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Ombudsman starts Systemic Investigation regarding Rent Committee

PHILIPSBURG - The Bureau of the Ombudsman continues to receive visits from citizens concerned about their housing conditions, as well as complaints about the Rent Committee allegedly not cooperating or responding adequately when addressed by the public.

Considering the importance of the Rent Committee, post- hurricane Irma to settle disputes regarding rental price and evictions, and to ensure that both tenants and landlords are able to address the Court regarding such disputes, the Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin initiates a Systemic Investigation pertaining to the operations of the Rent Committee.

After more than four months since the passing of the devastating hurricanes, the Ombudsman has not been provided requested information from Government about persons who lost their homes, are residing in emergency shelters and/or have filed for social assistance.

Preliminary investigation of the complaints about the Rent Committee (also known as Rent Tribunal or Rent Board) by the Ombudsman indicates an increase of visitors to the Rent Committee post-hurricane Irma. However, the office of the Rent Tribunal is understaffed and -equipped to handle the increase of visitors, while allegedly a formal request submitted to the Minister of General Affairs in the first quarter of 2017 to improve its business operations and functioning has remained unanswered.

The public has difficulty reaching the Rent Committee, experience a lack of guidance when visiting the office, and letters are being refused when presented. Not being able to have their case heard by the Rent Tribunal jeopardizes both tenant and landlord to have a dispute regarding a request to vacate the premises, or a rent increase settled. In the meantime uncertainty and a lack of transparency regarding short-term housing continues unabated. 

The principle of Fair play requires that a public body allows citizens the opportunity to express and defend their views and opinions, while also being able to object the position and or point of view of a public body. A public body is required to actively assist the citizen in utilizing its procedural options. In the case of rent disputes, appealing to the Court of First Instance is an option after a decision by the Rent Tribunal is made on the matter.

Proper identification of complaints to adequately inform citizens of their rights, procedures to be followed, protest or appeal is pivotal. Hence the Executive Secretary of the Rent Tribunal is charged with the task to allow persons to adjust their written request if not adequate, and assist them in the process.

Dr. Arduin observes that with poor infrastructure and no vehicle available to engage site visits in order to objectively and effectively execute its task, the standard of proper conduct Fair play, among others, is seriously under threat with regard to proper handling of requests filed with the Rent Committee post-hurricane Irma.

Reason why the Ombudsman resolves to conduct a systemic investigation regarding: 1) The yearly budget of the Rent Committee in order to execute its task adequately pursuant to article 273 National Ordinance Rent. 2) The daily operations, including accessibility of the Rent Committee to the public. 3) Application of the law by the Rent Committee, in particular pertaining to assisting the public to properly file their request with the Rent Committee (article 257 sub 2 of the National Ordinance Rent). 4) Impediments of the Rent Committee resulting in excessive Complaints being filed with the Ombudsman regarding the Rent Tribunal.

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InselAir facing a number of operational challenges according to media reports

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO - Flights by the local airline InselAir seem no longer a given, now that the company is increasingly plagued by operational issues, a lack of planes and a lack of spare parts to keep their three operational planes in the air.

Over the last few days, InselAir has had great trouble to keep up some sort of a regular schedule. Various flights during the past day were actually executed by Haitian carrier Sunrise Airways, because of lack of operational capacity at InselAir.

According to yet unconfirmed rumors, even the last operational Fokker-50 airplane would be held on the ground starting this afternoon. An InselAir employee confirmed to the BES-Reporter that the airline does not have enough cash to buy needed spare parts to keep the planes of the company flying.

This evening, a number of InselAir flights between Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba will be executed by Sunrise Airways, but starting tomorrow there would not even be a single InselAir flight leaving Hato airport (Ed Curacao). It is still unclear if in the days thereafter InselAir will be able to start back with their flight operations.

Other rumors indicate that even the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) of the airline would be in play after negative results for inspections carried out by the Dutch Ministry of Living Environment and Transportation (ILT).

A complete stop of operations by InselAir would have hugely negative effects on the already shaky economy of Curaçao, but would also represent big challenges for travelers.

The Minister of Economic Development Steven Martina (Ed Curacao) indicated that the government has made the decision to appoint a new CEO for the airline. This must take place before March 1.

Minister Martina also stressed the importance of the survival of the airline. “We need to save the connectivity between the islands and that is why InselAir is important,” said Martina in an interview. (CuracaoChronicle)

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New COCI Board of Directors says its filled with determination and positive energy

PHILIPSBURG - The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) will like to inform the general public that on January 17th, 2018, where the newest members of the COCI’s Board of Directors were sworn in after all of their credentials were confirmed and in order.

“During this meeting, the board voted on a new Executive Board and the results thereof was that our new President is Stanley Lint, Vice-President is Benjamin Ortega & Treasurer is Louis Bute. COCI’s President Stanley Lint & Executive Director Anastacio Baker also have a few things to say as well.

“The first meeting with the new Board of Directors has been one filled with determination and positive energy. We believe that this board, we will have a prosperous and pleasant 2018,” the COCI press statement concludes.

“Our new members have few words to give to the general public,” a press statement on Wednesday from COCI says:

I am very happy to be on the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. I’ve been trying to be part of this board for a while now and I promise that I’ll do my best and work as hard as I can.” – Edsel Gumbs

I would like to thank everyone for welcoming him to the Board of Directors and that it will be a pleasure working along side everyone.” – Nikhil Kukreja

I would like to thank the board for the warmth he received at this first meeting. It was challenging getting here, but I know together we can be a dream team for St. Maarten. ” – Bertaux Simon Fleming

I would like to thank the board for coming out and putting their trust in him to be President. I love to work and work is my passion. I look forward to working with my fellow board members and with this dynamic team, we must make our mark in the community. ” – President S. Lint

Moving forward, we all need some time to see how we can achieve more for the business sector of St. Maarten. He urges everyone to think of ideas on how we can strategically achieve each goal that will be set so that we could do more. ” – Exec. Director A. Baker

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World Bank Team starts work with Government Civil Servants

POND ISLAND - Over the next two weeks a World Bank team will work with Government civil servants to identify priorities for the recovery and reconstruction of Sint Maarten.

The team was welcomed by Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin on Friday and held its first meetings on Monday.

The World Bank team comprises of recovery program specialists and operations advisers. As a first step, the team will assist the Government in finalizing the damage and loss analysis of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

At the same time, the World Bank team will work closely together with the Government of Sint Maarten on a consolidated National Recovery and Reconstruction Plan.

This plan will define short-, medium- and long term priorities for recovery and reconstruction. The plan will further include estimates of financial requirements and identify projects that require urgent action.

The implementation of the National Recovery and Reconstruction Plan will be led by the Government of Sint Maarten. The World Bank will provide technical assistance and serve as the trustee of the financial support that has been offered by the Government of Netherlands.

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USM, CIVI sign MOU to offer Cyber Security Training with the Mer Group

POND ISLAND - The University of St. Martin (USM) will be the hub of a series of Cyber Security Trainings courtesy of a strategic partnership between the University, the Caribbean Israel Ventures Inc. (CIVI) and the facilitators of the course the Mer Group from Isreal.

The Mer Group is one of the world’s leading and groundbreaking cyber security and intelligence companies. It continues to innovate technology and develop training that has become a world standard in cyber security. It has become a publicly traded company since 1992 and is headquartered in Israel. It has 1,200 employees and has 24 global offices.

CIVI is an affiliate of the Caribbean Israel Leadership Coalition (CILC) which has a mission to facilitate closer ties and collaboration between the state of Israel and the Caribbean economically, diplomatically and culturally.

The mission of CIVI is to utilize Israel’s technology and investment to strengthen Caribbean nations while increasing bilateral trades between both nations. CIVI’s Economic Liaison for St. Maarten and the Caribbean is Greg Arrindell. He was instrumental in brokering a deal between the university and The Mer Group.

USM and CIVI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last week that will see The Mer Group, through the efforts of CIVI, facilitate the courses at USM. CIVI and USM will recruit students for the course with a maximum of 30 students for each cohort. There will be multiple cohorts throughout the year, as the courses will run for four days each time.

Students, upon successful completion of the course, will receive an internationally recognized diploma and certification in cyber security, having being trained by one of the world’s most recognized names in cyber security—The Mer Group. The certificates will also have a certified seal from USM, which provides regional and international mileage for the university. The course is open to participants from St. Maarten and the entire Caribbean, considering the vulnerability of the region to cyber-attacks.

At a short ceremony yesterday at USM, officials from USM, CIVI and The Mer Group were present, where they spoke of the significance of this partnership and the course to St. Maarten and the wider Caribbean. Segev Hostik, Director General at The Mer Group regional office in Mexico, highlighted the importance of cyber security to law enforcement, the financial sector and other pertinent infrastructure of St. Maarten and other countries. “The two most attacked sectors in the world are financial institutions and telecom companies (for the last three years). The attacks (vary); from attacking critical infrastructure and government. In the government (hackers) want to get databases and to sell it on the dark net, he explained.

“In banking, hackers are looking to steal money…in the telecoms companies hackers are looking for the databases—numbers, credit card numbers to sell on the dark net.” He said the Cyber Security Training will help the students to identify these risks and how to mitigate them.

Uri Bar Yosef, General Manager of MER Global, applauded the partnership with USM through CIVI, and has high anticipation of the outcome of the working relationship. “We feel very honored to come and join with you, sign this contract and be able to come from the other side of the world down here to try and collaborate and share with you what we have learnt over the years with good and very experienced people from Israel,” Yosef said.  “We are very excited to be here.”

Meanwhile USM President Valerie Gitterson-Pantophlet thanked Greg Arrindell, economic Liaison for St. Maarten and the Caribbean for CIVI, for his relentlessness in seeing this partnership come to fruition. “For the University of St. Martin, this is a project, we would never (achieve) if It were not for Mr. Greg Arrindell, with the passion behind of (the project),” Mrs. Gitterson-Pantophlet said.

Mr. Arrindell highlighted the importance of this partnership not only for cyber security, but also the greater benefit of St. Maarten. “There are 800,000 jobs available in the cyber world. If we take each member (of a St. Maarten family), and put them into classes, they would not be able to supply the demand that is out there.

And the demand is growing,” Mr. Arrindell said. “You are now sitting in an opportunity where your child, your uncle, you aunt, your nephew, can be part of this enrollment at the university and would be able to start, once graduated, to lobby for jobs that pay minimum $US50,000 to start,” he added.

Also present at Monday’s ceremony were Orlando Wilson, a St. Maarten representative of CIVI, Robert Judd from the Management of Finance section of USM and Clifford Illis, associate of Greg Arrindell were also at the ceremony.

Despite increased improvement in technology in the Caribbean and Latin America, these regions remain highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Four out of every five countries in the region do not have a cyber-security strategy or plan for protecting critical infrastructures. Two out of three do not count on command centers and cyber security controls.

The capability and competence of law enforcement, security agencies, and the private sector information technology professionals for defending against cyber-attacks is very low and needs to be developed. According to the report, cybercrime worldwide cost US$575 billion a year which represents 5.5% of the global GDP and in Latin America and the Caribbean. Details on the start of the cyber security training will follow soon.

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Mr. Boombastic Shaggy to Headline the 38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Concerts

SIMPSON BAY - The 38th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will take place from March 1-4, 2018 and promises a “Legendary Night” to close off the final evening. Organizers are proud to announce the return of Mr. Boombastic – International recording superstar: Shaggy – who will be the headline act for the evening of March 4th at Port de Plaisance. Shaggy is a Multi Grammy Award winning artist from Jamaica, and is the only certified diamond-selling Dancehall Reggae Artist.

Since exploding on the music scene, Shaggy's several gold and multi-platinum selling albums have won him a Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Reggae Album, 5 Grammy nominations, and topped an impressive chart list that included the Top 40 Rhythmic charts, Hot 100, Billboard 200, among others. Shaggy’s illustrious career has seen the international superstar perform alongside some of the biggest names in all genres of music, notably he recently collaborated with his longtime friend and producer Costi, as Shaggy joined Afro Pop artist Mohombi and Australian singer Faydee on the recently released vibrant and catchy single, "I Need Your Love.”

John Leone of International Liquor & Tobacco Trading Ltd. states “We are extremely excited to bring Shaggy back to the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Shaggy has been a great supporter of the island and has offered to perform for a highly reduced fee this year to support fundraising efforts for hurricane relief. We are extremely excited about having him back on stage again for this truly unique edition of the Regatta. It’s time for some Serious Fun!”

Entrance to the performance on Sunday night will have a $ 25 admission fee for the general public, with at least $ 5 of each ticket going to the Charity fund. Tickets will soon be available for purchase at multiple locations on the island and online, with some great deals and discounts to be followed. Tickets can already be reserved at the Regatta Office, by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. More information about performers for the remaining evenings will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Concert Venue will also have a VIP area and a Sailors Lounge. VIP tickets for the Sunday night concert will be sold at $ 100 a ticket. A Sailors Lounge will be opened for all nights of the event, with sailors being able to buy a $ 75 Entertainment Package that allows them access to the Concert Venue and the Sailors Lounge.

With the purchase of both a VIP ticket and a Sailors Entertainment Package you support the Island, with $ 10 of each ticket going towards the Fundraising Partners of the Event. Limited tickets are available, so it’s advised to secure your tickets soon.

To keep up to date with the Regatta news and for more information on the bands, make sure to like the Regatta Facebook page and check the website regularly. There are less than 40 days to go until the first horn sounds so stay tuned for more news in the coming weeks.

For VIP tickets, ticketing and information about the show please contact the Regatta Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Morales: Recovery of Sint Maarten more than restoring buildings & infrastructure

PHILIPSBURG – “After every hurricane, there is a tendency to focus on the reconstruction of the damaged place, by restoring buildings and the infrastructure.  It seems a logical way of thinking directly after a devastation,” Political Candidate Loekie Morales stated in a press statement on Sunday.

“Yet, we need to make use of the opportunity given, to rebuild much better, with the right materials and methods, taking ‘the principles of sustainability’ into account. We must come up with smart solutions.

“Reconstruction should not be limited to the material part only. We need to use a multi angle approach to come up with innovative, human friendly solutions. When building, we need to consider the Environment and a responsible energy consumption (meaning green energy).

“The people of St. Maarten has suffered unexpectedly from a horrific monster. When we bring solutions on the table, the social & human aspects should be central. That’s why I believe in looking at the human (social) aspects first”, Loekie Morales stated.

“Empowering of the woman and the youth with the right skills and programs, should be widely embraced and executed. ‘Teach me how to fish and I and my next generations will survive, because I pass the knowledge to them’, should be stimulated as the way of thinking and proactive attitude’”, Morales says.

“Be thankful that we have life and make use of the opportunity Irma has given us, to correct what went wrong in the past. Stimulate the consumption of clean/green energy with the right incentives. Give our youth and women the right (entrepreneurial) skills.

“Plant the seed of a holistic thinker in them, so they can create their own jobs and be independent in life and work not only on Sint Maarten, but where they establish themselves.  Utopia? No, Just have the courage to take the challenge and start transforming your world into a sustainable one, for the sake of our planet; for the sake of ourselves and those ones yet to come,” Morales concludes.

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Father and son experience home invasion by armed robbers

MIDDLE REGION - On Sunday January 21st   at approximately 02.45 p.m. the Emergency Dispatch received a call of an armed robbery which had just taken place at a home on Ellis drive in Middle Region whereby one of the victims had suffered an injury to the head.

Immediately police patrols, Special Unit Robbery and paramedics were sent to the scene to investigate what had taken place. On the scene the investigating officers spoke to one of the victims who stated that shortly before he and his son were at home when two unknown men with their faces covered stormed into the house with a handgun and threatened to use the weapon.

The other suspect then tied both father and son up and at the same time struck the father with the butt of the gun in his head. The suspects then went on to steal two flat screen televisions and fled the scene with 2017 silver colored Hyundai Tucson belonging to the victim.

The area was completely searched however neither the suspect nor the vehicle were located. The injured victim was treated by paramedics on the scene. The Special Unit Robbery is investigating this case. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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THE ROTARY CLUB OF SINT MAARTEN AND THE LIONS CLUB OF SINT MAARTEN ACCEPT LARGE DONATIONS FROM THE JUMP UP CASINO

PHILIPSBURG – The Rotary Club of Sint Maarten and the Lions Club of Sint Maarten proudly accepted large donations from the Jump Up Casino on Saturday evening at L’Isola Restaurant in Pelican Key totaling $46,694.  The donation was shared equally between the two Clubs.

Students from The Gulliver Schools of Miami, Florida, who were on island to assist with various beach clean-up efforts, presented the donations to both clubs.  According to Antione Akl of the Jump Up and Hollywood Casinos, “We thought it was very fitting to have students visiting our island in service to the community to present the donations to the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten and the Lions Club of Sint Maarten.  The funds raised were collected during the holiday season after a progressive Bingo tournament”.

John Caputo, President of the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten, thanked the students and the Jump Up Casino for their support of Rotary.  Mr. Caputo continued, “The Rotary Club of Sint Maarten is pleased to accept this large donation.  These funds will be used to help us re-equip the Sister Marie Lawrence School after all the supplies, computers, smart boards, etc. were lost after the passing of Hurricane Irma.

In addition, a portion of the funds were used to brighten the recent holiday season for youngsters who may not have had a visit from Santa Claus.  We are grateful for this significant donation and we look forward continuing our efforts to focus on the children of Sint Maarten”.

Lion Alison Busby, President of Sint Maarten Lions Club, thanked the students for their great school work project and also the staff and management of Jump Up Casino and also to the citizens of Sint Maarten that participated at the bingo events of Jump Up casino during the month of December.  A big thank you to Mr. Antoine Akl for thinking of and being a corporate sponsor of Lions Club of Sint Maarten. 

Mr. Busby went onto say, “The LION Club international has 5 areas in which we are active, including Sight, Youth, Hunger, Education, and most recently, Diabetes.  This donation will be used for the children’s projects of which one is ‘Eyes for a Brighter Future’ project. 

This was planned for October 2017, but due to the passing of Hurricane Irma, the project was postponed for a later date this year. This project entails the testing of about 4000 plus elementary school students by the VOSH organization and where eyeglasses are needed the student will receive a pair of glasses free of charge”.

For more information about the Rotary Club of St. Maarten or joining Rotary, please contact the Rotary Club of St. Maarten Press Officer at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website www.rotarysxm.org 

For more information about the Lions Club of St. Maarten, please contact the Lions Club of Sint Maarten at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the Sint Maarten Lions Club Facebook page

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Elektra and Cleaver CEO of Winair talk about recovery of Winair post Hurricane Irma

PHILIPSBURG - Radio host Elektra was pleased to have Winair’s President & CEO Mr. Michael Cleaver in an interview in her new morning program Elektra Groovin on Oasis 96.3 started on January 8th 2018.

The Groove Theory is the interview segment of Elektra’s show where her guests talk about various topics and serious issues. It’s about real talk in the “Groove Theory” Elektra says. Mr. Cleaver and Helena de Bekker, Marketing & Media Manager, accepted my invitation to the program to review and share progress of Winair post Irma.

Candid and open discussion took place with regards to the the preparations and preventative measures implemented by Winair before the passing of Hurricane Irma. The direct aftermath dealing with the devastation of the Winair buildings at SXM airport, Mr. Cleaver explained in detail about the efforts, diligence and helpful staff during the mass clean up, for which he commended his team.

Elektra posed questions regarding the aircraft safety and security, Mr. Cleaver explained that certain requirements and regulations must be maintained no matter what the circumstances are, to ensure the safety of all passengers. The hangar was severely damaged after the storm all aircraft were serviced and operated out of St. Kitts.

Winair helped with the evacuation of persons post Irma via relief flights and also brought in essential relief supplies for the community. Communication with their customers was also a very interesting element during the interview with Elektra. It was very important to get reconnected to the customers, Mr. Cleaver pointed out, both locally and internationally, so the search for new office spaces was a priority.

Winair found a very suitable space and are now currently located on the Pondfill in Philipsburg. At this location Winair customers have easy access to Winair sales and reservations agents that will assist them to fulfill their travel needs.

Winair will permanently maintain this sales office in Philipsburg to better serve its customers. When asked what the outlook for the 2018 and developments for Winair in the near future, Mr. Cleaver was happy to say that Winair now serves Haiti with a new Airbus 320 with 150 seats (138 economy and 12 first class seats).

“It is important to serve this market, as it is often overlooked” stated Mr. Cleaver. Winair is continually searching for new markets, however the priority remains restoring full service to the region. Elektra was enlightened by the interview when Mr. Cleaver pointed out to the radio listeners that it is essential for everybody to work together to help the island. Winair plays a very important role as a hub connection for passengers traveling via St. Maarten with connecting flights to islands throughout the region.

“Continuous talks are being held with different stakeholders and progress is being made” he said. Elektra was happy to have Mr. Cleaver and Helena de Bekker as guests on her show and thanked them very much for doing the live interview and connecting with the community through radio.

Mr. Cleaver thanked all board members, staff, stakeholders, Telem, GEBE and SXM Airport for the outstanding help to assist Winair in resumption serving the community once again. Tune in to Elektra Groovin Weekdays 7am to 10am for more interesting guests and interviews and let the Groove get in! 

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