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Plenary Session of Parliament reconvenes on Wednesday regarding Draft 2015 National Budget. Live audio coverage via Soualiga Radio

PHILIPSBURG – The Plenary session of Parliament regarding the draft 2015 budget will reconvene in public session on January 28.

The plenary session is set for Wednesday at 2.00pm in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelmina Straat #1 in Philipsburg.

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

The draft 2015 National Budget is set at Naf.445.000.000 with investments and capital goods set at Naf.111.031.451.

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

The parliamentary session will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 120, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the Internet www.pearlfmradio.com, and also via www.sxmparliament.org

The live audio coverage of the budget debate can also be followed via "Soualiga Radio" on this website when it resumes at 2.00PM on Wednesday.

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18-Year Old SUSPECT IN HOME BREAK-IN ARRESTED BY POLICE

EBENEZER - On Tuesday at approximately 08.00 a.m. several police patrols responded to a call stating that a well-known young man who is responsible for numerous break-ins in the Ebenezer area was seen by witnesses breaking into a home in that same area.

During a search of the area by the investigating officers they were informed by concerned citizens, that a group of young men possibly students, was seen running from the area and trying to hide in the nearby gutters.

While searching the gutters a group of young men, one fitting the description of the suspect, was seen hiding behind a house. Before the officers could reach the young men in question they took off running in different directions.

A foot pursuit started during which a warning shot was fired by police in order to force the suspects to stop, however they suspects continued fleeing. The main suspect was seen running into the bushes nearby.

As the officers continued their pursuit they saw the main suspect running into a home. The officers went to the home where they spoke to the female resident of that home. The main suspect was arrested shortly after.

The 18 year old suspect was taken to the Philipsburg Police Station where he remains in custody for further investigation. No one was injured during this pursuit. (Police Force Sint Maarten)

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Walichi Basketball Association and Motorworld & Jeep Presents Ladies Basketball Championship Week 11 Round Up

SUCKER GARDEN - The Walichi Basketball Association (WBA) & Motorworld and Jeep Presents Ladies Basketball Championship games continued last weekend and started off with a Saturday game between MGM Lightning and Learning Unlimited. MGM lead 23-13 at the half.

 
MGM Lightning ended the game on a 10-2 run after Learning Unlimited cut it to 8 and won 53-37. MGM Lightning was led by Motorworld Player Of The Game Micaela Galva with 19 Points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. She was assisted by the big double double of Kayla Robinson of 10 Points, 21 Rebounds, 3 Assists and 4 steals. Learning Unlimited was led by Jakisha Brooks of 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 blocks and she was supported by Daricia Arrindell with 11 points,  3 Assists and 2 steals.

The first game on Sunday was between MGM Lightning and Bush Tea Remedy and end up being a Bush Tea Remedy forfeit for to lack of players.

The last game of the weekend was the much anticipated match-up between the #1 seed Thunderz and #2 Cash 4 Gold Lava Girls and they sure didn't disappoint.

The game was intense from the tip off, tick for tack throughout the first half and Cash 4 Gold Lava Girls lead 22-20 at the half. In the third quarter the Cash 4 Gold Lava Girls broke the game open by outscoring Thunderz 17-5 and never looked back and won 40-32. The Cash 4 Gold Lava Girls Snapped the Thunderz 6 game winning streak.

Motorworld Player Of The Game went to Selah Fleming for leading the Cash 4 Gold Lava Girls with 15 points, 3 rbs and 2 steals. She was supported by Diasha Ferdinand with 10 points and 5 steals. 
Thunderz was led by Chantel Hodge with 21 points and 4 rebounds. Nicairi Ortiz-David chipped in 2 points and pulled down 11 Rebounds.

Standings after Week 11 are Thunderz 10-2, MGM Lightning 8-4, Cash 4 Gold Lava Girls 9-2, Learning Unlimited 1-10 and Bush Tea Remedy at 1-11.

Games continue this Saturday with Learning Unlimited taking on Bush Tea Remedy at 6pm and on Sunday Learning Unlimited taking on Thunderz at 3pm followed at 5pm by MGM Lightning taking on Cash 4 Gold Lava Girls.

Game Highlights, pictures, game scores and schedule can be viewed on the Facebook page ‘Ladies Basketball Championship’. Highlights and full games can be seen on the Youtube page www.youtube.com/walichibasketball and short highlights can be seen on the Instagram page www.instagram.com/ladiesbasketballchampionship

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OSPP Leader Priest: It’s time to pay back, in politics there is nothing call a free lunch

PHILIPSBURG – The One St. Maarten People’s Party (OSPP) under the leadership of Lenny Priest on Sunday commented on the latest political developments in a press release distributed to the media.

“It has been rumored for some time that the US party was planning to support the UP led coalition but I had to read it to actually believe it. Now we can understand why during the election so many voters stick their hands out and say give me something for my vote now. Because after the election the horse trading will continue and all the elected officials are thinking about what and how much they can get for their seat.

“It is never about improving the quality of life of the people. How many of our elected officials are seriously interested in NV GEBE dropping the fuel prices to provide relief to the people? Which one of them would propose for the government to set up a loan guarantee program to allow our people to set up small businesses and create more jobs?

“Do you remember that case with the governor in Chicago that was trying to peddle off to the highest bidder the senate seat that Obama left vacant after he was elected President of the U.S.A? That governor should have contacted some of our politicians to know how to go about selling a seat, I am sure he would not be sitting in prison today. Our politicians surely know how to do it and with a straight face they would tell you that they are doing it for the betterment of the people.

“Three months and counting after the last election and our elected representatives have not done one thing positive to help the people. Yet, many of them have crossed the aisle to come back after realizing they were taking for a ride by the young silver fox. As our calypso emperor would say” what a thing” seats for sale in galore, are there any prospective buyers?

“First to jump ship in this term is Cornelius de Weever and he obtained two ministries, one he has not fill up to the present. Second to jump ship is MP Marlin-Romeo after sitting in a press conference stoned faced and told the public I am not going anywhere. In 2018 I will be right next to my leader Mr. Frans Richardson. We are yet to hear what she has received for joining this coalition, perhaps a new ministry to be established or something else.

“The most embarrassing of them all was the leader of the Democratic party MP Sarah Wescott-Williams who ridiculed MP Cornelius de Weever for joining the UP led coalition. Nevertheless, not much longer would MP Wescott-Williams join the coalition based on a promise to obtain two ministries. Outfoxed by the young silver fox time after time and is still not learning. She had to put her tail between her leg and wiggled back into the opposition benches. We can talk about a lack of credibility that doesn’t seem to affect our modern day politicians.   

“The latest party jumper is the US party that is led by Mr. Frans Richardson.  This is his take on the reason why he is supporting the UP led coalition. It is in the interest of St. Maarten. Let us understand this correctly. You enter an election to be part of a government at any cost to do things for the people. You join a government that to date has not been able to fill two very important ministerial appointments; a government without a governing program and a UP led government without confidence in its own candidates of the last election.

“But for your support you receive the Ministry of Justice. According to Minister Plasterk the Kingdom government is about to put higher supervision on this Ministry. Minister Richardson stated that he would resign first before he accepts the type of draconian measures the Dutch want to implement on the Ministry of Justice. Explain to the people how is that in the interest of St Maarten, a ministry that will be controlled by the Dutch government with a figure head minister? To the contrary it seems as if it is in the interest of only a selected few as usual. It’s time to pay back, in politics there is nothing call a free lunch. But time will tell, whatever happens in the dark must come out in the light,” OSPP Leader Lenny Priest said on Sunday in a press release. (OSPP Party)

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Teen, senior contestants attend session at Achievers Toastmasters club

PHILIPSBURG - The contestants of the Teen and Senior Carnival Queen Pageants Teens attended a session of the SXM Achievers Toastmasters club on Thursday, January 22.

The ladies were given information about the objectives of club during the session, witnessed three prepared speeches, practiced impromptu speaking during the table topic session and listened to the positive feedback given to the speakers given during the evaluation session.

According to Pageant Coordinator Aishira the meeting was well organized and engaging. She said she was happy a few months ago when the club approached the (St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation SCDF) since it fits right in with the goals set out for the pageant this year (Education, Culture, Self-development).

SCDF board member Alston Lourens thanked the club for hosting the young ladies on behalf of the foundation. The club will work with the contestants once more for an extraordinary meeting in February. The Miss Mature Pageant contestants will follow a similar program with Soualiga Corporate Toastmasters club.

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Businessman Ferrier Responds to Member of Parliament De Weever's Counterpart Policy

COLE BAY – Business owner Michael Ferrier on Thursday released his take on the counter part policy that was published by Member of Parliament (MP) Hon. Cornelius de Weever, a former Minister of Labour Affairs.

“I read MP de Weever's press release re The Counter Part Policy in the papers and on-line news media of January 22, 2015, and while I am the furthest thing from being a literary scholar, I believe there was a line from Macbeth by Shakespeare that is applicable here and goes like this: "... a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!".

“The MP’s explanation of his efforts and intentions related to the Counterpart Policy are basically thus summed up. Not only does the “tale” fail to include useful information about the policy (or law, as he suggests it is), but the MP’s story also makes clear to me, that he for one is a politician who believes that if he spews enough venom, makes enough noise and bends enough truth, he can misdirect the attention of the public from his own professional failings.

“Nationalistic rhetoric and shouts of "saving our people” while scoffing and demonization what he calls "special interests" and businesses, may be all well and good in MP de Weever's world of politics. But it won’t solve any real-life problems of St. Maarteners out of work. While he may try all he wants, this MP will not gain a bit of integrity (an area in which we all know by now he is sorely lacking) by wrapping himself in the flag and stirring up the emotions of those he has made promises to, but failed to deliver on.

“I do not speak for ‘The people’, or for special interest, or for any political party. I believe a couple of months ago I made my position clear. I am presently not an active politician or member of any political party; I am a member of the community of St. Maarten and a business professional. I speak as a businessman who talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to doing business on this island and employing locals (NONE on contract, EVER!).

“MP De Weever has not yet explained the Counterpart Policy and how in his opinion it is good for the island. I believe it will be a downright disaster. But don’t just take my word for it. The now infamous policy, has been weighed and measured and has been found to be lacking (by experts, not only me)!

“The very Social Economic Council (the SER) behind which former Minister de Weever has often hid himself, has issued clear advice on not only the counterpart policy, but also on the proposal for flexibilization of the labor laws, something first championed by me as Commissioner of Social Welfare and Labor back in 2001.  All bad, according to the newly self-proclaimed "defender of the people", MP De Weever.

“According to him special interests are supposedly looking to “hire and fire” employees at will. What he can't seem to fathom is the fact that those unscrupulous employers that abuse the 6 month (or short term) contract, are primarily the ones that think they cannot get rid of a non-productive, or plain "bad" employee if that employee is in permanent employment.

“So to circumvent the very out-dated law that was put in place almost 45 years ago to protect the employee, the short term (6 month) contract is used and abused. I have always said that I do not know a sane employer who wants to fire a GOOD employee, unless it is for well supported economic reasons. I guess the IMF (ed International Monetary Fund) is infested with the “St. Maarten special interests” too. This internationally renowned and respected expert group, issued a report in which they wrote that labor laws of St. Maarten are very rigid and that the labor situation is harmful to competitiveness. 

“The IMF found that St. Maarten’s labor market is overly regulated. They advised government to change the labor laws to make them more conducive to the cycles of our Tourism driven economy's labor demand, so as to raise employment in a lasting manner and to facilitate investment from outside. MP de Weever's answer to those advices is to ADD labor regulations, in this case one for counterparts. So, with local and international experts being on the same side of this argument, I can't help but wonder why Mr. De Weever is trying to force this policy down our throat?

“It can’t be because it is good for business, good for employees, good for nationals, or good for St. Maarten? No one, especially the MP, has provided a shred of evidence. Could it then be because it is politically convenient? When a politician does not have a successful record to run on, or when he/she does not have a scrap of political loyalty or integrity, then that politician will use whatever is available to shift attention from his failures.

“MP Cornelius de Weever has yet to convince me in the case that I have a vacancy in my business and a national (local) with the (reasonable) required qualifications cannot be found, how the labor department is going to decide for my business who will be a counterpart. Private business has to take acceptable financial and economic risks. That is part of the business environment or entrepreneurship.

“Being dictated to by government in terms of who to hire and under what conditions, is not acceptable in a free-enterprise society! This smells like "Chavizmo" and look how well THAT is working for Venezuela! De Weever proved a long time ago (and I was an "insider", so I know) that he will not accept good advice, domestic or foreign and he never blinked an eye when trying to apply bad ideas that suit his personal/political objectives-of-the-day. That thinking is not how this island got where it is today.

“In closing, my message to MP De Weever is simple and clear. Riling up locals with “anti-immigrant, anti-private sector” talk is not going to do any one a bit of good. Neither the unemployed kid on the block, the student abroad, the business community or government will benefit from this type of approach. Does Sint Maarten have labor challenges? Without a doubt! But a counterpart policy is not the answer. If Mr. de Weever is really a man for the people, he should talk less, listen more and pay attention to good advice when it is available. (He may also consider in his spare time trying to run a real business and drink some of his own medicine),” Business owner Michael J. Ferrier stated Thursday.

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Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association's Featured Marketing Partners Lead the Way in 2014. Port St. Maarten is one of them

PEMBROKE PINES, FL/SINT MAARTEN - The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association's (FCCA) 2014 Featured Marketing Partners showed the significance of directly targeting FCCA's 19 Member Lines.

Refusing to rest on their laurels, these cruise destination powerhouses-Aruba; Colombia; Cozumel, Mexico; Dominican Republic; Mexico; Puerto Rico; St. Maarten (Port St. Maarten); and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI)-embarked on custom-tailored FCCA marketing packages to further spotlight their destination to those who decide where ships call and how to invest in infrastructure.

"The FCCA is proud to offer numerous ways for destinations' private and public sectors to maximize cruise tourism's impact," said Michele Paige, president, FCCA. "Marketing with the FCCA catches the attention of the cruise lines' most influential decision makers."

"Working with the FCCA over many years has been an excellent opportunity to showcase the U.S. Virgin Islands as an accessible, cruise-friendly destination," said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of Tourism, U.S. Virgin Islands. "Our partnership has been mutually beneficial and effective in reaching the cruise industry's key players."

The proof of FCCA Marketing Partners' success is seen in the numbers and investments. Dominican Republic's Amber Cove will open in 2015, featuring eight Carnival ships and over 100,000 passengers between October 2015 and April 2016. Plus the other Dominican Republic ports experienced a 25 percent increase in passenger arrivals between 2012 and 2014, according to data provided by FCCA Member Lines.

The same data shows similar results for the rest of FCCA's Featured Marketing Partners. Aruba saw a 12 percent rise in passenger arrivals between 2011 and 2014; Colombia received nine percent more passengers in 2014 than in 2012; Cozumel hosted nearly 600,000 more passengers in 2014 than in 2013-a 23 percent gain; Mexican ports, excluding Cozumel, catered to more than 440,000 additional passengers in 2014 than in 2013-a 28 percent increase; more than 220,000 extra passengers experienced Puerto Rico in 2014, compared to 2012-an 18 percent difference; more than 275,000 additional passengers-an 18 percent rise-disembarked in Port St. Maarten in 2014, compared to 2013; and the USVI received 37 more vessels in 2014 than in 2013, a six percent increase, along with numerous cruise executives and Platinum Members as St. Croix hosted the FCCA PAMAC Summit and displayed its offerings-a crucial part of St. Croix's projected 37 percent passenger arrival increase for 2015, compared to 2013.

These increases of passenger and vessel calls extend far beyond the cruise pier; they impact destinations' entire economies. According to the Business Research & Economic Advisors (BREA) 2012 study, Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism to the Destination Economies, the overall average expenditure per passenger was $95.92, which benefitted numerous industries through purchases of goods and services. Plus more ships bring more crew, with an average expenditure of $96.98, more cruise line spending and more employment revenue. 

By these numbers, a single additional call from an average ship-130,000 GRT, 1,040 feet long, carrying 3,000 passengers and 500 crewmembers-generates $287,760 in passenger spending, $48,490 in crew spending and roughly $15,000 in port fees. This ship would account for $351,250 in direct economic contribution, not including wage labor and indirect contributions.

Considering these proven returns, it becomes easy to understand why destinations market with the FCCA to invest in their cruise tourism and overall economy.

To learn how the FCCA can tailor a marketing strategy for you, please contact Adam Ceserano via e-mail (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or phone (954-441-8881).

About the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association

The FCCA is a not-for-profit trade organization composed of 19 Member Lines that operate more than 100 vessels in Caribbean and Latin American waters. Created in 1972, the FCCA provides a forum for discussion on tourism development, ports, safety, security, and other cruise industry issue and builds bilateral relationships with destinations' private and public sectors. By fostering an understanding of the cruise industry and its operating practices, the FCCA works with governments, ports and private sector representatives to maximize cruise passenger, crew and cruise line spending, as well as enhance the destination experience and increase the amount of cruise passengers returning as stay-over visitors. For more information, visit F-CCA.com, the FCCA on Facebook, and@FCCAupdates on Twitter.

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Rotary Club of Sint Maarten Hosts Seniors at Belair Community Center

BELAIR – Rotarians have been quite busy of late attending to several projects throughout the island.  A favorite of most was hosting about 150 of St. Maarten’s youth of yesteryear to an afternoon of fun, dancing, food, and of course lots of Ponche Cuba. 

The event; held at the Belair Community Center was originally to be held towards the end of last year, but was postponed due to those days of flooding that brought the island to a halt.  It was determined that in the interest of safety and to ensure that as many seniors could attend as possible, the event was held on Saturday, January 17th  and was a great day of fun and fellowship for all involved.  And what a party it was! 

Rotarians and members of the Interact Clubs hosted the event and engaged their guests with great conversation, became dance partners, and made sure that the Ponche Cuba was flowing and that all had plenty to eat. 

Seniors came alive and danced for hours to songs of their era with music being provided by Zamar Musical Productions.  “To see the joy and eagerness to get out on the dance floor to show they still have moves was amazing”, said Deepak Ramchandani, the club’s President.  “I remember one gentleman in particular in his late 80’s that had not lost a step.  He could still dance like he was in his teens” he continued to say. 

When taking a rest from the dance floor, Rotarians served their special guests to an amazing lunch.  Delicious food was prepared by Sheika’s Catering taking many special dietary guidelines into consideration.  Many comments were received in particular as to how great the food was and there was a lot of it! 

“Events like this is why I joined Rotary”, said John Caputo.  “By taking time out of your busy schedule really makes a difference to others.  It is such an amazing feeling to see how happy and vibrant people become; just by spending time and engaging them in conversation, sharing a meal with them, or even being a dance partner.”

The Rotary Clubs on Sint Maarten have always been an active supporter of the senior citizens.  From engaging them with lagoon cruises, providing much needed therapy equipment such as a recently donated Leg Press, to hosting lunches and parties like this one.  None are more rewarding than spending time with them; to hear of days gone by on St. Maarten.  Knowing how much our time means to them is really special. (Rotary Club of Sint Maarten)

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27-Year Old Female Injured during Armed Robbery at Apartment

PHILIPSBURG - On Wednesday January 21st at approximately 07.20 a.m. police was sent to the former “Royal Inn Motel” on the A. Th. Illidge road to investigate an armed robbery.

On the scene the investigating officers spoke to the 27 year old female victim who was bleeding heavily from a large wound to the left side of her head. She stated that while she was in the bathroom she heard a strange noise coming from the living room area.

When she went to see what was going on, she encountered two unknown men dressed in dark clothing and who had just forced themselves into her apartment standing in the living room.

One of the men was in the possession of a fire-arm and threatened to use it if she did not handover the cash she had in the apartment. There was a struggle in the apartment at which time the victim denied having any money and she was struck in her head with the butt of the gun.

The robbers searched the apartment and took a small amount of cash. The victim was treated on the scene. The Special Robbery Unit is investigating this case. (Police Force Sint Maarten)

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WINAIR Fuel Surcharge down February 1 and Tickets to Costs Less

SIMPSON BAY – WINAIR will be decreasing its fuel surcharges by 30% for travel after February 1, 2015.

This is due to ongoing developments on the international level, where crude oil has been experiencing price adjustments.

With the decrease in the prices of fuel WINAIR has taken this decision.

Customers will enjoy a decrease in fuel surcharges on tickets booked for travel effective February 1, 2015. (WINAIR)

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