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Migratory Bird Festival Welcomes Birds Back this Saturday

GRAND CASE, St. Martin - While St. Martin waits for tourists to return, the island’s other seasonal guests have been quietly arriving. Migratory birds travel thousands of miles every year to spend the winter here.

The fifth-annual Migratory Bird Festival celebrates these birds from 9am to noon on Saturday, November 25th at Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay. The event is free and open to all.

“Welcome back! Is our theme this year,” explained Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer, the association that organizes the festival. “We’re welcoming back the birds, and after the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, we’re also welcoming back the natural spaces of the island as they recover.”

The location at Friar’s Bay was chosen because it offers excellent viewing access to Guichard Pond. At the Birdwatching Station, festival-goers will get to see the migratory birds that live on the pond and explore how the mangrove trees are recovering.

Attendees will learn more about native trees and their recovery at the Restoration Station, hosted by EPIC (Environmental Protection in the Caribbean). The Portable Pond Discovery Station will offer an up-close look at the aquatic critters that many migratory birds eat. These tiny, fascinating creatures are another important part of the wetland ecosystem.

The event’s Art Activity Station will have fun wildlife-themed coloring for kids, as well as a special bird feeder craft for people of all ages. Guests big and small are invited to paint bird feeders made from calabash, and bring them home along with bird seed to help out birds throughout the year.

The 2017 Migratory Bird Festival will be held on Saturday, November 25th from 9am to noon at Kali’s Beach Bar in Friar’s Bay. The festival is brought to you by Les Fruits de Mer, and the 2017 edition is made possible thanks to our sponsors: BirdsCaribbean, BZSE, Caribbean Paddling, Delta Petroleum, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, Tri-sport and Van Dorp.

It is a free event and people of all ages are invited to attend. Get all the details at:

PHOTO CUTLINE: Festival guests can decorate a bird feeder to take home.

Bird Feeders


Queen Wilhelmina Library Donation Drive in aid of the Philipsburg Jubilee Library

PHILIPSBURG - The Philipsburg Jubilee Library is pleased to announce it has received $900 from Saba’s Queen Wilhelmina Library.

Saba’s Queen Wilhelmina Library organized a fundraiser drive held on Monday October 23rd 2017, to assist St. Maarten’s library after the passing and destruction of Hurricane Irma and Maria to the library’s structure.

The much needed funds will be used for new materials and activities for children’s programs that will be hosted by the library  in the hopes to continue encouraging a reading community among St. Maarten and her community.

The Philipsburg Jubilee Library is honored and highly appreciative for the efforts that their sister library, The Queen Wilhelmina Library, under the leadership of Joanna Simmons, her staff, and the Saban community, made in supporting us during our time of need.

The heartwarming support of the Saban library encourages us in our continued commitment toward the community of St. Maarten.


St. Maarten at international donor’s conference in New York. Commitment of pledges being sought

POND ISLAND - St. Maarten is among Caribbean territories and nations that suffered major damages by the stronger than usual 2017 Atlantic hurricanes.  Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman is attending a major international donor’s conference in New York, according to a press release from the Cabinet of the Ministry of Justice.

“The objective is to mobilize support and commitment of pledges to help the devastated countries to build back better and fulfil the vision of being the first climate resilient countries in the world.

“The conference hopes to raise over 2 billion U.S. dollars, mostly in the form of grant aid, to help affected countries rebuild better, stronger and smarter ahead of next year’s storm season.

“Canada is among donor countries that have confirmed its participation in the CARICOM-UN pledging conference.

“The United Nations Development Program is coordinating the two-day meeting, taking place from November 21.

“Dominica and Barbuda, the smaller sister island of Antigua, were among the Caribbean single trading bloc countries that were ruined by the 2017 storms, and most of the focus will be on these two.

“Officials say they have no plan to ignore the fact that associate members such as the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands had also suffered serious damage.

“Additionally, the region also has an interest in most of the others because of the large populations of nationals from the bloc living in places such as Dutch St. Maarten, French Saint Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hundreds were evacuated with free flights back home in the days, after the storms.

“For the two-day meeting, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Western donor nations, including the U.S. and some of the wealthier countries in the Middle East are expected to attend. St. Maarten is being represented by acting Prime Minister Rafael Boasman and support staff,” the press release concludes.


Officers not guilty of causing death of Mitch Henriquez, says prosecution

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two police officers standing trial for their involvement in the death of Aruban tourist Mitch Henriquez should not be held responsible for his death, the prosecution service said on Monday.

Henriquez died in July 2015, a day after being arrested by a team of five officers at the Zuiderpark in The Hague. Police said they responded after he claimed to be carrying a gun.

Video footage of the scene showed the 42-year-old being restrained using a choke hold before his motionless body was bundled into a police van. His death triggered several nights of rioting in The Hague’s Schilderswijk district, where there has been a history of tension between the police and the large minority ethnic population.

Two of the five officers were charged with fatally assaulting Henriquez after an initial pathologist’s report concluded that he had died as a result of the choke hold. All five have been internally disciplined by the police but none has been dismissed.

But in court on Monday, the prosecution said it had concluded on the basis of other expert witnesses that his death was the caused by acute stress syndrome. Therefore the officers could not be held responsible.

Excessive force

The officers were guilty of assault but should not face punishment because they had already suffered enough, the prosecution said. The court was told they had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and received threats since the incident.

They gave evidence in court from behind screens and their voices were distorted to protect their identity. The prosecution said the officers had used excessive force in restraining Henriquez.

One officer, identified in court as DH02, punched the victim as he lay on the ground and rubbed pepper spray in his face, in breach of police guidelines. ‘There was no need to use violence to speed up the arrest,’ said the prosecution lawyer.

‘The officers should be held to account for their choices.’

Family walked out    

Last week most of Henriquez’s family walked out of court after it emerged that the prosecution had based its case on low-quality video footage of his arrest.

The films were copied from better quality originals which were produced in court by defence lawyer Richard Korver. The internal investigation team which reviewed the case said that the better quality footage had been left out of the case files because of an administrative error.

But the family claimed it showed the case was a ‘phantom trial’ to prevent the truth emerging. Before leaving the courtroom, Korver said the investigation was so riddled with errors that a fair trial was impossible.

‘We have no choice other than to indicate in this way to the court, but also to the public prosecution service and the internal investigation unit, that this investigation is simply substandard.’

Lip readers

Korver said the original footage revealed details that contradicted the prosecution’s case. He said Henriquez appeared to turn blue in the film, whereas experts who relied on the inferior material concluded that he was not deprived of oxygen because he had not turned blue.

Korver also called two police lip-readers to study the video footage in court. The witnesses said police officers had said to each other ‘Seems dead to me’ and ‘he’s stopped responding’.

But defence lawyers for the officers claimed that their words were being misinterpreted and that they had said Henriquez was ‘dead tired’ rather than dead.

The family failed in an earlier bid to have all five officers put on trial for causing Henriquez’s death and lost a bid to have their names disclosed so they could bring a civil case against them. (DutchNews)


Zwarte Piet supporters close motorway to stop demo as Sinterklaas arrives

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A group of pro-Zwarte Piet campaigners blocked the A7 motorway for a time on Saturday morning, halting two buses taking anti-Zwarte Piet campaigners to the Frisian town of Dokkum ahead of the ‘arrival’ of Sinterklaas.

The buses containing anti-racism campaigners were heading for Dokkum to take part in a legal demonstration at a pre-arranged location. However, as the buses neared the town of Joure, several vehicles driven by people from the pro-Piet camp pulled up in front, forcing the drivers to stop.

Campaigner Jerry Afriyie told RTL news a motorbike suddenly appeared in front of the bus, causing it to brake sharply. ‘It was too insane for words,’ he said. ‘They are stopping us from exercising our democratic right to demonstrate.’

The police claim it took 20 to 25 minutes to clear the road but said there were no arrests. Other reports suggest the blockade could have lasted up to an hour. The buses carrying supporters of the Kick Out Zwarte Piet movement continued their journey to Dokkum under riot police escort.

NRC journalist Kasper van Laarhoven, who was travelling in one of the buses, said after 20 minutes the demonstrators realised that they were not heading for Dokkum after all.

The driver pulled up on the hard shoulder and a police officer entered the bus, telling the occupants that the demonstration had been banned after all and that they were being escorted back to Amsterdam and Rotterdam.


‘There were indications that there could be more blockades and that pro Zwarte Piet activists were already in the town,’ mayor Marga Waanders told a press conference later Saturday afternoon.

Asked if the decision to ban the demonstration meant that Piet supporters had had their way, the mayor said: ‘Safety is paramount – the safety of both the anti and pro camps. I am happy that the blockade only led to minor damage to cars and that no-one was hurt.’

The boat carrying Sinterklaas arrived in Dokkum around 12.30 and the welcome ceremony took place without incident. Most of the pieten on board the boat were traditional versions of the Sint’s helper, played by white people in blackface make-up.

There were also several pieten with sooty faces. According to research by the AD, most local councils are planning to stick to the traditional black or brown-faced pieten and just 17 will include pieten with sooty faces in their parades.

Zwarte Piet is traditionally played by a white person in blackface makeup but over the years protests against the racist stereotype have been growing, culminating in demonstrations and scores of arrests.

Dutch celebrities, including actors who have played Zwarte Piet, have also called for change.


Now in some towns and cities, the blackface pieten are being replaced by other versions, including pieten with different coloured makeup and sooty smudges to show they have been down chimneys to deliver gifts.

Amsterdam has said it will move further away from the stereotyped blackface make-up and page attire at its official Sinterklaas parade on November 19.

In the capital, Sint Nicholas will be accompanied by almost 400 pieten with long, wavy brown hair and costumes based on the clothes of 16th century Spanish noblemen. Their outfits will also sport the three Andreas crosses to denote Amsterdam. (DutchNews)

PHOTO CUTLINE: Sinterklaas in rainy Dokkum. Photo: Corne Sparidaens / HH

sinterklaas in Dokkum 560x371



COLE BAY - Hyundai Motor Corporation (HMC) and Shell working together with Motorworld, have pledged $150,000 in post-hurricane relief support to St. Maarten/St. Martin, and the surrounding region. HMC is a multinational automotive manufacturer of the Hyundai brand vehicles which are sold by Motorworld, the exclusive dealership in this region.

“As we remain steadfast in our efforts to recover and rebuild after the devastation caused by the hurricanes, we are truly excited about this opportunity to work with HMC and Shell to support the communities that we are a part of, and, proud to serve,” says Tariq Amjad, Managing Director, Motorworld Group of Companies.  

All of the relief support will be invested directly back into the community through Motorworld’s community outreach efforts. This will be done in various forms to provide direct benefits and bring relief to the community. This includes a mobile ‘Soup Kitchen’ with distribution of complimentary soups to individuals in need of a warm meal at various locations throughout the islands.

Further, thousands of care packages with general food and household goods will be distributed, as well as items specifically for the elderly, and parents with babies who are in need of essential childcare items. These activities will take place throughout the months of November and December.

 “With corporate responsibility always in mind, our goal is to provide a sense of relief to the entire community during these trying times. This includes the local businesses that we are working with to purchase these items, as well as various local caterers who will be preparing the soups, and most importantly, also to the residents who are in need,” says Amjad.

Motorworld will be working with their dedicated staff, along with several social organizations and community foundations such as K1 Britannia, the Rotary Club, Helping Hands Foundation, as well as the Government of St. Maarten in order to effectively and fairly distribute the relief goods to various residents who are experiencing unfortunate circumstances.


SXM STRONG DEBATE- “To be identified as a St. Martiner, Cultural Identity is more important than Nationality”

POND ISLAND – A cultural debate was held in line with the Road to St. Martin Day activities. This debate was held between the Hyacinth Richardson Educational Foundation and the Joint team of the Youth parliament and the Conceil Territorial de Jeunes.

The moot for this debate was tabled as “To be identified as a St. Martiner Cultural Identity is more important than Nationality.

The debate’s program started off by the MC Ms. Amanda Bedminster introducing Ms. Shermina Powell who opened in prayer and she was followed by the 3 winners of the 2016 SXM interscholastic Idols competition singing the SXM song. The event was flanked by a moderator and judges who were very much in tuned with St. Martin’s Culture and nationality.

The teams debated this topic with much enthusiasm as the proposition team was in favor of the moot. They started the debate by elucidating to the fact that various activities, foods, mannerisms, cultural manifestations etc. are what define St. Martiners and therefore Cultural identity is what identifies you as a St. Martiner and not the nationality which is determined by the passport you hold.

The opposition team who was against the moot defended that a person’s nationality is more important than their cultural identity. They started the debate by elucidating and explaining what nationality meant. It was said that Nationality is determined by a person’s citizenship in a country and that nationality is the state of being part of a nation whether by birth or naturalization or ties to a specific nation. In this case for a St. Martiner nationality would be more important because without such you could not be identified with a country.

This debate continued with many reasons why either side was more important and saw the audience being very much engaged in the whole debate. In the end, being that St. Martin is not a nation and as such citizens do not have St. Martin nationality was used by both teams as a part of their arguments both for and against the moot. The focus of the debaters was heavily on the naturalized St. Martiner or St. Martiner of mixed heritage and not on St. Mariners with historical roots to the island. These arguments were also used by both sides to prove their stance on the moot. 

This was indeed the intention of the organizers for the audience and debaters to focus on in an attempt to really get the dialogue on defining a St. Martiner going. 

The debate consisted of 3 members of each team defending their positions and a researcher who did research for the rebuttals.

The proposition team comprised of:

Dawud Chapman 1st speaker; Diandra Marlin  2nd speaker; Imani Henry 3rd speaker; Reanna Thomas researcher.

The opposition team comprised of:

Rochana Richardson 1st speaker; Ashille Brooks 2nd speaker; Sarina Alexander 3rd  speaker; Kamilah Gumbs researcher.                                                                                                                                    

The debate culminated with the proposition team winning the debate with 372 points.

Ms. Sarina Alexander won the best speaker for the debate and gave the rebuttal for the Opposition.

The head cultural historian and author Judge, Daniella Jeffrey, closed after announcing the winners by stressing that the voice of the St. Martiner with strong roots and blood ties to the island should also be heard in this dialogue. 

The Ministry ECYS looks forward to another installment wherein various points of view can be openly discussed in a similar setting by the adults and elders of this 37 square mile island. 

Minister Jacobs thanked the youth debaters for their composure, poise, passion and great speaking ability displayed. The teams were also commended for the level of research they had put on to be prepared for the debate. Minister Jacobs also thanked Connie Francis and the Youth Councils on both sides of the island and Mr. Roberto C. Arrindell for the work they put in to preparing the debater.


TelEm Group planning wacky Friday fun promotion

POND ISLAND - TelCell is gearing up for a “Wacky” sales campaign aimed at turning the company’s dress down Friday of November 24, into a hoot for visiting customers and customer service staff.

It’s the Marketing Department’s own take on “Black Friday” with the team daring customers to come in dressed in the “wackiest” attire they can imagine (keep it clean please folks) to win a prize and also have some fun.

The Marketing team says the “Wackier” the outfit, the better chance customers have of being invited to dive into a box of goodies where they can take home any one of 50 available prizes being offered, including the main prize of an iPhone 8.

According to TelEm Group Manager, Marketing & Sales, Ms. Grisha Marten-Heyliger, the marketing team has really gone to town on the promotion, which this year is being organized as an alternative to the annual Black Friday Sale. Grisha has also invited TelEm Group staff to dress up in a wacky way so that they also can be part of the fun day of sales and product promotion.

 “So much has happened in the community in the past weeks with the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, that the team wanted to turn black Friday into a wacky Friday that our staff, customers and the public generally can enjoy and have fun with while doing our regular business of providing products and services,” said Grisha.

There will be 20 Specials on offer including 14 all-day sales items and 6 “Door-buster” Specials that the team says are just too wild and whacky to announce before the campaign gets under way.

According to Grisha, the Door Buster sales will be the largest in the promotion. They get under way as early at 6:30 in the morning when the TelEm Group doors open especially early to greet bargain hunters.

She said the campaign and promotion, along with the knockout specials, will have something for all age groups and includes anything from accessories to the latest mobile devices to services offered.

“There will be fantastic offers with a limited time and great deals to be had, but nothing will be revealed until the actual week of the promotion and after a big build-up in the media,” said Grisha.

The campaign will end on Friday, November 24th, (Black Friday) with an announcement of which customer was judged to be wearing the “wackiest” outfit and which member of staff also best fits the “wacky” dresser bill.

“We will be asking our customers not to be alarmed or to lodge a complaint with management if they see a customer service representative dressed as a pink tortoise shell offering to assist them on “Wacky” TelCo Friday – it will all be part of the fun,” said Grisha.



PHILIPSBURG – “Hurricane Irma destroyed our country, displaced our people and exposed our government,” Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) said on Wednesday in a press statement.

“Governing now appears to be dominated by politics. Decisions that should be made in the interest of the people seem to be solely politically motivated. Take for example the decision to hold elections at a time when people are roofless, homeless and suffering. Apparently, the coalition members knew months ago that if parliament gave government a vote of non-confidence, due to ship jumping, government would retaliate by dissolving parliament.

“This was purely a political choice and had absolutely nothing to do with what was best for the people of Sint Maarten at this time. In the eyes of the government, calling for snap elections may have been a smart political move, but from the perspective of the people it was a very bad governance decision.

“Limited space in this paper will not permit me to chronicle all the details leading up to the vote of non-confidence and the retaliatory decision by the Council of Ministers to dissolve Parliament. Neither will I be able to detail the process of tinkering with the constitution by our Governor in order to accommodate the political decision to have snap elections.

“In the aftermath of hurricane Irma, one could clearly observe the buildup of political tension in the NA/DP/USP coalition. In Parliament, DP Members, Sarah Wescott-Williams and Perry Geerlings, were very critical of the Prime Minister, the honorable William Marlin, and his government. Consequently, the DP stepped out of the coalition together with another member of the coalition and joined with the UP Party, to form a majority coalition of eight members of Parliament, the so called Magic Eight. On November 2nd 2017, the Magic Eight, made use of Article 33 of the Constitution and passed a motion of non-confidence in the government. That same day, Prime Minister Marlin tendered the resignations of his entire Cabinet to the Governor and simultaneously submitted a draft national decree to dissolve parliament.

“One week later, November 10th 2017, the Magic Eight passed another motion discharging Prime Minister Marlin of his duties with immediate effect and resolving to install Acting Prime Minister Rafael Boasman as the new Prime Minister. Popularly speaking, parliament fired the Prime Minister twice and then requested the Acting Prime Minister, in whom, one week prior, they had no confidence, to become the new Prime Minister.

“What makes this matter even more ridiculous is that parliament has no authority to enforce their decision or motion to dismiss the Prime Minister or to appoint a new Acting Prime Minister. According to article 40 of the constitution, Prime Minister Marlin has to prepare his own dismissal decree as well as the appointment decree of the proposed Acting Prime Minister after which, he would then have to send these two documents to the Governor to be co-signed. You can imagine Prime Minister Marlin thinking “what chaos, they haven’t a clue of the power of the Prime Minister.”

“Since 10-10-10, article 33 of the constitution has become a very controversial article. It states that “if a minister no longer has the confidence of Parliament, he SHALL resign. SHALL is the operative word and is subject to various interpretations. However, article 33 need not be controversial or disputable because the constitution allows for parliament to enact further rules to regulate this matter. Isn’t it strange that despite the regular contention caused by this article not one of the past parliaments or parliamentarians have done anything to ease the execution of this article! We surely love chaos!

“If Prime Minister Marlin and his Cabinet had refused to resign then parliament had one big stick in reserve. According to the explanatory notes of article 33, if a minister refuses to resign “he will be acting beyond the rule of constitutional law”. This means that Parliament could then take the matter to court and eventually be able to evict that minister using the strong arm of the law. But is our Parliament up to this?

“The motion of non-confidence triggered government to draft a national decree to dissolve parliament. It must be noted however, that the constitution does not oblige the government to dissolve parliament. Article 59 of the constitution reads “parliament MAY be dissolved by national decree”. The operative word here is MAY. Two years ago, then Member of Parliament, William Marlin, condemned Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs for dissolving Parliament but two years later he does the said same thing.

“Furthermore, we did not have to be in this constitutional chaos because the Governor is not obliged to sign the dissolution decree. Seeing the damage done to the island and the resulting social circumstances he should have refused to sign it or he should have sent it to the Kingdom government for annulment according to article 21 of the Governor’s Regulation. Moreover, if he had consulted with the institutions involved in organizing and facilitating the elections, such as the Main Voting Bureau and the Post Office, he would have known that elections at this time was not a good choice.

“But no, the Governor upheld a bad government’s decision, seemingly motivated by politics and retaliation and signed it into law within 24 hours without considering the hurt and suffering of the people. The fact that ten days later the Prime Minister and the Governor modified their decision goes to show that it was not a carefully considered decision!,” Wycliffe Smith, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party concludes.


Minister Lee thanks Red Cross NL and SXM

POND ISLAND - Minister Lee congratulates Red Cross on their parallel launch of their food voucher program. We are thankful for their coordinated effort to support and expand on Government’s Basic Necessities Voucher Program. 

These two programs allow persons who have experienced a serious financial setback as a consequence of the impact of the recent hurricanes to receive a voucher valued at NAF 150.- that can be redeemed at participating supermarkets - Le Grande Marche, Prime Distributors, Sang’s Supermarket, and Sunny Foods. 

Vouchers can be used to purchase basic necessities which include food, water, hygiene and sanitation products excluding tobacco and alcohol products at participating retailers. A family of one or two persons can apply for one voucher and larger families can receive two. Eligible families will receive voucher(s) every two weeks depending on if their situation has changed. 

Those who wish to apply for the Government program are advised to report to the new Government Building on Pond Island at the Social Services Department Monday –Friday between 8.30 AM and 12 NOON.

While the Government Program is based on an application and interview process, the Red Cross program is based more on community assessments by the Red Cross staff in collaboration with community councils/leaders. 

The Ministry of VSA is pleased with this because it compliments Government’s approach and allows for better penetration into the different neighborhoods.

Other donors such as the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) have also expressed their willingness to cooperate in the program. Once the agreement has been finalized, this will allow an additional $164,000 to be spent on the program.

 “The cooperation and collaboration with international and local agencies has been extremely helpful and we are gracious for their generosity. We believe that developing transparent and auditable programs are essential to attracting other donors who wish to participate and contribute to St. Maarten’s recovery efforts,” stated Minister Lee.

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