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Curacao Prime Minister: Serious Consequences Coming after Airport Shooting

WILLEMSTAD, Curacao – Prime Minister Hon. Ivar Asjes of Curacao in commenting on the shooting at the Hato International Airport, said: “This is a very unfortunate incident in which many innocent civilians have been injured.  This is unacceptable.  It should be clear to everyone that this will not remain without serious consequences,” the Prime Minister was reported to have said.

The Prime Minister expressed his sympathy to those who were injured during the shooting that took place Tuesday night.  Two persons were killed and six others were injured.

According to reports, the Prime Minister said crime is being given a priority and that the fight is not government alone but must also include the community where everyone must to their part.

Law enforcement officials are expected to take a series of measures.


Dutch Royal Family Deeply Saddened

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Maxima cancelled a family photo shoot on Friday due the state of mourning that the Netherlands is currently going through in connection with the crash of Malaysian Airlines MH-17 with on board nearly 200 Dutch citizens.

The King and Royal Family are deeply saddened by the terrible event according to an announcement by the Royal Family via the Dutch Government Information Service.

“Like the rest of the Netherlands, my wife and I are following the news closely,” His Majesty King Willem-Alexander was reported to have said.


July Month is Literacy Month for Rotary Club Mid Isle

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The month of July is Literacy Month in the Rotary Calendar and Rotary Club of St Maarten Mid Isle invited Dr. Rhoda Arrindell to be the guest speaker at our weekly Tuesday meeting on July 15th.

Dr. Arrindell enlightened the club members and guests present about the state of literacy on the island. She also presented a copy of her latest book to the president of the club and provided another copy which was raffled amongst the members present.

This is the first of other Rotary Mid Isle projects planned to highlight literacy month.


Belvedere Community Center receives subsidy

BELVEDERE, Sint Maarten - The Belvedere Community Foundation earlier this week was notified by the Minister of Public Health Social Development & Labor, Cornelius De Weever that their subsidy request has been granted to the tune of Naf 200,000. for the fiscal year 2014.

"As Minister of Social Development it gives me great pride to let the Belvedere Community know that the subsidy has been granted, as this community center continues to develop many programs for the inhabitants of Belvedere and even the nearby surroundings, which helps the community to grow and play an important part in our society as a whole," said Minister De Weever.

The notice was addressed to Mrs. Jessica Richardson-Lake of the Belvedere Community Foundation. The notification signed by Minister De Weever stated that the decision was based on articles 4, 8 and 10 of the General Subsidy Ordinance, which indicate the requirements of the foundation as well as the request itself with which both comply.

The subsidy is to be paid out as an advance in 12 monthly instalments up to a maximum of 90 percent of the full subsidy as per article 15. (Contributed by the Cabinet of the Minister)


AIDS deaths fall, but millions unaware of HIV-positive status

UNITED NATIONS-PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – Local health officials will be pleased that AIDS deaths at the international level are falling.  While showing a downward trend in AIDS-related deaths, a new United Nations report out today Wednesday, July 16, 2014 warns that19 million of the 35 million people living with the virus globally do not know their HIV-positive status and therefore, ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 will require smart scale-up to close the gap.

“Whether you live or die should not depend on access to an HIV test,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in a press release on the launch of the new report.

The first-ever UNAIDS Gap Report, shows that as people find out their HIV-positive status, they seek life-saving treatment. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, almost 90 percent of people who tested positive for HIV went on to access antiretroviral therapy (ART).

“Smarter scale-up is needed to close the gap between people who know their HIV status and people who don’t, people who can get services and people who can’t and people who are protected and people who are punished,” Mr. Sidibé said.

There is progress, the report highlights, noting that efforts to increase access to antiretroviral therapy are working. Research shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, 76 percent of people on ART have achieved viral suppression, where they are unlikely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners. In 2013, an additional 2.3 million people gained access to life-saving medicines, bringing the global number of people accessing ART to nearly 13 million by the end of 2013.

“If we accelerate all HIV scale-up by 2020, we will be on track to end the epidemic by 2030,” said Mr. Sidibé. “If not, we risk significantly increasing the time it would take- adding a decade, if not more.”

By ending the epidemic by 2030, the world would avert 18 million new HIV infections and 11.2 million AIDS-related deaths between 2013 and 2030, according to UNADS.

However, major regional challenges persist. Just 15 countries account for more than 75 percent of the 2.1 million new HIV infections reported in 2013. In fact, in sub-Saharan Africa, just three countries- Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda- account for 48 percent of all new HIV infections.

“There will be no ending AIDS without putting people first, without ensuring that people living with and affected by the epidemic are part of a new movement,” Mr. Sidibe said.

Entire countries are being left behind- for example, six nations- Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russian Federation and South Sudan- are facing the triple threat of high HIV burden, low treatment and no or little decline in new HIV infections.

To address that, the report advocates setting up country targets and sound policies that will create the space necessary to address complex micro-epidemics with tailored solutions that will help reach people faster with better HIV services. However, a lack of data, widespread stigma and discrimination, punitive legal environments, barriers to civil society engagement and low investment in essential programmes are all holding back results.

Countries that ignore discrimination and continue inequalities face serious public health and financial consequences of inaction, the report says, stressing that ensuring access to quality HIV services is both a human right and a public health imperative.

For this reason some regions are doing better than others. The highest number of people living with HIV is in sub-Saharan Africa (24.7 million) and Asia and the Pacific (4.8 million). And AIDS related deaths were seen to be rising steeply in the Middle East and North Africa, by 66 percent and in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, by six percent since 2005.

Treatment was most available in Western Europe and North America, while coverage was lowest in the Middle East and North Africa, at just 11 percent of those who were affected. In addition, new HIV infections declined most in the Caribbean – by 40 percent.

The world is seeing the lowest levels of new HIV infections this century, at 2.1 million. In the last three years alone, new HIV infections have fallen by 13 percent. AIDS-related deaths are at their lowest since the peak in 2005, having declined by 35 percent. New HIV infections among children have fallen by 58 percent since 2001 and dropped below 200,000 for the first time in the 21 most affected countries in Africa.

But the focus must remain on people who are often marginalized in society, says UNAIDS. HIV prevalence is estimated to be 28 times higher among people who inject drugs, 12 times higher among sex workers and up to 49 times higher among transgender women than the rest of the adult population. And in sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women account for one in four new HIV infections. Closing the gap between people who are reached with HIV services and people who are not requires research, protective laws that promote freedom and equality for all people.

“Without a people-centred approach, we will not go far in the post-2015 era,” Mr. Sidibé warned.


Two dead and up to eight wounded at Curacao Hato International Airport Shooting

WILLEMSTAD, Curacao – Chaos broke out at the Hato International Airport on Tuesday evening when gun shots were fired at arriving passengers on an Air Berlin flight that arrived from Germany moments before. 

According to incoming reports, two persons were killed and between six to eight were wounded at the airport.  Identities of those persons have not been released by the authorities as they continue to investigate the shooting incident.

Police authorities locked down the Hato International Airport in search of the perpetrators.  It seems that the shooting is gang related.  One of the two killed apparently has links to the criminal underworld on the island, according to reports coming out of Curacao.

The authorities already have a lead on who the perpetrators are and expect to make an arrest within short.

According to eye witness reports, a car drove up to the Hato Airport Arrival Hall and one of the passengers came out and opened fire on a group of persons who were coming out of the arrival hall to meet friends, families or to catch a taxi to take them to their hotel to spend their holiday on the island.

Tourism authorities are very concerned with respect to the incident and what impact it will have on the sector.


Former Curacao Minister a Suspect in the Assassination of Parliamentarian Helmin Wiels

WILLEMSTAD, Curacao – A former Curacao Minister is now a suspect in the murder of Parliamentarian Helmin Wiels.

According to reports out of Curacao, former Minister Carlos Monk was officially informed on July 11 that he is a suspect.  He was requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Service to report for an interrogation which was scheduled for July 14.

Monk was a Minister for Helmin Wiels political party Pueblo Soberano during the governing period led by Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte.

After the 2012 elections it was reported that the former Minister Monk left the party of Helmin Wiels.

No information will be released by the Public Prosecutor’s Service due to the on-going and sensitive nature of the investigation.


Prime Minister Wescot-Williams to Travel to Aruba to Show Solidarity with Prime Minister Eman

SINT MAARTEN-ARUBA - The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams will travel to Aruba at the request of Aruba Vice-Prime Minister Mike De Meza to show support to Aruban Prime Minister Mike Eman who is on the fourth day of a Hunger Strike.

The Prime Minister also met with the Chuchubi Aruba Foundation Board on Monday evening to update them on the situation as it develops. The Chuchubi Foundation represents Arubans living in St. Maarten.

On Friday Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman started an immediate hunger strike following a decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to have the Governor Fredis Rufenjol carry out an independent investigation of the 2014 budget and the tenability of Aruba's government finances.

Prime Minister Wescot-Williams on Monday stated that the precedent for the Government of the Netherlands meddling in the affairs of Countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands was set in 2013 when the Governor of St. Maarten was instructed to carry out an integrity assessment; “This precedent was created when the Kingdom Government instructed the Governor to do the Kingdom Government and that is what we have been seeing at this time. I warned all stakeholders that this was going to happen and they are using the same approach in Aruba. All of our requests were overruled at that time and the Kingdom Government refused and they are doing the same thing on Aruba. We cannot have outside influences from the Kingdom Council of Ministers interfere in the autonomous affairs of a country. There was an understanding that they would investigate the budget; there was an agreement to an investigation but not that the Governor would have been instructed not to sign it,” stated Prime Minister Wescot-Williams.

The Prime Minister has also sent a letter to the Minister Plenipotentiary of St. Maarten the Honorable Mathias Voges expressing St. Maarten’s solidarity with the Government and people of Aruba.

The Prime Minister updated the Board of the Chuchubi Foundation on the developments and what the stance is of St. Maarten; “The Vice Prime Minister of Aruba Mike De Meza indicated that PM Eman’s situation is speedily going down hill.

The Government of St. Maarten has expressed solidarity with Aruba to the Kingdom Government, stating that it does not support the meddling in the affairs of a country. I was asked if I would travel to Aruba to show my support and indeed I will be traveling to Aruba on Tuesday. I am not sure what the expectations are but I think it is key to show solidarity and that is what will be happening. I think that it is important that I show solidarity and that it would be prudent to keep Arubans living on St. Maarten up to date on what is occurring there. There are indications by the Minister that both the PM and the Kingdom Government will not budge so I am very very concerned.

In our letter to the Kingdom Government on behalf of St. Maarten we have expressed our solidarity and have asked that discussions happen to resolve this issue as fast as possible before there is irreversible damage to the health of the Prime Minister.

It is very much for the political consumption of the Netherlands that they have made this decision in order to pacify their Parliament, much the same way as what happened with St. Maarten when the Integrity Assessments were carried out. The intention is also that I meet with Minister Eman and discuss with him.

The Chuchubi Foundation expressed strength to the people of Aruba and hoped for a speedy resolution to the issue and thanks to the Prime Minister for taking the opportunity to keeping them abreast of the situation and for traveling to Aruba to show support. 

The Prime Minister has said that she would express the hope of the Chuchubi foundation to Prime Minister Eman and the people of Aruba for a resolution to the situation. There was also the suggestion that a church service be organized to pray for Prime Minister Eman and for a speedy resolution to the situation.

The Prime Minister will be travelling on Tuesday and will return back to St. Maarten on Thursday. (From the Cabinet of the Prime Minister)


Alliance wants to know what stagnated the Waste to Energy Plant process

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The Board of the National Alliance acknowledges the press statement by Honorable Minister Maurice Lake on the Waste to Energy (WTE) Plant and we are happy that Minister Lake continued along the same line of former Minister William Marlin. However, knowing the modus operandi of the UP Party, we would like to know what stagnated the process.  

Upon leaving Government we had already concluded all the interviews of the four companies that were picked from a total of seven companies. A decision should have been made the end of June 2013. The timeline of Cabinet William Marlin had this project beginning construction in August 2013 and almost finalized by now.  We hope that this is not a case of waiting until election time to reveal something hoping to gather support on Election Day.

As is well known, this WTE project was very dear to Minister Marlin and Kendall Dupersoy his advisor who is a well known environmentalist on the island. Dupersoy upon leaving office made it known that all negotiations for the project were more or less completed and the new administration would only have to make a final decision on choosing the best option, both environmentally and financially.

Seeing the length of time that it has taken to make what amounts to a simple decision, Team Alliance would like the Minister to stand behind his words of transparency and explain to the general public how the financing for this project will be realized. Under the direction of former Minister of VROMI William Marlin, the financial structure of the over 100 Million Dollar project would come with no cost to the people of St. Maarten.  As a concession would be granted to the winning bidder and an agreement signed with GEBE to purchase the Energy at a reduced rate. As a matter of fact, the structure would lead to a significant reduction in utility bills. It would be a Win Win situation for sure.

Team Alliance, on behalf of the entire population of St. Maarten, requests additional information on this project as we too are very concerned with the situation at the sanitary landfill. What kind of agreement is the Minister about to sign? Are the people of St. Maarten going to be saddled with another huge loan or will the financing method of former Minister William Marlin be followed which would have led to much needed relief in our utility bills and a lowering of the cost of living on St. Maarten? (Contributed by the Board of the National Alliance)


Heyliger extends full support to Aruba’s Prime Minister Eman

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – “We are one kingdom of equal partners, but too often this does not seem that way in practice. It seems as though one partner dictates to the others in a fashion of ‘do as I say, don’t look at what I do,” says United People’s (UP) party leader Member of Parliament Theo Heyliger about the situation Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman is fighting against with his ongoing hunger strike.  

Heyliger called Eman on Sunday to commiserate about the pressure put on Aruba by the Dutch Government. “I gave Prime Minister Eman my full support in his struggle for proper respect for Aruba as a country within the Dutch Kingdom. I firmly believe rules in the kingdom should apply throughout and not just to one country or another depending on an issue or agenda.”

Heyliger reiterated his statements made at the introduction of UP’s 23-strong candidates’ slate for the upcoming August 29 Parliamentary Elections. He said UP and St. Maarten will follow all rules on integrity and sound financial management, but the same rules must apply and be adhered to by all countries and public entities in the Dutch Kingdom.

“Rule for one should be rule for all. We are aware of the financial situation of the Netherlands and its fights with the European Union over its budget. None of us are perfect, but as countries in the kingdom we can do better if we work together, support each other instead of doing the opposite.”

The people of St. Maarten and Aruba have chosen to remain in part of the Dutch Kingdom into which they were enfolded almost two centuries ago, Heyliger said.

“Our people have chosen to stay in the kingdom. This does not mean that our free choice, as expressed in past referenda, must be taken as conceding of the autonomy of our countries. We have to work together as kingdom partners or reassess how we move forward. There cannot be first and second class Dutch citizens nor first or second class partners in the kingdom,” Heyliger said.

Eman went on his hunger strike as of Friday to protest what he says is meddling by the Dutch government in local financial affairs. Eman considers the Dutch request a direct attack on Aruba's autonomy and said he will continue the hunger strike until the governor signs the budget.

The hunger strike comes after the Dutch government asked Aruba's governor to hold off on signing the 2014 budget into law pending an evaluation of it. Aruba, which approved the budget two weeks ago, is facing a major deficit and its national debt represents 75 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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