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Soualiga Newsday Latest News (2399)

Rotary St Martin Sunrise donates Five internet subscriptions to students of MPC and Sundial

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - With online education extended for one (1) month and with at least 44 SVOBE students lacking internet connections, Rotary St Martin Sunrise came to the rescue, Saskia Kliphuis, innovation coordinator at the SVOBE Schools said in a statement on Wednesday.

“They donated TELEM internet subscriptions for 1 year to various schools on the island, of which 3 were designated to MPC students and 2 to Sundial students. Department heads at hand praised the initiative.

“Students with school going siblings were selected and thus not only 5 but 16 students can profit from this donation.”

saskia INS1 internet donated to mpc 3 students

In the picture: MPC Department head TKL/CXC Raymond Romney, MPC Department Head PBL-PKL Vital Carty, and from Rotary St Martin Sunrise president Dolly Satarangani-Ahuja, Tamali Bryson and Marcellia Henry.

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Three Medical Staff Members Tests Positive for COVID-19. Statia seeks medical resources from Sint Maarten and Bonaire, and the Netherlands

SINT EUSTATIUS (ORANJESTAD) - In total three (3) persons, two (2) employees from the laboratory of the St. Eustatius Health Care Foundation and (one) 1 nurse from the auxiliary home have been tested positive for COVID-19 today, September 8th, 2020.

The Public Entity of St. Eustatius has requested immediate medical support from the hospital in St. Maarten and Bonaire and from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports (WVS) in the Netherlands.

The Island Assistance Team will meet on Wednesday morning September 10th to discuss additional measures, including a possible curfew and other restrictions. All persons who have tested positive were placed in isolation immediately.

Everyone who came into direct close contact with these three workers will be tested for Covid-19. If tested positive, then also these contacts will be put in isolation.

The Public Health Department will soon have the results of the contact tracing and contact sourcing of the positive tested persons. The community will be informed on the results of this.

The local government assures Statian residents that this matter is taken very seriously and that the safety of the people of St Eustatius is our highest priority. Further measures to prevent spreading of the virus will be taken if required. (Statia GIS)

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Governor Holiday’s Parliamentary Address on the Opening of the 2020-2021 Parliamentary Year

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday delivered the following speech at the opening of the 2020-2021 parliamentary year. His speech is as follows:

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Good Morning,

And very special greetings to the people of Sint Maarten.

Today September 8th, 2020, we are gathered in this unusual virtual setting to mark the start of the new parliamentary year 2020-2021. It is a sign of the exceptional circumstances in which we live.

 

It is against that background that I appear before you, in my capacity as Governor, to present Parliament – and thus the people of Sint Maarten – with an outline of the policy plans of government for the coming year.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

As a country, as a people, each of us, our families, our neighbors, our businesses, our civil organizations, and our government are experiencing and are called upon to respond to the unprecedented impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus commonly referred to as COVID-19 has affected our way of life and our livelihood in many ways.

Our health, our social interactions, our way of worship, our jobs, our economy, are under threat. Since March 17, 2020, the coronavirus, has infected 511 persons, hospitalized 70 persons, and taken the lives of 19 persons.

The outbreak of the pandemic has led to a virtual halt of international travel due to the lock down of countries and the fear of infection around the world.

That has resulted in and continues to lead to financial fallout in our tourism businesses and economy. Tourism arrivals are estimated to drop by up to 70% while GDP is projected to decline by 25.0% in 2020. The contraction in 2020 is expected to be significantly worse than the economic fallout from the effects of Hurricane Irma. Unemployment is expected to increase from 9.3% to 16.2%, as many among us lose jobs and face cuts in working hours and/or pay. Already cash strapped, the public finances have been hard hit, as the government faces a further increase of its deficit to NAf.350 million in 2020.

Over the past 6 months many of our people have as a result experienced and continue to experience tough times.

I therefore pray for the recovery of everyone who is suffering with the coronavirus and for those whose livelihoods are at risk. And my sympathy goes out to the families who have lost loved ones.

 

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

As we endure the impact of this public health and social economic crisis, we must come together to turn this crisis into a common purpose. That is, we must work together to find a workable balance between safeguarding the health of our people and the health of our economy.

 

Government’s agenda has as a result been dominated by the response to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. That without losing sight for the long-term development needs of our country.

Confronted with the coronavirus outbreak, and the resulting significant loss of income, government’s immediate priorities are:

  • First, to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus;
  • Second, to support school and business continuity, prevent layoffs and protect the most vulnerable among us;
  • Third, to jump start the economy and implement the required reforms;
  • And fourth, to raise the required financing to offset the loss in revenues and cover budget deficits for the remainder of 2020 and fiscal year 2021.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Government is as such committed to working with social partners, businesses, and labor unions, to realize these priorities and put Sint Maarten on a path of sustainable social economic recovery and growth. A path which is to reflect the objectives of the National Development Vision 2030.

The National Development Vision 2030 aims to anchor our country’s development goals and mission for the coming 10 years. Government will take steps to diversify and create a multi-pillar economy. One that affords maximum growth for all, where opportunities exist to empower each citizen to progress to the next level through their determination, strength of mind and actions. The key underlying objective of the National Development Vision 2030 is to transform Sint Maarten into an economically resilient, compassionate, strong, and decisive country.

The ongoing community consultations to obtain input from the various partners, is a critical part of the preparation process. There is no limit to the progress that we can realize when we work together to address our challenges and seize opportunities. 

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

During the initial outbreak of the coronavirus government activated its emergency operating center. To contain the outbreak government declared a State of Emergency and locked down the country by instituting a curfew and restricting international travel. A decision which was not taken lightly.

In doing so, Government worked and continues to work closely with medical professionals, at Collective Prevention Services, at the laboratories, and at the Hospital as well as with our partners in the Kingdom. The development of COVID-19 testing capabilities was an important step in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

During and since the lifting of the lock down government has and continues to focus on a combination of measures aimed at prevention, detection, and treatment of COVID-19 infections. These measures include:

  • One, a national COVID-19 information campaign, in various languages via mainstream and online media, via digital boards and via community campaigns, to reduce the risks to the population. This also includes the introduction of the 914 hotline;
  • Two, establishing and issuing guidelines for social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands;
  • Three, strengthening the capacity of Collective Prevention Services, to conduct testing, perform contact tracing and monitor those in isolation or quarantine;
  • Four, investing in PPE for medical professionals;
  • And five, decreeing the temporary closure of businesses and organizations where necessary.

From our experience we know that these measures worked to flatten the curve during the period April through June. We can therefore draw inspiration from the knowledge that we can contain the spread of the virus.

The resurgence and spread of the virus since July, however, have taught us that we cannot be complacent or let our guards down. To the con-tra-ry, we must remain vigilant and steadfast. This is a must because we will remain at risk, for as long as there is no vaccine or cure. We must continue to look out for each other by practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and washing our hands. 

Moreover, government is committed to continue working with the Sint Maarten medical Center to increase ICU beds, ventilators, and staffing capacity to meet the demand for care. Noteworthy is that 41 additional medical staff as well as extra ICU and ventilator capacity was arranged with assistance from the Netherlands.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

In keeping with its priorities Government, facing the economic fallout of these exceptional circumstances, decided to introduce a three months Stimulus and Relief program, the SSRP, for the period April through June of this year. The program was designed to keep money flowing to workers and businesses and to protect the most vulnerable among us. The SSRP consists of payroll support for impacted businesses and income support for sole proprietors and unemployed persons. The program, somewhat scaled down, was funded with liquidity support from the Netherlands following complex discussions and disagreements regarding conditions for financing.

In addition, government has and continues to take measures to improve the living conditions of our elderly and vulnerable population. Having increased the general pension age to 65 and the pension amount to NAf.1240 in 2020, the government will now focus on a targeted approach for groups who need assistance the most. Groups, such as, those without a second-tier pension and those with a partial AOV.

Looking ahead government is as a result also working on the development and implementation of the Social Registry System funded by the Trust Fund at the World Bank. The social registry system will provide for the mapping of the most vulnerable in our society. This with the objective of improving the delivery and quality of services. It will help plan new projects and programs and play an important role in disaster risk preparedness, such as dealing with crises, like COVID-19.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Given the limited financial resources of government, investing in this and other social development programs to meet the needs of our population will depend on the availability and accessibility of funding.

 

For as long as the global economy and international travel remain depressed, finding ways to generate or access funds to preserve the wellbeing of our citizens is the key challenge for Government. This is an urgent task faced by our country as well as by many countries around the world.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation government has as a result decided to jump start the economy by gradually reopening the airport for international flights, subject to compliance with required safety measures.

Government has, in addition, identified several focal areas that will generate economic activity now and better prepare our critical infrastructure for when the global economy recovers. Specifically, government is directing its attention on:

  1. investments in our digital infrastructure;
  2. investments in our education infrastructure;
  3. investments in our health care infrastructure;
  4. investments in our transport and hospitality infrastructure; and
  5. investments in our energy infrastructure;

This considering the importance of these sectors for the performance and recovery of our economy and given that private and World bank financing has been secured for most of the investment projects.

These investments will secure work for our people, generate future foreign exchange, and pay for themselves. Government will therefore continue to work with stakeholders and Parliament towards the effective execution of these projects.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Looking ahead, Government deems it critical to act now to seize the opportunities of the rapid digitization of society. The need to do so has been further underscored by the realities of COVID-19, as the demand to use technology in everyday life, such as, buying groceries, distance learning, telemedicine, and remote working increased. The ongoing crisis has also highlighted the need for government to interact with citizens online in a secure environment as well as the need for in office or remote working options for civil servants.

Recognizing the rapid use of technology government is committed to facilitating investments in a secure, and efficient digital infrastructure. Government will therefore continue to work with telecom provider TelEm, to facilitate the realization of the island wide fiber-optic network. This ongoing investment of approximately NAf.40 million, is essential to better support the online platforms of our schools, of our health care sector, of our banks, and of our hospitality sector such as hotels, Airbnb, restaurants, and car rentals. Its implementation is as such providing jobs now and providing the backbone to power our social and economic development in the digital age.

Government is therefore working on the implementation of its Digital Transformation Project. Activities implemented under this project will increase the productivity and efficiency of the organization and transform how citizens interact with the Government and vice-versa. The digitization initiatives include:

  1. One, the introduction of a Digital Identity for citizens to allow for accurate identification when conducting business with Government;
  2. Two, the introduction of a new financial management system, including online billing and payment services;
  3. Three, automation of the building permits process, including online applications;
  4. And four, the retrofitting of the Public Service Centers with the installation of kiosks and other technological advancements to increase the number of transactions possible at those locations.

Under the World Bank managed Trust Fund a budget of USD.12 million has been allotted towards government’s digital transformation project which is to be implemented over a period of four years. The project is expected to be approved by September 30, 2020.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

In navigating these challenging times, it is imperative to continue to invest in our human resources as the driver of our development and growth. The education of our children therefore forms a key part of government’s policy agenda, as outlined in the Education Master Plan.

Considering the challenges faced because of COVID-19 government has developed and established several policies to guide the safe delivery of quality education during the various phases of the pandemic. Specifically, government is implementing its Education Continuity Plan, to ensure the continuity of education during this crisis.

An important element of government’s plan is its ongoing work to improve the delivery of education through distance learning. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the challenges of technology in education as schools resorted to remote learning. Challenges due to inequities between schools and households because of, among others, access to computers and to the internet. The distance learning policy is therefore directed at improving access to technology for all in education. That in support of improving the delivery and quality of distance learning.

Government is at the same time working with the World Bank to prioritize schools for emergency repairs. This aimed at activating the USD.35 million allocated in the Trust Fund towards the Education Master Plan. In that regard government expects to start with the first repairs of the identified schools this year.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

With respect to investments in the health care infrastructure government will continue to work on reforming and upgrading the health care system. The objective is to further improve the quality and increase the availability and accessibility of health and mental health services for the people of Sint Maarten.

The planned health care reform is geared at upgrading the regulation and registration of all medical practitioners, improving communication between care providers via a Health Information Management System (HIMS), controlling cost for pharmaceuticals and improving the medical referral system.

A central element of the government’s health care program in the coming period will therefore be the construction of the new hospital, while also increasing the number of available specialties. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of the realization of the new hospital facilities. The new hospital will increase in-patient bed capacity to 110, add operating theaters, create out-patient clusters, and include a 30-patient Dialysis center. The larger hospital will increase the quality and quantity of treatments on-island, thereby reducing overseas referrals and thus costs. The importance of reducing overseas referrals has been magnified with the current COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

Based on the current planning, the delivery of the New Hospital is scheduled for the end of 2024. With the financing already secured Government is therefore committed to supporting the Medical Center with the realization of the construction.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

In charting our path for recovery, government is focusing on the improvement of our transport and hospitality infrastructure. That with an emphasis on product development, diversification, and legislative reforms. Government considers the restoration of the airport terminal building critical to the improvement and functioning of our transport and hospitality infrastructure. With the financing already secured, this project offers a good opportunity to generate economic activity and create jobs.

In addition, government as part of its product development policy has issued a building permit and is working with the developer to facilitate the construction of a new 452 rooms resort in the Great Bay area. The construction will create jobs now, offer future employment and help boost our economy.

The corona virus has also highlighted the need for Sint Maarten to reduce its import bill. Government will therefore work to reduce Sint Maarten’s dependence on fossil fuels. Government will, to that effect, pursue an energy policy anchored on solar energy. This will reduce the electricity bill for businesses and households and save foreign exchange to meet other needs of our population.

Likewise, the government will stimulate the development of the agricultural sector as a means, to reduce our dependence on the import of food. The goal is to promote the “grow what you eat, eat what you grow” movement towards greater self-reliance and food security. The development of this sector should help lessen imports and save foreign exchange.

 

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Government is, notwithstanding its scarce financial resources, committed to investing in the strengthening of law enforcement. This with the objective of maintaining law and order to protect the safety and security of our residents and visitors. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has created additional challenges in terms of capacity in meeting these objectives. This due to the increased need for manpower to monitor and enforce government’s measures and the need to protect law enforcement personnel against the virus.

Confronted with these challenges’ government has placed the formalization of the function books and the legal position of all employees of the justice ministry high on its agenda. Government is, at the same time, working on the further (re) structuring and strengthening of the executing departments in the justice ministry.

Government as part of its law enforcement agenda is also focusing on:

  1. One, implementing structural improvements in the prison system, including the construction of a new prison with support of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS);
  2. Two, ensuring a more effective enforcement of immigration legislation, including the use of information technology systems;
  3. And three, introducing a more realistic licensing and fees policy based on the actual costs of the justice products.

Government has, at the same time, considering our shared borders with the Northern side of the island continued to work with French authorities to better coordinate island-wide judicial cooperation to combat cross border crime.

 

In addition, Government will continue to hold talks with authorities in Saint Martin towards effective collaboration in regard to addressing the challenges of COVID-19.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

On a Kingdom level, relations have and are expected to be dominated by the COVID-19 crisis. During the past months, government has engaged in extensive four country and bilateral discussions with our partners in the Kingdom. Sint Maarten has as a result received valued technical assistance in terms of health care and military assistance for law enforcement as well as liquidity support from the Netherlands. Government will continue to work closely with its Kingdom partners to address existing capacity and liquidity challenges.

Meanwhile government’s financial strategy is aimed at implementing measures to reduce expenses, increase revenues and source funding to address the projected NAf.350 million deficit budgeted for this year.

Government has, in that regard, already implemented a reform of the civil service pension fund to improve the sustainability of the fund while at the same time reducing the costs of government.

Government also plans to introduce Public Financial Management reform. The reforms are aimed at improved public expenditure management, increasing the efficiency of the tax administration, and broadening of the tax base. Efficiency initiatives include the introduction of online processing of tax returns and the improvement of tax compliance. With respect to the broadening of the tax base government is developing plans to tap into the income opportunities created by the rapid increase in activities in the digital economy, such as online shopping and Airbnb.

Meanwhile, discussions with the Netherlands, to secure funding to bridge government financial shortfalls, have and continue to be strained over disagreements about the terms.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Government, considering its policy agenda and taking the challenging circumstances of COVID-19 into account, is completing the amended 2020 budget and the draft 2021 budget for presentation to and handling by parliament. In doing so government will, in keeping with the Kingdom law on financial supervision, request the Kingdom Government to apply an article 25 deviation, based on the extraordinary financial impact of the Global COVID-19 crisis. And given the urgency government intends to move forward and issue bonds to raise the funds necessary to meet its obligations.

 

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

On the eve of our tenth anniversary of country status, we must act with a sense of urgency and common purpose.

One based on the conviction that together we can and will rise to meet the challenges of COVID-19. A conviction anchored on the courageous men and women out there risking their own health to save lives and to keep us safe. Courageous health care professionals, law enforcement officers, firefighters, other frontline employees, and volunteers, who remind us every day that the protection of our wellbeing and our country is our common purpose. The common purpose of protecting our health, our economy, and our future as a people.

Let us, all of us, businesses, labor unions, other civil society, and government, therefore draw inspiration from our courageous men and women to rise to the task that has fallen on us. A task which calls for effective collaboration across the board. Collaboration, which recognizes the value of unity, the imperative of sacrifice and the virtue of humanity in moments of crisis. (I REPEAT)

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

In this new parliamentary year, government will reach out to you with various legislative initiatives towards the execution of its agenda on behalf of our people. As you review and debate the business of our people - in these exceptional and challenging times - it is essential to keep in mind that our people are counting on parliament and government to rise to the task and lead us out of this crisis.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Thus, as you deliberate and decide on the issues that will come before you in the period ahead, I wish you an abundance of wisdom, strength, and God’s speed.

Stay safe, God bless you and May God bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.

Thank you

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SMMC launches video on its Auxiliary Care Facility

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - In an effort to weather any possible storms, St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) has made arrangements for its COVID care facilities that are located outside SMMC, to be made more storm resilient. The new care facilities are referred to as SMMC’s Auxiliary Care Facility (ACF) and the construction has been documented in a video that SMMC’s Outbreak Management Team recently launched.

SMMC states: “In the first phase of the COVID pandemic, SMMC had to act swiftly to get additional COVID care facilities realized in order to deal with the rapidly increasing number of admitted COVID patients. Thanks to our very hard working and dedicated team and with the help of the Government of St. Maarten, the Dutch Government and The World Bank, we got that accomplished in a record-breaking time.”

“The next phase was to make our COVID care facilities that are located off-premises, more storm resilient. This is not only with the present hurricane season in mind but also taking into account that we do not know for how long we will need the extra capacity as COVID could be around for the foreseeable future”.

“As such, a storm resilient Auxiliary Care Facility has been created in which special medically outfitted containers (so-called “hospitainers”), donated by the Dutch Ministry of Health, have been welded together and securely anchored to a solid concrete foundation. Each container is outfitted with airco units and the cluster of containers will be covered by one roof as additional temperature control.”

The ACF will have 16 beds of which 4 are ICU beds which include having dedicated ventilator capability. SMMC aims to keep all COVID care outside of the hospital but in case of a surge in admissions, also has COVID capacity inside SMMC with another 17 positions available for COVID treatment, all of which are in isolation.

Patients will not be kept at the ACF once a storm poses a direct threat to St. Maarten and will be transported to SMMC. In case of storm threat, high risk, non-COVID-19 patients may be evacuated to an approved nearby evacuation facility, or airlifted to a hospital within the Dutch Kingdom if needed.

“The project to make the COVID care facilities more storm resilient is made possible in part by funds from the St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund that is funded by The Netherlands and managed by The World Bank for which SMMC expresses its sincere gratitude”, SMMC concludes.

The video URL is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKIE6jMoXUw&t=2s

 

 

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USM welcomes intern, daughter of the soil

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - After two full years of restoring its academic programming and securing accreditation for its degree programmes, the University of St. Martin (USM) finally opened its doors to student internships from abroad to help push research in the community.

The first student intern arrived this week from the Netherlands to start a study on the feasibility of inserting agroecology and nutrition into Sint Maarten’s system of education. Daughter of the soil Lynn Martina returned to the island from Europe for a four-month stay to work with USM and ECO Sint Maarten Agriculture Research and Development Centre (ECO-SXM), in hopes of designing a draft national plan for the schools with the help of school boards, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, teachers and local farmers.

Lynn Martina (23) is a graduate of Milton Peters College who, after completing her HAVO-level studies, lived and worked in France and the Netherlands in order to get job experience before commencing her tertiary educational trajectory. Currently, she is completing her Bachelor of Science in Applied Biology at the HAS Hogeschool of Den Bosch in Brabant, the Netherlands. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Martina had plans of going to Peru to conduct field work with spider monkeys in the South American country’s Amazon forest. However, after seeing the impact of the pandemic upon her native land, she thought it might be time to come back and contribute.

“Having been in lockdown, I found the opportunity to think about what I really want to do with my life. No one knows what is going to happen from here to next year, so I decided to come back for a spell, to see what I can do for my own country. It’s been a while and I really value this opportunity to get to know Sint Maarten again”, said Martina.

HAS Hogeschool and USM arranged the internship upon official agreement, ensuring that the work Lynn Martina does in Sint Maarten corresponds to the requisites for the completion of her studies.

“I am very excited about this chance to make a significant contribution. I’m in love with the idea of making an impact in children’s lives and influencing education. I can apply what I have learned so far in the Netherlands to Sint Maarten. Imagine, such important topics as agriculture, nutrition and education. Now more than ever, the time is now.”  

The student intern will be working with USM science instructor of biology and agroecology Tanisha Guy and ECO-SXM founder Mr. Denicio Wyatte, a long-time advocate for community centred agriculture and education. Furthermore, Martina will meet with government officials, teachers and school board representatives to get a feel of what already exists, the press release stated. A draft plan for inserting agriculture into the education system, based on a feasibility study, is scheduled to be completed by 15 December -Lynn Martina’s last day of work at USM.  

USM hopes to create more on-island internships possibilities in the coming year, especially for those St. Martin students studying abroad and who might want to spend a summer or semester back home.

“What we hope to encourage is a culture of giving back to the community through research and hands-on projects. It is an opportunity for young St. Martiners to spend time at home and apply what they have learned so far. By putting college and university students to work in key areas of interest, we are sharing knowledge and building bridges to allow for brain gain instead of brain drain,” said USM President Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez.

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As of September 2 Parliament has been showcasing paintings created by Tessel Verheij

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - Tessel, born in Zandvoort, The Netherlands became fascinated with art and its history at a very young age. She was inspired by Surrealism and the Arts and Crafts movement (art nouveau, Jugendstil) and artists such as Gustav Klimt and Mucha.

It was always a dream of Tessel to become an artist and share her skills with others by becoming an art teacher. Tessel obtained a Foundation Art Diploma for Secondary Education in drawing in 1992 and continued studying for an additional 3 years gaining her Art degree in 1995. She taught art classes to students of various ages in Primary and Secondary schools in the Netherlands. 

Whilst teaching in Holland Tessel also created her own work, exhibited with a group of like-minded artists in Zandvoort aan Zee, on a regular basis and privately sold her work. She mainly paints figurative compositions in oils and acrylics on canvas, pastels on paper, inks on paper, mosaics and experiments with Tie dye on canvas.

She creates her own mystical, spiritual pieces, based on her own dreams and experiences, and is also an accomplished portrait artist of both humans and animals. She also creates and paints designs for murals, signs and furniture pieces for both indoors and outdoors.

After 4 years Tessel left the Art Craft Café behind to start a new life. In September 2008 she started traveling with her two daughters, visiting Europe and Egypt to explore other inspiring artists and art movements and to spend all time with her two girls.

After completing her travels Tessel moved to Sint Maarten where she currently resides. She began teaching art at primary schools however, after 3 years she decided to open her own art gallery where she displayed her artwork with locals and tourists and also taught art classes daily.

Unfortunately, the Art Cafe Gallery was recently forced to shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has affected the entire world. 

Five beautiful paintings of this talented inspired artist and art teacher are prominently displayed in the lobby area, conference room and the library of the Parliament building. These paintings are Vitrail “Glass paint” on canvas. The five pieces being featured are titled: Hibiscus, Tree in Gold, Pelican Rock, Flamboyant Beauty and Bright in its Color”. 

The Parliament of Sint Maarten exhibits the work of different local artist approximately every 6months. Previously the work of artists: Students of the Art Cafe Foundation, Ms. Beverly Mae Nisbeth, Ms. Leola Cotton, Lucinda "La Rich" Audain, Roberto Arrindell and Sir Roland Richardson were displayed.

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The Prefecture clarifies the position of the State after the Collectivite’s position on the border closure issue

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) – On Friday morning, the Prefecture issued a statement to clarify the position of the French State as a response to a press statement made by the President of the Collectivite of Saint-Martin Daniel Gibbs earlier in the week.

The Prefecture says in its statement that the decree of 10 July 2020 provides that the active-circulating territories of the Covid virus be included in its Annex 2. The territory of Saint-Martin in view of the evolution of its degraded health situation has been on this list since 27 August 2020.

This registration has several legal consequences, including additional resources granted to the prefects to fight the epidemic, protect the populations, and promote the conditions for recovery. It was in this context that a meeting "State of the scene of the Covid situation in the territory of Saint-Martin" mobilized on 1 September at the premises of the Prefecture, the Collectivite of Saint-Martin, its president Mr. Gibbs, the first vice-president, Mrs. Damazeau, the local representative of the ARS acting, Mr. Godefroy, the director of the hospital Mrs. Lampis, the commander Basso of the Gendarmerie.

The first objective of the meeting was to share the health situation of the territory. Mr Godefroy, acting director of the LRA, provided the figures. There are 153 active cases in the territory. Of these 153 people, 18 are hospitalized, three (3) of them in resuscitation in Guadeloupe, 135 people are confined to their homes. The number of people who died from the Covid in Saint Martin is now 7, including (one) 1 this week.

These figures have been steadily increasing since the beginning of the de-conference and place the territory of Saint-Martin proportionally among the most affected at the national level. Ms. Lampis, director of the hospital, says that the entire medical department is currently reserved for Covid cases.

Half of the resuscitation beds at the Guadeloupe hospital are occupied by Saint-Martinois. In this context, if the prefecture is associated with the desire of the elected representatives of the Collectivite to quickly regain conditions specific to a normalized social and economic life, through the cessation of border controls, it recalls that this objective is underpinned by a positive development of the health situation.

Any relaxation in the face of the epidemic would erase the efforts made so far by all health actors and the population and delay the ebb of the epidemic, a prerequisite for a gradual lifting of health prevention measures. Thus, in view of the figures observed in Covid cases on Saint-Martin, the situation also observed on the Dutch side, border controls and the control of establishments open to the public, in particular bars and restaurants to which the highest level of vigilance is required in the application of public health measures, are, at this time, maintained.

The prefecture reiterates that with the limitation of population displacement, barrier gestures are the best protection we currently know. The prefecture encourages everyone to implement them and strongly invites the use of the mask. It is through a common civic commitment against the virus that we can overcome this epidemic and revive the territory's economy.

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COCI establishes Soualiga Employers Association and ready to submit names to Prime Minister for SER

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) is in the final phase after steering the process leading to the establishment of the “Soualiga Employer Association (SEA).”

The establishment of the SEA is part of the process of nominating various representatives to the high council of state the Social Economic Council (SER). A list of names will be submitted to the Prime Minister hopefully by the end of the week of September 7.

President of the COCI Supervisory Board Benjamin Ortega, said on Friday that COCI was mandated by the Prime Minister back in April and given the task to follow a legally and sound process where names would be submitted to fill the positions on the SER based on the establishment of an umbrella employer organization to ensure a better representation of employers’ organizations on the board of the SER.

The appointment of the 2020-2023 board was put on hold until a new structure was put in place.

“We have read in the media several times press releases and statements made from another Employer Council that according to the aforementioned, are made up of four Associations that are known to the island. Members of one of these Associations has been on the board of SER for a number of years and is aware of the request of the Prime Minister with regards to the establishment of SEA through COCI.

“We took a holistic approach regarding this very important process that we were tasked with to carry out on behalf of the Government. We consulted with a number of broad-based stakeholders and worked in unisom according to the procedures of good corporate governance to reach the final stage of this process.

“We have ensured that the right process has been followed and that all major employers have had the opportunity to be included and ultimately be a part of the SER,” Benjamin Ortega, President of the COCI Supervisory Board said.

Consultation sessions took place with the Banker’s Association, the Sint Maarten Insurance Brokers Association, the Taxi Association, the Chinese Merchants Association as well as with small and medium hotel sector representatives.

In addition, letters were sent to Government-owned companies to inform them and request if they would be interested in joining the SEA.

Ortega added: “Although we are still in the process of engaging with as much relative businesses and associations to ensure we have a balanced representation in the names that we will put forward to the Prime Ministers office, we are extremely surprised and disappointed in the lack of inclusion and respect that the Employer Council has shown towards the country by disregarding the SER and the mandated request from the Prime Minister.

“The SER is not a pressure group, and hijacking the process of the request of the countries government without acknowledging nor contacting or including COCI or SER or any other business and associations can be considered presumptuous and disrespectful.

“It is important that the country has a SER board with a variety of businesses and government owned companies that represent a large group of persons. The SER as an independent advisory body, is comprised of independent experts, employee representatives (unions) and employer representative (various companies/business owners through the SEA).

“The combination of employer, employees and independent experts in the SER, is the only official tri-part constellation which is in line with international best practices and the international United Nations Charter standard for organizations such as the SER.

“Through the mandate given by the Honorable Prime Minister, the SEA is required to present three permanent members and three substitute members for the appointment on the SER board.

“We are now in the final stage at this juncture. The SER needs to be up and running as soon as possible due to our current socio-economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Broad-based representation is needed in order to deal with the uncertainties that our country is currently facing for the foreseeable future.

“The SEA remains open to all businesses and Associations who would require their voice being heard at the level of the SER to ensure a balanced representation across the board. Interested in participating, contact should be made with COCI for details and confirmation,” Ortega concluded.

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President Gibbs challenges the Prefecture on Border control measures

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) - The President of the Collectivite of St. Martin, Daniel Gibbs, the 1stère Vice-President Valérie Damaseau and the 4the Vice-President Steven Patrick, participated on Tuesday, September 1, 2020, in a meeting with the Prefecture regarding the COVID-19 health situation of the territory and the measures currently in force, according to a statement from the Collectivity on Wednesday.

The meeting was led by the Secretary General, the Prefect Mickael Doré, in the presence of the Director of the Saint-Martin Hospital Center, Marie Lampis, the local representative of the Regional Health Agency, Pascal Godefroy and the Commander of the Gendarmerie of the Northern islands, Stephan Basso.

President Gibbs once again sounded the alarm about the socio-economic consequences of extending border control measures.

First of all, the President alerted the State representatives to the situation of students attending school on the French side, currently stuck on the Dutch side. The President asked the Secretary-General to study the situation of the Saint-Martin families who have come forward to allow their children access to school.. The Secretary-General is committed to addressing these situations on a case-by-case basis.

On the economic side, the President recalled the typical position of the territory, which, unlike other islands in the French West Indies, lives 90% from tourism. The President asked the State representative to take into account the situation of socio-professionals and their employees, whose difficulties have increased since the establishment of border control between the north and south sides of the island.

The Chair requested that a date for the reopening of the border be communicated to them as soon as possible so that they could consider the upcoming tourism season and that reservations could be made by potential travelers to the destination.

In the medium term, the President asked the Secretary-General about the economic situation of Saint-Martin and the importance of planning for a wider reopening of the destination for the next tourist season.

President Gibbs also indicated that, in preparation for the upcoming season, the Collectivite will consider the possibility of requesting a waiver from the State in order to welcome American nationals (USA) on its soil, as well as the Collectivite of Saint-Barthélemy whose economy is also tourism dependent.

This waiver envisioned provides that a specific health protocol is established, to which the socio-professionals of the territory will have to contribute and fully adhere too.

Concerned about the recent deterioration of the health situation and aware of the need to protect the inhabitants, the Territorial Executive Government is seeking appropriate socio-economic solutions to enable Saint-Martin to recover from this unprecedented health crisis, while continuing to raise public awareness about the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

With this in mind, the Territorial elected representatives have called for tighter field controls. They agreed that the territorial police should join the gendarmerie's arrangements in order to increase prevention and control, particularly at bars and leisure establishments. The aim is to limit gatherings and enforce social distancing guidelines.

President Gibbs and his executive are once again calling for joint health protocols to be put in place as soon as possible between the French State and the Government of Sint Maarten, the two parties who are responsible for health and border management -with joint health protocols to reopen the borders and gradually resume general functioning of socio-economic activities between both sides of the island. President Gibbs has been calling for this essential health cooperation for several months now, a Wednesday statement from the Collectivite said.

The prefecture has committed to study the proposals put forward by the Collectivite and its elected representatives.

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13 New COVID-19 Positive Cases. Active cases continue to decrease and now stands at 174. 61 Recover

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - As of September 2nd, St. Maarten has confirmed thirteen new cases of persons who have tested positive for the Corona Virus (COVID-19), however there was a recovery of 61 persons; reducing the total active cases to 174. The new total of confirmed cases now stands at 495.

Of the active cases, the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) are monitoring 168 people in home isolation. Six patients are currently hospitalized and the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 remains at 19.

The number of people recovered since the first case surfaced on St. Maarten has increased to 302. One hundred and sixty-three (163) people are now in quarantine based on contact tracing investigations carried out by CPS of persons who may have been in contact with any of the active cases.

To further control the spread of the virus, CPS has tested 820 travelers arriving at the Princess Juliana International Airport, (PJIA) and 1615 people throughout the community. As the number of cases continue to fluctuate, CPS will continue to actively execute its contact tracing measures.

Please remain at home and contact your family doctor immediately if you have been exposed to someone with the virus or experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Minister Panneflek advises all to continue to wear your masks, practice social distancing, avoid greeting by hugging and kissing, sanitize your hands as frequently as possible, wash your hands with soap, and refrain from mass gatherings.

ARCHIVED - SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - As of September 1st, St. Maarten has confirmed six new cases of persons who have tested positive for the Corona Virus (COVID-19).

41 persons recovered; however, CPS reported two additional deaths today.  One person unfortunately died on July 30th and the second case died on August 26th.  Both were living on the French side; however, they were registered as Dutch side residents. 

Uncertainty in their official residency status led to a delay in reporting.  The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour extends his deepest condolences to the families concerned. This brings the total active cases to 222 and confirmed cases now stand at 482.

Of the active cases, the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) are monitoring 216 people in home isolation. Six patients are currently hospitalized and the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 has increased to 19.

The number of people recovered since the first case surfaced on St. Maarten has increased to 241. Two hundred and eight (208) people are now in quarantine based on contact tracing investigations carried out by CPS of persons who may have been in contact with any of the active cases.

To further control the spread of the virus, CPS has tested 786 travelers arriving at the Princess Juliana International Airport, (PJIA) and 1597 people throughout the community. As the numbers of positive cases continue to increase, CPS will continue to actively execute its contact tracing measures. We would hereby like to make it clear that the figures will change as we receive lab confirmation from SLS/HCLS, this is due to lab results pending.

To protect yourself and other’s around you, please remain at home and contact your family doctor immediately if you have been exposed to someone with the virus or experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Minister Panneflek continues to urge all to wear your masks, practice social distancing, avoid greeting by hugging and kissing, sanitize your hands as frequently as possible, wash your hands with soap, and refrain from mass gatherings.

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