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Soualiga Newsday Latest News (1513)

Statia Civil Society Organizations condemn Dutch take over

ST. EUSTATIUS - Pro Statia and Brighter Path Foundation (BPF), two grass –roots organizations on St. Eustatius (Caribbean Netherlands), strongly condemn the desire of State Secretary Knops (Kingdom Relations) to intervene administratively on St. Eustatius as expressed in a letter to the Second Chamber today, the BPF said in a press statement.

The organizations view this move as undemocratic and not in accordance with international law on human rights, as the sitting Statia Government has been democratically elected by the people of St. Eustatius.

“It is argued that the administrative move is a reaction to the report of the ‘Committee of Wise Men who found negligence of duties in St. Eustatius. One can however ask, if such a move is in accordance with the UN declaration of Human Rights, article 21, which states.”

“Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country directly or through freely chosen representatives". How can the Dutch Government therefore justify the move to postpone elections until further notice", a representative said.

“Additionally, the report of the so-called Wise Men was not made public until Monday, February 5, 2018. This report is mentioned as the basis for this latest action of the Dutch government, while the people of St. Eustatius had not been made aware of the findings of this committee, prior to Knops’ action.

The NGO’s are calling on the international community to condemn this undemocratic act and also call upon the United Nations, to mandate one of its bodies, to serve as a neutral third party in helping the local and Dutch government to resolve this governing crisis, the Brighter Path Foundation and Pro Statia said on Tuesday.

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Pick up voting cards in one of four locations. Philipsburg closed until further notice

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - In regards to the upcoming February 26th, 2018, Parliamentary Elections, the Civil Registry Department will be distributing the voting cards at four different locations: the Dutch Quarter Helpdesk, St. Peters Rupert Maynard Community Centre, Public Service Center (PSC) in Simpson bay, and the Old Census office building in Philipsburg.

Once persons are registered at the Civil Registry department and they are eligible voters, their voting cards can be collected from February 5 to February 9 at one of the distribution locations.

Please take note that your district is connected to the address that you are registered under at the Civil Registry Department.

The voting districts in the Dutch Quarter area are: the Sister Marie Laurence School (district 4), Dutch Quarter Community Centre (district 5), Belvedere Community Center (district 14), Community Helpdesk DQ Dr. Bryson (district 17) (previously Justice Academy). Here the district pick up for the voting cards is at the Dutch Quarter Helpdesk, next to Dr. Bryson’s medical practice.  

For the voting districts of Milton Peters (district 6), Methodist Agogic center (district 16), Sint Maarten Academy (district 8), and Rupert Maynard Community Center (district 7), the voter card pick-up is at the St. Peters Rupert Maynard Community Centre.

The voting districts in the Cole bay area are: the Seventh day Adventist School (district 18), Simpson bay Sport Community Center (district 13), Leonard Conner School (district 12), and the Charles Leopold Bell School (district 11); and the location for pick-up of the voter card is the Public Service Center (PSC) in Simpson bay (Fish market).

The location in Philipsburg will be closed until further notice due to the adverse conditions caused by the smoke emanating from the landfill location.

For persons voting in the following districts: John Larmonie Center (district 1), Sundial School (district 2), St Maarten senior Citizen Recreational, Centre (district 3), Melford Hazel Sport & recreational Centre (district 15), Bute Hotel (district 9) (previously Raoul Illidge Sports Complex), NIPA (district 10) (previously Celebration palace), the distribution point for the voting cards will be at the Old Census office building, Soualiga Rd #6.

This distribution of these voting cards will take place from Monday, February 5th through Friday, February 9th between the hours of 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

For more information from the Department of Civil Registry (Census), please call: 5420652, 5426085, 542-9344.

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TelEm Group technician restore internet service following Monday morning shutdown

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - At approximately 1.45 pm Monday afternoon, TelEm Group technicians restored internet services to customers island-wide following an early morning system crash.

The technicians worked diligently after identifying the problem and provided a temporary solution to reconnect customers while the main cause of the problem, access to an authentication server was being resolved.

According to Chief Technical Officer, (CTO) Mr. Eldert Louisa, the unusual crashing of two drives in a 10-drive system cause the important server in the company’s data center to become corrupted.

“Customers were able to see from the messages they received when they tried to connect that it was a server problem and we were able to confirm this and deal with the matter right away,” said Mr. Louisa.

He said the temporary fix will allow customers to access the internet until the entire system is restored to its normal state.

Monday’s internet crash caused a double problem for TelEm Group staff, who were shut out of their main building on Pond Island due to a raging fire, and thick smoke coming from the dump site nearby.

Workers turned up for duty Monday morning only to find access roads to the TelEm Group building closed off by firefighters and police.

Staff were requested to return home and await further instruction while arrangements were made to accommodate extra customer traffic at other TelEm Group locations at Bush Road and in Simpson Bay, however when the smoke showed no signs of abating, personnel were requested to report for work Tuesday morning instead.

Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Mr. Brian Mingo said Managers and various departments and the Human Resources & Development Department were coordinating all morning to update staff and also to inform the general public.

TelEm Group has meantime apologized to its customers for any inconvenience cause by both incidents on Monday.

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EPIC plants 500 trees

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - With the recovery from Hurricane Irma underway, country St. Maarten is learning the importance of resilience – or the ability to recover from difficulties. While we proudly boast St. Maarten Strong, it is important to remember that a strong St. Maarten comes from a resilient St. Maarten.

A St Maarten that is better suited to uncertainty and our ever-changing climate. This resilience starts with a healthy environment.

In the last weeks of January, with funding from the European Union’s BEST 2.0 programme and GlobalGiving, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation planted 500 native trees at two sites on St. Maarten.

By doing so, EPIC aims to increase the native diversity of trees at these sites and create a healthy habitat for flora and fauna to flourish. Creating these hotspots of diversity is an essential step in increasing the resilience of the environment of St. Maarten.

In mid-2017, EPIC was joined by Dr. Ethan Freid, a botanist based in the Bahamas. With his guidance, some fourteen tree species were bought, cared for and planted. He then returned to assist with their planting.

The trees were divided such that 350 were planted at Sentry Hill (within Rockland Estate) and 150 planted at Cay Bay (within Seaside Nature Park). Both sites represent characteristically different ecosystems that will benefit from habitat restoration and will be protected from development for years to come.

For the remainder of the project, “Students Scientists” are being recruited from schools to monitor tree survival and learn the basics of scientific data gathering and entering.

While EPIC continues to restore the natural biodiversity of these sites, we invite the public to reach out and organize a visit to learn more about our work or to become a “Student Scientist” and earn community service credits!

PHOTO CUTLINE: Dr. Ethan Freid, a Botanist based in the Bahamas, helped with the planting.

EPISC INSIDE Dr

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REAL AUTO HOSTS FABULOUS NIGHT WITH THE STARS

CUPECOY - Real Auto presented their newest Toyota, Suzuki and Chevy models at a well-attended “Night with the Stars” event hosted at Porto Cupecoy on Friday evening.

Fourteen of Real Auto’s latest models were displayed at the premier venue and invited guests were given an overview of the newest features and unique capabilities of the various models.

Real Auto’s General Manager, Felix Nevarez, welcomed guests and promised “to deliver the highest quality vehicles, sourced in pristine factory direct condition and all backed by full factory warranties”. He continued: “at Real Auto, we are committed to delivering you the best of the best. Both in terms of vehicle quality as in service standards”.

Guests ranging from all sectors of the business community were seen admiring the displayed vehicles, getting inside for a closer look and inquiring with the Real Auto sales staff about the unique features. All this while enjoying the culinary delights catered by the various Porto Cupecoy restaurants and led by Fred York’s fine musical entertainment.

As a token of appreciation, Real Auto decided to raffle 3 generators: one 14 KVA Champion generator valued at $ 4500 and two 3.1 KVA portable inverter Champion generators valued at $ 1050 each. Three luckily attendees were drawn and presented with their new generators, which Real Auto also stocks as an additional product line. All attendees were also presented with goody bags filled with the latest gadgets courtesy of Real Auto.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Overview of Real Auto’s Night with the Stars at Porto Cupecoy.

real auto inside

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TelEm Group Cabinet replacement scheduled for Simpson Bay Saturday

POND ISLAND - TelEm Group technicians will be replacing a damaged telecommunication cabinet in the Simpson Bay area between 8:00 am 5:00 pm Saturday, February 3.

Residential and business customers located on both sides of the road between the Main police station on the Airport Road and the Windward Island Bank building also on the Airport Road, can expect some interruption in fixed landline and internet service as a result of the scheduled work.

Technicians expect interruptions to be kept to a minimum time throughout  the maintenance works and meantime apologize to customers for any inconvenience caused.

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Father of two dies during ‘incident’ with police near Waddinxveen

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 39-year old man has died during a ‘violent arrest’ by police, reports the AD on Friday. The man, who has been named as father of two Paul Selier from The Hague, is apparently seen being repeatedly punched by police as they shout at him to cooperate on video given to Oproep West.

The video of the incident in Waddinxveen, near Gouda, early on Friday morning was taken by a passing scooter driver, the paper says.

The Hague’s public prosecution service said in a tweet that the national crime investigation department is investigating ‘the death of a 39-year-old man this morning in Waddinxveen, after an incident in which police were involved.’

It did not confirm whether or not the images circulating were of the incident, or the name of the man. ‘Exactly what happened is currently being investigated,’ it added. (DutchNews)

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St. Maarten Development Fund grants 3 million guilders in 2017 to social, senior and youth care

PHILIPSBURG - Culminating the closure of its financial year 2017, St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) presented its unaudited financial statements and management report for the year 2017 to Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Leona Romeo-Marlin.

In the meeting with Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin, SMDF’s Managing Director Keith Franca and Program and Development Makhicia Brooks presented the Prime Minister with the Fund’s financial statement and also briefed her on activities of 2017 as well as the Fund’s plans for 2018.

The Fund’s financial statements, which showed SMDF’s grant making activities totaling some ANG 3 million between 24 NGO clients was welcomed by the Prime Minister who indicated that she kept abreast of SMDF’s activities. To the NGO clients active in its five thematic areas, SMDF disbursed ANG 1,290,427 towards Youth Development, ANG 998,361 in the area of Social Care, ANG 403,654 towards Senior Care, ANG 112,105 towards Poverty Alleviation and ANG 208,111 towards Gender Support.

In speaking of the NGO clients, Franca and SMDF Program and Development Manager Makhicia Brooks described the invaluable contribution to the organizations and the caregivers working within those organizations. Brooks described the efficiency of the NGO’s operations and their adherence to SMDF’s accountability requirements.

In explaining the process to be able to present the Fund’s financial statements in the first month of the year, Franca detailed the organization’s monthly reporting requirements that allowed for transparent accounting of funds granted. Moreover, Franca described the value of having in house Financial Administrator Jennai Marlin who oversees accountability of funds disbursed to the Fund’s NGO clients.

SMDF’s briefing of the year 2017 also updated the Prime Minister of the partnership with Windwards Islands Bank which began in August 2017 and the status of SMDF’s Elderly Project which began home repairs in December 2017. Franca provided the Prime Minister with the background of the project which has been made possible via funds made available by the Dutch Government in 2016 and in December 2017 following the passing of hurricane Irma.

Closing out the meeting, Franca reiterated SMDF’s commitment to continue to provide quarterly updates of the Fund’s activities and thanked the Government of St. Maarten for its continuous support since SMDF’s inception in May 2012.

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Minister Wuite gives recap of first two weeks in office

POND ISLAND – “I have now served as your minister of education, culture, youth and sport for two weeks and two days,” Minister Jorien Wuite said on Wednesday. “These two weeks have been challenging as many things have been happening simultaneously.  The primary task of this interim Romeo-Marlin cabinet is to bring St. Maarten through these critical months ahead as we recover from one devastating hurricane season and prepare as a nation to face the seasons ahead.

“As I have indicated before, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport has been significantly hit in terms of damages to our infrastructure. I do not believe there has been one school, cultural or sporting facility that has escaped unscathed. Damages are summarized in the MRP plan to be approximately 40-60 million US dollars. I say this not to preach doom and gloom but to indicate the enormous task ahead.

“A first expectation that I have is the availability of the insurance claim disbursement, that is taking too long and I fear that it is nowhere near enough with anticipated under insurance of the government insurance policy which include the schools, sport facilities and cultural facilities such as the library. I have emphasized the importance to this matter with my colleague ministers and we look forward to complete an advice to the Council of Ministers (COM) which remained lingering since October/ November last year.  

“This advice should enforce the decision by COM to establish a core group to which I would like to add a member representing Education, Sport and Culture as this will help to represent the interest of schools and other organizations. The advise also clarifies how a first advance of 1 million US Dollars prior to the settlement of the claim should be made. Nagico emphasized that this and possibley more advances can and should go to reconstruction of critical priorities such as the schools. The core group will be invited back to COM to discuss progress and these decisions for the first advance.

“I am reminded by families and sport organizations that athletes and children are in dire need of recreational activities and re start of sport programs and training. I therefor urged the completion and signed off the first of 2 advises for repairs of various sport facilities such as Melford Hazel and the community basketball courts. These payments will be paid out of the emergency budget the government has available and this will be made through an incidental subsidy to the National Sport Institute (NSI).  A meeting with NSI has also been scheduled to discuss their task in the supervision and maintenance of the government owned sport facilities. I care to also include the partnership with the sport department and the NSI to ensure we expand on the organization of sport programs in the months ahead.

“The COM ensured and reiterated the importance of the approval of the budget 2018 and once the budget 2018 will be critically reviewed and debated in parliament, I hope that proposed capital expenditures provides another avenue to invest for the repairs and reconstruction we are unable to receive via our insurance. The consultations has to be done in close partnership as this also relates to the third and of course most talked about option of the Dutch funding made available through the World Bank.  

“The Ministry has been working tirelessly to ensure that we meet the requirements set by the World Bank while taking care of our day to day responsibilities. I care to commend the Ministry for the clear advancement of the MRP and the preparation of project plans.  The Ministry has held several meetings with World Bank representatives and DBB yesterday and I have personally met with them to indicate that this Ministry in particular needs assistance immediately as it is one of the hardest hit.  As minister I have also requested a separate chapter for education in the National Recovery Plan and to ensure that sport, youth and culture will be seen as cross cutting themes throughout SXM NRP.

“The Ministry has already submitted projects for funding review; projects such as the temporary re-location of the library, the monument restoration project, risk preparedness and training programs and the renovation of schools are examples just to highlight a few.  We have received positive feedback, while they emphasized that we have to submit projects that really focus on recovery and not on development and we are hopeful that the Netherlands and the World bank will indeed be supportive and favorable of additional advances to the 550 million euro as we all know that repairs of schools need to be prepared and executed with the relevant requirements such as a Terms Of Reference, a bidding process and further quality.  

“It is imperative that schools are fixed, that our sporting facilities are back in proper shape so that our athletes can continue to train for local, regional and international competitions.  Our monuments and cultural institutions help us to connect and celebrate our national identity and they must be fully restored.  It is very important that we continue to not only move towards a sense of normalcy after Hurricane Irma but to totally ensure that we are prepared for the next hurricane season.

“On a positive note however, I have been able to have several successful meetings with key stakeholders in the ECYS ministry; the University of St. Martin, Charlotte Brookson Academy, St. Maarten Academy and the Youth Brigade among others. This morning, I had a very fruitful and constructive meeting with the President of the Windward Island Teacher’s Union, relating to some of the concerns teachers have expressed to the Union.  Matters relating to extended hours, vacation days in the summer, fatigue and compensation.  I am happy to inform that we have good sound constructive agreements for the way forward addressing these matters and I will inform further of the outcome and agreements made.

“In the meeting of my cabinet and I with representatives of the University of St. Martin both parties re-confirmed the agreements made in the MOU and I was very pleased to be provided with the second set of financial reports. I am a firm believer that tertiary education should not just be seen as a soft or social factor but also as a strong economic driver.  Education accounts for 6% of the total GDP of the island and it is time we fully realize the University’s full potential, not just as a tool in educating our population, but with the right guidance and the full support from Government USM and other tertiary institutes can further contribute to the economy of St. Maarten. 

“I also has a very positive introductory meeting with the school managers of the public schools.  In that meeting I was able to share pertinent details of the Ministry’s Resilience Plan.  At the meeting the school managers were encouraged to share on the social well-being of their teachers and administrative staff as well as what if any post Irma challenges they were still dealing with.  They did indicate that the immediate need for critical structural repairs as it pertains to the overall safety and staff security was still a big concern for most of the public schools. 

“The safeguarding of tangible investments such as furniture and school materials were also areas of concern.  I was able to reassure them that the Ministry was already looking at avenues through which the repairs could be executed.  I also strongly encouraged however that in addition the managers make use of every alternative avenue of funding, especially through initiatives such as SXM Doet. I again take this opportunity to encourage all within the sound of my voice to volunteer on March 9th and 10th as a testament to our resiliency where we display a sense of community and patriotism as we all pitch in to get our island back to where it needs to be.

“In addition, as mentioned I was also able to dialogue with Board and management from the Charlotte Brookson Academy. The school which has already faced several uphill battles continues to experience problems related to its proximity to the landfill.  The health and safety of our students is my number one priority and as such an immediate solution needs to be found for the students, teacher and administrative staff.  In the weeks ahead our focus will be on school repairs, disaster preparation and risk management. Technical support in this area has been contracted to assist in the damage assessments of the ECYS facilities including all the schools, sporting facilities and monuments.  It is paramount that a proper planning is done and we take proper measures that we restore and build back better and smarter.

“So, at my cabinet the word of the day is always “recovery, recovery, recovery”.  Everything we do, every meeting we set, every project we initiate it has that main focus in mind.  As I mentioned earlier my number one priority is to always ensure the safety and security of our students, administrative and teaching staffs.  Disaster management and preparedness runs a close second as we HAVE to be prepared to face this next hurricane season.  Recognizing undervalued sources of income to the economy of St. Maarten such as through tertiary education and even the creative arts is also something I intend to focus on during my tenure. We have certainly hit the ground running and I am eager to see the results of our labor come to fruition.

“I’d like to end with a quote from the late Vance James Jr.  I was privileged to attend over the weekend the Lionel Bernard Scott Memorial Lecture held at the University of St. Martin.  After a professional lecture by Neil Henderson of Henderson Insurances, and being a previous lecturer myself, I purchased two books of past lecturers, Vance James Jr. and Camille E. Baly.  Mr. James during his 2005 lecture spoke these words that I find especially now so inspiring, he says “Our future has and is being shaped by not waiting on others to do but DOING for ourselves anchored in the belief: WE CAN.  This belief is evident in the lives and actions of our people throughout our history in every area.  Not accepting we CAN’T…BELIEVING YES WE CAN.”

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Minister of Tourism De Weever updates International Media about Destination Recovery at Caribbean Travel Marketplace

PUERTO RICO – Destination Sint Maarten is being represented at the Caribbean’s largest and most important marketing event this week in San Juan, Puerto Rico, namely the Caribbean Travel Marketplace.

Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Cornelius de Weever on Wednesday said, the Caribbean Travel Marketplace affords tourism suppliers the opportunity to meet face-to-face with wholesalers from around the world selling Caribbean vacation travel.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is holding its Caribbean Travel Marketplace at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan from January 30 to February 1.

Minister De Weever on Wednesday morning briefed the regional/international travel media about the status of the destination.  He started off his presentation by describing the destination as Magical, Sensational, Captivating and Amazing.

Minister De Weever told the media that, ‘We are open for business!’  He went on to give a detail update that the country is steadily recovering and rebuilding, and showing viable and visible signs of progress.

He added that the country is serene and safe, the road network is clean of any debris; Bars and restaurants are open; Beach access is free and clean; the country’s cruise sector is a step ahead with the main cruise lines having returned to the destination, adding that it’s not too late for those who would like to book a cruise.

Minister De Weever also pointed out the importance of the Mega Yacht sector and the vessels have also returned to the destination; marine service sector businesses are open to cater to the needs of the rich and famous.

Visitors can also experience watching planes land at SXM Airport down at Maho Beach; the destination is receiving daily flights out of Miami and New York, and there will be a phased reopening of the terminal building in the second half of 2018.

The Minister also provided an update about electricity, water, and telecommunications; a number of boutique hotels and guesthouses are open; several of the larger hotel properties are scheduled to be open throughout the latter half of 2018; the Caribbean’s #1 shopping area, Philipsburg is 95 per cent open; and one of the destinations newest attractions is Rockland Estate Zipline which is open to visitors.

Minister Cornelius de Weever also updated the international media bout the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta which is scheduled for the beginning of March and the country’s main cultural event Carnival where preparations are in full swing for several weeks of jamming, partying and parading during the month of April.

The Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs also spoke about the resiliency of the people, their persistence, and being a beacon of hope during the recovery and rebuilding of the country, and that they are upbeat and serving visitors every day as they arrive to enjoy their Sint Maarten holiday on the ‘Friendly Island’.

The CHTA Marketplace brings together hotel and destination representatives, online travel agents, tour operators, meetings incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) planners, and members of the media.

Close to 500 supplier delegates from more than 200 companies across 30 countries have joined another 100-plus media representatives at this year’s event, according to CHTA.

More than 200 delegates from close to 100 buyer companies, 19 of which are new to the conference, including four new MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) companies, have registered.

Buyer companies hail from Argentina, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay.

Caribbean Travel Marketplace, produced by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Meet Puerto Rico, and the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association, is hosted by Interval International, JetBlue Vacations and Mastercard.

Platinum Sponsors include ADARA, AMResorts, Cable & Wireless, CaribbeanWE, Condé Nast Traveler, Expedia, Figment Design, Hotels.com, Marketplace Excellence, OBMI, Orbitz, Sojern, STR, Travelocity and Travelzoo.

American Airlines, ARDA-ROC, Best Western, Brides, Delta Air Lines, Destination Travel Network, Duetto, Northstar Meetings Group, Lexicon Travel Technologies, Martha Stewart Weddings, Prevue Meetings, Rainmaker, Recommend Magazine, Simpleview, Symova, The New York Times, Time Inc., TravelClick and Travel Channel have joined the event as gold sponsors.

Besides the Minister, representatives from the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau are also in attendance.

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