker: "Aruba faces the challenge to meet the legal deficit standard this year as well"

ARUBA - The first progress report of this year shows that the deficit in the collective sector on Aruba in the first quarter amounts to 1.1% of GDP, which is higher than the 0.5% GDP deficit standard for the full year.

Both the tax revenues over the first quarter and the revenues resulting from the reorganization measures are insufficient, while the expected effects of the re-opening of the refinery are also lagging behind due to delay.

Aruba faces the challenge to comply with the legal deficit standard this year as well. The Board of financial supervision Aruba (CAft) proposes to consider announcing in this stage already an overall commitment stop and vacancy stop.

Unsatisfactory results over the first quarter

The CAft indicates that, in particular, the wage tax and corporate turnover tax (BBO) revenues are below budget. The measures implemented by the government at the tax authorities in order to increase tax compliance have not resulted in the intended effect.

In addition, because of the delay in the work activities with regard to the oil refinery, a great deal of the investments will have their effect only later in this year, slowing down the income from tax revenues. At the expense side the government's reorganization measures that are necessary for sustainable public finances seem to be withering.

The Board emphasizes how important it is that the budgeted income of AWG 67 million, comprising the settlement sum of Valero (AWG 27 million) and the sale of Fuels Marketing & Supply Aruba (AWG 40 million), be realized this year.

Work to be done

The financial results over the first quarter are at such level that the Board advises to implement a vacancy stop and a commitment stop. The CAft chairman: "Personnel costs amount to about one third of the total government spending this year and this amount should be reduced.

There is work to be done." At the beginning of this year more people have entered public service, which is not in line with government's intention to save 5% on government staff annually. In order to further reduce public spending, the frequency and level of fees for predictable overtime should be better anticipated in the budgetary process.

In addition, the establishment of a function house for government officials can help to counter the autonomous growth in staff expenditure. As far as taxes are concerned, further tax reform is needed and the country's liquidity position has to be structurally strengthened.

The Minister of Finance, together with other government departments, takes the necessary steps to obtain an auditor’s report. The next step in this process is to formulate a concrete and realistic time path to that end.

Last visit current chairman

In addition to discussing the results for the first quarter, this visit was also related to the forthcoming farewell by the current chairman, Age Bakker, as of July 1, 2017, and making acquaintance with the upcoming chairman Raymond Gradus.

The departing chairman looks back with a satisfied feeling on a fruitful cooperation with Aruba. Age Bakker on his period at the CAft: "It was not always easy, but together, each working from his own role, we contributed to the fact that Aruba has met the legal deficit standard over the past two years.

With this achievement important steps have been taken to reduce the untenable debt position". As usual during the visits of the Board to Aruba, meetings were held with the Governor, the Minister of Finance, the Council of Ministers, and the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Economic Affairs and Government Organization.

The CAft also visited the Central Bank of Aruba. The conversation included amongst others the delayed work activities of the refinery.

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