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MP Romou Launches “Loving Our Teachers Out Loud” Initiative

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In commemoration of World Teacher’s Day on October 5th, 2022, Member of Parliament (MP) Angelique J.G. Romou via the Raise Your Voice Foundation joined together with the local business community to love our teachers out loud and thank them for making a resounding difference in the lives of our students and families

The 2022 “Loving Our Teachers Out Loud” initiative is a Coupon Brochure, filled with discounts and freebies for our teachers on Sint Maarten to enjoy. MP Romou did a school tour and visited every school on Dutch St. Maarten to personally pay tribute and give words of encouragement and to distribute the coupon Brochures to all teachers. These coupons will be available to be redeemed by teachers during the period October 2022 thru March 2023. Teachers would present the respective coupon in person at participating businesses in order to redeem the discount or free item.

MP Romou thanked all twenty-five local businesses who hopped onboard the initiative to show their appreciation to our local teachers with discounts and free items. These businesses are Obersi Group, Domino’s Pizza, KFC, The Sugar Mill Café, Mark’s Place Restaurant, Beirut Restaurant, Lucky’s Shopping Center, Victor’s Cosmetics, Blue Point, Inglot, Overstocks, Pineapple Pete’s, Addicted Hair Lounge, Georgina’s Nails, Shop and Take, Dollar Smart, Beautylicious, Colosseum SXM, Divico, Carrefour Market, Crocs, Fire Fit Gym, Ace Home Center, Sale & Pepe Restaurant and T’s Closet.

“I know the hardships that the teachers on our island are currently facing, and I know that this doesn’t begin to solve them however please know that I am working hard behind the scenes doing what I can (as a citizen and a Member of Parliament) to contribute to better conditions for our teachers. I believe that each individual can do their part to bring about change and that is why I had to recognize every teacher for their hard work and dedication to the teaching profession and by extension empowering our future leaders of tomorrow.

"Therefore, being able to team up together with our local business community to show appreciation in commemoration of World Teacher’s Day is an honor. To our beloved teachers, please consider this as a token of appreciation on behalf of the community that love you. We see your hard work; we appreciate your hard work and we want to love you out loud for your hard work. Happy World Teachers’ Day!” MP Romou concluded.

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Governor ‘In Conversation with the Youth of Sint Maarten’

SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) - On Friday, September 30, His Excellency, Governor Eugene Holiday had the opportunity to meet with a varied group of young St. Maarten students at the Government Administration Building as part of his farewell activities. The event ‘A Conversation with the Governor’ was organized by the Youth Parliament of Sint Maarten under the leadership of Mrs. Connie Gumbs-Francis.

Throughout His 12 years of Governorship, the Youth has been a focal point, which resulted in His signature program ‘The Youth Awards for Excellence’ underpinning the motto instilled from his youth ‘to strive to the best of oneself in all that one does.’

A total of 19 students from various schools and organizations attended and each were able to raise a variety of questions to the Governor. These questions ranged from how the Governor dealt with the changes in Parliament, the unemployment of youth, drugs, and alcohol abuse by the youth, to the economic effects to the mangrove removal in the Fresh Pond.

The youth did not hesitate in posing their direct and frank questions to His Excellency. They freely exchanged ideas and thoughts on Sint Maarten’s current educational system, career opportunities, and possible incentives to return home once concluding their studies abroad.

Throughout the conversation the Governor provided general recommendations and advice, whilst sharing his experience as a student, and professionally. Highlighting the importance of balanced decision making and ensuring that proper analysis and research is present, forming the basis for responding to the (policy) questions posed, and ultimately encouraging the students to continue to strive for excellence, ‘by being an example to their peers, no matter the circumstance.’

The Governor took his time to answer all the questions posed while sharing in some laughter in between. The event concluded with a letter of appreciation presented by His Excellency to each individual and a group photo.

Governor was inspired by the youngsters and left the Government Administration Building with the insurance that Sint Maarten has a bright future ahead. Ms. Angél Flanders, President of the Youth Parliament final words were: “the Governor listened, spoke and connected with us. He will be missed but not forgotten”.

GOV grp in session of youth

Gov students in discussion

 

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SMMC and FINSO agree on adjusted terms due to inflation & supply chain disruptions

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) – St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) and general contractor, FINSO, recently signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) regarding the adjusted terms for the construction of St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) in the presence of Minister of VSA Omar Ottley, marking the next step in the continuation of the project.

“Although contract revisions are never a welcome process during an ongoing construction project, the existing market conditions of persistent high inflation and supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have made it impossible to complete the SMGH building as per the terms agreed to in 2016, when the original contract was signed”, stated Minister of VSA Omar Ottley. “This LOI clearly stipulates how to deal with these issues which is important to finish the SMGH”.

Following the LOI, the contract and the financing will be adjusted based on the agreements of the LOI. Furthermore, the design of the new hospital will be further optimized. In the meantime, the construction activities will continue with the focus on further increasing the workforce. The coming months will be used by the contractor to prepare the large-scale construction which will become more visible in terms of increased site activities as of the start of next year.

SMMC has continued expanding its medical services in order to cater to the rising care demand on St. Maarten and surrounding islands while the main SMGH building is expected to open its doors in 2025.

“We have continued with our aim to provide high quality care, close to home through the expansion of medical services at the current facility, while we await the construction to be completed. The two new state of the art Class 1 Operating Theatres, the additional Dialysis capacity, the opening of a Pain Management Clinic, the expansion of Oncology services and the realization of a brand-new MRI clinic are all testimony of our continued hard work to serve the community of St. Maarten and surrounding islands, right now”, concluded Dr. Holiday.

SMMC will keep the public and all stakeholders informed during this process as the project goes forward in the coming months.

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Ministry of Justice Anti-Counterfeiting & Intellectual Property Conference a Success

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - St. Maarten’s First Anti-Counterfeiting and Intellectual Property conference hosted by the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson at the Simpson Bay Resort on September 29th and 30th, has been dubbed a success. Minister Richardson invited corporate brand representatives, international experts, legal minds, business representatives, local distributors and government officials to activate awareness of the manufacturing and trade of counterfeit products in St. Maarten. The conference forms part of the Ministry's efforts in creating a resilient anti-counterfeiting strategy for St. Maarten.

Minister Richardson stated, “For far too long there have been many brands that have not been established on St. Maarten due to the vast number of counterfeit products being sold locally. This conference was the start of the Ministry’s efforts to shift the paradigm and attract authentic to high-end brands while offering an excellent opportunity for networking, knowledge exchange and collaboration.”  

The Ministry highlighted anti-counterfeiting and intellectual property protection during the entire week beginning on September 26th and 27th, with the staff of Customs Department undergoing advanced training on the detection of illicit trade and counterfeiting. The sessions were facilitated by SGS France and carried out by French Customs Officer and world-renown specialist Mr. Christophe Zimmermann who has been involved in the fight against illicit trade with extensive operational and field experience. Controllers of the Ministries of VSA and TEATT were also invited to participate in the advanced training as the detection of counterfeit goods plays a critical role in carrying out their daily tasks.

During the advanced training, the latest techniques for targeting and profiling illicit trade were covered extensively. The participants gained profound knowledge in interpreting the Airway Bill, the Manifest, the Bill of Lading, the detection of counterfeit goods, and new concealment methods. The participants also had the opportunity to practice with real-world examples of the documents mentioned and samples of counterfeited goods, and authentic goods that have been tampered with, with a special focus on the wines and spirits industry.

After the training, the participants indicated that they found great value in the training and that they are now more confident and better equipped to perform their duties. The participants from the different Ministries indicated that they would work together to be more effective in combatting illicit trade. Minister Richardson closed the advanced training sessions by thanking the presenters and the participants and indicated that activating awareness of the crime of counterfeiting and the illicit trade is a high-priority item for the Ministry of Justice.

During the highly-anticipated conference held later in the week, the program was kicked off with opening speeches by the Honorable Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Silveria E. Jacobs, the Honorable Minister of VSA and Acting Minister of TEATT Omar Ottley, as well as the host of the conference, Minister Richardson. A panel discussion followed with a panel of experts consisting of Chief Inspector Food Safety, Ms. Maria van Heyningen, Customs Department Interim Head, Mr. Franklin Bernadina, Moët Hennessy Brand Protection Manager North America, Caribbean and Brazil, Ms. Flavie Jost, PUMA General Counsel and Senior Global Head of Intellectual Property, Mr. Neil Narriman, and the Director of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Intellectual Property Rights Unit, Mr. Victor Barret. The selected experts led a discussion with invited guests who had the opportunity to ask questions in relation to anti-counterfeiting and intellectual property rights, as well as best practices used to tackle these issues.

Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “The government would like to commend this initiative by the Minister of Justice to bring professionals in the field of anti-counterfeiting and intellectual property together to raise the standard on St. Maarten. This allows us to be a place where authenticity can be highlighted, whereby we can attract and maintain high-level brands. While there are laws that already exist in this capacity, more enforcement needs to take place. It was interesting to hear what professionals, as well as businesspersons faced with the reality of rising costs, have to say. It was a great first step in the right direction of what is needed to ensure we are doing the right things for the right reason while bringing awareness to all. We do not want to make as much effort as we do to develop St. Maarten only to be blacklisted as a country that is thriving on counterfeit items, thereby blocking our economic growth potential. So, we must focus on quality over quantity.”

In an invited comment, Minister Ottley stated, “This is an important step for us as a country. We should develop a partnership, rather than just view it as a branding opportunity. I encourage the investors to commit to us in time of disasters and help us to rebuild and rebrand stronger and better.”

Moët Hennessy Brand Protection Manager, Ms. Jost stated the following in an invited comment, “I was very honored to participate as a speaker at the conference. It was a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of the potential risks implied by the illicit trade of alcohol, not only for Moët Hennessy but for all the industries that required special attention in terms of consumer protection. In addition, my main input is to bet on education and awareness: prevention is better than cure. It is one of the solutions to empower all the stakeholders and invite them to play their part. Furthermore, the diversity of attendees was a great choice, I never experienced this before. I think it was interesting to also hear about the traders of St. Maarten and sensitize them on some important topics related to the safety of the goods that they probably trade without knowing the risks. It was wise to gather all the stakeholders around the table, it is the only way to switch the paradigm.”

Minister Richardson stated, “I’d like to thank all the brand representatives, international experts, government officials, international stakeholders and DISOSA Brand Protection Services for taking the time to fly to St. Maarten from their various countries to attend this international platform. The information shared was vital in the Ministry’s efforts to bring awareness of counterfeiting and intellectual property infringement practices in St. Maarten. With this first step in the right direction, we must now ensure that quality and authenticity are part of our community of St. Maarten.”

The conference was concluded with a networking session where invited guests and stakeholders were able to network, during a cocktail party courtesy of Moët Hennessy. Following the conference, a sophisticated strategy will now be outlined on how St. Maarten can be redirected away from being listed as a black-market territory and restore its position as an attractive jurisdiction for brands to establish their business. The Ministry of Justice will continue to implement measures that contribute to realizing a safe and attractive St. Maarten for residents, business owners, brands, and tourists.

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MP Duncan on IPKO Trip: “The time has come to further develop the Kingdom’s consciousness!”

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On October 2, 2022, the St. Maarten delegation returned from the Netherlands after attending the Interparliamentary Kingdom Consultation (IPKO). Member of Parliament Solange Ludmila Duncan was allowed to participate at IPKO for the first time as an independent member and will be submitting a full report to Parliament on her perspectives on the matters discussed and proposals for St. Maarten moving forward.

Duncan states that “the discussions at this year’s IPKO were extremely important given the time and circumstances that we are currently in. I believe that the current movement to recognize the impact of colonialism and the Netherlands’ slavery past on our societies are forcing Parliaments and Governments in the Kingdom to have open and honest dialogues about what, in my opinion, are foundational, complex matters. We are in a time in our history where local and kingdom consciousness need to be further developed. Consciousness is about deep self-awareness. The ways we see ourselves as a St. Maarten people and then as Dutch citizens should happen through a lens of truth and authenticity. This will always affect how we interpret and make policies and legislation concerning education, healthcare, poverty and inequality in this country.”

“On Day two of IPKO I was extremely impressed and inspired by the presentation given by Mr. Brindapan, on Rotterdam’s current quest to redefine itself as a post-colonial city,” added Duncan.

Mr. Mike Brindapan, who grew up on St. Maarten, is the Project leader for Dialogue & Education in the City Program Colonial & Slavery History of Rotterdam. On 14 November 2018, the Rotterdam City Council adopted a motion from then PvdA Councilor Peggy Wijntuin. The motion requested the Mayor and Aldermen to carry out research into the colonial and slavery past of Rotterdam. Since the adoption of the motion, the City has undertaken a number of activities including research, education of and dialogue with residents. On the International Day of Human Rights, on Friday 10th December 2021, the Mayor of Rotterdam apologized for the role of their predecessors in colonial times from the 17th century.

“I see Rotterdam not only as pioneer but also a potential partner for St. Maarten. I am proposing to the Committee for Constitutional Affairs and Decolonization (CCAD) that we reach out to the City Council to discuss matters of heritage, history, colonialism and best practices as it regards citizen engagement in on these matters. The fact that colonialism will continue to be a subject on IPKO agendas moving forward also reminds the Kingdom that St. Maarten’s Parliament is forward thinking in the work and efforts that have taken place in the CCAD over the two years.”

Although the Dispute Regulation was only discussed inside the tripartite meeting between the delegations of Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, the proposals on decreasing the democratic deficits in the Kingdom offered new insights into improving kingdom relations and possibly developing a remodeled kingdom structure. “What is important is that the status quo of kingdom relations and decision-making needs to be adapted. I look forward to discussions in Parliament on the continued creation of a roadmap for an improved future.”

During IPKO a presentation was also made by the National Ombudsman on the difficulty that students are having in the Netherlands as it pertains to receiving their citizen service number (BSN), housing and health insurance.

“It is unfortunate and surprising that our students are facing more barriers to live in the Netherlands now than they did twenty years ago. Our Government and the Dutch Government should be in continuous discussion about improving the processes and policies that surround the transition of our students to Holland. In 2022 it should be easier not more difficult. I will be following up with the Government on this matter and researching the role of Parliament.”

“We need to reconnect with and engage our students not only in the Netherlands but all around the world in order to create knowledge networks. The argument to move back home shouldn’t be the only message going out. We should be asking the diaspora to help us to solve the country’s dilemmas through research and work from abroad.”

“Out of this IPKO will come increased committee work in Parliament but also increased oversight on Government to give attention to important subject matters like those mentioned above. I believe the people will be able to see and judge, especially where it concerns the alleged impact that IPKO has had on the budget according to the Minister of Finance, who returns value on investment and who doesn’t,” concluded Duncan.

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MP Gumbs: IPKO Discussion on Democratic Deficit, Colonialism & Slavery Was Highlight of the Week

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Party for Progress member of Parliament and faction leader, Melissa Gumbs, shared her experiences at the Fall 2022 IPKO session. IPKO is the coming together of all four Parliaments in the Kingdom of the Netherlands to discuss a variety of topics that impact each country or the Kingdom as a whole. This session of IPKO was held in The Hague, the Netherlands, from September 26 to 30.

As is customary, Monday, September 26th kicked off the week with the Tripartite session, where the three Caribbean Parliaments in the Kingdom come together to first discuss those issues that impact their respective countries. While much of the discussion is kept closed, Gumbs was able to share a bit about one of the presentations received, which she stated was a subject close to her heart.

“We received a presentation from the National Ombudsman,” Gumbs stated, “on the issues facing our students before, during and after their time in the Netherlands. Of course, DUO and the complications of obtaining a BSN were at the top of the list. But the National Ombudsman also noted that there remain serious issues with the guidance students receive when choosing their study path and major.”

Gumbs highlighted that this issue has been prevalent since she was in high school. She noted that the foundation she co-founded while in the Netherlands, Unified St. Maarten Connection (USC) had previously been advocating for and working with stakeholders to improve the level of guidance and counseling that the students receive before traveling to the Netherlands.

“There have consistently been complaints about the preparation of our students for when they travel to further their studies,” Gumbs continued, “and this research by the National Ombudsman has shown that these issues persist. The responsibility to address it lies not just with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, but particularly with the high schools and the persons they employ to provide said guidance.”

Following Tripartite, IPKO itself kicked off with opening sessions at the First Chamber, where the situation of each country was presented by their delegation leader. It remained clear, according to Gumbs, that ongoing global realities continue to impact all four countries within the Kingdom, with all four reporting issues with inflation, economic growth, and sustainability.

For Gumbs, though, the highlight of this fall’s IPKO session were the presentations and discussions over the democratic deficit in the Kingdom, as well as on colonialism and slavery. Attendees received a presentation from Professor Dr. Gert Oostindie and Dr. Wouter Veenendaal about collaboration and the democratic deficit, offering insights into similar, and different, political relationships in the world, which Gumbs said just made it more evident that without persons brave enough to approach the task of modernizing the Kingdom Charter, not much change can be expected. However, she did agree with both presenters when they explained that in the short-term, other potential resolutions should be sought, as the process of changing the charter takes some time.

Wednesday’s IPKO sessions ended with presentations regarding the Kingdom’s role in colonialism and the slave trade, coming from Dr. Valika Smeulders of the Rijksmuseum, Mr. Mike Bindraban, Project Leader of City Program Colonial & Slavery History of Rotterdam, and Mr. Gilbert Bacilio of House of Culture Curacao Foundation. This was the first time the agenda point appeared on the IPKO program, something Gumbs believes is significant and noteworthy.

“All three presenters held our attention,” Gumbs states, “and I took special notice of Mr. Bindraban’s point of ‘geen woorden maar daden,’ so not just words, but actions. The discussion afterwards, in my group session, was very insightful and encouraging. It was also discussed to have this topic on the agendas of future IPKOs, with the idea of putting actions behind the words in mind. It’s my belief that this will strengthen the value of IPKO as a tool to improve and maintain the relationships between the four countries.”

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NV GEBE's Commercial Department Working to Rebuild & Restore Customer Account Data

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - NV GEBE's Commercial Department has been working tirelessly to rebuild its billing system, which includes recreating all customer accounts and restoring all customer master and technical data. This is due to the loss of all consumer information during the ransomware attack by cyber criminals in March 2022.

“The community can rest assured that this is a very serious matter that has our full attention. All hands are on deck!” shares Troy Washington, N.V. GEBE's Temporary Manager. “We truly appreciate all of N.V. GEBE’s employees. Many are going above and beyond to contribute twice as much work within a shorter timeframe to complete key tasks. In particular, I commend the Commercial Department for their great efforts thus far. Together, we are working hard to swiftly resolve issues and better serve the community of St. Maarten, which remains our main focus,” says Washington.

With a commercial team comprised of five (5) staff members, the time required to input a year of data loss for thousands of customers has been a tedious undertaking. However, with the fervent focus on viable solutions, N.V. GEBE’s Commercial Manager, Iris Arrindell, and her team have approached this major undertaking relentlessly with the commitment of countless overtime hours. Additional administrative support staff, including those from other departments within the organization, have also been temporarily assigned to help expedite the billing process.

Furthermore, eight (8) young professionals have been recruited in partnership with NIPA for temporary employment at N.V. GEBE. They are providing critical assistance with crucial aspects of manual data organization.

Due to the joint team effort, 90% of the customer master data, including consumer names, account numbers, addresses, etc., have been successfully restored. Approximately 70% of the technical data, including connections and installations, have been (re)entered. The team is working around the clock to rebuild the data for thousands of customer accounts, which is being actively done, along with the ongoing daily operations.

Furthermore, N.V. GEBE has returned to having customers created directly in the system instead of manually. This particular aspect requires undergoing the detailed customer application process and entry of original data for every new customer, as well as updates for the previous year’s 5,000+ customers that are also being re-entered into the system simultaneously.

To ensure sustainable financial management for all respective parties, customers were previously asked to make monthly payments based on their average utility usage. Upon review of customer billing and recent (non) payment trends, kindly note the following:

- If customer payments are not made, the outstanding amounts will accrue on each monthly bill and reflect a combined total. The system automatically calculates and includes any/all outstanding amounts, which has been GEBE’s standard billing process.

- If payments were made and not correctly applied to customer accounts, those customers are asked to please contact N.V. GEBE to reconcile their accounts. Once verified, adjustments will be made to accurately reflect those payments on customer accounts.

- Customers who already visited N.V. GEBE with billing issues are asked to please be patient as the data is still being processed into the system. Current bills can be acquired by contacting GEBE, as listed below, or customers will be contacted after corrections are made. Updated bills will either be delivered or e-mailed to customers.

- If payments were made and the customer failed to put the contract account number, GEBE will not be able to apply the payment. We are asking those customers to bring in their receipts to N.V. GEBE.

- Persons who did a manual move-in / move-out (1573 customers) from March 16 – August 30, 2022, are hereby informed that our agents are busy creating accounts in our system (which is five and a half months of data).

- For customers (3593 customers) who had accounts in 2021 up to March 16, 2022, N.V. GEBE is still busy recreating technical master data.

- Customers who had device changes between March 2021 and March 2022, this technical master data is still being processed.

- There are also customers for whom N.V. GEBE has no master data documented; however, the physical meter is in the field. N.V. GEBE will provide more information on how to bridge that gap. These customers are asked to continue making estimated payments based on the average consumption via the bank to keep their accounts current.

- For customers who have closed their accounts and are waiting to receive a refund, they will be contacted when N.V. GEBE is ready to issue those respective refunds. Customers who have closed off their accounts and have outstanding amounts should make the necessary payments to clear their accounts.

N.V. GEBE is striving to have all customer data and billing processes fully restored and completely active. Customers who have not received a bill or have any billing concerns are asked to contact GEBE via our help desk at: (721) 546-1100/ 546-1160, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., WhatsApp: +1721-588-3117 or, at the Philipsburg/Simpson Bay branch offices. If there are any billing discrepancies, GEBE has implemented a special customer support help desk and additional customer service agents to assist with any inquiries.

Customers are hereby reminded to make all outstanding payments (for March - August 2022) if they haven't done so already. The records reflect that, thus far, only a limited number of customers (i.e., 50%) have been compliant with the regular payment of their average monthly utility usage.

N.V. GEBE remains dedicated to powering the entire Community of St. Maarten with reliable electricity and water services on a continual basis. Therefore, customers are urged to uphold their responsibility to pay, at least, the average monthly consumption. The timely payment of bills helps to ensure the sustainable operations of St. Maarten’s sole utility company. This, consequently, serves everyone’s benefit, as we all rely on the continuous supply of electricity and water.

“Working together with dedication, understanding, patience, and community support, particularly with the fulfillment of our respective obligations, N.V. GEBE shall continue to efficiently power the community of St. Maarten,” shares Washington.

N.V. GEBE stands firmly on its mission to serve consumers as a committed company that provides reliable, cost-effective, quality electricity, water, and waste management services in a safe, environmentally friendly, sustainable, and innovative manner. Towards this end, ongoing community updates with additional details on various relevant matters will be provided. Please remain abreast of the website: www.nvgebe.com and Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nvgebe, as well as the relevant media outlets for further information.

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Weapon Policy to be enforced by the Ministry of Justice

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Friday, September 30, 2022, the new Weapon Policy of the Ministry of Justice was published in the National Gazette. The Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson initiated the establishment of a new weapon policy when it became apparent that some aspects of the Weapon Policy of 2016 needed to be updated or further developed. Relevant stakeholders within the Justice chain such as Korps Politie van Sint Maarten (KPSM), the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the Customs Department were included in the drafting process of the new policy.

In the same manner that a person requires a driver’s license to operate a vehicle, Minister Richardson finds it necessary for a gun holder to obtain a weapon license to confirm that he or she can safely operate a weapon. Thereafter, the license holder can apply for a weapon permit for the specific weapon desired. This is another distinctive added feature to the Weapon Policy of 2022.

In the policy, the application process and requirements for the different types of permits are determined in a detailed manner. For example, the policy includes separate chapters regarding a firearm permit for an individual, a weapon permit for security companies and security detail, a weapon permit for a shooting club, a weapon permit to operate as a weapon dealer and a permit for a weapon other than a firearm (speargun, crossbow, air gun, etc). In addition, the policy describes the obligations of a weapon license holder. Furthermore, insight is provided into the new fees linked to the application process for a weapon license. These new fees will be applicable when the relevant National Decree containing General Measures (Lbham) is finalized.

By setting and enforcing strict rules for legal weapon possession, the Ministry of Justice intends to avoid legal weapons ending up in the illegal circuit. For example, by means of re-establishing strict storing requirements for firearms and ammunition as well as conducting regular controls to enforce these policy rules. In addition, the intensified screening procedure for all types of weapon permits but also the pre-requisite of training in the proper handling of a firearm, are essential in ensuring a responsible manner of regulating the legal weapons in our society and by extension minimalizing the risk for the community. Thirdly, a proper and constantly updated registration of weapons, ammunition, and permits will provide the necessary clarity within the Law Enforcement chain about (non) permit holders, the validity of a permit, the conditions of a permit, and the legality or illegality of possessed weapons.

The Ministry of Justice is of the position that legal gun possession should only be possible after requiring a state-issued permit. In order to obtain such, the applicant must have an objectively determined reasonable interest to possess a weapon. In addition, an applicant will be assessed to establish that there is no fear that the applicant will misuse the weapon or the weapon permit.

Therefore, an applicant will undergo interviews, background checks, medical and psychological evaluations and, gun and safety training. Only persons who pass all the required stages of the application procedure, thus showing to be responsible citizens, will be considered for granting a gun permit. By introducing those safeguards, improper use or misuse of licensed weapons will be prevented as best as possible.

To guard this procedure, the Minister of Justice will be advised by a new Weapon Committee, consisting of members of multidisciplinary expertise: a high-ranked police officer, a legal expert of the Department of Judicial Affairs, and an independent (forensic) psychologist.

To apply for a weapon permit, a filled-out application form in which the reasonable interest to obtain a weapon permit, as well as relevant documentation such as a declaration of conduct, registration form of the Civil Registry, a medical declaration and a declaration of a psychologist, must be submitted.

It is illegal and a serious crime to have a weapon without authorization. Combating the issue of illegal weapons and gun violence is a top priority for Minister Richardson. This requires a twofold approach: strict criminal law enforcement of illegal weapon possession by the KPSM and the Public Prosecutor on the one hand, and the existence of a thorough policy of legal weapon possession on the other hand.

All interested persons are requested to complete a new application to be processed under the 2022 policy. The application form as well as the complete policy document can be found on the website of the Ministry of Justice www.ministryofjustice.sx.

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MP Brison Addresses Right to Bank Account at IPKO

SINT MAARTEN/THE HAGUE - Leader of the United People’s Party MP Rolando Brison brought forward at the Interparliamentary Kingdom Meetings (IPKO) the concern of thousands of St. Maarteners that local banks are not providing many citizens with timely bank accounts and proper services, which is in contravention of European law.

The topic was brought forward by the MP during the presentation from the Council of State regarding the application of Treaties and European Union law to the islands of the Kingdom. “In preparing for this debate, my focus was centered on the European Directive 2014/92 which states that all citizens European Union Citizens have the right of timely access to at least a basic bank account.

“While it is unfortunate that the banks have for years ignored this directive, something they could choose to voluntarily apply, it was encouraging to hear from the Council of State members that the “Union Right” of Dutch citizens in the Caribbean countries cannot be ignored as per the Treaty of Lisbon,” explained Brison.

Brison was referring to the European Directive that outlines the banking rights of consumers. In this directive, Article 16.1 states that “Member States shall ensure that payment accounts with basic features are offered to consumers by all credit institutions or a sufficient number of credit institutions to guarantee access thereto for all consumers in their territory”.

Additionally, it states under Article 16.2 “Member States shall ensure that the exercise of the right is not made too difficult or burdensome for the consumer. Member States shall ensure that credit institutions offering [basic bank accounts] without undue delay and at the latest 10 business days after receiving a complete application.”

“We can see clearly in St. Maarten that the part of the law most ignored by banks is where it states clearly: ‘opening a bank account should not be made too difficult or burdensome for the consumer’. Neither is the 10-day time frame for opening a bank account nowhere near a reality,” Brison.

In response to the question, Mr Comenencia, member of the Kingdom Council of State, noted that he is familiar with the problem. “The Council of State also received an initiative draft from a Dutch MP to guarantee all citizens within the kingdom the right to a bank account. It seems quite complicated, especially according to the banking sector,” stated Mr. Comenencia.

The law referred to is from D66 Second Chamber MP Joost Sneller, which is still in the advisory phase. Brison concurred with the Council of State member and agreed that it is the banking sector in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom that are showing resistance to such legislation being applied. “This is what we experience in St. Maarten as well, and why we have taken the step to create local legislation to address the problem since St. Maarten banks are choosing to not apply the European directive of their own accord,” stated Brison.

Mr. Schrijver, another member of the Council of State, also responded to MP Brison, saying that EU laws are generally also applicable to the overseas territories, especially human rights laws. He said that the right to a basic bank account seems to be treated as an exception to this norm. “This is where we are not quite in agreement with the [Dutch] government: We say "realize now that the European Community has evolved into a European Union and that you can't always say "no, this only applies to the European Netherlands," stated Mr. Schrijver.

Brison explained that while observing the refusal of banks to comply with European directives, the MP, who has made legislating his top priority since entering Parliament, did not want to sit still and thus opted to draft a local “Consumer banking protection law” that mirrors the Dutch Kingdom’s “Financial sector oversight” law. The draft law has been handed over to the Minister of Finance and as per the motion of January 24, 2022. It has been vetted by the Central Bank and is making its way to Parliament. This is the work of Members of Parliament, which the United People’s Party Faction will continue to make its central focus. When we bring laws, it changes people’s lives for the better. This law will forever improve the way we do banking in St. Maarten.”

Brison also proposed the topic of local banking, international corresponding banking and the unjust blacklisting of Dutch Caribbean countries be its own agenda point at the next IPKO in the Netherlands. Brison proposes that the Dutch Central Bank who oversees the right to basic bank accounts in the Netherlands present to IPKO, as well as D66 MP Joost Sneller who’s legislation mirrors that of MP Brison, though from a Kingdom perspective.

“This is definitely a Kingdom Relations Issue. If we are equal partners in the Kigndom, there should also be equal rights. One thing the Kingdom must also consider from the Council of State advice that was discussed at IPKO, is that according to their advice, the Member State (the Kingdom of the Netherlands) can be held financially responsible towards the European Union for European directives not being carried out fully within the state, including overseas territories,” concluded Brison.

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CPS Says Thank You to Prostate Cancer Awareness Stakeholders

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – A number of activities were carried out during the month of September in connection with raising awareness about prostate cancer.

The activities were organized and supported by a number of stakeholders and partners, such as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), prostate cancer survivors, individuals and businesses.

Collective Prevention Service (CPS) would like to express its gratitude to all stakeholders who took part to make the month-long awareness campaign a success. Namely the Positive Foundation, the Elektralytes Foundation, Kooyman, Urologist Dr. Ramos and his team, Michael Ferrier, and Gordon Snow.

Prostate cancer is one of the areas of focus in health promotion for the department. CPS continues to encourage all men to talk to their doctor, understand their risk and to know their status.

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