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Government and NRPB on SMHDF funding request related to Housing

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Government of Sint Maarten would like to address the two articles regarding the Sint Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) that were published in The Daily Herald earlier this week. In these articles, SMHDF expressed its disappointment about the funding allocation decisions of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund.

Since the inception of the Trust Fund in 2018, 369 SMHDF units have been repaired, totaling US$ 1.06 Million. Worth noting is that the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) is making the final preparations to refurbish the 64 Belvedere tower apartments. These repairs, which have an estimated value of US$ 5.4 Million, have already been tendered and are scheduled to commence in the next few months. As it relates to the announcement of SMHDF to increase the rent of their tenants, the Government will be seeking further information from SMHDF.

With respect to the statement of SMHDF that it was never asked to meet with the Steering Committee “to properly present its case and explain the reasons why funding is so important”, the Government wishes to clarify that the procedures to submit proposals to the Steering Committee are formally set. Once the Council of Ministers supports a proposal that has received the necessary technical input from stakeholders, it is submitted to the Steering Committee for consideration. The representative of Sint Maarten in the Steering Committee receives instructions through the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers on the position of the Government in the Steering Committee. Third parties are not offered the opportunity to present their case to the Steering Committee.

On the statements made by the Steering Committee, the Government wishes to clarify that support from the Trust Fund, with the repair and new construction of low-cost housing, has been proposed on several occasions without setting a definitive amount. In a letter to the Steering Committee in March 2020, the Government estimated that a total amount of 22 million US Dollars would be needed for repairs in Belvedere. With this letter, the Government also reconfirmed its support for a potential housing project and highlighted possible financial support for SMHDF as part of such a project.

At the request of the Government, a Rapid Housing Sector Assessment was conducted by the World Bank, and extensive technical assistance was offered to SMHDF over the last few years. A review of the financial situation of SMHDF showed the need for structural improvements with the financial management of the Foundation. The recommendations as outlined in the Assessment are intended as a framework for discussion with the Government about possible actions to improve the housing market in Sint Maarten.

The Steering Committee met several times to discuss a potential housing project based on the outcomes of the Rapid Housing Sector Assessment and the financial review of SMHDF. Initially, a decision on a housing project was not made, as it was not clear whether there would be sufficient funds remaining in the Trust Fund for such a project. In July 2021, on the initiative of the Government, the Steering Committee agreed to earmark 20 million US Dollars for a potential housing project and requested the World Bank and the NRPB to prepare a detailed proposal for final decision-making. In preparing this proposal, the World Bank and the NRPB have also been requested to consider the opportunities of blended financing to increase the available envelope. The Government intends to bring other financial parties to the table in the preparation of this project. In the coming months, consultations with stakeholders and possible project partners are scheduled to take place, including with SMHDF. Unfortunately, SMHDF made its statements publicly without having further dialogue with government on the earmarked funds.

In closing, this Government would like to emphatically state that our priority has always been to solve Sint Maarten’s dire lack of access to adequate housing, and we will continue to seek opportunities to remedy this during the current governing period. Is it relates to the announcement of SMHDF to increase the rent of their tenants, Government will also be seeking clarifications on the decision to enforce such.

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Minister of Justice meets Mayors of Municipalities, Public Prosecutor & District Chief of Police

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS - On Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021, the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson along with her support staff met with the Mayor of Leiden Henri Lenferink, the District Chief of Police Marieke Bosch, and the Public Prosecutor Fleur Simonis. The meeting was arranged for Minister Richardson to gain an understanding of how the "triangle" meeting also known as the "driehoeksoverleg", functions in the Netherlands.

In Leiden, the ‘triangle meeting’ is held once a month to discuss issues that are impacting the municipality. In Sint Maarten, the meetings were agreed to be held quarterly. One of the positive aspects of Minister Richardson’s work visit to the Netherlands is gaining more insight in the way certain structures are intended to function and how beneficial these meetings can be once utilized in the correct structure and manner.

During the meeting mayor Lenferink stated to which Minister Richardson agreed that: "Safety and security is all about collaboration with all organizations involved that contribute to a positive result".

Mayor Lenferink explained that the triangle operates from a safety plan which is developed and agreed upon by majors of cities who also hold meetings with stakeholders in the community. This sort of systematic approach differs from that of Sint Maarten as those discussions are mostly based on the topics that have been placed on the agenda for that meeting and are then discussed amongst the Minister of Justice, the Prosecutor and the Chief of Police.

Though it is recognized that our structures differ due to geographical size, Minister Richardson believes that adapting an approach with a safety plan as the point of departure and applying it in Sint Maarten can contribute positively to the current situation.

Thereafter Minister Richardson met with the Mayor of Leidschendam-Voorburg, Mr. Jules Bijles, where they discussed public safety and security matters.

Mayor Bijles explained the structures and procedures of his organization and gave a presentation that specifically delved into the assistance of the municipality community officers. The Municipality Community Officers can be seen equivalent to Sint Maarten’s Community Police Officers (CPO). These are ‘BAVPOL’ers’ and take on minor offences and tasks such as supervising public areas, offering fines and so on.

Recognizing the plus of the CPOs, Minister Richardson sees a great opportunity to increase the number of this division with the aim to outfit our schools and school districts for heightened law enforcement presence and quicker action. “We recognize strategies used by those who wish to continue with negative behavior such as assaulting other students and more. As such, efforts will be made to heighten and tighten every area possible,” stated Minister Richardson

Upon Minister Richardson’s return, this will be one of the prioritized agenda points that will be discussed with the Chief of Police, Public Prosecutor, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, schools boards and other stakeholders as a plan of action to protect our students, faculty, staff and communities.

Finally, Minister Richardson’s evening ended with a dinner hosted by members of the Progress Committee namely Mr. Nico Schoof and Mr. Michel Marijnen. The latter also invited the Mayor drs. Elizabeth Spies of Alphen aan de Rijn to the dinner, giving Minister Richardson an opportunity to dialogue with a third Mayor with over seven years in service.

In conclusion, Minister Richardson experienced a full day of interaction with persons who have a vast amount of knowledge and experience when it comes to managing safety and security in their communities, working with the relevant authorities tasked to do so and who passionately hold interest to make a positive difference in the communities as Ministers Richardson also aims to do.

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General Hospital basement floor pouring on Thursday evening

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC)’s general contractor will be pouring the first section of the basement floor of the new St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) on Thursday evening (September 23, 2021) starting at 8 pm.

In order to safeguard the highest quality of concrete and the least amount of risk of traffic congestion to hinder the continuous pouring of 500 cubic meters, which will take an estimated 10 hours, the pouring will be done in the evening and is scheduled to start at 8 pm and involve a total of approximately 70 truckloads.

The cement trucks will be entering the SMGH construction site from various entrances, being: the SMGH construction site entrance at the roundabout on Welgelegenroad / G.A. Arnell Boulevard, the main entrance of SMMC and the SMGH construction side entrance on Jackal Road. In order to regulate a smooth operation, traffic regulators will be on hand at the roundabout to guide the traffic flow.

The pouring may result in some noise pollution, in particular for residents in the immediate vicinity of the construction site, however SMMC and the general contractor will do their utmost to keep any possible nuisance to a minimum level.

For any possible complaints regarding the new hospital construction activities, persons can go to the SMGH section of the SMMC website and follow the complaints procedure at: https://smmc.sx/SMGH/SMGH-ESMP

SMMC would like to take this opportunity to apologize for any possible inconvenience that is caused by the ongoing construction of the new hospital, as SMMC continues its mission of raising the level of health care on St. Maarten and provide the community of St. Maarten and surrounding islands with quality care, close to home.

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Rotary Sunset to Host Virtual Reading Slumber Fun

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Friday September 24th, 2021, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset will be hosting its fourth annual Reading Slumber Fun Event. The event will kick off at 7:00 pm sharp until 10:00 pm on the virtual platform, Zoom.

This year’s “Reading Slumber Fun” promises to be one for the record books as the club takes their popular and most talked about slumber party online for the second time. The theme of this year’s event is “Jungle Book”, and children of all ages are asked to get their pajamas, pillows, and blankets ready for a fun-filled evening of live storytelling, literacy games and giveaways.

The month of September is recognized by Rotary clubs worldwide as Basic Education, Literacy and New Generations month, where Rotary clubs focus on advocating the importance of Basic education and Literacy through various projects and literacy programs. The Reading Slumber Fun event is a “slumber party” themed event geared at promoting the importance of reading through dramatic storytelling, puppet shows and educational and interactive games.

The fourth annual Reading Slumber Fun event will feature some dynamic local readers and storytellers and will conclude with the viewing of a movie. All participants are asked to login to the Zoom meeting using ID # 992 348 5801 (no password required). In order to keep the virtual event interactive and engaging, all participants will be required to have their cameras turned on, any participant with their camera off will be removed. The cost of this event is absolutely FREE of charge, children are asked to bring their happy smiles and enthusiasm to make this event a success.

“All you gotta do is, Look for the bare necessities. The simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife.” – Baloo. The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset is asking children of all ages to join them for a fun-filled evening where they can journey across the world with their vivid imaginations.

For more information, persons can email the club via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call 721-587-4193 or visit the club’s Facebook page at Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset.

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MP Peterson: Fair procedures for granting long-lease land need to be put in place to prevent abuse and nepotism

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The brewing controversy surrounding the granting of long-lease rights in the area known as Vineyard Heights has shed light on the government’s systemic lack of procedures, transparency and accountability.

This is the view of Party for Progress (PFP) Member of Parliament (MP) Raeyhon Peterson, who is renewing his call for fair policies and procedures to be put in place to prevent abuse by political authorities in the issuance of government-owned land parcels.

“From the very beginning, in 2016, the granting of parcels in the area was done in a way that was not in line with good governing practices. After all, a former-VROMI Minister received a negative internal memo concerning this issuance, but still proceeded with issuing Ministerial Decrees to the 54 awardees,” said MP Peterson on Tuesday. “Now, these awardees have been largely replaced by 25 others, in a process initiated by the current VROMI Minister that also leaves many unanswered questions about its objectivity and fairness.”

While MP Peterson believes that the development of an objective and consistent policy is one of the solutions to address discrepancies in granting long-lease land, he also acknowledges that the VROMI Minister has too far-reaching powers, which enables them to ignore negative advice and issue parcels indiscriminately.

“Some politicians feel that the Minister title comes with the right to have the final say when it comes to giving out long-lease land. I completely disagree with that sentiment. I think that it should be an objective process that the Department of Domain Affairs should be ultimately responsible for, and not left to the personal choices of individual ministers,” said MP Peterson.

However, the most disheartening aspect of the Vineyard Heights controversy is the dozens of innocent victims who expended considerable resources and who now might not receive the long-lease parcels that were promised to them, continued MP Peterson.

“I am here for these victims. The citizens who requested land beforehand through the regular procedures, who were ready to build and who were looking forward to progressing with their goals and developing a life on this island,” said MP Peterson. “At the end of the day, it is the human element that should be central in this whole discussion, and how it has negatively affected individuals, their families and their livelihoods.”

For MP Peterson, there must be accountability for these procedural wrongs, and it needs to be holistic. “The issues surrounding long-lease land cannot be totally blamed on any one Minister, but an unclear process that is systematically disproportionate and ad-hoc, one which gives too much authority in the hands of ministers with no checks and balances to their power. If we decide to hold the current minister responsible for this fiasco, we also need to hold the former politicians responsible for starting the process incorrectly in the first place.”

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Police Patrols around St. Peters & South Reward School Districts

SINT MAARTEN (ST. PETERS) - The Police Force of St. Maarten KPSM has begun implementing an action plan based on the ministerial decree, issued by the Minister of Justice, to reduce the fights and other illegal acts committed in and around the schools especially in St. Peters and South Reward.  

To tackle these types of behaviors and lay a foundation to reduce incidents, KPSM recently put together a team of officers to carrying out actions around the schools.

These operations have yielded the following positive results. In the last few days, police have been patrolling the school district in the morning and afternoon. Since then, it is noticeable that fight in and around school have decreased significantly. It is further noticeable that the disorderly behavior happening has also greatly declined in and around schools.

Other actions will be undertaken by KPSM to further safeguard everyone in the affected areas. (KPSM)

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Prostate Cancer screening, COVID-19 vaccination pop-up and health check corner at SMMC

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - On Saturday, September 25th, 2021, St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) will resume its annual prostate cancer screenings in collaboration with the Positive Foundation and the Elektralytes Foundation. From 9:00am to 3:00pm, attendees have the opportunity to be screened for prostate cancer by SMMC’s Urologists.

In addition to prostate cancer screenings for men, SMMC will offer blood pressure and glucose monitoring for men and women and CPS and the Ministry of VSA will host a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up at SMMC. Healthcare professionals will also be on hand to provide information and answer any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

To avoid long lines and allow for proper social distancing, pre-registering for the prostate cancer screening is strongly encouraged. Men over the age of 45 who have not had a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test within the last two years are asked to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with their name, date of birth and phone number to register. In light of the pandemic, only a limited number of walk-ins will be facilitated.

To ensure the safety of all attendees and volunteers, SMMC’s universal masking policy remains in effect and will be enforced. Persons making use of the prostate cancer screenings and the health checks will also be subjected to a temperature check and SMMC’s COVID-19 questionnaire.

SMMC kindly asks that persons who are experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headaches, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea avoid attending the event but encourage them to make an appointment once they are no longer experiencing symptoms.

Prostate cancer screening is available year-round at SMMC’s Urology Department and appointments can be made by calling + 1 (721) 543-1111 extension 1378, 1379 or 1307.

SMMC also plans to resume their annual Breast Cancer screenings in October which will also feature a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up and a health check corner.

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MP Peterson questions Minister Doran about reported long-lease land grants in Vineyard Heights

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – With recent media reports indicating that 25 persons have been granted long-lease land in the so-called Vineyard Heights area of Over The Bank, Party for Progress (PFP) Member of Parliament (MP) Raeyhon Peterson submitted questions to Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert J. Doran on Wednesday to seek clarity about the developments.

According to the reports, approximately 50 persons were awarded parcels of long-lease land in the area in 2016, and received draft Ministerial Decrees from the VROMI Ministry that advised them to approach the Kadaster’s Office for certificates of admeasurement. Now this group may never receive their promised long-lease land, as the reports show that the majority of the 25 recently issued land grants were not part of the original 50.

This issue has been on MP Peterson’s radar for some time, with him posing questions to Minister Doran in Parliament meetings in June 2021. At the time, Minister Doran said that the process of issuing long-lease land to the original group was discontinued because “proper procedures” were not followed, specifically that then-VROMI Minister Angel Meyers had incorrectly issued the long-lease grants when the area was being contested in a court case.

“We inquired for legal advice, which we received from Landsadvocaat Gibson and Associates, where it indicated that, for instance, once you apply at a certain period in time and the time elapses [then it becomes null and void],” said Minister Doran in the Parliament meeting in June. “Based on that decree, it expired. So therefore, we could not continue and the process was discontinued with those applicants.”

For MP Peterson, this response was insufficient, prompting him to ask on Wednesday if the original group was considered in the process of issuing new long-lease rights in the area.

“Can it then be stated that the Ministry of VROMI provided the previous applicants with a ‘grace period’ to contact the Ministry? If not, then did the Ministry reach out on its own to the 50 persons who also received the same document from Government with the intention to issue a parcel of land to them in long-lease? If so, what were the responses received?” added MP Peterson in his list of submitted questions to Minister Doran.

“For someone to receive a Ministerial Decree in hand and formally start the process of securing their land grant, all done with excitement at the prospect of a brighter future, only to now be ignored and passed over, is a discriminatory blow that no one should have to endure at the hands of their own government,” said MP Peterson. “This original group trusted the government to keep its word and the government failed horribly in doing so.”

Based on his experience as acting Head of Domain Affairs, MP Peterson is acutely aware that some requests for long-lease land have been on hold since the 1990s.

“The general assumption would be that older requests would be honoured above more recent, that is, the first come/first served principle. How many of the persons who recently received draft decrees were on the long-lease request registry prior to December 2019? Referring again to the advice received from Landsadvocaat Gibson, how did the Landsadvocaat advise that issuance of these parcels be handled?” asked MP Peterson to Minister Doran.

Similarly, MP Peterson also knows that parcels of long-lease land cannot be issued if infrastructure is not in place in the area. “Issuing land before there is infrastructure in place has caused the Ministry of VROMI legal issues in the past, ironically also in this exact area of Over The Bank. In light of this, has infrastructure finally been put in place in the area prior to issuing parcels?” questioned MP Peterson.

“While Minister Doran indicated that proper procedures were not followed in 2016, the way this situation has developed it is becoming clear that, as the VROMI Minister, he has also not created consistent procedures or followed through with fair decision-making,” said MP Peterson. “Lack of policy has been a classic excuse used by past VROMI Ministers but the ironic thing is that they themselves have to create it.”

MP Peterson is not the only local authority figure who has reservations about the recent granting of long-lease land in the area known as Vineyard Heights. Last week, Sint Maarten Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel also expressed grave concerns and posed several questions to Minister Doran on the issue.

“I look forward to receiving answers to my questions and seeing the answers to the Ombudsman’s queries. I urge Minister Doran to reconsider this trajectory, which is sure to be detrimental to the interests of these concerned citizens as well as the government,” concluded MP Peterson. “The original group who were issued long-lease rights in 2016 deserve to have a fair outcome at the end of this affair, being treated with respect, dignity and equality.”

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SCDF meets with new tourism Minister to discuss Carnival 2022

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) met with Minister of Tourism Roger Lawrence on Wednesday to present him with the foundation’s COVID-19 safety plan for Carnival 2022 and discuss several aspects of Carnival for which they would like to build a stronger relationship with regards to the tourism sector.

The foundation is continuing with its preparations for Carnival 2022 and thought it was vital to meet with the new Minister to exchange ideas and discuss the future of the festival. “We were happy to get the opportunity to meet with Minister Lawrence since Carnival falls under his Ministry. It was an open and positive discussion upon which we will build going forward,” SCDF President Alston Lourens said.

Along with the COVID-19 safety plan, the foundation also presented the Minister with its marketing plans, an outline of how Carnival and Tourism compliments each other, the Carnival 2022 budget and the financials from the last Carnival year (2019). The foundation is also looking forward to meeting with the Minister again together with the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau.    

Lourens said he was happy to note that Minister Lawrence fully grasps Carnival on a socio-economic level as well. “Carnival generates business opportunities for singers, song writers, choreographers, costume builders and designers, makeup artists and musicians, to name a few. Even more importantly Carnival has driven the growth and development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), many of which are skills-based services. What is often overlooked is the economic significance of Carnival to the economy, businesses and regular people who depend on the festival. This recognition is needed in order that this valuable and unique facet of the St. Maarten’s culture can reach its full potential,” Lourens said.

He added that the SCDF will be making several major announcements in the coming days including the launch of the Carnival 2022 schedule and releasing the COVID-19 safety plan to the public.

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KPSM and stakeholders seek ways to curb incidents at and around schools

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM has had to answer several calls for assistance at schools due to student-involved fights and other offenses involving minors since the start of the school year.

To tackle these types of behaviors and lay a foundation to reduce incidents in the future, KPSM recently initated a meeting with education and related stakeholders and the Prosecotor’s Office. Various short-term plans were proposed for tackle the issue. The purpose was to find way to safeguard current and future students who are not part of disorderly behavior and to allow them to continue with their lessons undisturbed.

Parallel to that, a special activities program was created by KPSM in the short term especially for the problematic youngsters who caused the most difficulties. The program will allow for the participants to be evaluated by stakeholders for future risk and targeted attention. This program was put together very rapidly by KPSM and is already in execution.

For the long-term, integrated and sustainable solutions via a concerted effort of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, Sports, Ministry of Public Health, Social Development, and Labour, and the Ministry of Justice are needed to tackle the problems.

Police have a zero tolerance policy for school- and gang fights. Parents and guardians are urged to take an active role in their children’s lives. This is paramount in tackling disruptive and violence behavior in now and in the future.

The plight of the children and the triggers for violence require a concerted and targeted approach by all in the community. These are no longer isolated issues, but ones of profound impact on the society and requires everyone to take on their (assigned) roles.

The root of the aggression of our children and the violence triggers must be tackled post haste to disrupt the path that leads to criminality and children becoming the subjects cases handled by the Prosecutor’s Office.

To all of Sint Maarten students, think before you act aggressively, keep tempers in check, and avoid criminal activities. Bear in mind that, getting in contact with the law can harm your future prospects - everything from gaining entrance into institutions of higher education to job opportunities.

It is also very important for you as students to speak up if you notice illegal activities in and around your schools. To “say something when you see something” does not equal to snitching or ratting out a fellow student, because it is the responsibility of everyone to do their part to ensure there is a safe environment to learn and thrive in. Remember, it is for your safety too!

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