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Heightened concerns regarding Point Blanche detention facility Law Enforcement Council with threefold inspection

POINT BLANCHE – Conditions at St. Maarten’s Point Blanche prison facility continues to be a source of grave concerns. So says the Law Enforcement Council, following completion of a report presented on the 13th of January, last. As of Friday, 24th of February the report will be publicly available.

Prior to launching the latest inspection, the Council had already expressed its concerns regarding several aspects related to safety, security and general conditions at the facility. Incidents such as the escape of an inmate and the murder of another inmate were clear indications that the situations encountered were not reason for optimism.  

In September of 2016, the Law Enforcement Council announced three inspections of the detention facility, based upon a joint request made by the respective justice ministers within the Dutch Kingdom (‘JVO’) to monitor the recommendations made by the CPT (the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and inhumane or degrading treatment).

The first inspection was conducted in October 2016, followed by its report that was presented to the Minister of Justice in January.

In this latest report, the Council inspected the legal status of prisoners, based on nine national and international criteria. In general, the Council concludes that the legal status of prisoners is not, or is not sufficiently, guaranteed in the Pointe Blanche prison and remand center. The Council stresses that, in the short term, the focus should be on the various topics that need to be addressed to meet the minimal requirements of acceptable standards.

The Council concludes, with the necessary regret, that the situation has only become worse since the findings of its report completed in 2014.

The Council additionally inspected key aspects related to prison personnel and of the organization itself. The shortage of personnel, lack of training, lack of communication, an integrity policy which is still in draft form, the lack of a clear direction of the prison and the role of the employees overall, all have an adverse effect on the functioning of the organization and a negative effect on the quality of the primary process of detention. Basic necessities that are essential for the closed setting of a prison are missing. These include a functional wall around the prison area, functional locks as well as safety equipment to be used while working. The Council, basically, found various shortcomings of conditions and resources that a prison organization requires to ensure a healthy living and working environment, for inmates and personnel respectively.

In its report, the Law Enforcement Council also incorporated the 13 recommendations made by the CPT in 2015, for the explicit purpose of contributing to compliance with international standards and much needed improvements. The Council concludes that the country of Sint Maarten has virtually not acted on any of the CPT’s recommendations.

It should be obvious that the non-compliance with minimal national and international standards and regulations, and all difficulties which the prison is facing, go far beyond the reach of that organization and perhaps even the country itself. Beyond this, the Council stresses that the serious consequences of these issues do not only imply the responsibilities of the country of St. Maarten but those of the Dutch Kingdom as well.

Following its most recent endeavors, the Council has made 18 recommendations, including one to follow-up on the CPT’s recommendations, earlier mentioned.

The Council has had constructive meetings with the minister of Justice regarding the precarious situation at the Point Blanche detention facility.

While the attention needed by government, has often been sporadic and not led to decisive action, the Council encourages that the prison is currently one of the top priorities of the minister of Justice.

With its reports and recommendations as well as with ongoing dialogue about the prison, the Council strives to contribute to a proper functioning of the institution and encourages all actions and measures taken towards (further) structural improvement.

The Council will, in this regard, continue to monitor initiatives spearheaded by the minister of Justice.

The Council expects to produce the final 2 reports (Internal /external safety and security; Rehabilitation and Treatment) of the threefold inspection by April upcoming.

This first report, as well as all other reports of inspections conducted by the Council, can be found on the Council’s official website in the St. Maarten section on  


And now for something completely different. Serious professionals as you’ve NEVER seen them

PHILIPSBURG, By Anonymous - For those of you familiar with the surreal “Monty Python” comedy team in Britain, the title above will surely ring a bell. Something totally different was certainly what John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and the Monty Python crew had in mind when they gave TV-land equally bizarre sketches – some literally bordering on the insane.

As so it is with Albina Matuzko’s production of Behind the Beyond, not insane – but something completely different for the St. Maarten stage – starting with a troupe of players from walks of like that you would least expect to find.

It’s not every day you see a Medical Doctor, a Civil Law Notary, a top Business woman, a veteran Journalist and three students taking a break from their very demanding professional lives and studies to down their guard of seriousness and bring some moments of laughter to total strangers.

Add to that mix a Fine art Teacher, An Engineer and another Business Executive and you can see how this motley crew would take some licking into shape for their opening performance at the Black Box Theatre of the John Larmonie Center this Friday (February 17).

Don’t expect a belly laugh from Dr. Carla van Dam next time you meet her as your attending physician at the St. Maarten Medical Center, or when she fills in for a General Practitioner in your neighbourhood clinic.

A very serious medical practitioner, first and foremost, Carla is a happily married mother of four children and likes dancing, playing tennis, hiking and having a good time with friends and family.

Her first time acting in a play, Carla says being a cast member of Behind the Beyond has been a challenge not only because of her long hours at work, but also because of her family commitments and her commitment to rehearsals.

She thoroughly enjoys the character she plays – a concerned mother, Mrs. Margaret Harding, who has just returned to England after the death of her husband in India. She absolutely loves the costumes and props, some of which she helped to shop for and some of which has a touch of her own fine needlework.

“The director, Albina is very enthusiastic and driven and has put a lot of trust in us, so we continue to rehearse, laugh and enjoy what we do. I wouldn’t have lasted without the support of my family who have been so understanding and wonderful and whom I love to bits,” said Dr. van Dam.

One of the friends that the good doctor socializes with, is Civil Law Notary, Meredith Boekhoudt – also a mother and wife. She says the laugh turned out to be on herself and her two friends Carla and Eveline, when they answered an advertisement in the newspaper in August last year, announcing auditions for an upcoming play.

“It started off as joke for the three of us when we decided to go to the auditions. I started to get cold feet and I know the other two did as well but they won’t admit it – but we pushed each other (figuratively and literally) through the door –and it turned out to be GREAT!” hailed Meredith.

As the mischievous Narrator Girl, her natural presence on stage exposes a performance that would win over any judge in a real-life courtroom – comedy and all.

She effortlessly and playfully interacts with the Narrator Boy leaving her to admit: “Who could have known that pushing your boundaries could be so hilarious at times.”

Meredith will take away from the experience the persons she has met and worked with these past months, including the “sweet, but dictatorial director, Albina.”

“To my fellow actors, to my family and of course to Albina, a big thank you for allowing me to do this, and also to the audiences without whom there would be no one to see our work.

The third member of the auditioning trio is Eveline Henriquez-Dijkhoffz, who also admits to being “petrified” when she was picked to play the role of the super Diva, Lady Cicely Trevor, in Behind the Beyond.

“considering I was suckered into attending the auditions by my “fiends” Carla and Meredith, with some prompting from Albina, it has turned out to be a fantastic experience.

“Just come and look,” they said at the time. “You don’t have to audition – just look ….right”

“Having committed six months of my life to rehearsals, I must thank the best husband on Earth and my two super-cool boys for letting their mum have some fun playing an English lady from a Century ago,” says a grateful Eveline, who manages a wholesale business on St. Maarten and sits on several boards.

“For me, Behind the Beyond has been a right-brain mental stimulation exercise that has been wonderfully enjoyable – even though it has been serious hard work.

“Thanks to the hard work, endless guidance and patience of the Director, Albina, I am here now and ready to play my part with the other members of the Behind the Beyond family of whom I have grown very fond,” added Eveline.

Journalist, Public Relations Officer and local artist Joe Dominique says he could not be more out of his depth than when he decided to audition for a part in an upcoming comedy and if he has listened more closely to his family members over the course of his lifetime he would have taken the cue, “you just can’t act dad!”

“I figured that using that as my measure, comedy would be the perfect starting point – after all I could make the kids laugh at my non-acting skills right?......RIGHT!”

At 58-years, Joe is the old man of the troupe with only a fleeting role in a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta to count as his only acting citation, but what he lacks in experience he more than makes up for in, well,..a bumbling presence. He plays the role of Sir. John Trevor, an English Baronet who is happier smoking cigars with the boys at parliament than dealing with the affairs of home.

“Comedy is hard. Especially if you are a serious and private person by nature,” said Joe.

For him, this production has been as much a voyage of discovery of inner self – as it is of artistic interpretation. The director says, “Don’t think – just follow your instincts”. Easier said than done – to a born thinker and talker.

The three students in the cast of players are St. Dominic High School student Sjoerd Scott, Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performance Arts student, Ray-Angel Simon and St. Maarten Academy student, Zack Phipps – All talented with a bright future on the stage should they wish to pursue that calling.

17-Year-old Sjoerd says he had to overcome his own shyness and introvert nature by the age of 11, by building a whole new personality for himself based on peers around him with characteristics he wished he had.

He remembers getting the acting bug at the age of seven when he played one of the three wise men in a Nativity play and went further in researching and playing how an old man would act, than you would have expected of someone that age.

Sjeord wants to be a lawyer by profession but meantime enjoys the part he plays in Behind the Beyond as Jack Harding, a love-torn son creating a bit of a scandal.

“Personally I think the play is quite odd and certainly out of norm, which is why I find it so intriguing to perform in, especially as I have been in a some very serious plays in the past.

“Some improvisation is called for at times and this is a big jump for the quiet kid at the back of the class with nothing to say,” said the teenager, who also enjoys the process of preparing at rehearsals and is looking forward to showing off the final product.

The talent of Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performance Arts, Ray-Angel Simon, goes far beyond his tender age of 15-years. With a number of stage performances under his belt, the youngest member of the Behind the Beyond cast is probably the most accomplished when it come to experience - and it shows in his performance as the Narrator Boy in the upcoming production.

Ray-Angel’s first love is dance, to which he makes a commitment as a performer with the National Institute of Arts (NIA) every day of the week except for Sunday.

“I enjoy any experience that engages me artistically and I am very happy to be in this production with Albina as the director. The hours are hard, because I also have to complete by school work every day along with dance and rehearsals, but I am still enjoying the whole experience and will look out for other outlets like this in the future,” said Ray-Angel.

Rounding of the teenage cast in the show is Zacquel “Zack” Phipps – a 16-year-old student of the St. Maarten Academy. Like Ray-Angel, Zack has also had quite some experience on stage and the production was lucky to have him as a last-minute addition to the troupe after at least four French Maids went AWOL.

Zack views his role as a female character, not only a challenge to his acting ability, but also a demonstration of the range that he can aspire to in his ambition to combine a career in the performing arts with physiotherapy. He loves musicals in particular and will try anything of an artistic nature, whether it’s drama, dance or singing - so long as it allows him to grow artistically and tests his abilities.

“For sure, Behind the Beyond is different to anything I have been in before (he has five theatrical productions under his belt) because it is my first comedic drama – definitely a must-see!”

You can guess that wherever there are students, there are also teachers around, and one can be found in the cast of Behind the Beyond in the tall shape and form of St. Dominic High School and Caribbean International Academy (CIA) Fine Arts teacher, Cor Sikkes.

Teacher Cor is really the unsung hero of the all the cast members of Behind the Beyond, having multiple roles to perform both on and off the stage – the most important being the beloved husband of director Albina Matuzko.

Poor teacher Cor has the role of set designer, set painter, props arranger, repairman, wardrobe technician and anything else that has to be fetched and carried. He is also one of three Stage Hands with their own parts to play in the production with additional roles as the Valet and the Postman. Not bad for someone who also has to stay home to attend to pet pouch, Funny, while mom is busy at rehearsals or doing Art of Laughter workshops with her young children and adults, Rehearsing for a role in the next Theatre Lab Production or working as a Standardized Patient at the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) where she also utilizes her acting skills.

“I do this because I love the arts and also because my wife deserves to realize her dream to be involved in dramatic arts in a profoundly different way on St. Maarten. If I have to play every role in the production to do that then just sign me up,” says Teacher Cor.

The other Stage Hands are Nascha Kagie and Werner Van de Zilver.

Nascha is an Engineer by profession with all the logic and precision that calling entails. She is a keen and important member of the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) Standardized Patients team and is presently involved in Art of Laughter classes at NIA.  Nascha is also a key member of the Behind the Beyond team, ensuring that everything is where it should be so that everything will be all right on the night – in fact, so that everything will be all right - EVERY NIGHT.

Nascha’s passion on stage is shared by her fellow Stage Hand, Werner van de Zilver, a mechanical professional who is also the Managing Director of a company that deals with generators and other machinery.

Werner enjoys working with the team and says from what he has seen so far, all credit to the director, Albina Matuzko, for bringing something different to the St. Maarten stage.

“She is very passionate about what she wants and is not afraid to say so, that is what I like,” says Werner, who also acknowledges the director’s  work as an actor in the upcoming Theatre Lab production “Dude with the Golden Tune” Directed by Loes Nauta.

Also working behind the scenes are husband and wife team Silvia and Jed Carty, without whom lights and sound would not be managed for the series of performances.

Cast members say they are counting on the infectious laugh of Silvia to give them a boost on opening night – assuming of course, that she’s not too busy laughing to remember to switch on the lights… Now THAT would be – something, COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!

Behind the Beyond will be playing at the (Black Box Theatre) John Larmonie Center, Longwall Road, Phillipsburg, St. Maarten on the following dates:

February 17th (Sold Out) - February 18th (Sold Out) - February 24th February 25th (Sold Out)

March 10th March 11th

All performances begin at 8:00 pm Sharp. For reservations: 543-0600 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Chinese investments facilitate growth

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - China is in the process of deepening its relationship with the countries and territories in the Caribbean Basin.  Plans are underway to construct the People’s Republic of China Embassy in Antigua & Barbuda, and China will also be investing US$100 million in the expansion of Antigua’s port facilities.  A number of Chinese investors have also shown interests in investing and developing tourism projects on the island.

China is also interested in extending the runway of the British Virgin Islands airport to the tune of over US$150 million.   The runway would be lengthened from 4,645 feet to 7,100 feet.  Currently, the runway is too short for large commercial flights.

Chinese officials have met with several government officials from British Overseas Territories such as Cayman Islands and Bermuda.  The discussions centered on broadening China’s global business interests.  Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom Liu Xiaoming was in the Cayman Islands in January where he confirmed that China would implement an agreement to grant Cayman “most favoured nation” status in registering ships entering Chinese ports.  That status means concessions implemented will serve to reduce port fees paid by Cayman Islands-flagged ships.

The Chinese Ambassador was in Bermuda, another Overseas British Territory, looking into the potential for building relationships in trade and commerce (international business, reinsurance, investment potential).  China has the second largest economy in the world after the United States of America.  Bermuda’s shipping register where it concerns island-flagged ships, will receive “most favoured” status when vessels arrive in Chinese ports.  This move would give Bermuda a competitive edge in the shipping registry business. This means that vessels would pay reduced port fees/dues.

One of the other areas discussed between Bermuda and China was tourism; millions of Chinese tourists leave their homeland each year to travel overseas on vacation.  The Chinese Ambassador invited Bermuda to participate in the upcoming Chinese International Tourism Expo. 

China has made considerable contributions to Dominica.  An agreement was signed related to Economic and Technical Cooperation of over US$21 million, to be used for road rehabilitation projects.  The island has also received 50 foggers to combat mosquito’s; US$1.5 million for police vehicles, equipment and training.

China has provided US$40 million to build a new national hospital in Dominica.  The facility will comprise of 16,500 square meters of new construction, and 4,160 square meters of general repairs to the existing hospital plant.  Total number of beds will increase from 230 to 372 beds.  The new national hospital will offer pediatrics, gynecology, clinical labs, blood bank services, dialysis services, radiology, ultra-sound, intensive care unit, pathology, and a new operating theatre with four operating rooms.  Construction will take 30-months.

Last September, the sod-turning ceremony of the Sint Maarten Pearl of China project took place.  Sod-turning for the construction of St. Lucia’s Pearl of the Caribbean project took place last November and is expected to commence construction in 2017.  It is a Chinese investment valued at US$2 billion comprising of a fully-integrated equestrian-oriented development (a state of the art horse race course) that includes the Royal Saint Lucia Turf Club and related entertainment, leisure and accommodation amenities.

The 700-acre project is being built to attract Chinese, Southeast Asia and Russian tourists and investment.  It includes plans for a casino, resort and shopping mall complex, a free trade zone, and housing.

St Lucia Pearl of the Caribbean

St. Lucia's Pearl of the Caribbean. 

In the meantime, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) based in Washington DC has been in the process of helping thousands of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to do business with China.  The IDB said 3,000 business meetings were held at the 10th China-LAC Business Summit, whose main goal was to support SMEs from LAC with expanding their trade ties with China.  IDB says trade between China and the region amount to US$250 billion and has grown nine times in the last 10-years.  China is the second largest trading partner in LAC, according to an IDB study.

The Government of Sint Maarten has had discussions with Chinese diplomatic officials about a cooperation agreement between the country and China.  Last year Pearl of China project for the Belair beachfront was announced, but nothing further has been said about the project.  Investors indicated that construction would start in the first quarter of 2017 for a 326-room hotel with showroom and 450 apartments.  Construction phase would last two years and the investment has been reported at US$120 million.

Chinese investments whether state pursued or by private investor initiative, will only further expand within the Caribbean Basin in the coming years as global trade and services further expands.  According to the IDB, China’s demand for the region’s products is expected to grow in the medium and long-term.  Since the first China-LAC Business Summit in 2010, the IDB has organized more than 10,000 business to business meetings between Chinese and regional countries.

More than 3,000 bilateral business meetings were organized in sectors such as software, fish exports and renewable energy.  China is the largest investor in renewable energy, responsible for more than 60 per cent of total investments in the energy sector, and according to the IDB, China is also the world leader in infrastructure, adding that its companies consider investing in LAC a priority. Without a doubt, Chinese investments will facilitate growth and the socio-economic expansion and well-being of island economies. 

Roddy Heyliger


'The world needs science and science needs women,' UN says ahead of International Day

INTERNATIONAL, 10 February 2017 – 'Female engineers and computer programmers wanted,' is the call from a new United Nations report that shows women are increasingly graduating with life science degrees, but still rare in engineering and computer science, especially in developed economies.

“An analysis of computer science shows a steady decrease in female graduates since 2000 that is particularly marked in high-income countries,” the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization found in its UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030, released yesterday ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, marked annually on 11 February.

The share of women graduates in computer science between 2000 and 2012 slipped in Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“This should be a wake-up call,” UNESCO said. “Female participation is falling in a field that is expanding globally as its importance for national economies grows, penetrating every aspect of daily life.”

The share of women working as engineers is also higher in some developing countries, with increases observed in sub-Saharan and Arab countries. Women in the United Arab Emirates, for example, have benefited from national polities that promote training and employment of Emirati citizens, and in particular women.

In her message on the Day, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called for empowering women and girls to learn and research.

“We must raise awareness about the work of women scientists by providing equal opportunities for their participation and leadership in a broad spectrum of high-level scientific bodies and events,” Ms. Bokova said, calling also for mentoring opportunities for women.

In 2016, UNESCO and the L'Oréal Foundation launched the manifesto For Women in Science, to engage governments and stakeholders in promoting the full participation of girls and women in science.

For its part, UN Women noted that science and technology offer unique opportunities for women and girls to overcome a number of the barriers they typically face. For example: mobile money has empowered and transformed the lives of millions of women previously thought to be “unbankable” by enabling them to directly access financial products and services.

Women with skills in science and technological fields can help improve vital infrastructure such as water and power supply, and in doing so ease the responsibilities that women and girls carry of providing unpaid care work for the household.

Similarly, Internet and mobile technology can help bridge barriers to education for the 32 million girls who are out of school at the primary level and the 29 million at the lower secondary level, explained the main UN entity on women's empowerment and gender equality.

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics estimates based on data from its database, July 2015

Encouraging women to do research

Women now account for 53 per cent of world's bachelor's and master's graduates in science and 43 per cent of PhDs, according to the UNESCO report. Since 2000, there has been a steady increase in female graduates in agricultural sciences, likely driven by an emphasis on national food security and the food industry.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, female graduates in agricultural science have been increasing steadily, with women comprising 40 per cent or more of graduates in Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Medicine is also a field increasingly popular with women, with six out of 10 researchers being women in both medical and agricultural sciences in Belarus and New Zealand, for instance.

In research, however, women still lag men at 28 per cent. The figure fluctuates geographically with women in Southeast Europe are on par with men, and at 44 per cent in Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the report, the numbers are particularly low in the European Union, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

To encourage women and girls to study and work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the UN has organized a number of events around the world.

In New York, a high-level event is underway today tying gender, science and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event was organized with support from the Government of Malta, as the president of the Council of the European Union.


“Love & Inspiration with Roy Cotton Jr. Celebrates 10 Years”

PHILIPSBURG - Roy Cotton Jr. the host of the well love and listened to inspirational radio show, Love and Inspiration is ecstatic and grateful to God for his faithfulness towards him during the past decade in taking the radio show to where it is today.

"To God be the Glory for great things he has done through me and Love & Inspiration from Feb 11th 2007 to date, therefore I am eternally grateful to God for what he has done for me. I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all listeners and well-wishers both on Sint Maarten, the Caribbean, USA, England, The Netherlands for all their support and commitment towards my radio show, Love & Inspiration since it premiered on August 7th 2011 on Youth Radio 92.5FM and transferred to The Voice of Sint Maarten Power 102.7FM on March 8th 2015.

“It has been my pleasure in presenting to you and online listeners a top quality radio show during the past six years on Sint Maarten. In addition, I must thank both corporate partners A & F Catering’s Managing Director, Mr. Alfonso Blijden and Island Real Estate Team’s CEO, Mr. Arun Jagtiani, the management of YR92.5FM and presently The Voice of Sint Maarten, Managing Director, Mr. Don Hughes and The Daily Herald for believing in the radio show during the past three years.  Most of all I would like to thank my amazing wife Dr. Nicole Erna Mae Francis-Cotton, father-in-law Mr. Oswald Francis, mother Ms. Dorothy Richardson and committed listeners Mrs. Charlese Carty, Mr. Neville Lake, Ms. Carmen Labega, and Ms. Odelie Romou Gibbs in The Netherlands for their support of Love and Inspiration.”

Love & Inspiration has been receiving great reviews and extensive exposure; with local, regional and international listenership. The radio show has a listenership as far as Russia, the UK and Mauritius.  Host Roy Cotton, Jr. states, “My listeners also hail from: Barbados, St. Kitts, USA, India, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Holland, France, and Canada. Their demographics include: persons aged 20 to over 65 who range from bargain hunters to serious investors; the adventurous to the tranquillity seekers.”

February 11th 2007, The Love & Inspiration Show premiered on the student radio station at University of Hertfordshire where Cotton was a student in England. “I knew that when the name Love & Inspiration for a new radio show dropped into my spirit, it came directly from God as he already knew that the name and radio show would have such significant impact in the lives of many from that day onward”.

Love & Inspiration aired every Sunday evening between 7PM-9PM on Crush Radio 1278AM and online at to 23000 students on campus and to online listeners in both Europe and America. Cotton remembers walking in the snow and rain to the radio station in order to bring warmth, love and inspiration on the airwaves into the hearts of the listeners. In 2008, Cotton received three nominations from The National Student Radio Awards through BBC Radio 1, in the categories of Best Male Presenter, Best Radio Program and Best Interviewer.        

Love & Inspiration focuses on various topics of interest and in particular topics which enable the listener to experience more meaningful relationships in their lives; friendships, family, love and work relationships. 

Devoted listeners hear music of excellence; are inspired through exclusive interviews with VIP guests; listen to inspiring love & life changing stories; ask questions on relationship matters; win awesome prizes such as spa treatments; various gift certificates; dinners and more.  In mid-2016, Love & Inspiration started rebroadcast programs on Andre Huie’s online radio, Voice of the Caribbean.   

Cotton states, “In view of Love & Inspiration’s tenth anniversary, I will be showing appreciation to my committed listeners and supporters during this year through exciting giveaways.”

Roy Cotton Jr. invites his already committed listeners and you, to tune into Love and Inspiration every Sunday from 3pm-5pm on Power 102.7FM or online or (type in pjd2) and to catch the rebroadcast on both Sunday evenings from 8:00pm-10:00pm and Monday mornings from 10:00am-12:00pm on 


INTERVIEW: UN marks 20 years of work to improve protection of children affected by conflict

INTERNATIONAL, 7 February 2017 – The senior United Nations advocate for children caught up in conflict is reaching out to parents, elders, and the entire international community to keep children away from armies and militias – a UN role that over the past two decades has helped more than 115,000 child soldiers regain their youth.

“My role is to reach them, to try to convince them that they are the ones who can make a difference on the ground,” the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, told UN News on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of her office’s mandate.

Ms. Zerrougui noted that as a UN envoy, she could not advance the mandate without the support of the 193-member UN General Assembly, the Security Council, and regional organizations.

Just as important, however, has been the role of civil society actors, who are often on the frontlines of a conflict, working to aid communities and confronting the same difficulties.

“We can support initiatives, we can propose ideas, we can help, we can bring a voice, but we cannot solve the problem without those who are directly involved,” said Ms. Zerrougui. “Member States, civil society, fighting parties, and of course, those who can make a difference because they are supporting or they have the leverage.”

The Office of the Special Representative works to eliminate six grave violations: recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming of children, sexual violence against children, attacks on school and hospitals, abduction of children, and denial of humanitarian access.

Children laying down their guns

Over the 20-year arc of the mandate, the greatest achievement of the Special Representatives is that “everyone is aware of the plight of children in armed conflict,” Ms. Zerrougui said.

Grave violations against children
  • Recruitment and use of children
  • Killing and maiming
  • Rape and sexual violence in conflict
  • Attacks on schools and hospitals
  • Abduction of children
  • Denial of humanitarian access

“Because people are aware that opened doors then to strengthen the protection, to prevent the violation, to put in place tools, mechanisms, a legal framework,” she noted. “That allowed us today to say, for example, that we have consensus that children should not be recruited, should not be used in conflict, particularly by government forces. And where we have this consensus, we have less and less Governments that use children.”

In fact, there are seven countries currently listed in the Secretary-General’s latest report that use child soldiers – Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen. Some militias and armed groups in those countries are also listed, as are some in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, and Syria.

Ms. Zerrougui’s office, in cooperation with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners, is working with the Governments of those countries to end the practice. They are among the 27 Governments and non-State actors that have signed action plans with the UN to end recruitment.

In the DRC, where the recruitment of child soldiers known as “kadogo” is endemic, the Government has taken “robust action and is well on its way to making its armed forces child-free,” according to the Office.

“We have changed how we look at children. We don’t recruit them anymore, it’s in our blood. The change is irreversible,” an army general recently told the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO).

In 2014, the Office and UNICEF launched the Children, Not Soldiers” campaign , which aims to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers by Government armies. Since 2000, the work of the Office and partners has led to the release of more than 115,000 child soldiers.

In addition to freeing child soldiers and ending their recruitment, the Office of the Special Representative has made progress in tackling the use of schools by the military, and stopping attacks on schools and hospitals.

Children with their own children

Progress has also been made on tackling conflict-related sexual violence, a topic that the Office works on alongside the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura.

“Girls are always affected by conflict in each and every context,” Ms. Zerrougui said, noting the use of girls as sex slaves, bush wives, and domestic servants.

Until Ms. Zerrougui’s mandate, girls were largely invisible in conflicts because unlike child soldiers, who are predominantly boys, they did not have guns, and because rape and pregnancy were reasons for their communities to stigmatize them.

“We try to speak to those on the ground who are involved to not forget this issue,” she said. “To ensure that these victims are not victimized twice. Because they were themselves victims as girls. And also because they end up dealing with children. The most heartbreaking thing is when you see a girl that is still a child with her own children.”


FEATURE: Diplomacy of the conscience – The Holy See at the United Nations

INTERNATIONAL, 7 February 2017 – Ever since 1964, when it was informally accepted to the United Nations General Assembly, the Holy See has had a permanent seat at international discussions and used its observer status to go on record about matters of peace and human dignity.

“We consider the United Nations not only important but in itself very useful for humanity,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, told UN News.

He went on to say: “The Holy See, the Catholic Church itself, appreciates and considers the United Nations a very important institution for all the nations to come together and discuss problems and even enjoy together what is common.”

The priorities of the Holy See for the year are similar to key UN goals – among them, the quest for peace, providing assistance to migrants and refugees, and nuclear disarmament.

The Holy See is a nearly 2,000-year old term that refers to the international sovereignty of the Pope, or leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican City State is the geographic property that ensures that sovereignty.

This makes the Holy See the only religious entity represented among the 193 UN Member States and Palestine, the other non-member observer state.

What’s more, in a diplomatic world where Member States wrangle for a seat on the Security Council or a senior UN job, the Holy See turned down an opportunity for GA Membership in 2004, when Switzerland, the only other Permanent Observer state at that time, gained full membership.

“That was a very hard decision to make. Saint John Paul II was already very sick at the time, in 2004. I remember very well. It was he himself who took the decision that we should remain as a Permanent Observer state,” the Archbishop recalled. “The fundamental reason is that so that we could remain neutral.”

Religion as justification for killing

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when President Joseph Kabila refused to step down after his second term expired on 19 December 2016, people took to the streets. The demonstrations turned violent.

On New Year’s Eve, political leaders reached an agreement – mediated by the Catholic Church, specifically by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) – under which presidential elections would be held by the end of 2017, and President Kabila would relinquish control. If successful, this would be the country’s first peaceful transition of power since its independence in 1960.

“The United Nations has been very appreciative of what the Bishops were able to achieve,” Archbishop Auza said, adding that bringing the parties together and mediating avoided “chaos and possible bloodshed in the whole country.”

The Holy See is also active in helping to resolve conflicts in Colombia and Venezuela, where Pope Francis was asked to help mediate in difficult political situations, the Archbishop said.

In Burundi, Mozambique and the Philippines, the Church is active mediating conflicts that pit different religious groups against each other: “The Catholic Church is playing a major role in trying to remedy the impression that religion is a cause of all these conflicts, and also to help other religious leaders understand that their role is very important in trying to prevent wars, conflicts or violence.”

Within the UN, the Holy See delivers its messages by addressing the Security Council, the General Assembly and at special events.

For example, in 2014, the Security Council adopted resolution 2178, condemning violent extremism and urging measures preventing travel related to and support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other foreign terrorist fighters. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, told the Council at the time that in order to counter terrorism, people and countries must achieve social justice for all and mutual cultural understanding.

“The Holy See – which is a sovereign international subject that also represents a world faith community – affirms that people of faith have a grave responsibility to condemn those who seek to detach faith from reason and ‘instrumentalize’ faith as a justification for violence,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Member States of the General Assembly understand the importance of working with religious leaders on international issues. In 2010, the Assembly designated the first week of February every year as World Interfaith Harmony Week. It aims to spread “the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, based on love of God and love of one’s neighbour or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or conviction.”

According to Assembly resolution A/RES/65/5, Member States recognize that the moral imperatives of all religions, convictions and beliefs call for “peace, tolerance and mutual understanding.”

Committing to nuclear disarmament in good faith

The Holy See has voiced deep concern about the violent use of atomic energy since 1943. Watch Archbishop Auza’s call for nuclear disarmament.

The tight rope of forced migration

Arguably, no issue has been more polarizing in recent years as the movement of migrants and refugees. Around the world, more than 65 million people are displaced – the greatest number since the Second World War. A record number of migrants and refugees died in the Mediterranean Sea just this winter, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEFannounced on Friday.

Archbishop Auza expressed great concern about people forced to flee their homes and about how “societies or nations will just close their eyes or borders to them without doing anything.”

“The Holy Father explicitly asked me while I was in Rome last month actively to engage in the coming inter-governmental negotiations towards a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration,” the Archbishop said of the international agreement expected to be adopted in 2018, which will set out a range of common principles and agreements among Member States on international migration.

The compact was launched with the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants by a UN summit on 19 September 2016. The next discussions are expected to be held in March in Geneva as part of the UN International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) International Dialogue on Migration.

Seasoned in diplomacy, the Holy See is aware of the issues surrounding migration and the challenges some Member States have in aiding refugees and migrants.

“It’s sad that we are noticing a rise in a certain type of nationalism – even a certain xenophobia,” Archbishop Auza said, adding that migration “is also being used as a tool for some political parties to gain power.”

“We understand that migration has negative aspects. As the Holy Father has said, I also appeal to the migrants to respect the cultures and the lives and society of those people who receive them. So it is two-way traffic,” he added.

On issues of migration, as with any other issue, the Holy See offers Member States “orientation and spiritual inspiration,” as stated on the Holy See Mission’s website, as opposed to political support or material aid.

“Simply because we may not agree on a particular issue, we do not disrespect one another,” the Archbishop said of working with Member States, the UN Secretariat and its agencies. “We continue to work together. We continue to be friends. We continue to collaborate while respecting and acknowledging the differences.”

This story is part of a feature series that examines the roles that world religions have at the United Nations and in international diplomacy.


Citizenship is not nationalism

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Dear Sint Maartener, We are addressing you as a Sint Maartener and not as a St. Martiner. Here is the reason: as a Sint Maartener you have a commitment to, and for the most part inhabit and live your life on, the Southern side of the island. This is the part of our lovely rock that is tied to the Kingdom of the Netherlands – the Northern side is constitutionally the French republic in the Caribbean. If we had hailed you as St. Martiners, we would be appealing to your sense of belonging to both sides of the island. Being a St. Martiner does not logically exclude you also considering yourself a Sint Maartener. To us these identities need not be mutually exclusive, as during St. Martin day persons from the Dutch and the French side recognize their commonality without eliminating their specificities.

In 2014 the University of St. Martin produced a book entitled “Notes on the Making of Nation within the Kingdom: Conceptual Clarity on Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Culture as it relates to Sint Maarten.” It would serve as the handbook for the UN trained volunteers that would go into various districts of Sint Maarten to initiate and encourage conversations that would create inclusive senses of national belonging. “Notes on the Making of Nation within the Kingdom” was commissioned by the honourable Member of Parliament, Mrs. Sarah Wescott-Williams, via the Department of Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relation (BAK). The MP at the time held the position of Prime Minister and wrote the preface for the book.

A revisiting of that book is in order. More so in these times in which talk of leaving the Kingdom of the Netherlands is presented as the magic potion that will remedy all social and governmental ills. For the record: we are not arguing against political independence. That is not our business. Rather, we are inviting you to truly consider the political status Sint Maarten gained on the 10th of October 2010 (10-10-10). We find this paramount as the intellectual vocation is encourage persons of all walks of life to receive accurate and balanced information before making decisions. We trust that you will appreciate this contribution as complementing the information you are being fed on the option of political independence. What we present is not our endorsement, but one that we take you should also be keenly aware of. Here is the spirit of that book:

The Kingdom of the Netherlands can be understood as a federation of states that are bound together by a shared citizenship. Sint Maarteners are Dutch citizens as are Curacaons, Arubans, Sabans, Statians, Bonaireans, and persons living in the Netherlands. Citizenship, which is a legal status, is not to be confused with national belonging. Sint Maarteners can consider themselves a nation that is separate and different from say those people who live on Curacao or the Netherlands.

In this endeavor Sint Maarteners ought to cultivate their specific national symbols that encourage solidarity among those who live on the Southern side of the island, or they may go further and choose to actually promote a cross-border national identity as St. Martiners. Under the current constitutional arrangements this is possible: St Martiners can see themselves as a nation while maintaining their Dutch or French citizenship.

What we are trying to convey to you is that national identities are in fact cultural identities. These types of identities need not respect constitutional boundaries. On this island we witness say individuals with Dominican roots who consider themselves part of the Dominican nation even though they carry a Dutch passport. Many of them celebrate the national holiday of the Dominican Republic. In addition since you can have a sense of belonging to more than one nation, some of these individuals also actively take part in the St. Martin day celebration. There is no need to frown on this state of affairs. Every state that ushers citizenship rights is populated by a privileged nation, and several other groups who might consider themselves separate nations.

The change in political status on October 10, 2010, was about political elites belonging to the privileged nation on Sint Maarten in symbolic terms (economics is another matter) gaining the rights to govern Dutch citizens on the island as Ministers and parliamentarians. The citizens chose them during elections granting them the mandate to do so.

These citizens do however share their citizenship with persons who live in the Netherlands and five other Caribbean islands. What this means is that their fundamental right to live a decent life, and be governed democratically, has to be protected and safeguarded by the entire Kingdom. When Dutch citizens living in the Netherlands aren’t treated fairly by the political governors in that part of the Kingdom, Sint Maarten political leaders should speak up and demand that measures be taken. The same is expected the other way around as Sint Maarteners who carry the Dutch passport are legally Dutch citizens.  The contestations between the political elites on both sides of the Atlantic when such happens are a healthy part of the constitutional arrangement.

There is of course a democratic deficit in the Kingdom as those political elites stationed in The Hague have more political power and manage a larger economy and population than those on the islands. Work needs to be done to create more balance in this political arrangement. The ideal way this should be done is a decolonial politics understood as the continuous reeducation of colonially infected minds and democratization of institutional practices. This entails that all political elites within the Kingdom need to govern well and project a sense of being a guarantor of citizenship rights that is not confused with national sentiment and chauvinism.

The question you need to ask yourself is do you believe that this can be done within the current political set up, or do you think that shattering the trans-Atlantic bond will create a situation whereby decency and justice reigns on the island?

Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, President of the University of St. Martin (USM)

Drs. Erwin Wolthuis, Division Head of the USM’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program

Ms. Wendie Brown (MA), Division Head of the USM’s Business Program.

Mr. Pedro de Weever (BA), Lecturer and Chief Editor of USM’s Commentaries Journal.

Ir. Delano Richardson, Lecturer at the USM

Mrs. Oldine Bryson-Pantophlet (BA).

Mrs. Sharine Duncan-Allamby (MPA).

COMMENTARY: The content is the sole responsibility of the authors.


Zika: We must be ready for the long haul

SINT MAARTEN/INTERNATIONAL - On 1 February 2016, I declared that the Zika outbreak sweeping through the Americas was a public health emergency of international concern. That was not an easy call. But looking back, it was the right one.

At that time, the disease itself, long dismissed as an obscure medical curiosity, could hardly be described as “extraordinary”, which is the principal requirement for declaring an international health emergency. In the decades between its discovery in Uganda in 1947 and its appearance in the Americas, only a few human cases of Zika virus were reported.

The 18 international experts who advised me in the Zika emergency committee had additional, though inconclusive, evidence to draw on. In 2007, Zika left its ancestral home to cause its first outbreak, on Yap Island in the western Pacific Ocean. That outbreak was surprising, but ultimately reassuring. Although almost three-quarters of the population were infected with Zika virus, only about 1000 people fell ill with sickness attributable to the virus. None of the cases required hospitalization, and the outbreak ended after just three months.

"Like every other explosive outbreak, Zika revealed fault lines in the world’s collective preparedness."

The next surprise was more ominous. Having demonstrated its ability to spark an outbreak, Zika did so again in French Polynesia from 2013-2014, causing an estimated 30,000 cases. Though all cases were mild, doctors were puzzled by a disturbing uptick in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a severe and usually rare neurological complication. Was this just a coincidence, or was something more sinister at work?

By the start of 2016, nearly everyone had seen the heart-breaking images of babies born in Brazil with tiny heads. We all heard the tragic stories of their distraught mothers and the bleak outlook projected for their babies. The possibility that a mosquito bite during pregnancy could cause severe neurological damage in babies deeply alarmed the public, but also astonished scientists. They asked: Why only now, and why only in Brazil?

At the time, Brazil was also experiencing large outbreaks of dengue and chikungunya. Could the three viruses somehow interact, in an amplifying way, to damage babies in the womb? Could something in the environment of northeastern Brazil, the epicentre of the outbreak, be partly responsible, perhaps a chemical or a natural toxin? No one had firm answers.

Fortunately, experts on the emergency committee could draw on some brand new evidence. In an elegant piece of detective work, a retrospective investigation of the outbreak in French Polynesia unearthed findings strongly suggesting a link between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly in newborns. Now it wasn’t “only Brazil” anymore.

A year ago, when I declared an international health emergency, it was this suspected link between Zika infection and microcephaly and other neurological complications that, according to my advisers, turned the outbreak into an “extraordinary” event.

Zika also satisfied two further criteria relevant to declaring a public health emergency of international concern. As few populations had any immunity to this previously rare disease, the virus could spread, unchecked, like wildfire, sparked by the volume of international air travel. Any area that hosted the competent mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, was considered at risk – a geographical area estimated to comprise nearly half the world’s population. With so many people at risk and so few control tools, the outbreak clearly required a coordinated international response.

Like every other explosive outbreak, Zika revealed fault lines in the world’s collective preparedness. Poor access to family planning services was one. The dismantling of national programmes for mosquito control was another.

One year later, where do we stand? International spread has continued, while surveillance has improved. Some 70 countries and territories in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Western Pacific have reported cases since 2015. The documented consequences for newborns have grown to a long list of abnormalities known as “congenital Zika virus syndrome”. We know that the virus can be sexually transmitted, adding further precautionary advice to women of childbearing age.

In terms of prevention, we may not remain so empty-handed for long. In line with WHO advice, some innovative approaches to mosquito control are being piloted in a number of countries, with promising results. Some 40 candidate vaccines are in the pipeline. While some have moved into clinical trials, a vaccine judged safe enough for use in women of childbearing age may not be fully licensed before 2020.

In November 2016, I lifted the declaration of Zika as a public health emergency of international concern, again on the advice of the expert committee. That, too, was the right call. By then, research had addressed many of the questions that made the disease so “extraordinary” nine months earlier. Some uncertainties remain, but many fundamental questions have been answered.

In large parts of the world, the virus is now firmly entrenched. WHO and affected countries need to manage Zika not on an emergency footing, but in the same sustained way we respond to other established epidemic-prone pathogens, like dengue and chikungunya, that ebb and flow in recurring waves of infection. That is why WHO is creating a cross-Organizational mechanism to provide sustained guidance for effective interventions and support for families, communities, and countries experiencing Zika virus. For the research community, WHO has identified priority areas where more knowledge is urgently needed.

We are now in the long haul and we are all in this together. WHO's strategic planning and commitment to work with partners for sustained interventions and research should go a long way towards bracing the world for this challenging – and still heart-breaking – effort.


A Sint Maarten Aircraft and Shipping Registry can Contribute Considerable Financial Resources to National Development

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - The 2017 national budget was passed by a majority in the House of Parliament for the amount of Naf.458,101,671 million.  Close to seventy five million guilders has been reserved for capital expenditures which translate into investments to be made in infrastructure.

In the meantime Government is working to increase revenues and would like to introduce a departure tax which would be collected at the two ports of entry, namely the harbour and airport.  This is expected to bring in approximately Naf.9 million annually if it is implemented.

In Prime Minister William Marlin’s New Year’s address, he committed to work even harder to bring about the important changes that will reposition Sint Maarten on the path to sustainable economic development.  The aforementioned will not happen overnight, and will take a number of years.

The Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten in its report, “Economic Developments in 2016 and Outlook for 2017,” projected that our national economy will only grow in 2017 by 0,5 per cent.

The country is facing a number of challenges where infrastructure is concerned.  Some of the most pressing are road network congestion – has negative consequences for visitor destination experience - , the landfill, and beautification.  Other very important areas are safety and security, destination promotion, public health, public housing and employment creation.

In order for the country to develop in a sustainable manner, revenues need to be generated from different sectors.  Two areas that the country could develop and be successful in are a Shipping Registry and an Aircraft Registry.   Both of these would boost revenues for the Government coffers.  The destination is already popular for private jets and mega yachts during the high season.

Why not make the destination popular all-year-round for the aforementioned by having them register their multi-million dollar aircraft and yachts here?  Private jets and mega yachts make an annual contribution to the destination’s economy only during the high tourist season.  A Sint Maarten Registry of Aircraft and a Sint Maarten Registry of Ships would earn money for the public coffers every month – not based on seasonality.

A plan of action would have to be drafted by the Government of Sint Maarten and Parliament would have to pass the necessary legislation to give legal basis to the aforementioned.  Legislation would have to make Sint Maarten more competitive in the global aviation and shipping market.

Investments in know-how need to be made into these two aforementioned areas in order to create efficient and competitive viable registries that can meet customer demands.  This will also create job opportunities for Sint Maarteners, especially those who have studied international finance and business.

Bermuda has a registry of 170 ships with more than 13 million gross tonnes.  This earns approximately US$5 million annually with a net surplus of nearly US$3 million annually. 

One has to look at global trends in aviation and maritime affairs and plan ahead.  The global shipping sector is expected to grow at a rate of five per cent per annum.  Sint Maarten needs to be ready to compete and get a fair share of this tonnage.

Bermuda has a registry of 770 aircraft of which 135 of those are private aircraft.  The aforementioned brings in annually US$27 million, and Bermuda is working to expand its registry and further increase revenues earned.  Both registries bring in over US$30 million annually to the coffers of Bermuda.

Sint Maarten’s ability to respond to changes has been very slow, and the tell-tale signs are the economic challenges that the country has been facing for a number of years. 

We need to think outside the box, find solutions, and implement them.  There is so much uncertainty in the global environment today; we need to chart strategies for growth for the next 10 to 25 years ensuring that our children and grandchildren will enjoy opportunities when they enter the job market.  The country needs to embark upon a renewal process that brings fresh ideas and new fields of business and economic activity.

Roddy Heyliger

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