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USP MP’s Arrindell and Buncamper congratulate MP Emmanuel. Say the laws have to be reviewed

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Members of Parliament of the United St. Maarten Party (USP) Akeem Arrindell and Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper have expressed words of congratulations to MP Christophe Emmanuel on his victorious outcome of his recent case in which the prosecutor’s request to the Joint Court of Justice to prosecute him was denied.

The USP MP’s feel that Justice has prevailed in this particular case. But wondered how MP Emmanuel will restore his good name in the community after having it tarnished due to the alleged wrongdoings labelled on him by the prosecutor’s office. In 2019 MP Emmanuel was unable to successfully pass the screening to become a minister due to his pending case.

This is the second time in the seven years between 2012 and 2019 that the prosecutor’s office attempted to prosecute a sitting or former minister. In 2012 former minister of finance Hiro Shigemoto was accused of offenses by the prosecutor’s office. We all know the outcome of that situation. Today it is the former minister of VROMI Christophe Emmanuel. In the past years, several parliamentarians were summoned by the prosecutor to appear before the bench to defend themselves. Some still have pending cases, some were acquitted and some have been convicted.

One would wonder if there is an attempt to bring credence to the adage that all politicians in St. Maarten are corrupt, while the dictum “innocent until proven guilty” is often not applied.

While we are aware that the prosecutor’s office has the right to investigate, and when deemed necessary, to arrest and detain individuals suspected of transgressions, we must be concerned with the unlimited sweeping powers of the prosecutor’s office. We have seen people, politicians as well as civilians, arrested in the most humiliating fashions and detained, only to be released a few days later, without any apology or signs of regret from the authorities.

While there is faith in the justice system, there is much uneasiness in the execution of the process to bring one suspected of wrongdoings to court. While the laws are on the books, they need to be revisited and reviewed. A society should not have to live in fear of the actions of those who are supposed to guarantee justice for all. The system is intended to bring security to its people, not fear.

We wish MP Emmanuel much success with his future endeavors, as he is now free to carry on living as any ordinary citizen should.

MP Akeem

(USP) MP Akeem Arrindell 

 

 

 

 

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DaShaun Prince performs “The Forever That Never Was Dance” on Tuesday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Tuesday November 3, 2020, DaShaun Prince presents The Forever That Never Was Dance performance at the John Larmonie Center in Philipsburg from 6.00PM to 7.30 PM.

“The Forever That Never Was” is an independent production by DaShaun Prince that explores the effects of gender-based violence and toxic relationships and is based on autobiographical experiences.

The Forever That Never Was is DaShaun Prince’s partial fulfillment of the bachelor’s degree of fine arts, performance, and choreography at the school of dance of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Jamaica.

The production consists of a multimedia presentation around Image - Movement – Sound captured in spoken word, text, video production, site specific choreography filmed at various locations on St. Maarten.

The Forever That Never Was” is an original inter-disciplinary production featuring emerging choreographer and dancer Dashaun Prince, dancer Jonathan van Arneman, videographer and editor Lorenzo (Sigma Defence) Gomez, music by Dua Saleh and student mentor advisor Clara Reyes.

The Forever That Never Was” production is followed by a lecture by Cassandra Richardson MA, MsW, gender-based violence specialist.

The Forever That Never Was is part the of calendar of events for domestic violence awareness month of the Ministry of Justice.

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New conference opportunities for the Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – by Cdr. Bud Slabbaert) - “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked,” Warren Buffet an American business tycoon who is considered one of the most successful investors in the world, was quoted to have said. The less affluent ordinarier would say that “you miss the water when the well goes dry.” Either way, that’s pretty much where we are right now. So, what to do and what alternatives are available for a region that is heavily depending on tourism. Hybrid Conferences!

A conference delegate generates an average economic impact of US$ 2,229 according to the Convention Center Annual Report of Orlando’s Orange County in Florida. Assuming that such relates to 3-day conferences whereby delegates spend on average five nights on location, it would mean at least US$ 446 per person per day. The Caribbean may not be Orlando, nevertheless, it may give a hint to suggest what number might be proper for the region here.

It is fairly realistic to say that conferences that gather more than five hundred people will be out of the question for the next six to twelve months. That is what conference organizers are confronted with when doing their planning. What lies beyond that, is foggy. Persons in charge of conference and event participation at companies are dealing with the same dilemma. On top of that, budgets may be shrinking because of the impact of a global recession. Although, some may argue that sponsors are shifting funds from 2020 to next year.

Usually those major conferences are held in metropolitan locations abroad with the appropriate large conference facilities and hotel capacity. Not typical for the Caribbean region. Organizers of those major conferences on their defense will argue, that social contact, seeing face-to-face and a hand shake are crucial for doing business. However, at this time and for the foreseeable future, the trend is social distancing, looking mask-to-mask, and elbow-to-elbow instead of a handshake.  

Is there a new-normal in sight here, or are the changes just temporary until who knows when? For one, planning meetings of less than five hundred participants should be targeted at this time. Maybe two hundred fifty is even less risky. Companies will be looking for alternative methods of product and service marketing. They will explore new metrics for success. They are willing to invest in participating in an event model that offers a near-guarantee to reach their target audiences.

A true opportunity for the Caribbean! There is a dire need to develop new event models. Hybrid conferences, combining a humble in-person conference experience on location and a robust virtual component for remote audiences. The latter means that event organizers may need new additional expertise. They are confronted with the fact that they are managing two different types of events wrapped into one which results in some unique challenges. Stakeholders with different backgrounds should put their heads together.

A new rhythm of conferencing that puts the tingle in the fingers and a tingle in the feet of participants will be in demand. The number of virtual online event platforms as an alternative have fast grown recently, but virtual conferences are just not the same as the “real McCoy”. Plus, patience and interest are wearing out after a period of Webinars, and Zoom meetings with a series of boxes on a screen where it is hard to replicate the value and experience for attendees, speakers and marketers/sponsors.

In the Caribbean, the new conference model could be branded “Retreat” or “Summit”. Either one sounds appealing. A Retreat is like a sanctuary which gives a safe feeling. Presently Spot-on. A Summit is high-level meeting. Always Spot-on. These are appropriate brand names that suggest safety and excellence and just fit in nicely with the relaxing atmosphere and environment of the region. Hybrid not good? Hybrid means a crossbreed, thus not a thoroughbred.  

Get in the groove and let some good professional discussions roll at a Retreat or Summit in the tropical zone which will be the “live hub” of the event. The goodies will also be made available via the internet to broaden the audiences. Trying to blend in-person and virtual may be challenge. Yet, modern technology allows for various types of interactions to better replicate in-person events online. For the Caribbean region that is in need for economy diversification, there may be an opportunity for existing local entrepreneurs in the field of media production and for savvy young talent with creativity ambitions, to provide the needed assistance.

Will the big trade show business fully recover at some time? At some time, yes. However, the number may not be anywhere near pre-pandemic levels. In the meantime, a newly developed hybrid model will have shown its advantages and will remain to stay. It may turn out that such hybrid model is more targeted and cost effective and has an enduring value for participants in distant locations. Lots of marketing money is wasted to show off and trying to be more impressing than the competitor at major events. The hybrid model offers more of a focus-on exclusiveness opening for a more moderate marketing budget.

Looking at it from various angles, this is a chance for a Caribbean region that is looking for new forms of sustainability; creating an annual hybrid conference model that will last. Conferences are not just organized by industry organizations. Many are private initiatives for a particular purpose. Such initiatives may be developed here locally in the region.

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Johnson withdrew injunction against Planet Hollywood’s building permit

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment & Infrastructure (VROMI), the Honorable Egbert J. Doran, hereby informs the general public that on Wednesday, October 28th, 2020, Steven Johnson withdrew the injunction case against the Ministry of VROMI.  

Minister Doran stated that during the court procedure, which took place before the administrative court, it became clear that Johnson’s requests would be denied. Johnson had requested the court, among other things, to nullify the building permit, which was granted to Balaclava N.V. However, Johnson had previously filed an objection against the building permit on August 7th, 2020. Consequently, it is not permitted for the same objection to be filed at the court and to the Ministry of VROMI simultaneously. Subsequently Johnson would be declared inadmissible by the court. Thus, the objection process is currently pending.  

Due to the aforementioned, Johnson decided to withdraw the court procedure after assurances were given on behalf of the Minister of VROMI that a date for an objection hearing would be scheduled. In addition, Balaclava N.V. gave Johnson assurances that it would not start with any type of building activities as long as no decision on the objection process was given. In fact, Balaclava N.V. stated that it would refrain from such building activities during the appeal period as well, which is a period of six weeks.  

Apparently, the court procedure began due to Johnson not receiving a response to the objection that he filed. In the statement of defense submitted, it was pointed out to him, as well as during the court hearing that in all objection cases the Minister has four months to make a decision, of which the response period can be extended with an additional 30 days. Considering that the request was filed on August 7th, 2020, this response period evidently had not passed its due date. 

Additionally, an article was published in the Daily Herald on September 16th, 2020 by Johnson pending the objection process. In this article numerous and completely unfounded allegations and accusations were uttered by Johnson about the Ministry as well as Balaclava N.V. According to the article, Johnson is seemingly heading a crusade against Ministry of VROMI and even makes accusations of illegal activity. This is regretful because these accusations are very serious and not based on fact whatsoever. Any type of evidence supporting these claims are missing, as was pointed out in the statement of defense that was submitted to the court. 

Many of the statements made by Johnson in this article, as well as in the court documents submitted by him, are incorrect. Johnson for instance states that the second building permit was not subject to public scrutiny, which is simply wrong because it was published in the National Gazette on August 7, 2020 that a building permit was issued, thereby allowing the public to submit their objections. As was extensively argued in the statement of defense, an extremely due process was followed before issuing the second building permit to Balaclava N.V. Not only were the considerations of the judgment of April 29, 2020 taken into account, Johnson’s statements were also considered. Most importantly, Balaclava N.V. provided a significant amount of additional information that was previously missing from the request, on the basis of which an informed decision was made. The building permit is completely up to par with the Building Ordinance as well as the general principles of good administration.

Moreover, the Ministry tried to involve Johnson as much as possible in this process whilst issuing the building permit. Johnson attended a meeting on June 10, 2020 in which he voiced his concerns and after that meeting Johnson was invited to peruse all the additional documents Balaclava N.V. had provided. Johnson declined this invitation and is therefore not in a position to make any type of accusations about the technical soundness of the building permit. All of the unfounded accusations and allegations made by Johnson about the Minister in the article are therefore vehemently denied.

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Minister of TEATT De Weever unveils economic recovery plan

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever unveiled her economic recovery plan yesterday to the Parliament of Sint Maarten. The plan is called “A Path to Economic Recovery & Sustainable Growth.” The Minister described it as deliberately practical and built on three broad pillars designed first to promote, restore, and protect tourism; secondly to create an attractive business climate through innovative fiscal reform to offer relief and encourage growth; and thirdly build real economic diversification based on Sint Maarten’s natural comparative advantages.

“Members of Parliament, through you I have addressed the people of Sint Maarten. We are dealing with an unprecedented crisis that requires unconventional responses which are included in this plan,” Minister de Weever said. “Our plan ensures that our people are at the center of benefitting from these unconventional but realistic responses.”

One of Minister De Weever’s unconventional responses to the crisis is an overhaul of the outdated tax system which burdens many businesses and local entrepreneurs and stifles investment and growth. Minister De Weever proposed abolishing profit and income tax and replacing it with a very small tax on financial transactions instead that would maintain revenues, broaden the tax base, and, most importantly, make Sint Maarten attractive to invest and do business in. The proposal would offer relief and encourage private sector led innovation.

“I would like to leave you with a quote from Ben Bernanke that I know will resonate with the members of our Parliament, my colleagues in government, and the viewing and listening public ‘during crises, people are distinguished by those who act and those who fear to act,’” Minister De Weever continued.

“We must act. We must act cohesively in the national interest. It will not work if we're not all in it together. I need parliament's support across all party lines in the interest of Sint Maarten and our people to see this plan through. The plan we presented here today represents many days, weeks and months of hard work deliberations and discussions from all who are affected by this pandemic. It is not a plan built on fantasy or false hope, but on real achievable objectives that will improve all our lives and our children's lives.”

“This darkness will not outlive us. This crisis will not outlast us. There will be a new dawn. There will be better times to come again. Let's come together as a people, as a community, and a nation and see this recovery through. Thank you and God bless Sint Maarten,” Minister De Weever concluded. Details of the plan will be made available to the public shortly.

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ARRINDELL: HIGH COUNCILS OF STATE & FIRST RESPONDERS CARRIED OUR DEMOCRACY

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Leader of the People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) and first President of the Parliament of Sint Maarten at the birth of country status Gracita Arrindell, reflected on the past ten years and said in a statement on Monday that: “Ten years of constitutional reform arrived fast and furious. October 10, 2020.

“It’s been a tumultuous decade plagued by hurricanes, and a lack of political will power to acknowledge our mistakes and a commitment to do better. The end of a decade that culminated in a COVID- 19 pandemic that caught the world off –guard and brought Sint Maarten to its knees. No one expected this. It has become crystal clear we failed to learn from our mistakes while being an Island Territory under a former constitutional arrangement -the former Netherlands Antilles.

“We were granted a new constitutional status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands that would allow us more freedom by bringing the decision-making process taken closer to home and we squandered it. No need to fly to Willemstad by our then senators for meetings to ‘defend’ our island or bring back what we deserve from the Federal Governments coffers.

“During the last Federal elections held on January 27, 2006 the then Netherlands Antilles faced an estimated debit of over five Billion Antillean (Nafl 5 Billion) guilders. Sint Maarten debts were calculated as over five hundred million (Nafl. 500 million) including the debts at the time of government owned companies.

“We aspired to assume our own responsibilities and new tasks to execute policies, programs and projects that would enrich the quality of the lives of all our citizens. A new status that would enable the policy makers to look their constituents squarely in the eye and keep promises made of safer streets, affordable homes, less taxes, better jobs, modern education, strong economy, healthy environment.

“The new date (first January 2010, then later revised to October 2010) had many on Sint Maarten worried. Yet the willingness to put our shoulders under this new structure and create a better, stronger Sint Maarten prevailed. Our frontline public servants such as teachers and first responders, including police officers, firefighters, nurses went beyond their calls of duty in spite of the fact that for many it took a decade to have their new legal status finalized. After all, we are only sixteen square miles, easy to drive around or walk into the neighborhoods. Not too difficult to manage, right? Wrong.”

Arrindell states: “Instead of the above, after a shaky start on 10/10/10 we clearly lost our focus of working for ALL our people ALL the time instead of working part-time by most of our elected representatives over the past ten years. Not taking a leaf from the Antillean history pages especially in terms of creating a stable financial management for our governments had dire consequences. For example, the General Audit Chamber of the former Netherlands Antilles warned in its yearly reports of the unbalanced budgets, gross financial mismanagement and tardy submission of the financial reports and lack of approval by Parliament. Today our own General Audit Chamber sounds the same alarms as its predecessors.”

Gracita continues: “After ten years, we can state that the true ‘saviors’ of our young democracy are first and foremost the majority of people and businesses who suffered yet peacefully put up with lack of decisive and emphatic leadership while still giving consecutive governments a chance to govern. Secondly, after a decade our system of checks and balances put in place prior to 10/10/10 works to a great extent. The separation of powers between the legislative branch, (Parliament) and the executive branch (Council of Ministers) is a good example.

“The establishment of the high Councils of State: The Council of Advice, the General Audit Chamber, and Ombudsman office carried the day for our democracy. These women and men deserve much credit and respect for taking their responsibilities to the highest possible level. Their recommendations must not end up in the proverbial ‘backburner’ of Parliament. Rather the contents of these reports must be discussed, prioritized, approved and executed to the benefit of our constituents and businesses. The other institutions guarding as well as guiding this elaborate process of making this new status work include the Constitutional Court, Council for law enforcement, Electoral Council, Corporate Governance Council and other councils and chambers”.

Arrindell concludes: We cannot turn back the clock. After ten years we can safely conclude that the patience and good will of our citizens have run dry. Looking forward we must:

  1. substantially strengthen our economic and financial income base by working in close partnership with the private sector.
  2. lessen the tax burden by broadening its base and eliminate taxes that do not work. This is especially important for our elderly population.
  3. drastically improve education in all aspects
  4. deep- clean all our neighborhoods
  5. deliver affordable homes for our people we have been promising for so long
  6. have a diplomatic strategy to positively engage with our partners in the Dutch Kingdom.
  7. last but certainly not least, appoint a COVID -19 ‘Tzar’ plus a team to present a coherent Covid prevention, containment, and eradication policy for the next short and midterm until it is safe to live normally again.

“The time is here and now for the elected officials to deliver on its promises and for the people to prosper,” Arrindell concluded.

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Minister Irion Cancels 75 Million Guilder Bond as Discussions Underway with the Dutch

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion announced that he has requested the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS) to suspend (cancel) the auction (bond).

Sint Maarten is currently in discussions with the Netherlands regarding the refinancing of a loan, which is scheduled to mature on October 21st, 2020.

Sint Maarten has opted to accept the proposal of the Netherlands as outlined in their letter of October 16th, 2020, which will result in the postponement of the maturity date and the avoidance of a technical default.

During the coming four weeks, the Government of Sint Maarten will continue to work on the completion of the process to meet the conditions of the second tranche liquidity support, which can then lead to further discussions on the third tranche liquidity support as well as long-term solutions for expiring loans. 

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Dutch royals cancel Greek holiday after MPs condemn bad example

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – King Willem-Alexander, queen Maxima and their three daughters are returning from their Greek autumn holiday after a matter of hours following a torrent of criticism in parliament and on social media.

‘We will end our holiday. We have seen the reactions and messages in the media,’ the couple said in a statement. ‘We don’t want there to be any doubt: it is crucial to follow the guidelines in order to get Covid-19 under control and discussion about our holiday is not contributing to that.’

The royals have a villa near the resort of Doroufi in the Peloponnese in southern Greece which they bought in 2012 and had left for a short break in the government jet on Friday afternoon.

The area is code yellow, which means there are no restrictions on travel. However, MPs are furious the royals left for a half-term break, given that prime minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday people should travel as little as possible, including during the holidays.

The state information service issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying that Rutte was aware of the trip and that he has ministerial responsibility for the family. But heath minister and deputy prime minister Hugo de Jonge had not been briefed and was surprised by questions when asked about the trip by the press on Friday afternoon.

Criticism

MPs have been highly critical of the prime minister and the king. ‘The is was not a good example to the rest of the Dutch,’ said Labour MP Attje Keuken, who questioned why Rutte had allowed the trip to go ahead.

NOS royalty reporter Kysia Hekster said the king’s decision to abroad on holiday is an ‘enormous dent’ in his image as someone who unites the people. ‘He made a wrong judgement,’ she said.

Earlier in the epidemic the king and queen were at the centre of another coronavirus related row when they were pictured at a Greek restaurant, standing too close to the owner.

(DutchNews)

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Division Inspection approves inspection reports for several schools. Bussing needs being addressed

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (MECYS) would hereby like to provide the general public with a further update regarding schools’ readiness to resume face to face instruction on upcoming Monday, October 19th, 2020, the cabinet of MECYS said in a statement on Friday evening.

“As per today, October 16th, 2020, the safety plans, and inspection reports of several other schools were approved by the Division of Inspection ECYS.   Additionally, schools have indicated bussing needs and we are working with bus operators to ensure that all students requiring transport to and from school are accommodated.

“The Minister is aware that all schools will not commence with Examination classes on October 19th, 2020 as several schools have made plans to start at a later date. All schools that have not yet met all the requirements and will be finalizing during the course of the next week, will inform parents when classes for their children will resume via their various student tracking systems and online platforms during the course of the next few days.

“The general public is reminded that prior to the reopening of school campuses, it is of utmost importance that all safety plans and facility inspections are approved. This requirement is in place in an effort to safeguard the health and safety of students, teachers and staff. As we work together to keep our community safe, we appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

“As parents and students of Examination classes make their final preparations over the next few days to ensure a safe return, parents are encouraged to ensure that their child is equipped with their mask, sanitizer, water, lunch and all of the required learning materials requested by their child’s school, as children will be encouraged to avoid sharing these objects. Parents are also encouraged to remind their children to adhere to new safety guidelines in the school setting that will be shared by their teachers and school management, as well as on the school buses by the school bus operators. On the bus, each student will be required to sanitize their hands upon entry and will be required to wear a mask and to sit in the designated areas. If the child will carpool to school, parents should ensure that there is agreement amongst the adults that every child in the carpool wear their mask for the entire trip.

“Prior to leaving for school on Monday, parents are encouraged to ensure that their child is well. Parents are also encouraged to speak to their child about the return to school and to address any concerns that they may have. Parents should review with their children proper hand hygiene at home, especially before and after eating, sneezing, coughing, and adjusting to wearing a mask. Parents should also remind their children that they should make washing their hands immediately when returning home a part of their routine and that they should inform an adult if they are not feeling well.

“The Minister would like to inform the general public that releases to provide additional tips and inform all concerned about the safe return to school will continue over the course of the next few weeks. The Minister of ECYS would also like to assure the general public, education professionals, parents and students that all stakeholders will continue to work together to realize the safe return to school campuses.”

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Prefecture declares a state of health emergency for Saint-Martin as of Saturday

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) - Due to the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic, a state of health emergency is declared from Saturday 17 October 2020 at 00:00 throughout the French side the Prefecture announced on Friday.

The Prefecture of St. Bartholomew and Saint-Martin invites all economic actors and citizens to take note of the following measures: meetings or activities of more than six (6) people on public roads or in places open to the public are prohibited - Private parties are prohibited in establishments receiving the public - in bars and restaurants, guests will be limited to six (6) per table and the names of guests must be registered - Rule of 4m2 per person in high-traffic areas - Strengthening telework in business and in government where possible - At home it is recommended to limit family or friendly meetings to up to six (6) people and to wear a mask on this occasion.

These measures are taken to deal with the resurgence of the epidemic in our territories. The Prefecture calls on the entire population to respect them and to be civil.

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