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SUR detectives investigating a spree of armed robberies. Three grocery stores robbed

SINT MAARTEN (DUTCH QUARTER) - Detectives of the Special Unit Robberies (SUR) are investigating a spree of robberies that occurred over the past weeks.

On Friday, November 12, between 7:00pm and 8:00pm, two suspects, dressed in dark clothing, robbed three supermarkets in Dutch Quarter. During each robbery, the unknown perpetrator(s) entered the establishment brandishing a weapon and demanding the daily earnings.

Due to the uptick in armed robberies over the last few weeks, Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM urges business owners and residents in general to minimize the risk of being targeted by criminals.

The best way to tackle with armed robberies is to prevent them. Understand that robbers commit crimes because they believe that the payoff outweighs any risk.

Robberies usually take place when there’s a lack of planning for emergency situations and when poor cash handling is involved.

Without the right security measures, such as good quality camera system, many businesses unknowingly make criminal situations convenient for robbers.

Police will continue to do its part and will continue to ask for the community’s assistance. Only by working as a unit can we stop the individuals who go into the community seeking an easy payout by committing robberies. Prevention is always better than finding a cure. (KPSM)

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The Netherlands very high risk category per Nov. 17

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - As of Wednesday November 17, the Netherlands will be upscaled to the very high risk category due to the high number of COVID-19 infections in that country. This means that there will be additional measures for travellers arriving from this destination, the Public Entity Saba announced on Tuesday.

Placing the Netherlands in the very high risk category will have consequences for both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons coming from the Netherlands. All vaccinated persons traveling from the Netherlands are required to have a PCR test taken within a maximum of 72 hours prior to arrival on Saba, and need to do additional testing on day two and five after arrival at the testing center located in The Bottom. Also, these persons must wear a mask during the first five days on the island when in close proximity to others and when they are indoors, such as in taxis and supermarkets.

All unvaccinated persons are required to have a PCR test taken within a maximum of 72 hours prior to arrival on Saba, quarantine upon arrival for five days and get tested on day five at the testing center.

For further details, visit: https://www.sabatourism.com/travel-requirements

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Stamping of vehicle export documents closes on December 22. Reopens on January 10, 2022

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In order to provide a more effective service to the community of St. Maarten, the Traffic Department of the KPSM have taken the decision to inform the general public at an early stage about the stamping of paperwork in order to export vehicles to another island/country.

Through this publication, the Traffic Department of the KPSM wants to inform the community of St. Maarten that during the upcoming vacation season there will be no more stamping of documents for vehicles to be exported.

Stamping and inspection will take place until December 22, 2021. That will be the last day of the year for the stamping of documents to be shipped off the island or registered on the French side. The traffic department will resume document verification, vehicle inspection and stamping on Monday, January 10, 2022.  

The public is reminded that the traffic department still operates by appointment only. They can be reached by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and by calling 542 22 22, with extensions 241/ 239.

The services of the Traffic Service include but are not limited to the export of motor vehicles, hit and run (driving on after a collision), checking of vehicles at events and road accidents, for questioning witnesses and suspects, as well as going to the scene in case of serious road accidents.

Steps for the export of motor vehicles:

  • Persons should send an email with the following documents attached: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,:
  • Invoice of sale or proof of ownership
  • Inspection card (old/expired) of the intended vehicle
  • Proof of insurance of the intended vehicle (if insured)
  • Copy of the identity card of the seller of the vehicle
  • Copy of the identity card of the buyer of the vehicle
  • A letter stating that the vehicle will be exported or that the vehicle will be registered in Sint Maarten.
  • The applicant will receive a reply by email from the Traffic Department within 3 working days with a scheduled appointment for the inspection of the motor vehicle.
  • This appointment will always take place on Wednesday morning at the Simpson Bay Police Station, with the exception of public holidays.
  • On the day of the appointment, report to the Simpson Bay Police Department with the motor vehicle to be exported for inspection and the following documents:
  • A letter stating that the vehicle will be exported or that the vehicle will be registered in Sint Maarten.
  • Two stamps worth Naf. 5,-.

If everything is checked and found to be in order, you will receive the stamped documents on the same day as the inspection. Please note that when you come to your appointment, wearing a mask is mandatory. (KPSM)

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Request for survey on harmonization soft drugs policy, regulations

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The Saba Island Council last week sent a letter to the Ministry of Justice and Security (JenV) in The Hague to ask for an exploration in the Caribbean Netherlands to harmonize the soft drugs policy and regulations so they are in line with the rest of the Netherlands.

The Opium Act BES is an old law that dates back to the 1960s and was never modernized, also not after Bonairer, St. Eustatius and Saba became part of the Netherlands in 2010. This outdated law forms the basis of several prosecution and criminal guidelines, and result in considerably higher penalties for soft drugs on the three islands compared to the Netherlands. Contrary to the Netherlands, the law and the associated guidelines applicable to the Caribbean Netherlands leave no room for tolerance policy with regard to the cultivation and sale of hemp and weed.

Assuming that policies, laws and regulations would be similar to those in the Netherlands after becoming a part of the Netherlands in 2010, including relaxter policy and regulations with regard to hemp and weed, Saba residents started to grow hemp plants at home. According to the letter sent to the Ministry of JenV, this has created strange situations whereby hemp plants were confiscated and people were prosecuted, while people thought that being part of the Netherlands meant that growing hemp and weed was tolerated.

“Opinions seem to be divided in out community. Some residents are in favor of a policy of tolerance, or even legalization, of hemp and weed, while others are not. Our request to you is that your Ministry conducts an exploration into the possibility of achieving a further harmonization of the soft drugs policy and regulations between the Caribbean Netherlands and the rest of the Netherlands. We understand that the same has been discussed with Bonaire and St. Eustatius and that similar feelings and sounds are circulating in their communities too,” it was stated in the letter.

The Island Council asked for three parts to be part of the survey: to hold round table discussions with the community, meet with the Island Council of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, and interview stakeholders such as police, Public Prosecutor, members of the Cabinet of the Island Governor and healthcare entities.

The Island Council suggested to keep the exploration on a small scale, considering the limited size of the islands. The letter to the Ministry was approved during a meeting of Saba’s Island Council last Wednesday.     

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Carnival 2022 general registration closes December 1

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation issued a reminder over the weekend that registration for the majority of Carnival 2022 events closes in two weeks on December 1.

The foundation opened registration on June 1 this year, giving Carnival stakeholders ample opportunity to consider if they would be participating in Carnival 2022 and register accordingly.

Thus far the foundation has recorded very high registration for various aspects of Carnival and has already closed off. For example, all booths have been awarded and all concert nights have also been awarded.

“We are extremely encouraged with registration numbers thus far. We are looking great for our pageants, calypso, bands and more. Registration will close on December 1 with no extensions so we urge interested persons to register before the deadline, “the foundation said, adding that it has also opened registration for season passes which will cost US $195.

As for the preparations for Carnival 2022, the foundation said it has already met with all major corporate partners including government and met with almost all stakeholders. The meetings with stakeholders as usual will continue right up to Carnival. “Commitments have been made and we are well underway with Carnival preparations,” the SCDF said.

To register persons can use the link: https://bio.link/sxmcarnival until the new Carnival website is up and running.

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Ordinance adopted to grant Island Governor special powers

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The Island Council on Wednesday, November 10, adopted an island ordinance granting the Island Governor special powers to protect public safety on Saba. The law regulates four special powers: camera surveillance, administrative detention, security risk area and an area ban.

The power to implement camera surveillance in a public place is the most important one for Saba. Cameras, fixed or movable, can be installed in case of a public safety problem, such as crime, nuisance or vandalism. The Island Governor consults with the Public Prosecutor before placing a camera. The camera images are recorded or watched real time, and are deleted after four weeks, unless authorities suspect that a crime is involved. The police use the footage in their criminal investigations.

The public will be notified of the location of cameras through signs. The most likely areas where cameras can be installed are the harbor, airport, waste processing facility, but other locations are also possible such as nature trails, the public road and parking lots, the Hell’s Gate Gut landfill, the government building(s), state-owned companies and other buildings of which management requests camera surveillance.

High-risk events

Under the special power of administrative detention, the Island Governor can order police to detain a group of people for up to 12 hours. This power can be used during high-risk events such as a demonstration or illegal event when a group does not adhere to the local regulations, disturbing the peace and turning aggressive.

The security risk area power can be used if there is a serious fear that weapons will be used in a certain area. Police can search the clothing, car and other belongings in such a case. The Public Prosecutor, Chief of Police will evaluate the risk area before it is designated.

The area ban power, already used as a warning that rowdy behavior, fighting and excessive consumption is not tolerated during large events such as Carnival and Saba Day, orders a person not to go into a certain part or parts for 24 hours. In case of a second violation within six months, an area ban can be imposed for up to eight weeks.

The powers will be enforced by the police and will not be used in light cases, but in more extreme situations, Island Governor Jonathan Johnson explained during a meeting of the Island Council earlier this week. The powers are only used if there is no other reasonable, civilized way to solve the problem and if they are proportionate to their goal. 

Prevention

“It is better to act through prevention, before the situation escalates,” said Johnson, in response to questions of Island Council Member Vito Charles. Charles said that aside from preventing an escalation, it was also important that police handle people with respect and not act with a heavy hand right away. “Police need to tell people with respect that their behavior is not tolerated,” he said.

The special powers are deemed necessary since the Island Governor is responsible for public order and the safety of people on Saba. The powers in the new ordinance gives him more possibilities to ensure that safety. The special powers are not for punishment, but to protect public order and safety in emergency situations and/or to prevent problems.

The new island ordinance is based on the Act Public Entities of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba WolBES which defines the special powers to the Island Governor in different articles. In the Netherlands, mayors have a number of special powers as well to use in urgent situations when the public safety is at stake.

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USP to host congress on November 28

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The United St. Maarten (US) will host its party congress on Sunday, November 28 at the John Larmonie Center from 5pm to 8pm.

The party board is inviting all party members and supporters to the Congress. New member registration will also be held starting at 5:00 pm.

Agenda points for the congress of the United St. Maarten Party:

1. Election of USP leader
2. Election of Board president
3. Committee selections

"The congress is the first step of our reorganization efforts moving forward. We look forward to seeing all of our members and potential new members at the Congress," the board said in a press statement on Friday. 

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New batch Dutch potatoes for planting

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Farmers on Saba will soon be able to plant a new batch of Dutch potatoes thanks to a donation from Agrico in the Netherlands, arranged through Sandra Cryns-Hop.

On Wednesday, November 10, a total of 42 bags of 25kg each arrived on Saba from the Netherlands. In total 22 farmers have registered to receive the red potatoes. The farmers will pay a symbolic low amount of US $1 per pound. The crops that these potatoes will produce will also be sold at local shops for the general population.

This is the second batch of Dutch potatoes that came to Saba. Last year, when the first batch came in, six different kinds of potatoes were sent from the Netherlands as a try-out. An evaluation with the farmers and Cryns-Hop, showed that one particular kind of red potato, named Alouette, did very well on Saba and could withstand the high winds on the hillsides. As such, it was decided to only send Alouette potatoes to Saba this time.

Last year too, the potatoes were donated by Agrico and arranged via Cryns-Hop, a farmer in the Netherlands who spent part of her youth on Saba when her father was engaged in agricultural development on Saba from 1976 to 1980 and set up the local Agricultural Department. Cryns-Hop said that her heart is on Saba and that she loves to help. Agrico is a Dutch cooperative that specializes in potatoes, innovates in the potato branch, and develops, produces and delivers strong potato varieties worldwide.

Ambitions

Commissioner in charge of Agriculture Rolando Wilson said that the farming and distribution of potatoes fitted in Saba’s ambitions to increase and improve agriculture, to become more self-reliant and more sustainable, and to have a healthy population by growing more local produce. He thanked Agrico and Cryns-Hop for their kind cooperation and their willingness to assist Saba. “It is very much appreciated, also by the farmers,” he said.

Saba has a longtime tradition of farming potatoes. Many years ago, Saba exported large amounts of potatoes throughout the Caribbean. The Saba white potato was quite famous at the time. The white potato is even part of Saba’s coat of arms representing the island’s rich tradition of agriculture and fisheries. The climate and rich soil make Saba a good place for growing potatoes.

Dutch potatoes arrive on Saba

The potatoes upon arrival at the harbor on Wednesday.

 

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Island Governor in touch with KMAR, Customs to solve ferry issue

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Island Governor Jonathan Johnson on Wednesday, November 10, called with the Caribbean Netherlands Customs Department and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (KMAR) concerning the new ferry schedule. The two services want to facilitate the Public Entities Saba and St. Eustatius in the connectivity of the two islands.

The services indicated that they are tied to a regulation stipulating that opening times of the border are from 7 AM until 7 PM. The Island Governor confirmed that talks continue to take place with the KMAR and Customs Department to look proactively at possible solutions for the issue so the new ferry service can start as soon as possible.

During a conference on illegal immigration October 28, 2021, Johnson already spoke with a number of services, including the KMAR, about the issues of border control. He noted at the conference that he was subjected to border control during his recent trip to St. Eustatius, and thought it remarkable that he was checked while travelling from one part of the Netherlands to the other. He pointed out that there is no border control between the Frisian islands of Terschelling and Ameland. The KMAR agreed with the Island Governor that this situation was indeed strange.

To address the issue of the Immigration and Customs controls between the islands and the limited opening hours of the border control, the Public Entity Saba, together with the Public Entity St. Eustatius, will send a request to the involved ministries in The Hague.

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UPDATED: Island Council adopts 2022 budget with deficit

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The Island Council on Wednesday, November 10 adopted the multi-annual budget 2022-2025 and approved to cover the US $1 million deficit of the 2022 budget from the general reserves, as the Executive Council advised.

The 2022 budget has a deficit because of the lack of structural funding from the Dutch Government and the free allowance (‘vrije uitkering”) which has been too low for a number of years. The 2022 budget shows US $13.1 million in expenditures and US $12.1 million in revenues. It concerns a skeleton budget with financial allocation at a bare minimum, Finance Commissioner Bruce Zagers has pointed out on several occasions.

Several Members of the Island Council were critical of The Hague. “The deficit is created by the Netherlands and limits our ability to plan ahead and to pay decent salaries. We have good relations with the Netherlands, but that should not come at the expense of Saba and its people. It is time we engage with the Netherlands to tell them the truth,” said Councilman Vito Charles, who added that Saba could still have a constructive dialogue with The Hague while telling the truth.

“Once again we are forced into accepting a budget deficit. We need real results from the Netherlands. We should get the support that we deserve. Our level of professionalism needs to be rewarded,” said Councilwoman Esmeralda Johnson.

Best kid in class

“We expected things to get better, because we did right. We waited patiently, yet nothing was done about our structural shortage. Being the best kid in the class didn’t pay off,” said Vito Charles during the Central Committee meeting on Tuesday, one day before the Island Council adopted the budget.

Charles said that contrary to the promising statements made in the Dutch Parliament, the Dutch Prime Minister and Finance Minister did not echo the same sentiments. “We have said and done it all. It is high time for The Hague to step up. We can’t continue like this,” said Charles, who posed a number of questions about the consequences of the structural underfunding, including the fact that some local government employees earn less than the social minimum.

Island Council Member Hemmie van Xanten said it was “sad” to hear the message of Commissioner Zagers about the dire financial situation and a budget that once again has no room for executing policy. He was very critical of The Hague’s standoffish attitude to raise the free allowance.

Clog dance

“The Netherlands is forcing us to our knees. Maybe we have to do the clog dance to get them to understand the dire situation that we are in. I sincerely hope that The Hague will listen to Saba. They know it is impossible to balance our budget and yet they do nothing about it.” 

Van Xanten complimented Saba’s Finance Department for again delivering a high-quality multi-annual budget document. “Maybe The Hague can see this as an example, because so far, the Dutch Government has not been able to make a comprehensive overview of what the ministries spend on behalf of the Caribbean Netherlands.”

Regrettable

“It is regrettable that we are once again in the situation of having to discuss and pass a budget which may seem balanced on paper but in reality, is not the budget that the island and our citizens deserve.

Every year our local government have to beg to get the attention of the decision-makers in The Hague, hoping that a structural solution will come,” said Esmeralda Johnson.

According to Johnson, the US $1 million deficit on the 2022 budget is a clear indication that the free allowance received from the Netherlands remains insufficient to cover the structural tasks of the Public Entity Saba. “Without economic security and independence, our government continues to struggle to keeping up with the demand for public services, new public infrastructure and maintenance.”

All four members of the Island Council present at Wednesday’s meeting gave the Finance Department a big compliment for their work. “A job well-done,” said Eviton Heyliger. “I want to acknowledge the Finance Department and all relevant stakeholders for delivering a detailed and sound multi-annual budget. The new approach of presenting the policy plans in a more readable format is very helpful and provides more clarity on the plans and intentions of the Public Entity Saba,” said Esmeralda Johnson.

Ramon Hassell

At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner Rolando Wilson lit a candle for former Island Council Member Ramon Adolphus Hassell who passed away at the age of 84 and has served in a variety of functions in government, including as a member of the Island Council for the Saba Democratic Labor Movement SDLM from 1987-1991 and 1995-1999, as Central Committee Chairman and as Acting Lt. Governor. Hassell was active in many organizations such as the Sede Antia. One minute of silence was observed, while outside the flags flew at half mast.

ARCHIVED - SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The 2022 draft budget was discussed during a Central Committee meeting of the Island Council on Tuesday, November 9. The Executive Council has advised to approve the draft budget and to finance the US $1 million deficit, for which there is no immediate solution, through the general reserve.

Finance Commissioner Bruce Zagers said in his presentation that balancing the budget from the general reserve was not sustainable for obvious reasons, but that there were no other alternatives. He said that avoiding more intense financial supervision or having the Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT) balance the budget are not good options.

According to Zagers, it important for Saba to continue the lobbying efforts for a higher free allowance (“vrije uitkering”) during the formation process of a new Dutch Government. He said while there was a possibility that a positive decision will be made on the free allowance when the new Dutch coalition is complete, he did not expect this to happen before the November 15 deadline to have a budget that is adopted by the Saba Island Council.

Presenting a budget that is balanced on paper but knowing that the only way this is possible is by using the general reserve, is disappointing. Two years ago around this time, the Island Council decided to walk out of the budget debate to send a message to The Hague that Saba’s financial position was not good and that the free allowance had to be increased. Last year, we sat here and I presented a budget with a deficit,” Zagers said.

Creative measures

With some creative measures, ranging from COVID-19 relief funds, the anticipated loss of revenue because of the pandemic and by partially making use of the general reserve, the budget for 2021 could be balanced. “However, for the draft budget 2022, such creative opportunities do not exist and the only possible way to balance the budget is to take the entire US $1 million deficit from the general reserve,” said Zagers.

The CFT has technically not approved this year’s move. No other solution has been brought forward and more cuts to the budget at this point are impossible. It is generally known and acknowledged, also in The Hague, that the free allowance, which has not been adapted since 2012, is too low for Saba, said the Commissioner.

“For years, with the help of incidental projects and funding, we have been able to maintain a certain standard for government while being able to execute projects that improved our infrastructure. By covering structural overhead with incidental funds, and by downsizing several departments, government was able to produce balanced budgets. Unfortunately, this has come at the cost of the government organization and its ability to properly carry out its legal obligations,”

Many excuses

“Over the years we have heard the many reasons, excuses why the free allowance could not be increased. Not diminishing the problems in the Netherlands, but conversion rates, refugee problems, economic recessions, political climates, and now caretaker governments, are all excuses that have allowed Saba’s financial position to worsen year by year,” he said.

Zagers warned that the backlog in maintenance, in services and in the civil service, will only continue to grow. “Vital services to the community and several positions that are now covered by incidental funds are potentially at risk, while in the Netherlands it is acknowledged that the free allowance is too low. Yet a decision cannot be made to increase it.”

The Commissioner said that while some civil servants of the Public Entity Saba were paid below the livable wage due to financial constraints, the Caribbean Netherlands National Government Service RCN, which called “the superior Caribbean government,” can afford to pay much higher salaries, offer far better employment opportunities and and make considerable investments especially on Bonaire.

Zagers said that the CFT knows that Saba was not in a position to make additional cuts to its budget, that the island government has been engaged with The Hague about the level of the free allowance and that the Public Entity was not in a position to increase the decision to increase the free allowance.

Proper answer

“By not increasing the free allowance the relevant ministries are forcing us to underfund vital services, to pay salaries below the social minimum, to provide employment benefits that are inferior to those that are available at RCN and to further weaken the liquidity position. I am yet to hear a proper answer why this part isn’t being reported by the CFT.”

Zagers said that Saba has done its utmost over the years to ensure that strong financial management was a priority and was at the core of all decision making. “Being the best in the class which we are often referred as, hasn’t brought the benefits one would expect. Yes, there are many improvements we can speak about and indeed Saba continues to benefit from projects such as the harbor. But the core operations of government, which are funded by the free allowance, has been ignored and the situation will only worsen if a structural solution isn’t found. By balancing the budget from the general reserve, the liquidity position, which was already weak, will now be further weakened,” he said.

On Wednesday, November 10, the Island Council will deliberate and vote on the draft budget.

Bruce Rolly in Central Committee meeting Nov 9

Commissioners Bruce Zagers (right) and Rolando Wilson (left) during Tuesday’s Central Committee meeting.

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