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Minister of Education Samuel: "Teachers are among most important in society"

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Minister of Education Rodolphe Samuel has issued the following statement in connection with International Teachers Day celebrated globally on October 5.

His message reads as follows:

As we once again observe this special day set aside to acknowledge our teachers, I would like to commend our teachers on St. Maarten for their hard work and for the many sacrifices they make daily. Teachers are arguably among the most important people in our society; they educate our young and mold these young minds for a better tomorrow.

I want to personally acknowledge the hardships that some of our teachers have to endure; they have suffered with austerity measures that could not be helped, we have some schools that are still in need of repair, and yet our teachers have the human capacity to understand and continue doing their work to the best of their abilities.

As you continue to set our children up for success as citizens of the world and inspire them to do well, our ministry will continue to work to provide you with the tools you need to do your jobs.

Teachers are that critical point that makes a child ready for their future, some of the students of today are the leaders of tomorrow and without teachers, they could not fulfil this destiny. For better or worse, children carry what they are taught at a young age into adulthood; for the rest of their lives, they will use what they have learned and influence society. Our teachers shape these minds at their most impressionable, and for that, I express my gratitude for your hard work. Someone with the power to impact the children of our society has the power to change our society.

Sometimes teachers also act as a support system that is lacking in other parts of the child's life and can be an inspiration to them to dream big as they hold them accountable for their successes and failures. This motivates the students to work harder and aim higher. A good teacher will not let a talented student get away without helping them unleash their potential, and in St. Maarten, we have many good teachers.

Again, I thank all of our teachers for their continued patience as some are still displaced. As Minister of Education of Public schools, special thanks and appreciation goes to our education family. Teachers, staff, and Management of all public schools. Thank you, all teachers at all schools, for bringing a sense of normalcy to our classrooms post covid, and above all, I thank you for the tremendous job you do daily to shape all our futures. Although there is only one day set aside a year to honour you, I want you to know that we honour you daily.

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Special Action Team arrests man in firearm and narcotics investigation

SINT MAARTEN (CAY BAY) - On Monday, 3 October 2022, the Special Action Team of the Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM conducted a control in Cay Bay in connection with narcotics and firearms.

During the action the team obtained information that a man was engaged in selling drugs and firearms at a specific location. An on-the-spot check of the indicated location in Cay Bay was conducted and several containers with narcotics for sale were found and confiscated.

A pellet gun, first thought to be a firearm, was also confiscated. The suspect was arrested and remains detained as the investigation progresses. (KPSM)

police narcotics

Police photo

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Cancer patient numbers will almost double in next 10 years

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of cancer patients living in the Netherlands is set to almost double in the next 10 years as the population ages and survival rates improve.

Research and data agency Integraal Kankercentrum Nederland (IKNL) estimates that 1.4 million people will have had a cancer diagnosis in 2032, accounting for 7.5% of the projected population of 18.5 million.

An estimated 800,000 people living today have had treatment for cancer at some stage in their lives. The number is expected to rise considerably as both life expectancy and the average age of the population increases over the next decade.

The number of cancer diagnoses is expected to reach 156,000 by 2032, from 118,000 in 2019.

IKNL is calling for more preventive measures to be taken to cut the death rate and the cost of treatment, as well as lifestyle changes to reduce the number of cases of cancers linked to obesity, drinking and smoking.

‘Cancer often appears in people who are over 70,’ Valery Lemmens, senior researcher at IKNL and professor of cancer surveillance at Erasmus University. ‘But the way you’ve lived affects your risk profile. You can’t really reverse a life filled with cigarettes and alcohol.’

Preventive measures

Survival rates for some of the most common types of cancer have increased, with 90% of people diagnosed with melanoma still alive after five years. For basal cell carcinoma the proportion is close to 100%.

‘We need to take preventive measures, like making sunscreen free for people who work outside a lot of the time. Especially in a time when healthcare costs are rising fast,’ Lemmers said.

‘Treating a melanoma after it’s metastasised can easily cost €100,000. Treatment is cheaper when you catch it in time.’ One of the most striking trends is in lung cancer, with women set to overtake men in the next five years.

In the 1980s six times as many men were diagnosed with lung cancer, but the gap has closed after it became more socially acceptable for women to smoke in the 1960s.

Men will be more likely to develop cancers of the liver, kidneys and bile duct in the next 10 years, all types that are more common in people who are overweight. The five-year survival rate is 25% for liver cancer and just 10% for cancer of the bile duct.

(DutchNews)

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More coronavirus patients admitted to hospital, positive tests rise 55%

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital has risen sharply over the past seven days and positive tests are also going up, public health institute RIVM said in its weekly Tuesday update.

Some 485 people were hospitalised with coronavirus, and 76 were admitted for other reasons but had the virus, the RIVM said. A week ago, 380 people were sent to hospital because they had Covid.

In total, 870 people are now being treated in hospital for the virus, the highest total in two months. Over 19,000 positive tests were also recorded by regional health centres, a rise of 55% on a week ago.

The figures do not reflect the true number of infections because only health service workers, people who cannot self-test and people who need a coronavirus certificate are currently being checked at the GGD test centres.

More virus particles are also being found in wastewater.

Vaccinations

Last month the government launched a new vaccination campaign in anticipation of the autumn wave.

Everyone over the age of 12 is now eligible for an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, provided they have not had a booster jab or a coronavirus infection in the last three months.

Just over two-thirds of adults are classed as fully vaccinated, meaning they had the original two vaccines in 2021 and a booster shot last winter. However, according to research by I&O, around half of Dutch adults are not planning to take a booster vaccination against coronavirus this autumn.

To keep the Netherlands open and make sure the healthcare system remains accessible it is even more important that everyone tests themselves if they have symptoms and gets a booster shot, the RIVM said.

(DutchNews)

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MP Brison applauds implementation of new maternity leave and introduction of paternity leave

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison has noted with pleasure the new labor law that goes into effect in October that extends maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks and introduces a new 7-day paternity leave. Brison agrees with the labor law from both a social and legal perspective. “Socially, giving parents sufficient time to both prepare for the birth of their child and also be there for such a critical time of their development is a great thing for our society. Legally, this brings our local laws closer in line with the international standards as laid down in the International Labor Organization treaties.”

While its going into effect was spear-headed by United People’s Party Minister Omar Ottley, Brison also gives credit to former UP MP Tamara Leonard who started the path for an extension of the maternity leave and the introduction of Paternity leave since December of 2017. In introducing the amendment, Leonard stated at the time “Both partners are equally important in the development of a child. It is important that they also have the opportunity to be able to bond with the child. All of the burdens should not only come to the mother, the partner should get the opportunity to contribute,” stated Leonard at the time.

“It is always a good thing when there is continuity of amendments presented by former Members of Parliament that are good for our country. But I will admit it is especially proud that it came from a member of our party who championed for these changes, which were finally carried out by Minister Ottley. We even do so across party lines, such as the amendment announced by Minister Ottley to finally provide a full resolution to the abuse of the short-term contract recently presented to Parliament. That initiative was one from the National alliance. When it’s good for St. Maarten, it matters much less which party it came from,” stated Brison.

Brison looks forward to continued improvements of our labor laws and the cooperation and input received from the business sector. “The UP Party is a pro-business party, and we recognize that business is nothing without labor. We will always aim to strike the right balance between the symbiosis of business and labor, as it is a founding principle of the party that St. Maarten’s economy has enough potential to create opportunities for everyone in St. Maarten to enjoy lucrative labor and/or business, whichever the citizen may aspire for. Social needs are covered by the success of business and labor, as without the business sector, government has no means to provide for social initiatives. Our role is thus to maximize the opportunities for business and laborers in the Country, both of whom provide the government with all its means to provide for the most vulnerable in our society,” concluded Brison.

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Ministries to launch pilot project regulating the immigration status of foreign workers

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - With the joint controls that were conducted in February 2022, by the multidisciplinary team consisting of the Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBP), the Sint Maarten Police Force (KPSM), Customs St. Maarten, and the Inspectorates of TEATT and VSA, it was observed that a number of non-national employees have been working at various establishments for a lengthy period of time without the required documentation (residence and work permit).

As a result, the Justice, VSA and TEATT Covenant Task Force was renewed on May 4th, 2022, with the mandate to launch a pilot project which will allow the business community an opportunity to regulate the legal living status of their tenured non-national employees. These are foreign workers who have never held a residence permit for Sint Maarten or whose residence and/ or employment permit has expired past the period of the “tolerance term,” (90 days period) thus subjecting them to all apply as first-time applicants.

Based on the feedback the government received from business owners, one of the reasons they have chosen not to apply for the relevant residence or employment permits for their non-national employees was that the process is cumbersome and time-consuming to receive the required documentation.

As such, the pilot project will be executed in two phases. The first phase of the project has an initial timeframe of six months with the goal to reduce the amount of time it takes for the decision-making period per application to a maximum of 30 days from the time of submission of an application to the pickup date of the residence and/ or employment permits. This period will not include the five-week window of a vacancy publication.

The pilot project is exclusively for new applicants who can prove the working relationship between the employee and the employer. This can be done by providing a signed labor agreement, payslips, proof of insurance coverage, or private medical insurance if applicable.

Moreover, in accordance with the “Guidelines” of the Minister of Justice on the application of the National Ordinance of Admissions and Expulsions (LTU), persons who are applying for their residence and employment permit as a first-time applicant must in principle do so abroad. However, this ‘off-island requirement’ can only be waived for the applicant by formally requesting this exemption from the Minister of Justice via a letter. The letter must include the reason for the request, whilst asking the Minister for six weeks to have their legal status properly regulated under this project.

The business community is urged to gather their required valid documents and to ensure that they are in possession of a valid business and director’s license in order for their non-national employees to benefit from this pilot program, thereby regulating their legal living status. Once the pilot project has been launched, a ‘one form application’ for employers will be downloadable from the Government of Sint Maarten website and hardcopies will be made available. All interested businesses are invited to begin the process on November 1st, 2022. More information will be provided via press releases and possible Information Sessions.

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Deaths by falling double in 10 years, reaching 5,400 last year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of people dying after a fall has doubled in the last 10 years, reaching 5,400 in 2021, national statistics agency CBS said on Monday.

People over the age of 80 and dementia patients are most likely to die after falling, tripping over something or slipping, the CBS found. Falls account for some 3% of deaths a year.

Six in 10 people who died in a fall last year were living in residential care. Most of them had dementia or another degenerative illness such as Parkinson’s, the CBS said. Falls now account for 5% of nursing home deaths, compared with 3% in 2015.

(DutchNews)

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Sex education in schools needs an update, campaign groups say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – School sex education lessons should be about more than condoms and the pill, and should also tackle having fun, gender diversity and sexual boundaries, student groups, sexual health organisations and other campaign groups said on Monday.

In total, 37 organisations signed up for the manifesto, which was initiated by the Rutgers sexual health centre. Sex education at school misses out on key information and needs reform, the organisations say.

‘Youngsters give their sex education classes a score of 5.8 out of 10 and this has to change,’ Rutgers director Marieke van der Plas said.

Schools have been required to teach sexual development since 2012, but it is up to teachers themselves how to go about this. ‘Youngsters are happy about the lessons on preventing STDs and hiv, but sexuality is about more than that,’ Rutgers spokesman Luc Lauwers told NOS radio.

‘It is about enjoying being together, being respectful and sexual diversity,’ he said. The ongoing debate about the transgender law and the sexual harassment scandal surrounding.

The Voice television talent show do ‘make it into the classroom’, he said. ‘It is important that you can talk about these issues in a sensible and respectful way, because it all helps with sexual development.’

Research from Rutgers published in 2017 found that 50% of Dutch teenagers have had full sex for the first time by the time they reach the age of 18.6 and that few younger teenagers are having sexual experiences.

The agency has recently started researching an update. The Netherlands also has one of the lowest rates of teenage abortions and motherhood in the world.

(DutchNews)

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Cabinet wants to up the use of ankle bracelets and community service

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Breaking with the trend of previous governments, ministers are looking into whether judges can impose community service or ankle bracelet orders more often for criminal offenders.

In a move seen as politically sensitive, minister for legal protection Franc Weerwind (D66) said in a parliamentary briefing that he is carrying out ‘an exploration’ into alternatives to prison sentences, partly because community service is cheaper.

Rutte’s last government decreased the number of community service sentences, with his VVD party the only one voting against a July motion to investigate more community service and also ankle bracelets.

The Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles (RSJ), which advises the government, argued for ‘more meaningful’ sentences at the end of last year.

About three quarters of all detentions last less than three months, it said, while those short prison sentences are ‘not very effective or meaningful’, with a high risk of reoffending.

Disproportionate

The RSJ also said short prison sentences have consequences that can be out of proportion to the crimes, such as detainees losing their homes or jobs. ‘The possibilities for behavioural change and reintegration are very limited,’ it said.

Weerwind is also examining whether the imposition of an ankle bracelet can work as an ‘alternative’ to brief prison sentences. Previous bills on this issue have failed.

D66 MP Joost Sneller, who supports the alternatives, says an earlier study suggested people sentenced to community service were 47% less likely to make a new misstep than people sentenced to prison.

‘This is promising for convicts and society,’ Sneller is quoted in the AD as saying. ‘Half of all detentions last less than a month and people are simply less likely to repeat a community service order.

In addition, alternative sentences are cheaper, which can help solve the financial problems in the prison system.’

About face?

The prohibition of community service came into effect under previous governments, meaning judges hearing cases of violent and sex crimes could no longer impose it.

Last year, parliament agreed to extend that ban to include violence against people with a ‘public task’, including police officers and firefighters.

It is unclear whether the government wants to reverse this. Weerwind is also considering re-introducing the ‘learning penalty’, where community service is combined with training, supervision and learning so that an offender, he says, ‘can obtain a diploma, more opportunities can arise on the labour market and the chance of paying compensation to a victim can be increased.’

(DutchNews)

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Nicaragua breaks off diplomatic relations with ‘interfering’ Netherlands

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nicaragua has broken off diplomatic relations with the Netherlands, claiming the Dutch are ‘interfering’ and ‘interventionist’.

Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega accused the Dutch ambassador to Central America, Christine Pirenne, of speaking to locals as if ‘Nicaragua is a colony of the Netherlands’ during a visit to Managua on Thursday.

He also slammed the Netherlands after being told the Dutch would not fund a long-promised hospital, broadcaster Al Jazeera reported. Nicaragua has been ‘faced with the repeated meddling, interventionist and neocolonialist position of the Netherlands’, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the EU ambassador to Nicaragua was sent home and declared persona non grata after calling on Ortega to restore democracy. The new US ambassador has also been told he is not welcome.

‘The reality is that Nicaragua has become a dictatorship,’ said the NOS correspondent Edwin Koopman. ‘Freedom of religion, assembly and the press are not respected at all. Ortega’s political opponents are in jail. It is a reign of terror.’

As yet it is unclear what the impact will be. The Netherlands closed its embassy in Nicaragua in 2013 and Pirenne is based in Costa Rica. There is an honorary consul who represents Dutch interests on a voluntary basis. Nicaragua does have an embassy in The Hague.

(DutchNews)

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