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Lions Club recently announced the winners of their annual Peace Poster Contest

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Lions International Peace Poster Contest is one of many Lions Club International Youth Programs that presents a unique and enriched educational experience for youth and contributes to further development of their artistic skills, self-expression and personal growth.

Each year more than 600,000 young people from many countries around the world participate in the Contest which gives children a chance to express their vision of peace and inspire the world through art and creativity.

The Sint Maarten Lions Club invited various schools and after school programs on the Dutch side of the island to enroll in this year’s Peace Poster Contest with the Theme “We Are All Connected.”

The Contest ended on November 10th and three winning entries were selected from fifteen art work submissions. This year's winners are: 3rd prize, Ashley-Marie Daniel (St. Dominic High School), 2nd prize, Andy Xie Li (Seventh Day Adventist School) and 1st prize winner Chandri Chandiramanie (St. Dominic High School).

A Prize Distribution Ceremony was held on Saturday November 27th for the winning participants. For the 3rd prize winner, a 2-month gift certificate for art classes from Tessel Verheij of the Art Craft Café; 2nd prize an Arteza Art Set, and the 1st prize a MEEDEN 155 Pcs Deluxe Artist Painting Set. The winning School, St. Dominic High was also awarded a gift certificate from the Office 1 Superstore which was received by Art teacher, Mr. C. Sikkes, on behalf of the School.

Pointing to the winning poster colorfully displayed on the large screen, Mr Sikkes commented: “I think the power of art is enormous. Without saying 2,000 words, this poster is powerful”. He then went on to thank the Sint Maarten Lions Club for organizing this Contest on the island and for supporting art in general.

After winning locally, Ms. Chandiramine’s art work was submitted to the Lions Sub District 60B Peace Poster Contest Committee where it won 1st place in the entire Lions Sub District 60B.

The Sint Maarten Lions Club would like to again thank all the students who participated in the 2021 Peace Poster Contest, the parents for their support, the art teachers who mentored these brilliant students and the schools that provided guidance to these young individuals.

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1st Place winner Chandri Chandiramanie as she presents her poster.

photo 2 sx lions

Left to right: 3rd prize winner, Ashley-Marie Daniel, 1st prize winner Chandri Chandiramanie and 2nd prize winner, Andy Xie Li.

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Free Rapid HIV Testing at the Cole Bay Community Helpdesk a Success

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Department of Community Development, Family & Humanitarian Affairs (CDFHA) in collaboration with the St. Maarten Aids Foundation offered free & confidential HIV testing at the Cole Bay Community Help Desk on Saturday November 27, 2021, from 10 am to 3 pm.

Scores of persons visited the Community Help Desk and took advantage of the opportunity to know their HIV status, which involved a quick health screening and a simple finger prick in taking blood.

The results were provided within 10 minutes or less. Visitors also received free condoms and advice and information on sexual health and practices.

Two community officers of CDFHA were present, providing information on the department's services and answering visitors' questions.

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Registration for Carnival 2022 closes, high numbers recorded. Calypso back in full force

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) closed its general registration for Carnival 2022 on December 1 and expressed excitement over the eagerness of the public and stakeholders to return and participate in Carnival after a two-year hiatus due to the Coronavirus.  

The foundation opened registration in June to give its regular stakeholders and possible new participants enough time to consider their participation after it had laid out its plans for Carnival 2022, included its extensive health and safety plans. “From the beginning we sensed that excitement was high and hoped that this would translate into good registration numbers for the various events. Needless to say we are extremely happy with the numbers we have gotten under the circumstances,” President of the SCDF Alston Lourens said.

At the close of registration, the SCDF has registered for participation: 22 Calypsonians, 21 pageant participants, 11 bands, 10 road march competitors and 13 troupes/individual for the Grand Carnival Parade. As usual the registration for the parade will remain open until February 1, 2022. The queen pageant participants can be broken don as follows: 3 for the Junior Pageant, 7 for the Teen Pageant, 4 for the Senior Pageant and 7 for the Ms. Mature Pageant.

As announced previously, the registration process for Carnival Season passes remains open until January 1, 2022. The SCDF also has a full complement of booth holders registered and all international nights have also been awarded to promoters. The foundation made special mention of the new Soualiga Kaiso Association (SKA) and its efforts to ensure that Calypso would be back in full force for Carnival 2022.

According to Lourens, the preparation for Carnival now moves into its full organizational phase of putting the shows together for what he anticipates will be an epic return of St. Maarten’s largest event. “I am very proud of the resilience shown by the volunteers of this foundation and our stakeholders who have been going through so much adversity brought on by the pandemic. This bounce back is very encouraging and the interest in the country’s most significant cultural event is at an all-time high,” Lourens said.

“We will now be busy putting the shows together, setting up rehearsals, the queen contestants will be revealed soon and the individual promoters will be coming with their announcements as well. We are beyond excited to get this fete going,” Lourens concluded.

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USP not surprised by MP Arrindell, deficit in electoral structure persists

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The board of the United St. Maarten (US) party on Saturday said the announcement by MP Akeem Arrindell that he was breaking from the US was a plan months in the making by the MP, and once again highlights the deficits in the country’s electoral structure.

The party board said it is unfortunate that MP’s do not have the same conviction to the truth as they have in their attempt to present a sympathetic picture to the public. The board said it is “not at all surprised” by the announcement since MP Arrindell threatened the board via letter in March 2021.

This threat to declare himself an Independent Member of Parliament came after the board tried to strengthen USP’s faction office in Parliament by way of staffing. In doing this, the board would also seek to address Arrindell’s lack-luster performance in Parliament by surrounding him with staff that can assist in meeting his goals and those of the party towards the public.

MP Arrindell, the board explained, wrote quite clearly that he did not require any help in the faction office and any attempt to address staffing would result in his resignation. “This is why the MP’s announcement was not a surprise, but it was void of the truth. The lines of communications between the faction and the board were always open, and Mr. Cecil Nicholas was not President at the time of his comments made on November 18th 2021 as part of a general conversation as a host of The Review talk show and taken completely out of context,” the board said, adding that it wished MP Arrindell much success moving forward.

On a more serious note, the board pointed out that the number of factions currently in parliament does signify a serious flaw in the current electoral structure “There hasn’t been an MP that has gotten enough votes to secure his or her seat out right in recent electoral cycles, seats have been won based on the collective votes of the political party. This coupled with the issues of government instability that we’ve had as a country since 2010 highlights a deficit with regards to political accountability to the electorate,” the board said.

The board pointed out that political party’s platforms and positions on motions presented in Parliament are negated by the oath taken by MPs to vote their conscious after running on and promoting the parties platform presented to the people during election campaigns. “The party is undemocratically put in a position of weakness because it cannot hold individual MPs accountable for taking positions in contravention to the party’s platform as presented to the electorate.,” the US board said.

It continued: “The negative impact on the country due to declarations of independence by members of parliament over the past 10 years has undoubtedly had a negative effect on the country’s growth potential. As a country we must be mature enough to identify deficits in our electoral structure that impact us negatively, and be creative in finding ways to address them.”

Progress and continuity, the board added, should not be held hostage by individualism while the electoral process emphasis is on party manifestos and platforms. It opined that political parties should have recourse when members of Parliament representing party factions find themselves at odds with the parties and by extension the supporters of the parties that they represent, unless they won their seat outright.

“The debate has been exhausted, it is time to act on electoral reform to address declarations of independence as the order of the day, especially since resignations from parties is never based on genuine principled concerns or country issues,” the board concluded.

The board said it remains focused on its restructuring and planning for the country and the next electoral cycle.

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Fireman sentenced for possession, threat with firearm

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - A firefighter was sentenced this week by the Court of First Instance on Wednesday for threat with a firearm and for illegal firearm possession. He was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment, of which 12 months are conditional.

The firefighter threatened another person in the early morning after an evening of drinking. The firefighter said he could not remember the incident.

The actions of the firefighter were unfitting of someone who holds a public function and a role of trust in the community. His behavior may not only affect the way he and, by extension, his profession is viewed, but created feeling of fear and insecurity for the victim and bystanders.

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MP Romou Questions the Revocation of the Licenses of Two Registered Psychiatrists

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The COVID 19 has resulted in devastating consequences to our country and our economy that was still recovering from Hurricane Irma. Although this has a major negative effect on the socio-economic wellbeing of the people of Sint Maarten, it also has an enormous negative impact on psychological and emotional wellbeing of the people as well.

Studies have shown that the pandemic lead to a substantial increase in different mental health problems, psychiatric disorders and suicides in which Sint Maarten has been plagued with before and even more so since the pandemic. The lack of sufficient professional expertise is of concern as St. Maarten has also been struggling to get enough psychiatrists and other mental health care workers even before the pandemic started. The pandemic has shed light now more than ever, how important mental health is and has also magnified our shortages as a country when it comes to mental health care. We cannot continue to do our fellow brothers and sisters of this country a disservice when it comes to their mental health.

As a Member of Parliament, I have been paying keen attention behind the scenes to a particular situation that I consider disheartening. I have had numerous meetings with the Minister of health with regards to this situation and at one point, I thought that a resolve had been met, only to find out that initially MHF was not willing to come to a resolve with the 2 psychiatrists concerned .

A little back ground information, in 2019, two BIG-registered psychiatrists came to settle in Sint Maarten with a mission to help the people of Sint Maarten with mental health problems and improve the quality of psychiatric care and the mental health care in general. They started working for the Mental Health Foundation but resigned due to internal matters at MHF. However, these two psychiatrists didn’t want to give up on their mission and saw the potential for improvement of individual and public psychiatric care on the island therefore they made the decision to open their own psychiatric institution.

In the beginning of 2021, they submitted an application to the minister of VSA and filed for an institutional license and ministerial decrees were needed in order for them to continue to work as psychiatrists. At that time suicides and incidents with mentally challenged people were already rising quickly and the media frequently reported about it, unfortunately their application was denied. Prior to their application, their ministerial decrees were revoked because they were hired by Mental Health Foundation and were therefore only allowed to practice under the Mental Health Foundation. Different health care institutions, health care associations and patients wrote support letters for the two psychiatrists to the Minister to no avail. As a result, the psychiatrists started legal procedures against the Government of St. Maarten, in particular the Minister of VSA, in which the main procedure is still pending. They felt it necessary because they didn´t get an opportunity to explain their side of the story in addition to several false assumptions and accusations made. An example, of a false assumption was that the two psychiatrists would only treat clients who would yield the highest profits. In my opinion, if this was truly a concern then clauses could be put in the ministerial decree or policies would be an easy solution if this would be the case. I must note as a representative of the people , I must remain very active as a citizen in my dear St. Maarten land and I can vouch for these 2 psychiatrist as being primarily about the care for the people of St. Maarten because I have had visits, many calls and inbox messages from individuals thanking me for standing up on the floor of parliament to get some kind of recuse for these 2 physiatrists because of the good work they had done for their clients and were still doing without compensation,

I am a firm believer in processes and procedures and following the laws and policies of the land . However, when the parties involved in the advisory role to the Minister represent a conflict of interest in which they are unable to deliver unbiased opinions and advice, I must question the process and the decisions taken as a result of their advice.

With our current situation on the island and the evident lack of qualified psychiatrists – can we really continue with the current status quo with an overburdened Mental Health Foundation which lack enough psychiatrists to truly deliver quality care for all? It also leads me to question if such a decision is really and truly in the best interest of the people of St. Maarten? Is Mental Health considered a monopoly on the island? Is it truly MHF way or no way at all?

I am prepared to take this matter further and bring it to the floor of Parliament because clearly our current system is not properly functioning, while lives have been lost and many more lives are at stake. Our people deserve proper psychiatric care on the island, and we cannot play politics nor favoritism where this is concerned. As a representative of the people of Sint Maarten, I will do my due diligence with all matters of this country and continue to speak up in the best interest of the people. I am making another plea to the Minister of Health to take a stand in the benefit of all people of St. Maarten, these psychiatrists deserve a chance to continue to work in the best interest of the people in St. Maarten because every citizen is affected in one or the other by mental health situations on this island, do not allow mental health to continue to suffer at the hands of those who do not have the best interest of the people at heart.

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Minister of Justice Richardson pursuing establishment of Justice Substations with APS

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - During late November, the Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson engaged in a fruitful meeting with Algemeen Pensioenfonds Sint Maarten (APS) Director Nadya Croes-Van Putten and a member of her staff to discuss the Ministry of Justice’s interest in acquiring Justice Substations throughout St. Maarten, possibly financed with the help of APS. During the engagement, Minister Richardson relayed her intention for the Ministry of Justice to purchase a property in the Cul de Sac district establishing the first substation.

APS is discussing the purchase of the subject property under the lease-to-own agreement with the Government, with the understanding that the property will be developed (repurposed) by Government as the Justice Substation for district Cul de Sac. The intention is to develop a Police Substation on the lower level of the building and the upper-level apartments would be used for various needs of residential space within the Ministry of Justice. As this was the first time the Minister of Justice and APS have ever engaged in discussions, both Minister Richardson and Director Croes-Van Putten are very enthusiastic about the possibilities being pursued for a safer Cul de Sac.

A request for APS’ backing and assistance was formally submitted by Minister Richardson in October 2021. In the request, the steps for initiating the procedure for the establishment of a DBOOT (design, build, own, operate and transfer) agreement and the acquisition of a lease to own agreement with Government for a building that can function as a Justice Substation in Cul de Sac were specified.

Based upon the 2011 Census, the district of Cul de Sac comprises the 3rd largest of the 8 districts of Sint Maarten, measured in terms of population size and the number of dwellings. Furthermore, the district contains the largest number of schools, especially secondary schools, in Sint Maarten, as a result of which, the large majority of school children on the island travel by bus or otherwise on weekdays to and from this district. The latter results in the highest density of young persons within the district in peak hours of a given weekday, with accompanying traffic congestion. There are also many businesses established along the main roads in Cul de Sac.

Based on an assessment of feasible potential locations for a substation, the Ministry identified the location of the commercial and residential building at the intersection of the L.B. Scott Road and Cupper Drive as ideal. The location is central in the Cul de Sac district, along the main road, near to the most densely populated areas of Cul de Sac, and at an intersection with a high gathering of school-going population.

“As the Ministry of Justice continues to seek methods of becoming more efficient, collaboration with other institutions remains of utmost importance to maintain order and a safe St. Maarten for our community and visitors. With the establishment of a Police Substation in the Cul de Sac area, our Police force will be empowered to tackle youth delinquency and reduce the number of frequent incidents of police calls to this district. As such, the Government is willing to enter into a DBOOT and lease agreement for the property with APS, as a means of bridging over the current lack of investable funds until the Government has the financial capacity to carry this investment on its own,” stated Minister Richardson.

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Minister of Justice reacts to court ruling in connection with KPSM Class of 2011

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Minister of Justice Hon. Anna Richardson has taken note of the court decisions rendered yesterday in favor of Police officers, seeking to obtain correction of a National Decree issued earlier this year, under a penalty to be granted by the court.

“Even though this decision is not rendered against the Minister of Justice, the underlying matter is of great importance to the Ministry, as the long overdue rectification of the position of this particular class of 2011, following an agreement signed with the former Minister of Justice, is addressed.

“In this particular case the Ministry of Justice, upon receipt of the request for the correction to the National decrees to be made, which were found to have merit, sought to utilize the opportunity to include in the correction the position of these Police officers beyond the date mentioned in the agreement on which the requested correction was based. In the advice to correct the promotions due were recommended to be included up to the most possible current date. In line herewith the advice and National decree were drafted and submitted for completion by the Governor.

“The expectation is that the Officers will receive the new decrees within short. It is unfortunate that the decrees were not issued as yet, even though in process for some time. In its totality definitely unacceptable given the time it has taken to address the requests of the officers.

“As Minister of Justice, I have vowed to correct what has been pending for the past years, and although this make take a couple of months for the current team to address the many matters pending, the necessary work is and will continue to be done. This may not occur as fast as many would hope, however with the imminent signing of the function book proper placement of Justice workers across the board, will finally occur.

“Having great appreciation for the entire Justice workers core, I will continue to work to enhance their positions, as they work to enhance our lives with their dedicated service. The true victory is not in the decision or the mere receipt of the National Decree, but in the content of the National Decree containing the most updated position of the officers.”  

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MP Akeem Arrindell addresses concerns with the lack of school repairs to Minister of Education

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Wednesday, United Sint Maarten (US) Party faction leader, Member of Parliament (MP), Akeem Arrindell sent a letter to the Minister of Education, Rudolphe Samuel, regarding the number of public schools that are still not repaired since the passing of Hurricane Irma and Maria in September of 2021, in particular the Sister Marie Laurence School in Middle Region, who’s teachers and students are currently sharing space at the St. Dominic School in Cul-de-Sac, MP Arrindell said in his press statement on Wednesday.  

In his letter to the minister the MP noted that upon inspection of the several schools in 2017, promises were made to have the schools repaired and particularly, to have the Sister Marie Laurence School rebuilt. “Several years have passed and I have yet to see the promised improvements to most of our schools begin.” MP Akeem stated. “The Sister Marie Laurence School, for example, is still at a standstill for renovation.” The MP continued. “A meeting was held regarding the rebuilding of the afore mentioned school, but up to present, no new developments towards this project have transpired.”

“We will soon be entering into a new year and the students and teachers of the Sister Marie Laurence School will still be sharing classrooms with other schools, which contributes to the hectic traffic in the St. Peters and South Reward areas in the early morning and afternoon hours, the MP added. 

“Members of Parliament have recently visited the public schools to get a first-hand impression of the needed repairs and noticed that in most cases the promised repairs have not yet commenced. MP Arrindell stated that teachers are complaining about the unhealthy mould inhalation and leaking roofs at the schools during bad weather.

“In his letter MP Arrindell questioned the minister as to when we may expect the repairs to the other public schools to commence, bearing in mind that our young generation is the future of the island and the environment in which we are shaping their minds must be safe and sound and most important, conducive for learning. 

“MP Arrindell said that he is looking forward to seeing a tremendous change when we enter into the new year 2022. While he noted that repairs cannot be done while students are in school, he stressed that we have multiple breaks coming up, such as the Christmas Holidays, the Carnival break and the summer vacation, at which time the necessary renovations of the schools can take place,” the MPs press statement concludes. 

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UPCOMING COCI ELECTION SET FOR DECEMBER 3rd

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) would like to remind the members of the business community of the upcoming COCI Elections for the Board of Directors.

COCI has two polling stations which are the Chamber of Commerce in Philipsburg and the other being the Simpson Bay Public Service Center.

Both will be open from 8.30am until 12.00pm.

The Election for the Small & Large Business sector seats shall be held on December 3rd, 2021.

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