Soualiga News Today

Soualiga News Today (4227)

Prime Minister Jacobs first public official to receive COVID-19 Vaccine

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today, Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021, at the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF). Prime Minister Jacobs joins in as the first public official to take the vaccine together with health care professionals of the WYCCF, St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) along with other health care providers on the island as well as senior citizens.

As vaccines are scarce and we want to vaccinate as many people as possible we have to avoid any waste or spillage of vaccines. For this purpose, the WYCCF daily prepares a list of standby candidates to be invited for vaccination if doses are left over due to no shows or other reasons. Over these last few days, the WYCCF has administered the vaccine to several family members of WYCCF clients on this reserve list including the Prime Minister. Since her 60+ uncle is a resident of the WYCCF, and there were doses left which otherwise would have had to be thrown away, the Prime Minister also received her first vaccination, to avoid spillage.

“Today, I got vaccinated together with my uncle who resides at the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation. The procedure which included an intake, receiving the vaccine and then being observed for a period of 15 minutes by a nurse went smoothly."

"I am aware, that even though more and more people are registering, there are still persons who doubt the safety and efficacy of the Vaccine. Today, I lead by example, and I took the vaccine. It is safe, and I encourage all persons to register to receive the vaccine. We can stop the spread of the virus and go back to normal again only if enough people get vaccinated," stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

All residents on St. Maarten may register online for the COVID-19 vaccine by visiting the Government of St. Maarten’s website: Paper versions of the registration form will be available later this week at Collective Prevention Services, various doctors’ offices, Government Administration Building (Labor Affairs), the Public Service Center in Simpson Bay and select pharmarcies.


Sarah: The Prime Minister’s refusal to Discuss Implementation of the Country Package is Unacceptable

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Members of Parliament (MPs) have received yet another postponement of a meeting to discuss the St. Maarten country package, the implementation agenda and the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO). From the latest response by the Prime Minister to discuss the COHO and the so-called country package, it is evident that the Government has no intention to discuss this very important program with the Parliament or the population at large, expressed United Democrats Member of Parliament, Sarah A. Wescot-Williams. 

“At least, it appears that the intention is not to have this discussion at a stage where the input of Parliament and the public could serve to strengthen and unify St. Maarten’s position. The reasons given by the Prime Minister for not appearing in Parliament at this time are neither here nor there. The meeting date of February 22nd was set to begin with based on the Prime Minister’s schedule, still the Prime Minister asked that the meeting be postponed indefinitely, giving the reasons that the draft COHO Kingdom Law has not been advised upon by the Council of State and thus a discussion on this is considered premature and secondly, that the Government is still busy “aligning the country package components with the governing program and year plans  for translation into a proper implementation plan.” 

The MP further stated that “with respect to the issue of the draft COHO Kingdom Law, the forerunner of the COHO, namely the Temporary Work Organization (BZK) is already up and running. The Netherlands is also steadily proceeding with agreements on the basis of the country package, such as the Border Control Agreement and the agreement regarding the reconstruction of the prison.” 

Wescot-Williams thinks it is naïve of the Government to believe that while they are engaging in this aligning of the country package as they call it and that because St. Maarten has until April 1, to – together with the Netherlands, establish the implementation agenda, mean that the world has stood still, waiting for St. Maarten to “align” its plans. The Government has to admit that it is the country package that will dictate the pace and priorities for the coming years. While that might be a bitter pill for the governing coalition to swallow, that’s the reality. Moreover, she says, it needs to be recognized that many of the country plans, especially those of Curacao and St. Maarten are in essence carbon copies. In many areas we are tied to Curacao, many of our laws are the same, our healthcare, education and tax systems have the same origins”.  

“Work that has already started for Curacao will not be duplicated from scratch to suit St. Maarten, unless we can make a compelling case in our defense.  Some of the areas where again we could be running behind the facts to have St. Maarten’s position taken along, are e.g. dollarization for the monetary union of Curacao and St. Maarten (D-3), and a new tax system with a proposed form of a Value Added Tax (C-1). The implications of these reforms could be far reaching”. 

Would not any Government want to discuss its priorities and the way forward with its Parliament? questioned the MP. “But then again, the Prime Minister has in the past observed that the Government is supported by a majority in Parliament. That’s no excuse though to brush aside a call from Parliament to defend Government’s position at whatever stage in the process.  The Government is presently dictating Parliament’s agenda and it will only get worse, once the implementation agenda is established.   It is clear from some of the timelines, that the Netherlands has no intention to let up on the speed with which they would like to see the country package implemented. The St. Maarten Government’s current actions are therefore nothing more that stalling tactics”, reiterated MP Wescot-Williams. 

“What is being asked of the Government at this time, is to factor in Parliament in the preparatory work towards the implementation agenda from the onset. All of these matters are too important not to have good communication towards the general public and the relevant stakeholders from the beginning.”


Minister Samuel signs School Repair Program Agreement

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Monday, February 22nd, the Director of the National Recovery Bureau (NRPB) Claret Connor, the Honorable Minister in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS), drs. Rodolphe Samuel and the Director of Windward Roads Infrastructure (WWRI), Pierre Montesant, signed the school repair program agreement.

The document, which now paves the way for repairs to commence at three of the island’s schools damaged during the passage of hurricane Irma on Wednesday, September 6th, 2017, took place Monday afternoon at the Government Building on Pond Island. The three schools are Leonald Conner School, Sr. Regina School and St. Joseph School. Under the World Bank Trust Fund, nineteen schools have been identified for repair works.

The repairs agreement document outlines the obligations and responsibilities of the works that is to be executed by Windward Roads.

Representatives of Ministry- ECYS together with Ministry of VROMI and the project team at NRPB were present on Monday to witness the signing.

“I would like to say thank you to both the team of NRBP and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport for this part of the journey,” the Minister of ECYS, drs. Samuel said, adding that I know it is not easy and while I am signing this document, I am definitely thinking about the other schools that also need to be repaired.

Minister Samuel also signed as a witness, the works contract between NRPB and the main contractor, Windward Roads for the rehabilitation of the schools. This document was officially inked by the Director of the National Programme Bureau (NRPB), Claret Connor and the Director of Windward Roads Infrastructure (WWRI), Pierre Montesant.

“This brings us to the first step of steps to come. This is for the first three schools, as we work towards progressing to the list of schools that is to be repaired,” the Director of NRPB Connor noted. He further added that they are looking forward to quality work to be executed in a timely manner and those children that use the schools will have a facility that they will be all proud of.  

“The School Repairs activity, as part of the Emergency Recovery Project 1, focuses on ensuring that schools are watertight, more hurricane resilient and safe to use under regular conditions. The scope of works will include mold and asbestos assessment and removal/ remediation, roof repairs, fencing, electrical work, plumbing, replacing of broken windows and doors, and the installation of hurricane shutters. Should any structural issues be found during inspections or works, these will also be included to ensure a safe school environment,” NRPB said in a released statement on February 8th.

Leonald Conner School management team will continue to communicate with parents/guardians on the school relocation plans. In addition, an engagement session will be organized by NRPB to connect virtually with the teachers, parents and guardians to share information of the repairs works at the school and allow questions and concerns from parents to be addressed.

Finally,” I want to say Thank you to the Management, support staff, teachers, parents/guardians and students l for their patience and understanding during the long process of finally reaching this goal.”

We look forward for the repair works to start and that doors to be opened once again, welcoming all students, teachers and management back to the property in the very near future.


Minister of Justice speaks at virtual Rotary meeting on the topic of peace and conflict resolution

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On February 22nd, the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson was invited to speak at the first joint (virtual) meeting held by the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset, Mid-isle and Sunrise, a press statement from the minister’s cabinet said.

There was a total of 89 Rotarians present during the event which comprised of Rotarians from St. Martin, Vermont USA, Anguilla, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, USVI, BVI, Haiti, Australia, Trinidad, and the UK. The Minister was asked to speak on the topic of the month ‘Peace and Conflict Resolution/Prevention’ and provide insight to all Rotarians on ways the Rotary Clubs can assist the ministry in advocating peace, especially amongst to youth.

The Minister opened her presentation by extending her heartfelt condolences to the Rotarian who recently fell victim to domestic violence and succumbed to her injuries after the assault. She stressed the importance of tackling domestic violence on the island and has set the enactment of the Domestic Violence (DV) Policy to a high level of importance. A taskforce was created between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) that has been focusing on the required steps to complete the draft DV policy.

She further spoke on building safer communities and the role that we all must play in creating healthier communities. The Minister said: “Partnerships on all levels must be engaged in which law enforcement, community organizations and individual residents are needed to develop safe and secure but vibrant communities. However, the role and responsibility that the criminal justice system has in building peace in our community is indispensable”. Crime prevention and increasing the feelings of safety in our communities have been two of the main focal points of the Minister’s campaign and efforts to build safer communities have been in the pipeline since the beginning of her tenure as the Minister of Justice.

One way the Minister foresees increasing the safety in our communities is through the establishment of neighborhood watch programs in each neighborhood that devotes it’s time to crime prevention and community building. Collaboration between several actors in our community such as the district police officers, the community councils and the residents can significantly improve the overall quality of life in the neighborhoods by increasing the safety and security. Organizing structural (bike) patrols, promoting nonviolence, bringing awareness to crime prevention, and organizing community building activities will be the main tasks of the program.

Another initiative geared towards promoting nonviolence and peace amongst the youth in our community that was mentioned during the presentation is the establishment of the Military Academy. Adolescence is a difficult period, and it is not uncommon for young men and girls to lose focus and fail to realize their full potential. Military academies are known to transform young people who might have deviated from the right path into well-rounded individuals who are prepared for responsible leadership. The Military Academy would inspire positive academic, physical, and spiritual growth in every young adult providing a distraction-free setting that allows the young adults to focus on their educational and personal development. The main mission would be to transform the young adults into disciplined, morally strong individuals. The young adults would also be involved in the communities by them participating in numerous community service projects, for example, keeping the community clean, promoting community enhancement, assisting with senior citizens, and helping the hungry.

Building safer communities is a joint effort and the detention facilities also have an important role in crime prevention by preventing recidivism. Merely isolating offenders and extracting them from our society and thus providing safety to our communities is one aspect of the prison system, but it is not the only one. Rehabilitation programs during incarceration are equally, if not more important and greatly contributes to reducing re-offending than merely incarceration. The Miss Lalie Youth Care and Rehabilitation Center and the Point Blanche Prison are actively working on a new educational and rehabilitation program for the inmates that tackles the inmates’ criminogenic factors and stimulates safe reintegration into our society.

The Rotarians in attendance expressed that the presentation was very insightful, informative, and addressed some of the key social ills that affect our community as well as the role members in our community should play to ensure a safer community. After the presentation, there was an open floor session where Rotarians were provided the opportunity to ask the Minister questions. The Rotary Clubs appreciated the Minister’s attendance and expressed interest to work with the ministry on the pipeline initiatives. In closing, the Minister was presented with a certificate as a token of appreciation and the presidents thanked all members and guests for their attendance, whereafter the meeting was adjourned.


White & Yellow Cross and SMMC ready for vaccination

SINT MAARTEN (ST. JOHN’S ESTATE/CAY HILL) - The White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) and St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) are prepared to begin vaccinating their staff against COVID-19 on Monday, February 22nd.

These rules around the administering of the vaccines are very strict, and thus a well-planned and smooth-running organization is essential. The Pfizer vaccine has to kept at a temperature of -70 degree Celsius, and can only be kept outside this super freezer for a limited amount of time. That, in addition to the still existing coronavirus regulations, make this operation quite a logistical challenge.

Because of this, both organizations started preparing weeks ago. At the WYCCF a special vaccination team was formed, which went over every detail of the plan. Several rooms were freed up and reorganized to streamline the process, and several trainings were organized. Today, all will be in place, staff will be trained and appointment invitations will be sent out. Monday at 10 AM, Quality Nurse Claudette Rijff will be receiving the first dose, which will also be live streamed via the Government of St. Maarten Facebook Page by the Department of Communications.

Bregje Boetekees, Operations Manager at the WYCCF, says she’s proud of her team for setting up a complex and precise operation like this in such a short time span. The commitment and energy that my staff put into this in the last couple of weeks is really fantastic. Where in the beginning many of our staff were still doubtful of taking the vaccine, we notice now, that many did their research and changed their mind. The vaccine is safe, and it is very important for our clients that we make sure we do everything we can to protect them against the Covid-19 virus. I’m definitely looking forward to Monday!

WYCCF and SMMC both fall within the first priority risk group and thus will be among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The first shipment contains the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and is scheduled to arrive on St. Maarten today after weeks of preparations. The regulations regarding the transportation, storage and the administering of the vaccines require logistical precision for effective vaccination with no errors or wastage.

The vaccination administration at WYCC is managed by a multidisciplinary team formed specifically for creation and management of the vaccination plan. The plan entailed making space available to administer the vaccines and organizing training sessions for staff and clients. It also entailed an extensive social media campaign which saw influential members within the community being interviewed about the vaccine.

SMMC’s vaccination administration process was created and is managed by the Hygiene and Infection Control Department, supported by the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), the ER Department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare. In addition to vaccinating all staff, SMMC is also responsible for the vaccination of two other front-line healthcare organizations; the Ambulance Department and St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS).

Nurse Bregje Boetekees, Operations Manager at WYCCF is looking forward to receiving her vaccine and seeing her staff and clients vaccinated and said “I’m proud of my staff for setting up a difficult and precise operation like this in such a limited time. The commitment and energy that my staff put into creating and executing this plan is remarkable. In the beginning, some staff members were doubtful of the vaccine and the safety of it but after having done research using credible sources, many have positively changed their minds and opinion on the vaccine. All in all, the vaccine is safe and it is important for our clients that we do everything possible to protect them from COVID-19.”

OMT Chairman and Medical Director Dr. Felix Holiday will be among the first to receive the vaccine on Monday and said “after weeks of intense preparation, we are ready to administer the vaccine to our staff and our colleagues at the Ambulance Department and SLS. As a hospital, we have seen the effects of this disease first hand. Too many people have been affected and too many lives have been lost so we cannot sit back and do nothing. Vaccination is necessary, not just to protect ourselves but to protect our healthcare system, our way of life and more importantly, our economy. I am proud of our staff and their efforts from the beginning of the pandemic to now. I am happy to be one of the first to receive this life-saving vaccine and encourage everyone to do their part and get vaccinated as well.

While the vaccines are not mandatory, both organizations encourage members of the public to sign up to receive the vaccine to protect themselves against the risks of contracting COVID-19 disease. Persons interested in receiving the vaccine can sign up via https://bit.ly3tOsJLa or using a form that can be collected at CPS at the Vineyard Building, the Division of Labor Affairs public service center in Simpson Bay or at the Government Administration Building.


Unions provide their take on the meeting with the Minister of General Affairs

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The local media houses ran a press release captioned “Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs meets with CCSU membership,” the Unions said in a press statement on Wednesday.

The press release continues as follows: “Where the presence of the representatives of the various Unions that form part of the Committee for Civil Servant Union (CCSU) was detailed.

“Prime Minister Jacobs, who in that setting is referred to as Minister of General Affairs as in that role she attends to the affairs of the Civil Servants where it pertains to their legal status as employees of the Government.

“We the Unions find it very disheartening that after a year of explaining to the Prime Minister the difference of a meeting with the Committee for Civil Servant Union (CCSU) and the Unions is not the same. In meeting with the unions, the interest of ALL workers is represented.

“These Unions are separate entities with operating boards that represent workers from varying parts of the community. When necessary they come together as a collective body of unions under the umbrella of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions. (WICLU)

“It is constantly being reported that the Prime Minister met with the Unions when the Prime Minister met with the CCSU. The role of the CCSU which is known as a committee governed by law, is where discussions should take place when changes to the working conditions of the civil servant are to be discussed.

“When Laws that will affect the civil servant is proposed to be implemented, where it pertains to civil servants’ remuneration, changes to the renumeration or anything that would influence their working conditions. Note must be taken that this committee only represents Civil Servants and not the private sector.

“The Windward Island Chamber of Labour Unions has requested numerous meetings with the Prime Minister, to date the Unions have not been successful in having this request honoured.

“The first step, before any negotiations can take place in the CCSU or any unilateral decision is made such as the changing or implementing of any law, should be a dialogue with the Unions as these are the entities that represent all the workers that are 99% of the time affected by these changes. The membership of the CCSU are members placed there by the union to represent the civil servants on behalf of the union.

“In our opinion, the organisation previously referred to as the GOA (Georganiseerde Organisatie Ambtenaren zaken) which was changed as explained by the personnel department, to the English translation Committee of Civil Servants Union (CCSU) this is what has confused the whole situation, because the Ministers feels that the CCSU are the people representatives instead of the Unions.

“However, the Prime Minister in her many elucidations on the floor of parliament stressed the independence of the CCSU thus it is very confusing for the Unions to understand how the Prime Minister cannot distinguish between the two. The workers cannot complain to the CCSU as they are not paying any dues to the CCSU, they complain and hold the Unions who they are paying dues to accountable.

“The Unions is kindly requesting the Honourable Prime Minister to please stop the erroneous announcement in Parliament, and the various media including Social Media that she met with the various Unions or that the Unions refused to meet with her.

“We the Unions are kindly requesting the Chairperson of the CCSU to inform the Minister of General Affairs that in the setting of the CCSU she is not meeting with the unions but with a committee that looks out for the wellbeing of the Civil Servants based on the Law that is found in Chapter X of the Landsverordening Materieel Ambtenarenrecht,” the Unions press release concludes.


USM, TelEm & PWR Celebrate Women in Politics on March 8th

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On March 8, 2021, six (6) influential women in the political arena, representing the Dutch and French side of the island will be keynote speakers in the 2021 event: ‘Oualichi Politics’.  Oualichi is one of the indigenous names given to pre-Columbian St.Martin meaning “strong women”. These women of the island have done exceptionally well in their contribution to politics but to St.Maarten/ St.Martin’s culture for years.

In what is expected to be a historical event of 2021, these dynamic women will share publicly their journeys and vision for an equitable, sustainable, and democratic society. The public is invited to learn more about them, how they overcame challenges and how they are shaping a better future for the island.

The six (6) speakers are the Honorable Silveria Jacobs (Prime Minister and former Minister of Education),  Lysanne Charles (Caribbean MP candidate for Tweede Kamer, Bij1), Melissa Gumbs (MP and co-founder of PFP), Jorien Wuite (Caribbean MP candidate for Tweede Kamer, D66), Valerie Demaseau (First Vice President of the Collectivité de Saint-Martin) and Gwendolien E. Mossel (The Bureau Ombudsman).

Speakers will engage with the general public and commentators representing the community such as Ms. Makhicia Brooks, managing director of the St. Maarten Development Fund. Commentators will kick-start the live Q&A.  Oualichi Politics will be hosted by Ife Badejo, founder of Produce Wealth Revolution (PWR) Agency.

TelEm Group’s Residential Manager Marketing & Sales, Mrs. Julie Zambrini-Judd, says the company is honored to be providing the digital platform and bandwidth required to host such an impressive and influential group of women on St. Maarten, and she is encouraging maximum attendance at the March 8th, event.

“Undoubtedly, we can expect some stimulating and thought-provoking conversation, not only about politics on our island, but also about St. Maarten culture and where it’s heading. Having worked with the PWR Agency and Ms. Ife Badejo in the past, we look forward to another successful event that we are once again proud to be a part of,” said Mrs. Zambrini.

Oualichi Politics is a collaborative effort of the University of St.Martin (USM), TelEm N.V. and the PWR Agency, in celebration of International Women’s Day. It will be aired live on March 8 on Facebook platforms of the collaborative partners. For more information or inquiries, kindly email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 


Chris: World Bank’s audacity a result of weak local leadership

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel has said the World Bank’s audacity to interfere in corporate personnel matters at the Princess Juliana International Airport is a clear result of weak leadership by the current government and that State Secretary Raymond Knops is getting more comfortable in using language of control towards the government and people of St. Maarten.

MP Emmanuel pointed out that Knops uses every opportunity to remind the government of St. Maarten of the conditions for the release of funding. He said despite the broad language of cooperation used in the country packages and COHO legislation, the State Secretary always return to the language of control when he feels he isn’t get his way or things are not progressing how he wants. “He threatens funding or reminds you of the conditions. And this has to be laid at the feet of this government who supports these agreements,” Emmanuel said.

The MP stressed that government’s casual approach to everything, including what is happening at PJIA, has left the door wide open for entities such as the World Bank to walk through and interfere where they should not. “The World Bank and others are taking advantage of a void created by this government and its failure to respond timely and address adequately the issues facing this country. You cannot classify it any other way,” the MP said.

“The World Bank is now doing damage control after being taken to task about the fact that they have no authority or say over personnel matters at PJIA. Today the government finds it necessary to comment on the letter after it had been leaked. This is weak leadership that hopes issues will just up and disappear,” he added.

In the meantime, the MP continued, State Secretary Knops seems to be in quite a rush to impose supervision over St. Maarten though reforms and getting more and more confident in telling St. Maarten exactly what he thinks. Emmanuel pointed to Knops statements that he is “not happy with the way St. Maarten manages its airport” and stating that the Justice Ministry “lacks decisive leadership.”

“These are his words. First of all, the fact that he can say that the airport is not managed well is very ironic considering it is his CEO in place and his CEO failing dramatically. You cannot stay thousands of miles away in The Hague and try to micromanage the airport through a CEO who believes his position is guaranteed because of the Dutch, a Dutch appointed CFO and complicit Supervisory Board of PJIAE,” MP Emmanuel said.

“Our airport was once managed by us. By people we were proud of. People like Eugene Holiday, Regina Labega and Michel Hyman. Not people who look down their noses at us. Airport employees were always so proud of that institution. Today what do they have? Intolerant behavior from a CEO who obviously does not respect them, no money, no indication of when they will be getting their money, and consultants who are getting paid millions per year. The airport is being fleeced. So if Mr. Knops doesn’t like the way the airport is being managed, he and the World Bank need to step back and let us do the job.”

The MP added that the State Secretary and BZK complains about illegal persons on St. Maarten and the burden they have on the system, but received the border control duties they demanded in 2017 and to date can’t report on what they achieved with this control. “Then they announce proudly in the Dutch media that they are feeding the people of St. Maarten else we would starve come April. This was followed by an announcement by St. Maarten’s Minister of Finance that about 80% of the people in the food program are unregistered.

“The Dutch constantly downplay their failures and elevate perceived failures of St. Maarten. But again this comes back to the local government of St. Maarten who has let Knops, the World Bank, the CFT and others simply make comments without offering a rebuttal in defense of St. Maarten. Silence is acceptance,” the MP said.


CPS addresses several questions about the Covid-19 vaccine program in its Thursday evening panel discussion

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Covid-19 vaccines are expected to arrive on St. Maarten soon. The objective is to create herd immunity, which requires 70% of the population to be vaccinated, before the upcoming hurricane season.

Organizing a campaign on this scale with very demanding safety, efficiency, and logistical requirements is a huge operation. The Vaccination Task Force has been working day and night for the past couple of months to make sure everything is up to par when the vaccines arrive.

On Wednesday, concrete plans were shared with the public via an SMS (Short Message Service) blast with a link to the government vaccination information page, and it was also further explained in the panel discussion on Thursday evening.

From the many incoming questions, it was clear that there was a high demand for information.

The Honorable Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor (Ministry VSA) Richard J.J. Panneflek, officially opened and closed the panel discussion, and the host for the evening was Roylyka Roache from the Department of Communication (DCOMM).

The guests consisted of Eva Lista-de Weever, Epidemiologist, and head of Ministry of VSA Collective Prevention Services (CPS); Bregje Boetekees, Manager of Operations of the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF); Dr. Anand Raghosing, a resident general practitioner; and Dr. A.J. Duits, Medical Immunologist and Director of the Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation.

After the opening remarks by the Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor, the livestream started with a small presentation given by Eva Lista-de Weever and Dr. Duits. Dr. Duits explained how vaccines work, how they are developed, but also shared some of the first results of the effect of the vaccine in Israel.

He also brought forward hard scientific data about the rarity of extreme side effects and safety to address those concerns amongst the population. After this segment, Eva Lista-de Weever took over and informed about the rollout strategy regarding location, priority groups, procedure, and registration.

The public was clearly well prepared and sent in 25 questions in advance via an email address that was promoted several days earlier. Dr. Duits, being a specialist when it comes to immunology and vaccines started off and answered the first questions.

Dr. Duits went into detail explaining how the mRNA vaccine is not able to change your DNA and explained what ingredients are part of the vaccine.

Bregje Boetekees provided much-needed nuance to several media articles that are circulating. One being from Norway where was claimed that several elderly people passed away after receiving the vaccine, while in fact there was no actual link found between these deaths and the vaccine.

In an elderly home with seniors of very high age, with a very fragile health status, the passing away of persons is unfortunately not uncommon. However, in this article, these deaths were linked to the vaccine, while the number of people passing away wasn’t any higher than normal.

Boetekees then continued to mention that for the elderly people living at the White & Yellow Cross, who are very fragile, each case will be personally reviewed to see if the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks of getting infected with Covid-19.

Dr. Raghosing replied to many questions from the livestream audience to the specific medical situations of people and comforted many by explaining that there are actually very few absolute contra-indications.

The more practical questions were answered by Eva Lista-de Weever with respect to how to register, how many doses will we receive, how is it stored, when will it commence, etc.

There were almost 400 livestream viewers, and many were active in the comment section with a total of 343 comments. While the event was planned to end at 8.00 PM, the livestream viewers kept posting good questions, so it was decided to keep on going until well after 8:30 PM. A total of 24 questions from the live comments were answered. One of these questions was: how many in this panel would take the vaccine. All panelists including the honorable minister replied positively to this question and ensured the public that they will lead by example and take the vaccine.

Thirty-five minutes overtime, the comment section fell still, and all questions were answered. Roylyka Roache thanked the audience for their questions, and the guests for their valuable information, and said to the public that in case they forgot to answer a question, they can always send them in after to the following email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you missed the event Thursday evening, it will still be available via the Government Facebook Page, and it will be replayed on Cable TV Channel 115 on Friday at 10.30 AM and again at 6.30 PM.


Buncamper brings up concerns to the Minister of Public Health

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper, leader of the USP faction in parliament, fired off a letter to Minister of VSA, the honorable Richard Panneflek, congratulating the minister and his ministry for the progress being made in combatting the COVID-19 and the planned role out for the vaccine, the USP parliamentary faction office said in a press statement on Thursday.

“The MP outlined his concerns with the number of people who are uncertain about taking the vaccine after reading in the media that 15 elderly persons died after taking the vaccine in the Netherlands.

“The MP requested that special attention be given to our seniors, particularly as it pertains to providing information about their health risks and the facilities and services available to them.

“MP Buncamper strongly recommended that the ministry provide an explanation to the seniors regarding the cause of death of the 15 elderly recipients of the vaccine in the Netherlands, as there is no room for fear due to lack of credible information.”

“If we are counting on the vaccine to provide the protection it is intended to provide, then we must ensure that those in position do so by providing credible information to the public” MP Buncamper wrote in his letter to the minister. “We need to get our economy back up and running and one way to do so is to create an environment in which our community is protected. That protection can be achieved by getting everyone vaccinated.”

That MP is of the opinion that “if we protect our community and lower the risk of our residents getting infected and spreading the decease, we increase the economic opportunities for our people and, sooner rather than later, be in a position to freely welcome visitors from the US, Canada, Europe and the region back to the friendly island.”

MP Buncamper asked the minister to provide a timeline in which he intends to have the population of St. Maarten, registered and unregistered, vaccinated, and to provide insight into the source from which the Netherlands is purchasing the vaccines.

He expressed his surprise to read in the daily papers of Wednesday February 10, that a collaboration agreement was signed between the countries in the Caribbean Netherlands regarding medical care particularly with respect to medical care at hospitals in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. 

The MP stated that while he applauds the collaboration within the Kingdom and favors a relationship in which the countries and entities support each other, he wonders if this agreement has any bearing on the country packages and the COHO which, thus far, are pending handling and approval by parliament.

“If this is the case, the impression is created that government expects parliament to rubber stamp the proposed packages and entity, which is starting to become habitual, thus creating an impression that the democratic parliamentary rule is slowly deteriorating.” MP Buncamper stated in his letter.

“It was agreed that the Prime Minister would come to the house of parliament and explain the law and the country package in detail, but the Prime Minister has not been forthcoming with this commitment, while in the media reports the impression is given that the government is proceeding “like no body business.”

MP Buncamper revealed that “The country packages still need to be properly worked out and vetted by the stakeholders” and wonders what are the consequences if these signed agreements should the parliament deviate from the proposal currently on the table? Buncamper questioned the role of SMMC in this agreement of collaboration that was recently signed and awaits the minister’s response to his questions and concerns.

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