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Rotary Sunset Donates Hygiene Kits To PWAS

SINT MAARTEN (BELVEDERE) - In an effort to promote proper hygiene among children, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset donated hygiene kits to students of the Prins Willem Alexander Primary School (PWAS) on June 23rd, 2022. This would be the club’s second year making this much needed donation to the school.

Rotary Sunset received a sponsorship request from the school to assist with providing hygiene essentials for 13 students who will be moving on to secondary school. The school has also embarked on several hygiene sessions to combat the concern of lack of hygiene care among the students. The presentation took place at Rotary Sunset’s board meeting in the presence of Rotarians and the donation was accepted by Jina Mamtani-Mahbubani, who is the school’s counselor at PWAS. The hygiene kits will be distributed to the students during their school leaving exercise on June 27th, 2022. The kits include body wash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, comb, brush, toothpaste, mouth wash, body mist, lotion, hand sanitizer, face wipe, sanitary pads, lip balm, razors, shaving cream and a wash cloth.

“Forming good hygiene practice from a young age can have a positive effect on a child’s growth and development. A child will also learn to be independent and boost their confidence and self-esteem. Rotary Sunset is elated to be able to assist in this area as we strive to play a proactive role in the early education and personal hygiene of children,” Rotary Sunset President, Norrisa Anatol stated.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset would like to commend the management and staff of the Prins Willem Alexander Primary School for contacting the club and their continued efforts in promoting proper hygiene practices among their student population. The club would also like to congratulate the graduating class of PWAS for their exceptional achievements and wishes them much success in their future endeavors.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset meets on the second and fourth Monday of the month at Carl N Sons Unique Inn and Conference Facilities in Cole Bay at 7:30pm. The club can be contacted via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via the official Facebook page at facebook.com/rotarysxmsunset.

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Public Prosecutor’s Office submits GEBE hack report to Government

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Prosecutor’s Office OM SXM, together with the Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM, has delivered its report on the March 2022 ransom ware attack (in Dutch: Bestuurlijk rapportage ransomwareaanval) on utilities company N.V. GEBE to the Government of Sint Maarten, the shareholder of this public-owned entity.

The report is based on findings from the “Freya” investigation, which includes the report and interviews with GEBE staff members and other relevant information from the Kingdom Cooperation Team RST.

The purpose of submitting the “Freya” investigation report to the Sint Maarten government centers on the security risks that have occurred at GEBE as a result of the March 17 incident. The report is also intended to enable the authorities (read government and its related entities) to take appropriate measures.

NV GEBE's non-cooperative attitude

During the investigation, OM SXM and KPSM were unable to establish sufficiently what the actual danger to Sint Maarten has been due to the hack. Due to NV GEBE's non-cooperative attitude, there had been no access to the hacked computer system at any time. Therefore, the “Freya” investigation could not establish what were the exact risks for the country and clients of GEBE; who was behind the attack, and the dangers for the future.

On 17 March 2022, a cyber-attack was discovered on GEBE. A message in the computer system indicated that the company had been hacked by “Black Byte”, an organization that focuses on stealing and encrypting data, mainly from companies (ransom ware). As a result of the hack, the entire customer database, financial data and other business data was encrypted.

Other Major Cyber Attacks

Sint Maarten's vital infrastructure is the foundation of society. The interconnectivity, small scale and dependence on country’s infrastructure mean that the failure of vital infrastructure, such as the only energy company, has an immediate social impact.

Recently, two major cyber-attacks have hit the vital infrastructure of Sint Maarten. In September 2021, there was a cyber-attack on the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten (CBCS) and on GEBE. In the past (2018), the Government of Sint Maarten suffered a ransom ware attack whereby the public tasks could not be performed temporarily.

Ransom ware or hostage software is the most common and lucrative form of cybercrime worldwide. Attacks occur daily and the ransoms demanded regularly run into millions of dollars. The extortion of organizations earns criminal groups hundreds of millions of dollars. It causes great damage to the victims and has a socially disruptive effect. (KPSM)

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SMYC 2021 – 2022 Sailing School Season concluded with Diploma Ceremony for 70 students

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - The Sint Maarten Yacht Club’s (SMYC) Sailing School offers after school sailing lessons from September – June, each year and this year’s season was concluded with a diploma ceremony to highlight the sailing skills of its 70 sailing students. These students sail on weekdays and are between 7 and 18 years old. Students were presented with progress reports and diplomas depending on their level of sailing.

Parents, family, and friends gathered at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club Dock where the ceremony was held. The sailing instructors called forward their groups one at a time and highlighted the accomplishments of the students individually. Diplomas were given to those students who reached a certain level of sailing. Those who were in between those levels were given a progress report to show what skills they can further improve on to reach a level.

“We have seen amazing growth this sailing season and lots of enthusiasm. Some kids only joined the program earlier this year and can still take home an impressive progress report. Those who didn’t collect a diploma can still be very proud of themselves as they have learned so much throughout this year”. Said head coach Sam Peeks.

Sailing is known to enhance life skills, providing self-esteem, social skills and hands-on skill-based confidence. In addition, it creates a more motivated and focused attitude, a positive awareness of the outdoors and offers a platform to make new friendships.

This past week saw 9 advanced sailing students participate in the Assistant Sailing Instructor Course that teaches them to assist with sailing lessons. Of these 9 students, 5 had already started assisting from January onwards and were joined by 4 new students. The course consists of understanding the different skill levels, creating instructor manuals and safety. They will start teaching together with fully certified instructors and over time will become more independent, with the ultimate goal to run their own classes.

“Being able to sail yourself is very different from being able to teach someone how to sail. This course allows some of our more advanced students to gain this perspective and knowledge so they can assist with our after-school sailing lessons on a weekly basis. Besides learning the theory behind teaching how to sail, we also spent significant time on the water allowing the students to practice teaching”. Explained Saskia Revelman, Sailing School Manager.

Sailing lessons will restart in September, until then children who are interested in sailing can sign up for the Summer Camp that runs from June 26 – Aug 5. The summer camps focus on sailing to teach the basics and sail to beautiful spots like Friar’s Bay and Little Bay. This is all combined with watersports activities like snorkeling and kayaking, treasure hunts, and much more. Making it both and educational and fun program.

The registration for sailing lessons for the 2022-2023 season is now open on www.smyc.com. For more information about sailing lessons or summer camp please reach out to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

smyc SAILING CEREMONY

 

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CBCS meets with stakeholders in Sint Maarten. Start of follow-up financial stability meetings

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Following the publication of the CBCS’ Financial Stability Report (FSR) in May 2022, the Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten (CBCS) started the round of follow-up meetings with stakeholders in Sint Maarten.

Meetings were held with the representative organizations of the banks and insurance companies and the Algemeen Pensioenfonds Sint Maarten, as well as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Tourism, Economic affairs, Transport and Telecommunication, and the representatives of the Dutch government.

The main subjects of the talks were the FSR and the intended implementation of a deposit guarantee scheme. The financial sector representatives expressed their appreciation for the insights provided in the FSR.

Sector leaders were also able to confirm most of the findings of the FSR. They provided updates on latest sector developments and gave valuable input for the next edition of the FSR. New and upcoming developments in the financial sector that could affect financial stability were discussed.

Inflation and climate risk are highlighted as risk areas for the financial sector of Sint Maarten: high inflation, which is felt across the financial sector and the community, and hurricane preparedness are at the top of the institutions’ agendas.

In addition to the FSR, the CBCS will shortly send benchmark reports to the institutions, with which the institutions will be able to assess their performance as compared to the sector’s performance and standards, for early warning.

The CBCS will be looking forward to the upcoming round of stakeholder talks in Curaçao.

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APAP: Progressive meeting with Minister VSA on Mental Health issues

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Sint Maarten, just like the rest of the world is currently facing a mental healthcare crisis, while already burdened with the community wide impact of the aftermath of hurricane Irma and more recently the impact of the Covid pandemic.

Recently, the Association for Psychologists and Allied Professionals Sint Maarten (APAP SXM) met with the Minister of Health, Social Welfare and Labour (VSA), the Honourable Omar Ottley and his team regarding the state of mental health needs and licensed services available on Sint Maarten. APAP was represented by their board and its members, psychologists Alexandra van Luijken, Miranda Veltman and Islaya Streefkerk, and counselor Lisa Wilson-Gittens.

Manpower planning and preventive care

APAP requested Minister Ottley to revisit the findings of the manpower planning, whereby the applied model of system of referring, the number of professionals considered and the effective use of affiliated professionals in the field and other factors are not in agreement with the proposals from APAP in the last years. Apap has several points that its members would like to be considered in the upcoming evaluation.

OZR and SZV payments

Added to the workload, the licensed mental health caregivers are forced to maintain their business operations out-of-pocket for extended periods while they await reimbursement from SZV for insured clients. APAP has been lobbying for the timely payment of insurance claims, though the situation is becoming increasingly burdensome. These delays are ultimately jeopardizing the continuity of available quality mental healthcare. Minister Ottley assured the association that this matter has his full attention and he will be working assiduously with SZV to have the payments regulated.

Adjustment tariffs and need of exemption ToT

APAP is pleased that in 2021 the milestone of adjustment of the outdated tariffs was finally reached with the final approval of Minister Ottley and looks forward to continuing to solve the other urgent and pressing matters which have been brought forward in the meeting.

Since 2016, APAP has been bringing forward to ministers and parliamentarians their opinion that an administrative error occurred with the transfers of 10-10-10 ToT laws, where the exemption for ToT for psychologists was overlooked. This resulted in the private practices being incorrectly taxed until this day. Minister Ottley extended his assistance to APAP by following up on the correction with his fellow ministers and parliamentarians.

Procedures on licensing

While agreeing with the need to guard the quality and update the ability of each mental health care provider, the current procedures of short two-year agreements are counter-productive for the established psychologists on Sint Maarten. The frequency of administration and paperwork is a challenge compounded by the uncertainty of long term arrangements for employment on the island. This discourages professionals from committing to Sint Maarten.

Working towards solutions

APAP understands that Minister Ottley is currently working on a mental health reform for Sint Maarten and has reached out to the stakeholders of each sector for their contribution. APAP has been working for many years to bring attention to the several challenges of working within the mental healthcare sector. This is a good moment to give further and structured follow up to this initial meeting. APAP looks forward to partnering with Government and other stakeholders, and continuing contributions to bring St. Maarten’s mental health care to a higher level.

APAP finds it important to stress again that Mental health must take priority for the overall development of our community. APAP commended Minister Ottley for the work he has been doing with his efforts to reach the youth for violence prevention. “In the same light, mental health must be placed at the forefront of our recovery as the limited availability of service providers leads to unattended mental health issues for adults, in the labour market. This carries over to the home, affecting our youth who in turn transfer it to the education system. Ultimately, the breakdown of the social fabric results in crime and judicial issues. Therefore, an integrative approach to preventive mental health care is vital,” Wilson-Gittens shared. Van Luijken stated, “I believe in the power of a healthy community. Let’s all work towards a well-organized and professional mental healthcare system to keep our community healthy and safe. Then everything else will follow.”

Minister Ottley was very receptive towards the information and the sharing of the several issues and confirmed the importance of mental healthcare on his agenda. Minister Ottley expressed his concerns with the mental health issues that he sees in the community and the matters that are brought before him as minister. He finds that too often the regulations are limiting the assistance that he can render. This fuels his passion to bring about change for the betterment of Sint Maarten by way of a mental health reform. The Minister VSA has requested a follow-up meeting with APAP by early July.

For the last several years, APAP has been working diligently on improving the work conditions and the quality mental health care for the psychologists and affiliated professionals in the field. Especially the licensed psychologists working in their private practices have been experiencing serious challenges. These difficulties are ultimately threatening their existence, while not willing to give up because of the importance of their work and not wanting to transfer the burden to their clients in need. Experience in the past has shown that the Government, when discussing issues in mental healthcare, has mostly focused on the Mental Health Foundation. APAP would like to stress the importance of the existing licensed private practices which are doing great work as well.

APAP SXM has been established since 2016 to promote the practice and professional development of psychology and related fields and to serve the social and professional interests of psychologists and related professions on Sint Maarten (Dutch side).

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Dept. of Culture invites the community to learn the “Ponum Dance” in prep for the Emancipation Day

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In preparation for this year’s 159th Emancipation Day celebration on July 1st, the Department of Culture is inviting all interested citizens and persons residing on Sint Maarten to learn the Ponum Dance as part of the festivities that includes the reenactment of the “Diamond 26 Run For Freedom.”

The free Ponum Dance workshop will be held at the John Larmonie Center on Monday, June 27th, 2022, at 7:00 pm in which attendees will view the Ponum Dance documentary, learn its history and experience the historical importance of this cultural dance expression.

Emancipation Day is a day to celebrate and come together as a people to reflect on the voices of our ancestors and their experiences as we stand on their shoulders. Together the people of Sint Maarten must work collectively as one nation to retain its cultural and economic momentum, by redefining the strengths of our legacy in order to pay homage to the ancestors that fought for their human rights to be a free people.

Emancipation Day 2022 with the theme “Ancestral Echos”, will mark the 159th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Abolishment of Slavery on Sint Maarten. The Minister of Education Culture Youth & Sport, Honorable drs. Rodolphe Samuel will be hosting the celebration event, which will take place on Union Road Cole Bay, June 30th starting at 10:30 pm featuring the “Diamond 26 Run For Freedom” that goes right into July 1st with a cultural manifestation at the Belle Vue Saint Jean Plantation.

Emancipation Day, was the first public holiday established by the Parliament of Sint Maarten since becoming a Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as such the Government of Sint Maarten would like the community to take a moment to reflect on our past triumphs and tribulations as a people. Many believed the road to our freedom on the Southern side of the island was easy and granted to us by the European powers. Contrary to popular belief, our ancestors fought for their freedom.

The strong and resilient Sint Maarteners of that era were a people that were aware that the former enslaved persons on the Northern part of the island were freemen as of 1848 and many of them ran away from the deplorable conditions that they were forced into.

These actions by the enslaved persons seeking their freedom culminated in the Proclamation of the Abolishment of Slavery as the European powers knew that slave labor system could not continue as it did for so many years.

Freedom for the enslaved ancestors was inevitable. There are many accounts of rebellion and resistance towards the oppressive slave system such as the Diamond 26 Run for Freedom and the expressions of the Ponum Dance and Song.

MECYS Emancipation Day Invitation June 30 2022

 

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Minister of Justice and KPSM congratulate Keenan Benjamin

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson, Chief of Police Carl John and officers of the Police Force of St. Maarten (KPSM) attended the Methodist Agogic Center (MAC) Primary School graduation ceremony held today, Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in support of Keenan Benjamin, son of the late Police Officer Gamaly Benjamin.

Minister Richardson stated, “Officer Benjamin’s untimely departure six years ago, rocked the entire nation of St. Maarten and to this day his memory lives on in KPSM and in our hearts. It gives me great joy to see Keenan carrying on his father’s legacy on admirable levels.

“Today he was honoured as the most outstanding student among his peers receiving an award for the Best Student of Group 8B of the Rev. John A. Gumbs Campus. Keenan also received awards for the subjects of Dutch, General Science, Moral Education, Social Studies and Music."

The graduation was aptly themed “Fearless in Times of Adversity.” Powerful words with exemplary examples as to how the students have all faced adversity and overcame them were shared. Today’s graduation ceremony commemorates the students’ fearless approach to all things and are today triumphant.

“On behalf of the Ministry of Justice, I take this time to congratulate Keenan Benjamin, the graduating Class of 2022, and their families. I wish you all much success in high school as you continue to be a great example for your schoolmates and friends,” stated Minister Richardson.

The Ministry of Justice hereby thanks the management and staff of MAC for allowing the Minister of Justice and KPSM to have that special moment with Keenan Benjamin on behalf of the Police Force of St. Maarten in memory of his dad.

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Brison is concerned as social aid recipients have challenges with bank accounts

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - "It's time for the Government to have its own bank," which, according to Leader of the United Peoples Party, MP (Ed Member of Parliament) Rolando Brison, will alleviate many challenges experienced by persons within the community when they try to open new accounts or keep the existing bank accounts.

MP Brison has expressed concern about complaints from various recipients of social aid, pension and other government aid that their bank accounts would be closed due to not having "a valid form of income".

"I've seen some of these notices coming from the bank to (prospective) clients, and I am in total disbelief. Banks are not even wishing to honour the bank accounts of social aid recipients and some pensioners because they claim that the account holder cannot sufficiently prove their source of income. This is a serious social concern in our country," explained MP Brison.

"Here we have the Minister of VSA Omar Ottley and his Ministry working tirelessly to provide social aid to our people in these difficult times, and now the banks appear not to want to honour their accounts. So let's think: If the banks are abolishing checks and don't want these people to have bank accounts, how is the Government supposed to provide this much-needed aid?" stated Brison.

Even the MP received complaints from clients undergoing treatment at institutions like Turning Point, Key to Freedom and Mental Health Foundation, who were told they would soon no longer have bank accounts. These clients are often unfit for work during their treatment and rely on social aid to survive.

The MP also believes it's time for the Government to explore an alternate solution for the banking of its citizens. "The Government or a government entity should apply for a banking license to service especially those with social needs. We can no longer allow our most vulnerable citizens to be at the mercy of the commercial banking sector. I believe the Government should immediately explore having even at least a rudimentary bank that caters to those with social needs. There should be no worries of competition since the commercial banking sector seems to have no interest in servicing these clients," stated Brison.

The MP, who drafted the consumer banking protection law and the Motion for it to be vetted by the Central Bank, is now also renewed his call for at least the "Right to a Basic Bank Account" aspect of the law to be sent to Parliament as soon as possible.

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Relief on Gas prices to go into effect on Tuesday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Ministers of Finance, Justice, and the acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT), Omar Ottley, would like to inform the public that the long-awaited relief on gas prices will go into effect on Tuesday June 21, 2022.

The relief consists of a reduction in the import duty (formally referred to as excise tax in the price build up model) from NAf 29 cents to NAf 15.5 cents per liter.

As a result of this, the previously published prices for the sale of gasoline will drop from NAf 3.294 to 3.145 per liter, resulting in a savings of roughly NAf 15 cents per liter.

Considering that the import duty (or excise tax) is not applied to diesel, the price of diesel will remain unchanged at NAf 2.562 per liter. The foregoing relief will remain in place for a maximum period of 6 months.

The Government of Sint Maarten would like to remind the public that the price of fuel products on the world market remains highly volatile and as such the population should be prepared for more frequent fluctuations in prices for the coming months.

Minister VSA Omar Ottley

Acting Minister of TEATT Hon. Omar Ottley

Minister of Justice Anna Richardson

Minister of Justice Hon. Anna Richardson

Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion

Minister of Finance Hon. Ardwell Irion

 

 

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Soccer associations ‘R.I.S.C Takers’ and ‘Street Kings’ visit the Point Blanche Prison

SINT MAARTEN (POINT BLANCHE) - On Wednesday, June 15th, two soccer associations, the ‘R.I.S.C Takers’ and ‘Street Kings’ visited the Point Blanche prison to play demonstration matches with the inmates. The ‘R.I.S.C Takers’ is a local soccer association that promotes participation in soccer of all levels and ages on the island. The Street Kings association is a Dutch soccer association consisting of professional soccer players with the goal to similarly promote and encourage participation in the sport of soccer around the world.

The Street Kings, led by Edward van Gils, arrived on the island on Tuesday, June 14th, and have been touring schools on both sides of the islands. Included in their tour was a visit to the detention facilities. The Street Kings have toured many prisons in the Netherlands and around Europe, with the primary goal to motivate the inmates to turn their life around through stimulating discussions with the inmates and physical engagement through soccer.

The initiative was organized in collaboration with the prison management team, led by the prison director Mr. Steven Carty, and the soccer associations. The goal with this initiative was to provide inmates the opportunity to engage in fun, sporting activities, as sport has a positive effect on the physical well-being and mental health of inmates in general. It allows inmates to process their emotions in a healthy way and can positively affect the prison living environment as it may influence the inmates’ overall behavior.

The participation of the inmates in the matches with the professional soccer players was extensive. The matches were played with great enthusiasm and sportsmanship from both the inmates and the Street Kings. Other inmates and staff spectated and positively motivated the players during the matches.
The matches were described as fun, challenging and safe, whereby the inmates got the opportunity to bond with their fellow inmates and play as a team against the Street Kings.

After the matches, the Street Kings also got the opportunity to sit with the Inmate Association, represented by three inmates, to share their views on the event. The Inmate Association expressed their appreciation for the management team for organizing such an event, and for the Street Kings and the R.I.S.C Takers for taking the time to visit them. The Inmate Association recognizes the efforts the management team has been taking to improve the living environment within the detention facility such as improvements made to the gym, the airspaces, the educational courses and more. The Street Kings ended the discussion with some words of encouragement.

The prison director, Mr. Steven Carty, stated that: “As a sport enthusiast myself, I hoped such an event could be a great way to positively engage with and facilitate social and emotional development amongst the inmates. Sport-based activities are an innovative way to excite the inmates and promote positive participation. I look forward to continuing to organize such events, for example in the field of basketball, table tennis and more, as this one was well received and plays an important role in the rehabilitation of the inmates.”

Gevangenis Point Blanche Sint Maarten Foto TIM VAN DIJK

 

 

 

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