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Soualiga Newsday Features (1997)

Lions and Asses

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY - By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert) - I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. I had to it read again. Then I looked at his picture and gave it another inspection. Almost everyone knows the portrait that I’m referring to. Actually, a considerate number of people carry his picture in their wallet. It’s on the foremost currency in the world. Everyone knows his name. In the USA he is probably the most respected man in history- I’m talking about George Washington. You may be curious what he said. “An army of asses led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by an ass.” It made me run to the bathroom mirror to examine what I may look like and as I flashed my teeth and growled. I looked like the lion in the Wizzard of Oz but I felt reassured. It made me curious though to see what else George has said. Take this one: “Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

Giving an excuse is giving a reason that explains why one does not do something that one should do. Excuses are tools of the incompetent, and those who specialize in them seldom go far. We all do it sometime or other. However, when it becomes a habit, it will become part of one’s profile. Would you like to have an employee who always gives excuses? A spouse or partner who does? What about a boss who always comes up with excuses?   Here is some straight talk: the habit of making excuses, even to oneself, makes one a level lower than others in a group. But there is hope! Never underestimate your power to change yourself. Every action is a choice and if you can correct your mind you can go from someone who had excuse habits to a totally higher-level person.

Time is no excuse!

Don’t you ever allow time to be the reason that you don’t fulfill your destiny and what you are here to do! It’s important to stand still for a moment and evaluate what you are doing and thinking and whether it’s for real. Time is a “White Man’s” disease! That is according to an account by Tuiavii Agaese, believed to be a Samoan tribal chief in the 20ies who observed the habits of the Papalagi (White Man). The originality of the story was a bit controversial at the time, but the wisdom is still something to consider:

“ The Papalagi doesn’t have time!

I have never understood this other than it being a severe disease. ‘The time is avoiding me!’ – ‘The time is running away like a stallion!’ – ‘Give me just a little more time’. Those are the complaints of white men. I say this could be a kind of disease; assumed, the white man likes to do something, his heart is longing to be in the sun(shine) or to sail with the canoe at the river or to make love with his girlfriend, this way he will spoil the appetite for it, clinging to the thought: no time remains to be happy. Yet the time is there, but he doesn't see it no matter how he is trying. He mentions a thousand things taking time, feeling resentment and complaining about the job he doesn't like, that doesn't give joy, to which no one is forcing him the way he is doing himself.

There are Papelagi, asserting they never have time. They are running around headless, like from the devil possessed, and wherever they come, create havoc and uproar, because they have lost their time. This mania is a horrible condition, a disease no medicine man can cure, contagious to many and driving them into misery. As every Papalagi is possessed for fear of his time, he also knows exactly, and not only every man, but also every woman and child, how many sun- and moon risings have passed since he saw the great light for the first time. Yes, this is playing such a serious role, that it is celebrated in certain, equal distances with flowers and big eating parties. How often did I notice, how one was thinking having to be ashamed of me, when asking, how old I am, and I laughed and said, I don't know. ‘You have to know how old you are’. I remained silent and thought, it's better I don't know. How old, means how many moons have I been living. This counting and figuring out is full of dangers, because it has been discovered, how many moons the life of most people will be. Now everyone is watching carefully, and when quite a number of moons have been passing by, he will say: ‘Now I'll have to die soon’. He doesn't enjoy anymore and will die soon.”

Money is not an excuse either

Ideas, knowledge, experience, etc. are intangibles that have a tremendous value. You may have something to cash in. You actually have it, but you need to find a way to make touchable coinage out of it. Mind you that money is only a tool. Imagine if one had only had furs to trade and someone else would like to have some of those but he only had fish to pay with in return and the trader is allergic for fish. What to do? Some native caveman may have had a brilliant idea for a neutral trading tool so that anyone could sell what he wanted or buy what he wanted. And that is all that money is, no more. A mechanism for trading. You don’t have furs and you don’t have fish; you have expertise and skill. Try to figure out a way to market it and don’t mope around. “Objection denied” as the judge would say in court when a defender tries to make a case with an excuse that he in his heart he himself doesn’t even believe in. That is what all try to do when coming up with excuses: “Trying to get away with it!”

Are you ready for a change in your life?

Did you ever have a dream or an idea that excited you or even gave you goose pumps? Why do you think sometimes you have these thoughts? You feel joy and enthusiasm, you love the emotion. It means something! Do you agree with me that if you feel pain it is a signal that comes from your brain to alert you that there is something wrong? Joy is a similar alert from the brain that signals that something good is happening. If you have pain, you may take steps to stop it. What about if you feel joy and enthusiasm? You should take steps to let it continue! No buts, ifs and whys! You are alerted to the fact that there is a potential inside you to create or achieve something. That potential is your unused power, inner strength, and inner capabilities that live in your subconscious. It is maybe the greatest asset that you have to become who or what you want to be. Let me ask you a straight question: if you waste the most valuable asset that you have, isn’t that plain stupidity? It is squandering your life away. You need to focus on unlocking the potential you possess inside you, instead of focusing on distractions that may cause you to give up your dream. If you have the will and the desire to make your dream or vision a reality, then everything else is just a matter figuring out the logistics.

About the author

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert is the Chairman and Coordinator of the Caribbean Aviation Meetup, an annual results and solution oriented conference for stakeholders of ‘airlift’ in the Caribbean which will be June 16-18 on St.Maarten. Mr. Slabbaert’s background is accentuated by aviation business development, strategic communication, and journalism.

one dollar bill

 

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Jehovah’s Witness abuse victims unhappy at lack of care, report shows

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A report by Utrecht University researchers into sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness community in the Netherlands has found that most victims are unhappy at the way their complaints have been dealt with by the church.

The researchers received 751 reports of abuse, ranging from incest to rape, of which 292 were made by the victims themselves. Just 25% of victims said they were satisfied at the way their complaints against the community had been handled and only 27% of cases were ever passed on to the police or other officials.

Most of the reports related to abuse in the past, with just 32 covering the past 10 years. The Dutch branch went to court to try to stop the publication of the report but judges on Thursday ruled that it could be published in the public interest.

The researchers were commissioned to write a report on behalf of the justice ministry, following claims that sexual abuse claims are hushed up and that victims received no help.

After the first revelations were published by Trouw in 2017, hundreds of people came forward to report their own abuse stories. Justice minister Sander Dekker earlier called for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to set up their own independent inquiry, but the church declined.

He then commissioned his own report, the first investigation of its kind ever undertaken into a religious community in the Netherlands.

Action

The minister has now criticised the board’s reaction, saying sect officials still deny that they need to take action. The board was shown the main conclusions last December.

‘Rather than being open and acknowledging what has happened, the community tried to stop publication,’ Dekker said in a briefing to MPs. ‘The fact that so many vulnerable victims feel they are alone, and could not find their way to official help, affects me deeply.’

The board is still resisting pressure to set up an independent hotline, Dekker said. ‘I now want to have a last, urgent meeting with the board to call on them to take over the report’s conclusions,’ he said.

In their conclusions, the Utrecht researchers have also urged parliament to draft new legislation which would require religious communities to inform the police when they are told about cases of abuse. Dekker did not mention this option in his briefing.

(DutchNews)

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To Raise our Pension Age or Not is complicated. But there is room for compromise

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Leandra Cyntje) - The rights of older persons to social benefits and to an adequate standard of living to support their health and well-being, including medical care and necessary social services, are laid down in the major international human rights instruments, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948, and (in more general terms) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),

The question then becomes more complicated, than to raise or not raise the pension age.  The question becomes; how prepared is St. Maarten from a demographic point of view to take care of its pensioners and give them this adequate standard of living. As things become costlier, our life expectancy changes, our birth rate changes, and the dynamic of our labor market changes, are we inclined to continue to raise the pension age?

We are challenged for the future to ensure that our people can grow old with security and dignity and that their rights are not incompatible with other groups such as persons aged 30-61 years old. With this challenge in mind, I believe some things have to be sincerely considered by our government, such as population growth, population ageing, and the effects of demographic change on our economy. We must be proactive in collecting this data; so that our government can make informed decisions much faster, make predictions, and examine both short term and long-term impacts. St. Maarten cannot afford to develop policies blindly, without seeking the best alternative and without supporting research.

Undoubtedly, increasing the pension age is a sensitive topic and has both its advantages and disadvantages. The policy options for Sint. Maarten are few, and given the fiscal sustainability in these matters, the policy options are as follows:

  • Younger people pay a more significant share. However, this would be unfair given the current cost of living and requires much caution in regards to the intergenerational relations. Besides this, young people are most likely in a position to relocate to where labor prices are more favourable, and costs are lower.
  • The increasing pension age has its consequences but might be fair in the interest of Sint. Maarten fiscal balance and ageing challenges. Furthermore, research has shown that life expectancy has increased to 80 year of age and is likely to continue to increase. Besides, St. Maarten would be in line with an international standard. However, there are some negative impacts of the increase. Lower-income or people in physically demanding jobs, people who are more incline to be in poorer health, may not be able to extend their work life. Therefore, these individuals may opt to secure another social benefit. Additionally, pension age increase will increase the quantity of labor on the market and thus affect the unemployment rate, especially amongst young people, and even the price of labor. Furthermore, we may see lower productivity, hence, less willingness from the private sector to hire persons of a certain age.

There may be more social-economic effects unique to St. Maarten, but to mitigate these effects, more research is required to identify these effects.

Other options include the encouragement of private savings and private sector pension funds. In which the private sector is encouraged to secure a pension fund for their employees in a joined contribution for employers and employees. Eventually, this is something that should be mandatory. Additionally, ensure that these efforts are tax-deductible. However, this solution is a long-term solution, and, in the short-term, this does not take care of persons who do not have the time to build this pension fund and savings.

In the short term, the following is recommended:

  • A scheme that sets the retirement age at 65, however, gives an option to retire at 62 without full benefits, or a percentage of benefits. This is an internationally accepted standard for retirement.
  • Focus on cost-cutting measures and exploring other financial avenues such as tax reform to be able to finance and develop programs that increase support for pensioners in kind: such as food stamps, gas vouchers, bus fare subsidies, preventative health measures, health care, and transportation to health services. Also, ensuring that our social housing is allocated to our pensioners as a priority.
  • Continuous assessment of the demographic changes, indexation and increase information between stakeholders as a foundation for decision making.

In conclusion, the choice to raise or not raise is not the question, but how we can comprise and prepare for the future is more important, and selecting the best alternative given the factors.  

Leandra Cyntje

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Big Dutch pension funds meet revised rules on assets ahead of reforms

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – All the big Dutch pension funds managed to boost their assets to at least 90% of their obligations by the end of the year, heading off the risk of cuts, according to definitive figures.

In November, social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees took steps to ensure most pension funds do not have to make cuts this year, two years ahead of a total overhaul of the system, by lowering the critical lower limit from 100% to 90%.

The giant civil service fund ABP saw its coverage ratio grow to 97.8%, nearly seven percentage points higher than at the end of the third quarter.

Healthcare fund Zorg en Welzijn boosted its coverage to 99.2%, while the two big engineering funds PMT and PME reached 98.8% and 98.7% respectively.

Without intervention, eight million pensioners would have had lower corporate pensions. Two big opposition parties had threatened to withdraw their support for pension system reforms unless the minister took action.

The plan for the transition to a new pensions system should be completed by the end of 2020 and that the cabinet aims to complete the legal framework for system reform by the start of 2022.

(DutchNews)

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St. Maarten Academy P.S.V.E Wins 1st Prize for Business and Economy at Regional Skills Competition

SINT MAARTEN (ST. PETERS) - St. Maarten Academy PSVE was awarded 1st prize in the Regional Skills Talent Competition in the area of business and economy on Friday 17th, 2020 on St. Maarten. The school participated in one category, its sector of specialization-Business and Economy, and won the first prize and third prize, respectively.

The first prize winners were Joshua Roberts, Charlita Mesidor and Tania Merien from the PBL (B-stream). After the announcement of the results, the students said they were ecstatic when they were declared winners in the business and economy category.

The students were prepared by the school’s head of the Business Department Mrs. Sneha Rajani and Business Teacher Ms. Petromella Layne. Mrs. Lavern Nelson, principal of St. Maarten Academy PSVE, congratulated the students and teachers for a job well done, not only at the regional competitions but also for their performance during the competitions held at the school on January 10th.

On January 10th, the school held its internal skills competition, where a total of 23 teams comprising examination students completed assignments that were directly related to real world scenarios and aligned with the end terms for administration and commerce sector program. The school commends the organizers of this historic venture, as it aligns with our mission of the St. Maarten Academy PSVE, to empower and equip students with a foundation in academic, technical and life skills necessary to become a productive, contributing member of society.

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Oris Swiss Watched Signs Three - Year Regatta Sponsorship

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - The Sint Maarten Yacht Club and the Sint Maarten Yacht Club Regatta Foundation are pleased to announce that Oris Swiss Watches – the independent manufacturer of Swiss mechanical watches since 1904 – has signed a three-year sponsorship for the brand as the ‘Official Timepiece’ of the legendary St. Maarten Heineken Regatta now in its 40th year; and the rapidly emerging Caribbean Multihull Challenge set for its 2nd annual event in February 2020.

V.J. Geronimo – CEO North America of Oris -- has worked closely with the yacht club and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Foundation – represented by Board Member Stephen Burzon – to create Oris’ first ever significant sailing sponsorship in the Western Hemisphere. According to Geronimo…”Sailing is an art form that fits perfectly with the design and hand-crafted manufacture of our mechanical watches; many of which are made for the ocean.

There are different ways to get across the water and different ways to tell time, but nothing is a pure as sailing and true mechanical watches. By joining with both of these powerful sailing events, we have a chance to showcase our product to an affluent and active world-wide audience of men and women who love sailing, the outdoors, and an active lifestyle. In addition we get to fully support the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin which is a place we have done business in for many years.

In announcing this landmark sponsorship, Burzon has applauded the efforts of his fellow board members as well as the key marketing team from the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in pulling together all of the complicated pieces that this multiple regatta sponsorship entails. Special recognition goes to the efforts of Mike Milpuri of island retailer Ballerina Jewelers who supplies the energy to run the Oris Pop-Up Shops located on site in the regatta villages at both the CMC and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta events.

For over 115 years, Oris has been making purely mechanical watches in Holstein, Switzerland. Comprised of four worlds: Diving, Aviation, Motor Sport, and Culture, Oris watches are made for everyday wear and offer the luxury of common sense. Staying true to a rich heritage, Oris is one of the few Swiss watch companies to remain independently owned and operated.

About the Caribbean Multihull Challenge Sint Maarten:

The Sint Maarten Yacht Club will host the second annual Caribbean Multihull Challenge from February 14-16, 2020. The event is open to all multihull sailors on racing catamarans and trimarans as well as chartered cats and cruising multis. For more information visit www.smyc.com/caribbean-multihull-challenge.

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Farmhouse mystery father was ‘evil genius’, public prosecutor says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – One of the two main suspects in the farmhouse family mystery appeared in court in Assen on Tuesday for the first procedural hearing in the case.

Josef B, the Austrian odd jobs man who rented the farmhouse on behalf of the family and is suspected of kidnapping and money laundering was in court to hear the charges against him and to hear details of the investigation.

He was remanded in custody until the main case takes place later this year. ‘I have robbed no-one of their freedom,’ B said in in court. ‘This is a witch hunt.

If someone believes in god, surely that is their own decision.’ B said nothing of the case as it has been reported so far is true. ‘There was no cellar, and no-one was kept there against their will,’ he said.

Gerrit Jan van D, the father of the six youngsters, is not well enough to talk and remains in prison hospital in Scheveningen.

The family were discovered in early October when one youngster went to the local bar, appealing for help. At the time the family was portrayed as some sort of doomsday cult with no connection to the outside world, but it emerged later that both the father and the eldest son were active on social media.

It also transpired that Van D had three other children who had broken contact with him and never lived in Ruinerwold. He is suspected of sexually abusing two of them.

The court was told on Tuesday that the abuse took place when they were between the ages of 12 and 15, and that Van D saw female spirits in them, including that of their mother. She had died in 2004

Secret births

The births of the six children who lived on the farm had never been included in the official registers and they had lived all their lives away from normal society, the public prosecutor said.

Although none of the children have made a formal complaint against their father or B, the public prosecutor said they had been the victims of criminal acts. Both Van D and B knew ‘very well’ that what they were doing was punishable by law, the public prosecutor said.

‘Gerrit van D was the evil genius but Josef B was his partner in crime,’ the public prosecutor is quoted as saying by the Telegraaf.

Punishment

All the children were required to pray, sometimes for weeks at a time. During those periods they were only given water to drink and no food. They were also punished physically.

Sometimes they were hit with sticks, or were forced to sit in an ice cold bath until they lost consciousness. Many of the details are contained in Van D’s diaries which were seized during the police investigation.

At the end of last year, the four oldest children put out a joint statement via documentary film maker Jessica Villerius, saying that they support the complaints made against their father, who also faces charges of kidnapping and money laundering.

But the five youngest children say they back their father and describe the division between them and their older siblings, in the statement, as ‘very painful’. The children will all be required to testify during the main hearings, but this will take place in closed court.

(DutchNews)

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Schools should stop streaming children at 12, campaigners say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – School organisations, the CNV teaching union and school pupils’ lobby group Laks say secondary school pupils should not be streamed into different types of education until their third year, when they are around the age of 15.

In the main, Dutch pupils are divided into pre-university (vwo), pre-college (havo) and vocational training (vmbo) streams at the age of 12, in their final year of primary school.

But the two secondary school councils VO-raad and MBO-raad, and the union, say this is too soon, and is promoting unnecessary stress and inequality. The organisations would like to see secondary school pupils taught in mixed ability classes for the first three years before being streamed according to academic ability.

‘Far too much is being asked of children at a young age,’ Laks spokesman Pieter Lossie told the paper. ‘This is leading to an increase in stress and burn-outs, and teachers too are being affected.’

One problem with introducing more mixed ability teaching is that an increasing number of Dutch schools only offer one type of education. The proportion of mixed ability first year classes, known as brugklassen or bridge classes in Dutch, has gone down from 70% to 55% over the past 10 years, the education council said last year.

Pupils are placed in a secondary school stream based on their primary school teachers’ opinions and national tests. Some 54% of 12-year-olds currently go to vmbo schools, while 22% are in pre-university streams and 24% in pre-college streams.

School inspectors have also warned of the ‘unacceptable’ inequality in Dutch education because children of well-educated parents are scoring better in final primary school exams than children of equal intelligence from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

For example, well-educated parents are more involved in the choice of school and invest money in tutors, homework classes and training in exam techniques.

Their children are also more likely to be labelled dyslexic or as having adhd, which also entitles them to extra teaching time, the inspectors said.

(DutchNews)

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Cancer survival rates continue to improve, but many women still ignore smear tests

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Cancer survival rates in the Netherlands continue to improve according to new research by the Dutch cancer registration agency IKNL.

Two-thirds of the people diagnosed with cancer in 2013 were still alive five years later, a rise of two percentage points on the previous year. In 1989, when registration first started, just 42% of people diagnosed with cancer survived for five years or more.

Quicker and better diagnoses and more effective treatment have led to the improved survival rates, which have improved most significantly for breast, prostate, colon, kidney and cancer of the oesophagus.

Survival rates have also risen for various types of blood cancer and cancer of the lymph nodes. ‘In 1989 the survival rate for cancer of the oesophagus was 8% but that has now risen to 23%,’ the researchers said.

Lung cancer survival rates have also risen to around 21%. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer related death in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the public health institute RIVM has told broadcaster NOS that it does not expect any improvement in the low take-up rate among women for smear tests, to check for early signs of cervical cancer.

According to the IKNL, 57.6% of women are now responding to a call up for tests – available to all women over the age of 30. ‘We do not know why there was the big drop to 58% in 2017,’ RIVM spokesman Jaan van Delden said.

‘Research shows that women are positive about the screening and understand its importance. But a large proportion, primarily women aged 30 to 50, are not taking part.’

Self-tests

Even the introduction of self-testing has not helped reverse the decline, he said. Some 7% of women use a self-test. Some 200 women a year die of cervical cancer in the Netherlands, 800 women are diagnosed, and 5,000 women are found to have early stages of the disease. ‘These figures would be double without the HPV vaccination for girls and early screening,’ Jacqueline van Dijk, chairwoman of the foundation Olijf, told NOS.

(DutchNews)

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MPs, health experts and lawyers call for new approach to drugs

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – MPs, television celebrities, lawyers, leading lights from the dance scene and health experts are among the 79 people who have signed a new manifesto calling for major reform in official Dutch drugs policy.

‘The need for a new and realistic drugs policy is greater than ever. The international drug trade has taken root in the Netherlands and with serious consequences,’ the online manifesto states.

‘Mayors are receiving death threats; a lawyer was murdered, and ecstasy waste dumping is threatening the environment. But the manifest powerlessness in the face of drug-related crime is making for ever greater repression.’

The signatories, including D66 MP Vera Bergkamp, former VVD minister Frits Bolkestein and dance pioneer Duncan Stutterheim, say the aim is to reduce the risk of drugs to health and boost public safety – firstly by tackling the revenue model.

‘A regulated – not a free – drugs market the starting point of a new drugs policy,’ the manifesto states. ‘lllegality fuels crime. That is why we must tackle the revenue model of the criminals and make a regulated- not a free – drug market the starting point of a new drugs policy.’

Regulation, the signatories say, will open up more possibilities when it comes to prevention, public information, price and quality. ‘A new approach must distinguish between the harmful effects of different drugs,’ the manifesto states.

‘Ecstasy and hallucinogenic mushrooms present different risks to health than cocaine and ghb. We must learn from experiments and build on them.’ The manifesto calls on the government to set up an independent committee to come up with recommendations to reform drugs policy.

‘We are realists. It won’t be this cabinet which will instigate the change,’ the document concludes. ‘But we are happy to start the discussion today.’

Dismissed

MPs from the ruling ChristenUnie and CDA have been quick to dismiss the manifesto, pointing out that most drugs produced in the Netherlands are exported abroad. And Amsterdam police chief Erik Akerboom has said several times more should be done to counteract the ‘normalisation’ of drug use and that users are supporting violent crime.

Last November, the cabinet set aside an extra €110m to combat organised crime, some of which will be used to set up a special anti-drugs unit similar to America’s Drug Enforcement Administration.

Announcing the plans, justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said the unit will make society better able to resist the ‘poison’ of the criminal drugs industry, criminal money, intimidation and murder.

Last February influential police union labeled the Netherlands a narco state and at the end of August, a new report commissioned by Amsterdam’s mayor said that the city is unable to tackle drugs-related criminal activity.

Behind the scenes, the report said, the big drugs bosses have no trouble amassing large fortunes in what the Telegraaf called ‘a golden age for the Amsterdam drugs criminals’.

(DutchNews)

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