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Government of Sint Maarten meets with Dutch Government Mission

POND ISLAND - On Sunday afternoon, September 17, 2017, the Government of Sint Maarten - Governor Drs. Eugene Holiday and the full Council of Ministers - met with the mission team established by the Dutch Government, headed by Mr. Erwin Arkenbout and locally supported by the Representative of the Netherlands in Philipsburg (VNP), Mr. Chris Johnson.

The Dutch mission is offering assistance in the recovery and rebuilding phase of Sint Maarten in areas required and desired by the government of Sint Maarten. 

The present mission team consists of a group of experts in various areas such as communication, telecommunication, crisis management, infrastructure in general and in specific of the harbor and the airport, housing, and waste management.

During the introductory meeting, the priority needs, which were clearly defined by the government of Sint Maarten, were communicated to the mission team including on how the team can best facilitate the recovery and rebuilding process of the island. 

The Government of Sint Maarten identified the following recovery priorities:

  1. Housing;
  2. Schools;
  3. Water distribution;
  4. Airport & Air Traffic Control Facilities & Meteorological Facilities;
  5. Hospital;
  6. Waste management;
  7. Social safety net;
  8. Public order including the prison;
  9. Tax Administration & Infrastructure;
  10. Sports & Art Facilities.

Within a short period, an introductory meeting with all involved stakeholders on the related priorities and the mission team members will be scheduled for further detailing of the process.

Head of the mission, Mr. Erwin Arkenbout, pledged additional support by experts if such is needed or desired by the government of Sint Maarten. Continuous weekly briefings will take place between the Prime Minister and Mr. Arkenbout.

Prime Minister, William Marlin, stressed the need for a substantial financial assistance in terms of grants and / or borrowing under favorable conditions to address the priorities identified and to stimulate economic recovery.

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About 9,000 evacuated after Irma, flights back into the island soon

POND ISLAND - Minister Responsible for Civil Aviation and the airport Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher on Sunday reported that almost 9,000 people have been evacuated from St. Maarten after the passing of hurricane Irma. The Minister has been present at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) almost every day to assist in the coordinating of the evacuation flights.

As of Sunday, September 17, the Dutch Military moved 1,569 people to Curacao, the US military moved approximately 1,800 people, evacuations using commercial aircraft were approximately 4,000 people (including private charters), about 600 people were moved by Royal Caribbean cruise liners Majesty of the Seas and Adventure of the seas as part of the company’s humanitarian relief. Military aircraft from Brazil, Colombia, Spain, Canada and France also moved nationals of those countries totaling approximately 500.

The Minister explained that as the relief flights are beginning to slow, government will look to announce when residents abroad can return home as well as the re-commencement of Commercial flights into the island.  

“It was quite an exercise assisting with the management of evacuation flights as well as the arrival of relief and humanitarian efforts into St. Maarten. Lessons were learnt and will be applied in future disaster/emergency situations. There are many people, airport personnel, police, immigration, customs and Marechausee who dedicated hours upon hours on PJIA to ensure that the logistics and movement of people was as manageable as possible,” she said.

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Assessments of Environmental Damage Carried out Post Hurricane Irma

COLE BAY - On the 6th of September powerful category five storm Hurricane Irma struck Sint Maarten with 185 MPH winds, causing widespread damage to the island and its infrastructure.

The storm also caused significant damage to the island’s nature and environment prompting the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation to conduct rapid qualitative assessments to determine the level of impact. Terrestrial and Marine Assessments were carried out from the 12th to the 16th of September and will continue after the passing of Hurricane Maria.

Terrestrial Impacts:

Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the island’s flora. The majority of large trees, some with historical and cultural significance, have been toppled. Most foliage on the island has been burnt by wind and salt spray. Most hills, valleys and other green areas have been completely defoliated leaving the island brown and leafless.

Avifauna (birds) have also been hard hit by Irma’s significant winds. Although some species are showing signs of recovery, other species have been particularly hard hit. Rookery sites being monitored by the Nature Foundation of the Brown Pelican, Sint Maarten’s National Bird, have been decimated and recovery will take some time.

Marine Impacts

The following impacts regarding the Marine and Wetland Ecosystems were recorded:

An estimated 90% of mature mangroves have been destroyed. The area of Mullet Pond, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, has suffered particularly significant damage. Mangroves strands were also uprooted because sailboats tied unto mangrove roots illegally causing significant damage. Most of these vessels have now sunk.

Significant debris was recorded in all wetlands and coastal areas from various sources, including an estimated 120 sunken vessels of differing size. Because of the large amount of sunken vessels large quantities of fuel have been spilled in especially the Simpson Bay Lagoon and Oyster Pond wetlands. Estimated fuel spilled in the Simpson Bay Lagoon exceeds 100,000 gallons.

There has been significant run-off from land as a result of Irma’s torrential rains, drastically reducing water quality at all beaches. Several areas have raw sewage entering directly into the sea and into wetlands. There has also been a significant fish-die off in the Great Salt and Fresh Ponds due to a reduction in water quality.

During assessments in Simpson Bay and in the Simpson Bay Lagoon large areas of seagrass beds have been uprooted and decimated. 

Although coral reef assessments have not yet been carried out, damage is expected to be extensive and significant.

The Nature Foundation Coral Nursery Project structures, acoustic hydrophone transmitter arrays, conch and seagrass experiments and scuba dive moorings are non-existent due to the passage of the storm. 

Beaches have experienced significant erosion due to the storm surge brought on by Hurricane Irma 

It is also expected that solid waste disposal due to infrastructure challenges and cleanup will have significant impact on the community. The Philipsburg landfill was already over capacity before the storm and collected storm debris will contribute to the challenges regarding solid waste significantly.

Advisories

The Nature Foundation would like to issue various advisories to the public:

-        Do not eat fish, alive or dead, from surrounding waters. Due to run-off seafood may be contaminated and not safe to eat.

-        Be careful when using beaches. The Nature Foundation has not had the opportunity yet to survey all beaches for debris and there may be sharp, dangerous objects in the water that can cause injury.

-        Please follow instructions from Government to not burn garbage. Burning diapers is illegal and can release toxic chemicals in the air.

Status of the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation

The Nature Foundation has escaped large-scale damage. The Nature Foundation Office, Marine Park Patrol Vessel and Warehouse received minimal damage and all personnel survived the storm without injury.

Students doing their internship at the Nature Foundation were evacuated immediately after Irma and key personnel are now assisting with water and food distribution and clean-up within the community.

The Nature Foundation would like to emphasize that extreme weather conditions and their frequency may be directly related to Climate Change. However, the Nature of our Island, just like her people, are resilient and will recover in due time. 

Because of limited connectivity the Nature Foundation can now be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and via +1 721 5234490.

causeway2

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Majesty of the Seas departs with 286 persons as part of Humanitarian Evacuation Trip

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Majesty of the Seas cruise ship arrived on Friday, September 15, on a humanitarian mission to evacuate American citizens and residents with Visa Waiver/ESTA entry requirements into U.S. territory.

The number of evacuees that boarded the Majesty of the Seas on Friday were 286. The vessel also brought in disaster relief supplies.

Evacuees gathered at the St. Maarten Festival Village on Pond Island on Friday.   Registration started at 7.00 AM and ended 3.00 PM. The vessel came in with 900 crew and 75 of those were on hand to assist with the preparations at the Festival Village.

Majesty of the Seas will sail to San Juan, Puerto Rico where the evacuees will disembark. The evacuees will be responsible for their own travel beyond Puerto Rico to their final destination.

Port St. Maarten Management would like to thank Royal Caribbean for its pro-activeness in providing assistance. S.E.L. Maduro & Sons, agent for Royal Caribbean also shared the same sentiment.

evac two inside

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Police Information for business managers and owners

PHILIPSBURG - The Police Department is hereby informing all business managers/owners that the curfew applies to everyone and that they should take all necessary measures to make sure their employees are allowed to leave the workplace in time for them not to be in violation of the curfew and to experience any unnecessary delays or inconveniences. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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10 Punished. First cases of ‘quick and swift punishment’ executed

PHILIPSBURG - The men who were arrested recently in Sint Maarten for failing the curfew were sentenced by the Public Prosecutor to 'work punishment' (werkstraf).

Three men have been offered a transaction to work voluntary without pay. They were offered each 40, 40 and 20 hours work and have accepted this sentence. The 20 hours was for a minor. He also waived the amount of money (a couple of hundred dollars) he had on him at that time of the arrest.

Meanwhile, seven people were arrested last night by the police of Sint Maarten (KPSM) for violating the curfew. Five of them received 40 hours of work as a punishment and accepted this. Two men accepted 60 hours of labor for resisting his arrest and the other man received 60 hours of labor for additionally the possession of drugs.

In the meantime, a transaction list has been drawn up by the Sint Maarten Public Prosecutor's Office (OM). This for various violations, which are eligible for a work punishment. For resistance, the transaction is 40 hours of work or 20 days of detention.

Failure to comply with an official order 30 hours of forced work or 15 days detention. For "simple abuse" 60 hours of labor or 30 days detention. Finally, for having a weapon (no firearm) 60 hours of labor or 30 days detention. For recidivists and minors, other rules apply.

The imposed transactions in the form of task sentences are carried out by a probation-officer (Reclassering) and the offenders should assist in the cleanup and reconstruction of Sint Maarten. The transactions are not explicitly applicable to looting or otherwise serious matters such as firearm possession.

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CIBC TO SUPPORT HURRICANE IRMA HUMANITARIAN RELIEF AND REBUILDING EFFORTS

SINT MAARTEN/BARBADOS - CIBC (TSX: CM) (NYSE: CM) is donating US$450,000 to support organizations providing humanitarian relief to areas impacted by Hurricane Irma. 

The funds, which include a donation through CIBC FirstCaribbean’s ComTrust Foundation, will be distributed through the Red Cross and other local relief agencies.

“Hurricane Irma has had a devastating impact on the islands in the northern Caribbean, particularly the British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Anguilla, and Grand Turk,” said Gary Brown, CEO, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank.

“We stand by our colleagues and clients during this difficult time, and are committed to working closely with our clients, colleagues, and communities to recover and rebuild. The road to recovery in some of the hardest hit areas will be long, but we will help each other through it.”

In total, seven islands where CIBC FirstCaribbean has operations – the British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, and St. Kitts and Nevis -- were affected by the storm.

Operations have restarted in all but two of the islands, St. Maarten and Anguilla, and the bank is working closely with its employees and clients as recovery efforts begin.

CIBC FirstCaribbean has approximately 3,000 employees in 17 countries in the Caribbean. The PrivateBank and CIBC Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management also have offices in Florida, which have been impacted.

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Reopening of Public and Subsidized Schools to Open on October 2

PHILIPSBURG – After the passing of hurricane Irma, in efforts to ensure the reopening of our schools in a timely manner, and the wellbeing of students and teachers, the Minister of ECYS (Education, Culture, Youth & Sports) has met with the various school boards and Ministry ECYS, and has been assessing the damage of the various schools.

The technical assessment of the schools has been done, and the assessment of the wellbeing of the teachers, management and staff is ongoing with the Ministry ECYS in collaboration with the school boards, a target date has been determined for the reopening of some of the schools.  

All students are of a priority, however, the exam and pre-exam have been identified, as a critical group and school will resume on October 2nd, 2017. The other classes and groups will start then as well as long as the schools are deemed ready for such.

Regaining a sense of normalcy will go a long way in helping to stabilize our communities, as well as give parents a sense of peace that their children are learning and well taken care of.

However, the human component, namely wellbeing of our teachers, management, staff and students is a main priority before school can commence. Provisions are being made by Support Services divisions to provide the necessary care support to make a smooth as possible start a reality.

All management, teaching and auxiliary staff has been invited to go to their schools in order to ascertain their status and needs and be able to plan moving forward.

All efforts will be made to get all our students back to school as soon as possible. Schools, which are deemed ready before October 2nd, will start soon as they are able.

Minister Jacobs thanks all stakeholders who have put their personal lives and circumstances on hold to be able to assist in making the necessary strategic plans to be able to get our students, teachers, management and staff back to school.

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No Suspects to be Set Free. Exceeding time limits of suspects in Sint Maarten covered

PHILIPSBURG – “The Court of First Instance on Sint Maarten, at the request of the Public Prosecutor's Office (OM) of Sint Maarten, agreed with the exceeding time limits for suspects currently detained pending further investigation and/or there day in Court,” a press release from the OM on Thursday stated.

“This in the case of all suspects that, due to the passage of Hurricane Irma, the time limits were not requested on time.

“The Public Prosecutor has submitted on Wednesday, September 13, a request in Philipsburg to the Court regarding Article 413 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The request was specifically in cases where the deadlines have expired.

“The judge has agreed with the request. All overruns of the deadlines are now all covered and no suspects will be set free due to this new situation,” the press release concludes. 

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The Next “The Law Matters to You” lecture on Constitutional Law Sept. 12

PHILIPSBURG - In their series “The Law Matters to You,” the Department of Communication (DCOMM) and the University of St. Martin (USM) is having their fifth law lecture in the area of Constitutional Law.

The Keynote Speaker will be Judge Jacob “Bob” Wit, who has an extensive learning, experience, and specializations in different and distinct areas of the law.

Judge Wit (born 1952) has a Master of Laws degree (1977) from the Free University of Amsterdam. During his judicial training Studiecentrum Rechtspleging, Wit worked in different capacities and areas of law, from being a law clerk to deputy prosecutor to attorney.

His military service (1976-1978) includes being a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Dutch Navy.

After being appointed judge by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix in 1986, Wit worked in numerous capacities as in the Netherlands, throughout the Dutch Caribbean and in the region.

As of 2005, Judge Wit took the Oath of Office as a Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice in Trinidad. In November 2010, Judge Wit was appointed and sworn in as the President of the Constitutional Court of St. Maarten.

Head of DCOMM Rodney Richardson indicated that the continuation of the “Law Matters to You” lecture series is very important to the community. Judge Jacob Wit will enlighten those in attendance on the Constitutional Court and the Kingdom Structure as it relates to Constitutional Law. “I hereby encourage all persons to take advantage of the opportunity to expand their knowledge on Constitutional matters,” he said.

While President of USM Francio Guadeloupe references the topic as potentially an expansion of the humanistic project of accountability.

The educational value through the Constitutional enlightenment efforts to the community by the judge is important, and should not go unnoticed throughout the different societal levels. What is important is the vetting process that is undertaken; more such has to happen on a daily basis throughout all sections of society, I propose. Come and hear and enjoy the lecture.

The event, which starts at 7pm, is scheduled for September 12 at the University of St. Martin, room 202.

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