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Beyond Kultura Calls for Global Goals stories from SSS-islands and Anguilla

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Beyond Kultura Events (BKE) Foundation is calling up all youngsters 12+years and adults of Saba, Statia, Sint Maarten and Anguilla to participate in its 2022 writing competition, BKE said in a press statement on Thursday.

“In the stories, poems or letters a child needs to be main character. The works are of max 850 words (two A4 pages-letter size 12). One entree per person is allowed. Deadline for submission of your work is March 31th coming.

“The work needs to be about real experiences of a child and depicting one or more themes of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a.k.a. The Global Goals. The stories have to be original and have to be written in the spirit of the Global Goals problems and solutions.

“Some of the themes are: Hunger-Poverty, Health & Sanitation, Education, Gender Equality & Women Empowerment, Energy, Environment, Industry and Innovation, Equality between countries, Justice and Collaboration, working together to reach those Global Goals.

“An extensive explanation of the Global Goals is given on the internet https://www.globalgoals.org/ BKE hopes to publish the 3 best winning works in the newspapers of SXM. If BKE gets sufficient funding from sponsors, a book can be published with the 15 best works.

“Winners will be asked to present their works via the media and be put on the spotlights. In the case of a book publication, the winning authors will, also receive 3 free copies of the book.

A judge penal with literacy experience will judge the works.

“Your work can best be sent not later than 31th of March to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. mentioning writer's name, age, title of the story, poem or letter, your email address, telephone number and if it applies, the name of your school.”

For further information, you can call the president of Beyond Kultura Events Foundation, Mrs. Morales at 5271223.

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Emmanuel: PM again shows why her government cannot be trusted

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Thursday said that the Prime Minister’s statements that politics was being played with the airport dossier of airport COO Michel Hyman was a “bad joke” that re-enforces why Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and her government cannot be trusted.

The PM he said, when caught in a lie or gross negligence of duty, continues to deflect, blame, lie and spin the issues. In the case of the airport dossier, the Prime Minister is running from acknowledging that the executive branch and the legislative branch in the person of the former Chairperson of Parliament, colluded to keep the dossier out of sight, for political reason.

“So obviously, let’s blame the opposition in Parliament with playing politics. It took the Prime Minister more than two years to finally admit the existence of the dossier and more than a week to concoct her story. Talk about playing politics,” the MP said. Emmanuel pointed out that on one end of the table there is the Minister of TEATT who actually went and looked for the document, while on the other end there is a Prime Minister who is more concerned with “it wasn’t me”.

“The Prime Minister wants the public to believe that the Council of Ministers only read the cover letter of the documents two years ago and nothing since. In the same breath, the Prime Minister turns and describes the content of the complaints, which in her opinion were mainly issues between management and boards. She even said she saw responses to some complaints. So if you only had time to handle the cover letter, how are you so versed with the content,” Emmanuel asked.

MP Emmanuel said the PM’s convenient excuses of not wanting to get involved in internal airport matters is contradictory to past actions and comments when it comes to the Princess Juliana International Airport. He reminded that PJIA has been the topic of discussion in Parliament and the public domain for the past two years.

Several questions regarding PJIA were asked to the PM and other Ministers about the functioning of management, the board, the relationship that existed between the two, over spending by the CEO, what constitutes good corporate governance, exorbitant consultant fees and more.

“The Prime Minister and the other Ministers all painted a picture that the only corporate governance issue was Dexter Doncher so he had to go on the orders of Schiphol and BZK, while they had this dossier in hand. They knew full well of its content and did not factor it into the discussion. As Shareholder, the government of St. Maarten did not reach out to the holding board of the airport to assess the validity of the serious complaints and accusations in the dossier. This is a gross case of negligence by the PM and the Council of Ministers and more failure of oversight,” Emmanuel said.

The MP is of the opinion that the PM practices a “hands-off” approach when it politically suits her best, not the country and its institutions. He questioned how exactly are MP’s playing politics as the PM claimed, with the dossier? “Asking about its existence, being told it wasn’t booked in, then finding out it was purposely kept hidden while you had multiple opportunities to disclose it over the past two years, is not about playing politics, it’s about being transparent and open with the people of St. Maarten, something the Prime Minister continues to disrespect,” MP Emmanuel said.

He continued: “The dossier outlined possible project bidding illegalities, excess costs by the former Schiphol CFO of almost Naf 150,000, mis-use of credit cards of over Naf 300,000, the hiring of current employees of other government owned companies to oversee construction projects, the renting of apartment for God knows what, complaints of possible illegal acts by the board of PJIA. This did not come from a regular airport employee, but its COO. The politics that is being played is by the PM who has allowed this messy environment to exist at PJIA and now trying to run from it,” he said.

The MP also dismissed the PM’s accusation that politics were being played to instill mistrust in the government and its Parliamentary support. “I have news for the PM, nobody trusts you. I have never agreed with former State Secretary Raymond Knops on anything, but there is one exception; when he told the PM in May 2021: “The trust in the collaboration with your government has been damaged. By continuously handling too late and not forceful enough, you not only endanger the airport reconstruction, but as a direct result the economic recovery of the entire country.”

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Minister Anna E. Richardson commemorates International Customs Day

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On January 26, 2022, Customs organizations all over the world join in celebrating International Customs Day under the theme “Customs bolstering Recovery, Renewal and Resilience.” The Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson commemorated this day by inviting Customs St. Maarten to the Government Administration Building so that they could be duly celebrated as well.

“This is a special day where we celebrate and recognize the role of our customs officers and highlight the working conditions and challenges that they face on the job. On this memorable day, I thank all our customs officers for the work that they have been carrying out on behalf of the country and reiterate my commitment to the continual improvement of this department,” stated Minister Richardson.

During the ceremony, Minister Richardson took the opportunity to recognize some members of the customs team for their outstanding qualities, performance and commitment. Customs officer Gabriela Cathalina-Garcia, who recently joined the Customs Department, was recognized for her dedication, performance, and involvement in the PCS committee where she has proven herself to be a dedicated worker, also scoring the maximum on the “National Decree on the Import, Export and Transit” test.

Customs officer Isha Marlin-Brown, who has been working at the department since 2013, was recognized for the efficiency shown in her work. During the past three years, she has worked in a supervisory role where she has not only exceeded expectations as shift leader but also encourages her colleagues to be the best that they can be by remaining up to date on laws pertaining to customs.

Among the recipients recognized was customs officer Franklin Bernadina. Minister Richardson expressed her appreciation for the passion that officer Bernadina has and continues to display when it comes to the department. She stated, “Officer Bernadina is a leader at heart. He shows up to the call of duty and goes above and beyond to ensure the customs department is well-represented at any given moment. I am truly grateful for his attentiveness and dedication to the staff, the department, the wellness and growth of the Ministry and the overall country.”

“During today’s ceremony, I introduced the newly instated Management Team for the Customs Department consisting of Mr. A. Doran, Mr. F. Bernadina, Ms. J. La Paix and Mr. J.S.R. Romney. I remain faithful that this team will continue to enhance the department further and foster an environment in which all our customs officers are given the opportunity and resources to grow and excel, thereby ensuring the safety and security of our borders where the in and out-flow of goods are concerned. On behalf of the Government of St. Maarten, I hereby extend congratulations to our local customs officers, regionally and around the world,” concluded Minister Richardson.

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Three parliamentary factions’ hosts press conference to voice their discontent

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In a somewhat unprecedented move, Leader of the United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said on Wednesday in a press statement that three (3) opposition factions have called a joint press conference for Thursday, January 27th at 2 pm. The factions are Emmanuel, PFP and UD.

“It has been stated that these factions are totally upset by the arrogance of the government of Sint Maarten and its supporting factions in parliament. This is a new level of disregard for the minority in parliament.

“While the factions of Emmanuel, UD and PFP have voiced their discontent throughout the budgetary proceedings, their arguments fell on deaf ears and all kind of childish arguments continue to be thrown at the MPs who question this modus operandi of the coalition.

“It is beyond comprehension that not only was there no consideration for the arguments brought forward by the opposition members, but the warnings against passing the budget at this juncture from the legal sector were also callously brushed aside.

“The advice by the Council of Advice from December 2021 had the same observation. Without that written consent for deviation from the Kingdom Council of Ministers, only a balanced budget can be approved, unless we want to be in contravention.

“What do we see instead? Not only the unbalanced budget, presented by government, but amendments to the budget flying left and right.

“And when faced with the truth, what do we get? The old school intimation tactics: how will civil servants and others be paid, if we don’t approve the budget? Well, how were the civil servants paid in 2021, when the budget 2021 was only approved on July 1, 2021,” MP Wescot Williams said in her press statement on Wednesday.

“You would think that the wiser heads in the coalition would take the lead in this type of situations. But no, to the contrary. I guess, now that big egos have prevailed, the budget will be quietly held back until the opportune time, whenever that is. However, you turn or twist it, this budget saga is far from over,” stated MP Wescot-Williams.

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Parliament approves budget, government elated to move towards ratification

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Parliament of St. Maarten approved the country’s National Budget for 2022, on Monday, January 24, with nine MPs ‘for’ and four MPs ‘against’ as government awaits the deviation approval by the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR). In her opening remarks to Parliament, during the start of the budget debate, Prime Minister Jacobs addressed the concerns of several Members of Parliament about the handling of the budget without having the deviation from article 25 granted by the RMR.

Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “Government has a legal obligation to submit the budget to the Parliament. Government has a legal obligation to request deviation based on the deficit because of the disasters we have been facing from 2017 until present. The Committee of Financial Supervision (CFT) has advised positively since November 30, 2021, and the RMR should have already approved such as per law, however, they remain in default. No conditions other than the provision in the Kingdom Act Financial Supervision can be added to be able to deviate.”

St. Maarten received official confirmation from State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen to have the deviation of article 25 handled as an agenda point in the next RMR meeting scheduled for February 4. State Secretary Van Huffelen has confirmed that this request would be heading to the RMR with a positive advice from the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) as per the CFT’s advice.

“Once the Parliament has sent government the final report of the approved legislation related to the budget, the Ministry of Finance will then incorporate all approved amendments brought in by government and parliament. When the approval for deviation from the budget norms is granted by the RMR, the legislation to establish the budget will be enacted. Based on our preparations, this can be finalized by mid-February. These are the political and legal realities we are facing. Despite this, based on the positive dialogue held with the new State Secretary, I have high expectations of improved relations with our Dutch kingdom partners,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

The Council of Ministers have deliberated and presented the many improvements required to ensure the country is running optimally, as such, patience is warranted. All civil servants and employees of government owned companies are commended for their hard work and support throughout the pandemic encompassed with the temporary austerity measures.

“The government of St. Maarten will endeavour to ensure there is consistent application of our existing policies and procedures. Monitoring and evaluation will continue to aid in identifying the most valuable and efficient use of the resources at our disposal and we will continue to explore all possible options to remedy this temporary situation which we find ourselves in,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

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Florida aircraft becomes disabled on runway Monday evening

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) – On Monday, January 24, at approximately 7:15 pm, a private aircraft BE58 out of Florida, became disabled on the runway at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA), PJIA announced on Tuesday morning in a media statement.

“There were no injuries reported, and the Airport’s Operations team with the assistance of the Sunline Technical Maintenance (STM) and the Signature Flight Support teams were successful with the removal of the aircraft. The Airport’s runway was restored to regular operations at 20:23,” PJIA statement concludes.

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PFP: Passing of 2022 budget marks a low point in modern Sint Maarten history

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Despite having independent legal advice demonstrating that the country’s draft 2022 budget is in contravention of Sint Maarten’s Constitution, a majority of Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday night still passed the draft legislation.

Party for Progress (PFP) MPs Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson were among the four (4) MPs who voted against the draft legislation.

The legal advice - which was discussed by MPs during Monday’s public meeting of Parliament - was compiled and signed by former Secretary-General of Parliament Nancy Joubert, LL.M, on January 7, 2022. It concluded that:

“Even though there might be sufficient (legal) grounds to deviate from the budget standards of Article 15 of the Kingdom Law, establishing the draft National Ordinance Budget 2022 without the explicit prior approval/permission of the Kingdom Council of Ministers is not possible nor desirable.”

The advice also stated that “doing so would mean that Parliament and Government are acting in contravention with their own Constitution but also with the Kingdom Law.”

According to the legal advice, the potential consequences include the Kingdom Council of Ministers issuing an instruction to the Sint Maarten Government, the Ombudsman challenging the law’s constitutionality in the Constitutional Court, and the Governor refusing to ratify the draft legislation.

“I cannot understand how my colleagues could have this legal advice in hand, to have concrete evidence that this process is unconstitutional and still vote ‘yes’,” said a baffled MP Peterson on Monday night. “It is one of the lowest points in our recent history, when the defenders of the law are trampling on them instead. This sends a strong message to the country, that there are no limits to what they will do for their own agendas.”

“One of our colleagues even said that the Constitution doesn’t matter in this case. If this isn’t blatant disregard, I don’t know what is,” said MP Gumbs. “This is a dangerous precedent to set. If we put the proverbial knee on the Constitution now, we are making it okay for others to do the same in the future. This counts not only for us as an autonomous country, but also in the more distant future as an independent nation.”

Although MP Gumbs acknowledged that some MPs might feel frustrated with the current state of relations within the Kingdom, she believes that this is not justification to break the law. “We are in a situation that we do not like, with a democratic deficit, and nobody is denying this. But does this mean that we go against our own laws because we don't like how they are affecting us now?” questioned MP Gumbs.

The PFP faction also countered the argument that they are against civil servants, including teachers and justice workers, being paid because they voted against the draft budget and its various amendments.

“We voted against the budget because the process is unconstitutional,” reiterated MP Peterson. “Article 14 of the Kingdom Law CFT already stipulates that, in the event that the budget is not approved in time, the country can use last year’s budget as a basis for the financial administration until the approved budget is available. There was no fear that civil servants would not receive their salaries because the budget was not passed. To say otherwise is simply misinforming and emotionally manipulating the people of Sint Maarten.”

“If we voted for the budget after receiving explicit approval from the Kingdom Council of Ministers, then I would have thrown my support behind it,” added MP Gumbs. “I encouraged some of the broad ideas within some of the motions and amendments. But all we had to do was wait two weeks and then come back to pass the budget, like it is proscribed by law. This is not unreasonable and I can’t understand why the Government seemingly had no patience to even do the correct thing. I would like to remind the public that the 2020 budget was almost 5 months delayed, while the 2021 budget was 7 months delayed. These are longer delays than the 2022 budget.”

MPs Gumbs and Peterson noted the possibility that the Kingdom Council of Ministers may end up approving a different allowable deficit than what was in the now-passed 2022 budget. The budget in its current form has a deficit of more than 120 million guilders.

“If the Kingdom Council of Ministers eventually approve a deviation of, say 108 million guilders in deficit, then the Government would have to draft a new budget and we would start this whole process all over again,” said MP Peterson.

“We tried to caution our fellow MPs about the potential consequences of passing an unconstitutional budget. We shall see what will happen now. I sincerely hope that I am proved wrong and it does not end up being detrimental for the people of Sint Maarten,” concluded MP Gumbs.

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WIB Clears the air on rumors of client Covid entry requirements

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Windward Islands Bank (WIB) has decided to issue a press release to clear up misleading information regarding its bank Covid entry protocols, the WIB said on Monday in a press statement.

“Management of the Bank stated that it has been brought to its attention that rumors have been circulating of the Bank’s intention to require clients to present vaccination proof or proof of negative Covid results to enter the Bank. This statement is false. 

“An internal memo to Staff of the MCB Group has been inadvertently circulated in the public forum and appears to have been misinterpreted. 

“WIB Management reassures all that regular Covid protocols apply for the general public entering the Bank. Clients are required to wear a mask, sanitize and maintain 2 meters’ distance inside the Bank.

“The Bank apologizes for any inconvenience caused and continues to welcome clients in a safe environment,” the WIB statement concludes.

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Prime Minister Jacobs profiles Trust Fund financial allocations

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Prime Minister of Sint Maarten Hon. Silveria Jacobs in the House of Parliament on Wednesday provided information to Members of Parliament (MPs) during the parliamentary session that is handling the draft 2022 national budget about the Trust Fund portfolio which comprises ten (10) projects that are currently in implementation as well as three (3) projects under preparation.

The prime minister stated that the Government of Sint Maarten has strategically prioritized these projects geared at recovery, reconstruction and building resilience of the country’s institutions.

In 2018, the Government of the Netherlands committed an amount of US$554 million to the Trust Fund program, which was aimed at: The recovery and reconstruction of Sint Maarten following the devastation caused by the September 2017 Atlantic hurricanes; and

Strengthening the country’s resilience to future natural disasters.

The Government of the Netherlands had previously transferred US$515.35 million to the World Bank and in December 2021, the Netherlands transferred the final tranche of US$139 million.

As a summary of the Trust Fund projects, the prime minister informed the MPs as follows:

  • US$515.36 million has been transferred to the Trust Fund, this amounts to the total to be transferred figures.  
  • 10 projects are under implementation for US$311.3 million, of which US$146.3 million has been disbursed to date, and US$122.2 million spent.

For the overview of the Trust Fund program, the prime minister added:

  • That the Investment income to date is approximately US$13.7 million, which reflows to the Trust Fund for projects.
  • At this moment the entire Trust Fund has been allocated to existing or future projects by the Steering Committee.

The final remaining finances of the Trust Fund have been allotted by the Steering Committee in July 2021. On the initiative of the Government of Sint Maarten, the remaining finances will go to the exploration of a Mental Health Project and a Housing Project.

The Steering Committee has allocated eight million US dollars to a mental health project. The Proposal is already in development with the Mental Health Foundation and focuses on long-term care for chronic patients.

Project preparation is scheduled to begin later this month. In the preparation phase, the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) and the World Bank, with the support of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA) are investigating the possible inclusion of a component aimed at substance abuse prevention care, and mitigation.

The Steering Committee has also reserved 20 million US dollars for a sustainable housing project, which seeks to provide solutions for affordable housing. The proposal is still under development but will focus on co-funding options.

Funds are to be allocated for the extension of the Emergency Recovery Project (ERP-1) US$15 million which would cover the upgrading of sports facilities, schools; a building for the Meteorological Department; additional works at the Police Stations; and environmental conservation activities.

The World Bank and the NRPB are working to draft a feasible concept note to present for discussion with all stakeholders.

“There is plenty being done and there is still plenty to do. What I have presented today (Wednesday) are just some highlights of Government’s priorities,” Prime Minister Hon. Silveria Jacobs stated.

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MP Wescot questions government’s cohesion with its budget presentation and its parliamentary amendments

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - From the appearances of it, the draft budget 2022 for the country is set to be approved by Parliament this week, notwithstanding the blatant violations of the constitution. To add insult to injury, the constitutional obligation to allow the ombudsman time to assess the constitutionality of this ordinance is not specifically included in the enforcement article of the ordinance, Member of Parliament (MP) Leader of the United Democrats (UD) Sarah Wescot Williams stated over the weekend. And for her the question remains why not.

The UP and NA  factions act as if there is nothing wrong under the sun with approving a budget that is not ready for passing by parliament or do they  care that this reflects negatively on parliament.

“I get the distinct feeling that the rush is to get the budget over with and “back to business as usual; we will cross the next bridge when we get there.”

For unknown reasons, except maybe egocentric ones, the majority refused to even consider a postponement of the passing (voting) on the budget. A budget with a deficit, which is against the constitution  without having Kingdom government’s approval.

MP Wescot expects more of the same grandstanding with which the majority in parliament tries to spin these tactics of government. “I expect that this criticism will be countered by statements, such as the rights of parliament are being exercised and more of what we have heard before”’.

The MP countered, “Parliament’s budget right and amendment right are not meant to upstage the minsters of the very coalition he or she is from. Worse yet, of the same faction”.

The debates thus far have ended with a slew of motions,  2 amendments and a motion/amendment combination, that is nothing else than  pandering to the institution in question. Does Turning Point deserve an increase? Most definitely! And so do countless other deserving subsidized institutions. Can they too forego the procedure for a budgetary increase? Where is the minister expected to allocate the funding for Turning Point from? Add it to the deficit? MP Wescot continued to query.

Another unbelievable stunt, in MP Wescot’s view is that the Prime Minister presents the budget of the Integrity Chamber (IC) and with the stroke of a pen, the coalition cuts this budget without asking what it is based on. In its 2020 report, the Integrity Chamber stated its budget was not sufficient. The Chamber must be working according to a government approved program. So how much does that cost?  The year 2022 is the first year that the full budget of the Integrity Chamber is borne by the country St. Maarten and this is how we treat it?

Another case in point is the subsidy for carnival. “In the UP’s budget amendment, the direct subsidy that the TEATT ministry allocated to the SCDF for carnival is removed and put with the Tourism marketing budget, so-called because carnival marketing will go on bid. However, in the same budget, the TEATT minister says this will only happen in 2023. The TEATT minister has to now explain how that is going to work in 2022”.

The TEATT minister puts the Philipsburg Market on the capital budget of government, only to see it removed by his own faction, because “the market can potentially be rebuild/renovated by the Harbor. Was this not known when the budget was presented and does the Harbor not have enough issues to deal with as it is? While the capital budget is up in the air at this time, what is wrong with leaving the market on the budget and grab the first opportunity that presents itself to rebuild the market? What happened to the capital projects of 2021 that never got off the ground, such as the Vendors’ Village for NAf. 720.000, -- and the same Philipsburg market.

The VSA minister tells parliament in the budget that he is contemplating “a review of the vaccination program (3rd booster), yet his faction allocates an additional budget of f. 200.000,-- for free covid test kits. Now the minister has to scramble to create a policy for free test kits. Who gets and who has to buy? Should not the focus be on the approaching endemic status of the covid 19 virus, is my question, MP Wescot stated.
While the minister of TEATT announced a very prudent approach towards US preclearance on St. Maarten, his faction is hell bent on having the process started and reported on to parliament. No ifs or buts. With the first report due by March 31st.

And then a motion to the finance minister to instruct the CBCS to prioritize certain legislation. If this is the only way the NA/UP coalition can get the attention of our Central Bank, then something is seriously wrong.  But then again, it could be just the optics.

I can only hope that all the ministers to whom these motions and amendments apply will give their honest take on these and not tell its coalition members what they want to hear, MP Wescot, who has asked for the ministers’ views on these motions, summarized.

“I guess at the end of the day, the spin doctors will rise and spin all of the above to their liking and the people of St. Maarten will have to wait and see how it all plays out”, the MP concluded.

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