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Chamber of Commerce & Industry welcomes newest board member Benjamin Ortega

PHILIPSBURG - The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce (COCI) on Monday welcomed its newest board member Benjamin Ortega.  On Monday was pinned with the COCI pin by Vice President A. Baker.

COCI is a non-profit organization which represents a wide cross-section of private sector businesses on St. Maarten.

According to the COCI website, the organization has a membership base of more than 17000 registered companies from various industries including tourism, which as St. Maarten’ only industry accounts for 95% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

COCI also represents banking and finance, retail, construction and light manufacturing.

“As the primary advocacy group for the private sector, we work in tandem with our valuable members in the business community, the Government of St. Maarten along with various Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) on ways to further improve private enterprise, in order to ensure a vibrant and stable economy for more than 100,000 Residents, thousands of local business owners and international investors as well as the 2 million plus visitors who annually travel to our warm tropical paradise.

“As we approach the modern and futuristic Chamber of Commerce, we are aggressively working to support our members and the business community at large. We are at the forefront of various issues, which affect our members and hold business and educational seminars and expos in conjunction with our partners in the community.

“In addition, we serve as a lobbying group and address the varied concerns of our members through various dialogue and exchanges with government officials and various organizations,” the COCI website states.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Mr. B. Ortega (Board Member) is being pinned by Vice-President Mr. A. Baker.

chamber pin Ortega


NV GEBE addresses Sunday power outages. Generator shuts down due to high temperature

PHILIPSBURG - In a press release from NV GEBE on Sunday, it was stated that on May 21, at around 12:23pm, parts of the island experienced an interruption in power.

The Engineers at the Power Plant in Cay Bay responded immediately and upon investigation established that one of the engines tripped because of a high temperature which also caused one of the larger engines to lose its load at the time causing the outage, the company press release stated.

Restoration started taking place immediately and power was periodically restored to the affected areas.  By 1:41pm the last cable was reenergized to customers.

NV GEBE apologizes for the interruption and any inconvenience this may have caused.  Work is being carried out on the unit that tripped to have it back in operation as soon as possible.  In the interim the units that are on standby are in operation to ensure power remains supplied to customers.  


Indications continue to rise that 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season will be more active

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN - Latest indications continue to point to the potential that the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season may be more active across the central and eastern Atlantic than what we previously thought back in early April, Crown Weather reported.

“The big reason for this forecast of a more active season is due to the fact that a El Nino may never really form this summer or autumn and if it does, it may end up being quite weak. In addition, the ocean water temperatures across the Tropical Atlantic have warmed quite a bit over the past month.

“The combination of these two factors plus other indications point to the potential for an average number of named storms with the Lesser Antilles, the eastern Caribbean, the Bahamas and the US East Coast at risk from at least 1 tropical storm or hurricane.

“In addition, I continue to believe that we will see the formation of at least a tropical storm in the western Atlantic during the month of June. The area I think has the highest probability of formation is around the Bahamas, the western Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

“The Numbers: 12 named storms, 7 of those storms becoming hurricanes and 3 of those hurricanes becoming major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale).

“Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index Forecast: I am forecasting an ACE index this year of 100. This number basically says that I expect that overall activity in the Atlantic may be around average.

“ENSO Forecast: All of the ENSO model guidance, including the European, CFS and JAMSTEC models, have trended away from an El Nino developing this year and instead are forecasting either a neutral ENSO or weak El Nino conditions. The latest analysis indicates that the earlier El Nino conditions that seemed to be forming over the Pacific has stopped. Instead the ocean water temperatures over both the eastern and central Pacific have cooled this month which indicates that any El Nino that may form is now on hold.

“As I mentioned back in early April, it would be unusual for a El Nino to develop this year because we just came off of a relatively strong El Nino back in 2015 and it's quite unusual to see a new El Nino develop just 2 years later. So, the fact that the ENSO model guidance is backing away from forecasting an El Nino does not surprise me.

Bottom line is that I could foresee a scenario that consists of a much more delayed onset of El Nino conditions until at least the September to November time frame.

“Sea Surface Temperatures:Sea surface temperatures across the eastern and central Atlantic have warmed considerably over the last month or so and in fact is the warmest since 2010. This means that the eastern and central Atlantic between the Lesser Antilles and the coast of Africa could be more active than what was previously thought.

“Further west, the ocean water temperatures across the Caribbean and the western Atlantic continue to be above average. With that said, the ocean water temperatures over areas above 30 North Latitude is not as warm as they have been in previous years and this could be a sign that the deep tropics could be more active than it has been in previous years.

“European Model Seasonal Forecast:The latest European model is forecasting an average hurricane season in terms of numbers. In addition, the latest European model guidance is forecasting a weak to perhaps a moderate El Nino and warm ocean water temperatures across the Atlantic Basin.

“The forecast barometric pressure map from the European model is forecasting higher than average pressures across the far north Atlantic and a trend towards lowering pressures from the Caribbean through the deep tropics.

“The forecast rainfall map from the European model seems to hint at above average rainfall from the Lesser Antilles eastward to just west of the Cape Verde Islands. In addition, the European model is forecasting above average rainfall across parts of the eastern United States. This makes me think that the Lesser Antilles, the Bahamas and the US East Coast could be at risk this year from a tropical storm or hurricane.”

hurrseas insideRisk Areas:

“The Northeast and Eastern Gulf Coastis an area of significant concern for a tropical storm or hurricane landfall. The latest European model is pointing towards the possibility of tropical systems moving into the eastern Gulf of Mexico from the Bahamas or the northwestern Caribbean. This threat area includes the Alabama coast, the Florida Panhandle, the west coast of Florida and the Florida Keys.

“The Central & Eastern Atlantic from the Lesser Antilles to the coast of Africacould end up being more active than it has been in the past few years. The ocean water temperatures are now above average and it appears that wind shear could be near or below average leading to more active conditions than what was previously thought. My thinking is that the central and northern Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola & Cuba may be an area to really watch for tropical storm/hurricane threats.

“The Caribbeanis an area that could be more active this year than it has been over the last few years. The forecast trends from the European model are for more deep tropics activity which could impact the Caribbean. The Bahamas are another area that has an increased threat this year from either a very close brush or a direct impact from a tropical storm or hurricane.

“All-in-all,I think that we could see more tropical cyclone activity in the deep tropics this year with 3 areas of particular concern –1.the central and northern Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba;2.The northeastern and eastern US Gulf Coast, including the Alabama coast, the Florida Panhandle, the west coast of Florida and the Florida Keys and3.The US East Coast from eastern Florida to at least the New Jersey coast and possibly as far north as southern New England,” Crown Weather concludes.

2017 Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Names:



PHILIPSBURG – The Rotary Club of Sint Maarten was recognized at the 43rd Annual District Conference on May 18, 2017, aboard the Enchantment of the Seas, while docked in Key West, Florida, USA, with 8 Awards of Excellence by District Governor Haresh Ramchandani, including the Bronze Club of the Month Award, the Gold District Governor’s Award, 4 Club of Distinction Awards for Community Service, Intra-District Projects, Public Image, Outstanding Young Leaders, Winner of the National Project Award and the Rotary International Significant Achievement Award Nominee for the District.

According to Rotary Club of Sint Maarten President-elect, John Caputo, “The most significant and inspiring achievement was receiving the National Project Award for the Cyber-bullying Awareness Initiative held this past February.   

This project was impactful across our Sint Maarten community for our young adults, our parents and our educators with educating more than 300 students about tips and techniques to manage cyber-bullies that are so prevalent in today’s online world. 

It is my hope to develop this initiative in a project that can be repeated and shared again, not only on Sint Maarten, but also across our Rotary District”.

President of the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten, Henna Budhrani, added, “The recognition the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten received at the District Conference made me particularly proud of our members, as our club has worked diligently on many projects, like the Cyber-bully Awareness Initiative.

This initiative was a joint project with the Learning Unlimited Preparatory School Parents Advisory Committee (PAC). Our Club is most thankful to the PAC and the PAC President, Heather Caputo, for bringing this problem and initiative to our attention. 

Together, we have impacted so many lives on St. Maarten and around the world through our efforts”.  

For more information about the Rotary Club of St. Maarten or for more information about 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


Pen on Paper, new book by Joseph H. Lake, Jr. in time for Anguilla and St. Martin literary festivals

GREAT BAY - Pen on Paper: St. Martin 1970 – 2017 by Joseph H. Lake, Jr. was just released here by St. Martin Republic Publishers, said Nzinga Lake, the book’s publicist.    

Pen on Paper is a collection of over 50 commentaries, news articles, and editorials penned by Lake, Jr. or attributed to him from 1970 to 2001, said the publicist.

The articles in the 152-page book are drawn from the media for which Lake, Jr. was a columnist, the associate editor or publisher and editor: Windward Islands Opinion, Shaka, Windward Islands Newsday, St. Maarten/St. Martin Newsday, St. Martin Newsday, Newsday, and St. Martin Republic.

The pictorial section of Pen on Paper is practically a photo album of a number of the media people who started out in the island’s print and broadcast field in the last 30 years of the 20th century, said Lake.

Pen on Paper is available this weekend at the Anguilla Literary Festival where Lake will speak as a guest author on Friday, May 19. “I’ll speak on the difference in writing for a newspaper and writing for a book,” said Lake, who worked for over 25 years as a St. Martin newspaper publisher. 

Lake will also read selections from the new title. And he’ll get the opportunity to speak on the link between Anguilla and his father Jose Lake, Sr. The senior Lake visited Anguilla and reported for Reuters on the British “invasion” of Anguilla in the late 1960s. The Anguilla Lit Fest is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the territory’s unilateral separation in 1967 from the then UK colony of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla.

Closer to home, Lake, Jr. said that his new book Pen and Paper will be launched in St. Martin at Philipsburg Jubilee, on Friday, May 26, 2017, at 8 PM. The launch is a pre-book fair activity of the St. Martin Book Fair (June 1 – 3, 2017), said the festival coordinator Shujah Reiph.

Lake is a leading St. Martin political scientist and Pen on Paper: St. Martin 1970 – 2017 is his fourth book.



PHILIPSBURG - CIBC FirstCaribbean on MondayMay 15th, celebrated its employees and clients as it marked Employee and Client Appreciation Day.

In the past, they took place on separate days, but this year there’s a compelling reason for having them together. May 15th marked 150 years of the existence of its parent company, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. 

The organization worldwide marked this special occasion by celebrating the two pillars of its business, its employees and clients. 

CIBC FirstCaribbean St. Maarten employees were treated to breakfast, massages and received tokens of appreciation. 

In additional to having fun taking photos at the photo booth, clients and staff were also able to have their glucose and blood pressure checked by the Diabetes Foundation. 

CIBC has been in the Caribbean since 1920. The first CIBC branches in the West Indies were established in Bridgetown, Barbados and in Kingston, Jamaica. Branches were also opened in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Havana, Cuba, the same year. 

The bank’s history in this part of the world, while not quite as long as in Canada, is rich and expansive across the region. FirstCaribbean International Bank was formed in 2002 with the merger of CIBC West Indies Holdings and Barclays Bank PLC Caribbean operations. In December 2006, CIBC acquired the Barclays share and became the majority shareholder in FirstCaribbean.

On June 20, 2011 the bank became co-branded under the CIBC banner, adopting the branding CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank. 



PHILIPSBURG - The Central Committee of Parliament will be meeting this week to discuss several issues, the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Leader Wycliffe Smith said in a press statement on Wednesday.

“One such issue is the verdict pertaining to the Integrity Chamber. Isn’t it ironic, that the Central Committee has only now decided to meet to discuss the verdict handed down by the Constitutional Court in July 2016, detailing its reasons for rescinding the Integrity Chamber law?

“In January 2017, the parliamentarians listened to a passionate presentation by the Honorable Minister of General Affairs against the appointment of a Dutch quartermaster who, by the way, was one of the conditions in the Integrity Chamber protocol, agreed upon by the Government of Sint Maarten. In April, the Minister of General Affairs was back in a Central Committee meeting with another ardent presentation, in order to garner support against a pending Kingdom instruction whereby the Government of Sint Maarten would be forced to establish the Integrity Chamber.

“After basically supporting the Prime Minister’s stance on both occasions, parliamentarians now deem it necessary to go back to the ruling of the Constitutional Court and get the needed advice. I believe that the Central Committee should have done this immediately after the July 2016 ruling, prior to concurring with the Prime Minister on this matter. According to me, Parliament is now putting the cart before the horse. This step should have been taken in July 2016 or shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, as we say, better late than never.

“Another issue where the cart is being placed before the horse is the matter of the three integrity reports and the baseline study conducted by the General Audit Chamber. These reports were published and made available to Parliament as well as to the general public during the course of 2014 and 2015.

“How is it then possible that the members of the Ad Hoc Integrity Committee of Parliament, in their last meeting, supported the request made by a Member of Parliament to have the writers all of these reports come to Parliament to present their findings and explain their recommendations? This may sound like a great suggestion but it should have been made and carried out shortly after these reports were received by Parliament. Furthermore, it may be quite difficult and costly to have the authors of especially the two international integrity reports come back to Sint Maarten to give their presentations to Parliament.

“However, if the members of the Committee are of good faith, which I think they are, they can start immediately by inviting the staff of the General Audit Chamber, which is a government advisory body, to come to Parliament to explain their findings and expound on the recommendations that they gave in their 2014 Baseline Study on Institutional Integrity Management.

“While they are at it, the Committee should also request them to talk about the Chamber’s latest study concerning the lack of transparency in appointments of members to supervisory boards of government-owned companies. According to the Chamber this “lack of transparency is worrisome”.

“In addition, if the Ad Hoc Integrity Committee is serious about dealing with the integrity reports it is very possible for them to invite the writers of the Samson-Wit Integrity Report “Doing the right things right” to Parliament. Two of the members live on Sint Maarten, namely attorney Richard Gibson, our current Minister of Finance and Mr. Jan Beaujon, member of the Council of Advice. It is time that our Parliament starts putting the horse in front of the cart and begin to do the right things right.

“According to google, the word parliament stems from the French verb “parler”, which means to speak, which makes a lot of sense, since this group of people assemble to talk about laws and issues. After six years, however, Sint Maarteners would like for Parliament to go beyond the “parler” and initiate and pass laws as well as ensure that motions passed are executed.

“During the Central Committee meeting in which parliamentarians discussed the timeshare authority law several Members of Parliament were proud to announce that this was a historic meeting because Parliament’s very first initiative law was being discussed. Instead of celebrating, parliamentarians should have bewailed and lamented the fact that Parliament, in its six years of existence, has not yet been able to pass one initiative law.

“Another example of an initiative law that has gotten lost in the bureaucratic mill is the ban on the import, distribution and sale of disposable plastic bags. Given the need for such a law and the support that it garnered from, for example, the Sint Maarten Pride Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, one would have expected that this initiative law, which was submitted to Parliament in April 2013, four years ago, would have been passed and be in effect by now.

“It is sad to have to admit, that after six and a half years our highest legislative body has not even passed one initiative law. So much for being an example of productivity in our country and for our people,” Wycliffe Smith, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party said on Wednesday.



PHILIPSBURG – St. Maarten’s general pension fund, APS has released the program for its 2017 pension seminar, scheduled for May 19 upcoming.

The event, which will carry the theme “Your Future is Our Day to Day” kicks off with the registration and seating of attendees, as early as 12.30 p.m. Invited guests are asked to register at the entrance of the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, after which they have the option of being driven or walk to the nearby conference area, Maho Room.

Following the welcoming of those in attendance by MC Rachael Geerlings, the purpose of the seminar as well as the rules applicable during the seminar, will be explained. Immediately, thereafter, opening remarks are to be delivered by St. Maarten’s Minister of Finance, Richard Gibson Sr.

Scheduled next on the program is an introduction of the APS board by its chairman, Franklyn Richards as well as a short overview of APS’ core principals.

The first of several APS officials making presentations will be Oscar Williams, who is scheduled to speak on the topic, “Your Status and the Fund”. He will elucidate on the need for participants to always have their correct information registered at APS. In addition, he will indicate the long-term consequences for the Fund of having incorrect data and provide some statistics about the population of the fund.

Next on the agenda is Kendra Arnell with a presentation on “Pension Reform For Your Pension Retention”.  She will inform the attendees on the status of the pension reform and why the need exists for this reform.

Claire Edwards is scheduled to speak on “APS Investments For Your Future”, she will deal with the transparent investment guidelines that APS adheres to and the local projects, which APS is presently involved with. These are among others, the Welgelegen homes project, Mary's Fancy Estate, APS Parking and APS Office Park.

The final speaker, APS director, Nadya van Putten, is scheduled to highlight the seminar’s theme, “Your Future is Our Day to Day”. She is expected to outline the fund’s strategic vision, financial well -being and future, as well as its communication strategy.

A surprise announcement at the seminar is furthermore on the agenda.

A question and answer period has been incorporated into the program, so that members of the audience can ask questions on any of the  relevant topics presented during the preceding afternoon session.

Once the conference ends, all those in attendance are invited to stay on and enjoy a cocktail hour with refreshments and snacks.

The public is meanwhile invited to tune in to My 88.3 FM radio station on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 6.00 p.m. for an interview with APS director, Nadya van Putten, on the seminar.


SMMC to introduce four new specialties Neurology, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, and Urology

CAY HILL - The Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) and Zorgverzekeringskantoor BES (ZVK) of the Caribbean Netherlands, also known as the BES-islands, have further developed the arrangement of their cooperation in a recently signed agreement.

It had previously been agreed upon that SMMC would serve as the ‘preferred provider’ of care for ZVK-insured persons on Saba and St. Eustatius (Statia). However, with the new agreement, this relationship is further supplemented, with added benefit that the people of Sint Maarten will reap as well.

This agreement stipulates several conditions that ZVK and SMMC intend to uphold. Firstly, the parties have negotiated an agreed upon restructuring of the tariffs. Additionally, a visitation cycle for the specialty Cardiology has been worked out wherein Cardiologists from SMMC will make monthly visitations to Saba and St. Eustatius to provide consultation on the islands.

Further, the ZVK will support SMMC in the establishment of four (4) new specialties for the hospital. These specialties will include Neurology, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, and Urology.

The intention of both organizations is to introduce these specialties as soon as possible, with several agreed upon standards that will establish the quality of care for these specialties.

SMMC will continue to attract qualified doctors and nurses to cater to their patients as well as the BES-patients. The broadened partnership will remain ongoing, wherein the progress of the agreement will be evaluated jointly and regularly. Both parties hope to continue servicing the community and bring care closer to home.


DP: The late Neville York and Our Cultural Awakening

PHILIPSBURG - Most of us knew Neville York as a native son, educated abroad, awesome pan musician, and head of the St. Maarten Cultural Department for 22 years, Leader of the Democratic Party (DP) and Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams said in a press release on Monday.

“Some teachers and students knew him as the steel drum music instructor at e.g. Learning Unlimited. Musicians and jazz lovers like himself knew him to be a longtime advocate and promoter of jazz on St. Maarten, bringing world-class performers like Arturo Sandoval to the French side’s Le Flamboyant Hotel.

“But how many of us knew Neville York as one of the top 10 steel drum players in the world, performing with symphony orchestras in Holland, Europe and the United States, or touring with Marshall Vente’s ‘Tropicale as his band?  In Vente’s tribute on May 9th entitled, “Neville York’s Passing: A Sad day in Chicago,” he says, “Neville’s sudden passing has shocked us here in Chicago, friends and musicians.  A very sad day.  I had lunch with Neville in St. Maarten on March 10th; we talked about recording again sometime and his new school of music.….”  

“And our concerts in Chicago, plus 5 years of concerts with my band in St. Maarten and Anguilla – these will never be forgotten.  Neville taught us so much about Caribbean life and culture……”

“Does the 237 square-mile capitol city of Chicago, with 200 art galleries, dozens of cultural institutions, historical sites and 2.5 million people -- know more about Neville York’s persona, range of accomplishments and pursuits than we do here?  Do they have a more enhanced perception or esteem for his gifts, and perhaps for the man himself, than we have here at home?

“With this unexpected loss, we are starkly reminded of how familiarity can make us strangers, how easily we assimilate and embrace the cultural icons and expressions of others, and how seldom we give our own their just due; that is, until our smiles, appreciation, pride and applause, can no longer be seen, heard, or felt.    

“Neville York taught Chicago ‘so much of Caribbean life and culture’.  Can we ask them now for his voicings of us, for his intoning of our sensibilities, to assert for us that which was uniquely expressed thru his gifts of us?  No.  In the tapestry of our own cultural heritage and history, WE must -- with love for our individual and collective ‘selves’ -- do the gathering and the weaving.  

“Our artists and their art are the vibrant color, the purifying wounds, the chords of many strings and strains that tell our stories -- symbolically and concretely -- binding our chapters together. 

“In his conclusion to St. Maarten’s cultural policy Neville says this:

“St. Maarten has developed over the years into a mini metropolis and as such it is imperative that we try to maintain a form of equilibrium between progress and our core cultural values; however, it must be clearly understood that “No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive”. (Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi 1869–1948).  The accelerated march towards a new constitutional status provides a window of opportunity for the host society to embrace its diversity of cultures and find unity within them.  But also realizing that this can only happen if -- and only if  –self-preservation is our first priority.  To this end, I leave you with this final quote from Gandhi: “…. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible, but I refuse to be blown off my feet by any”. Neville C. York          

Condolences to Neville York’s wife, Veronica York George, his father Chester York, his siblings and all his family, colleagues and friends.

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