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PFP Questions Samuel Over MPC Exam Class Letter

SINT MAARTEN (PHILISPBURG) – On 18 May 2020, the Party for Progress (PFP) faction has submitted questions to the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports, the Honorable Drs. Rudolph Samuel, related to an open letter to the Minister by students of the Milton Peters’ College’s HAVO 5 and VWO 6 exam classes, the PFP said in a press statement on Monday.

The faction begins with questions specifically related to the students’ letter, inquiring if Minister Samuel had reviewed and read the open letter and what, if any, spot-assessments had been made at MPC and other schools that have been using e-learning as a solution to the physical closure of schools.

“The letter caught us off-guard,” PFP Member of Parliament (MP) Raeyhon Peterson says. “Much like the students, we were under the impression that exams, both central and school-based, were cancelled. To receive an outline of the timeline on May 12, and to be expected to host test week by June 4 and re-sits thereafter is somewhat unrealistic.”

Regarding the e-learning solutions, PFP MP Faction Leader Melissa Gumbs had the following to say:

“Prior to the Minister being sworn in, his predecessor, caretaker Minister Irion, handed the creation and management of the emergency e-learning solution to the iStep project. PFP prioritizes education and the assessment of any educational initiatives, as they are executed. The concerns of the MPC students (poor or no internet, lack of devices, etc) have been echoed by students of other schools as well. We hope that iStep will be prioritized and supported by the Minister to address these concerns and ensure that students have the necessary access for e-learning solutions.”

The faction also had questions related to ‘future-proofing’ the online learning solution by implementing measures to facilitate a smoother transition towards online education in the event of potential future scenarios requiring it. Both MPs believe that the initiative is a necessary one and that, as the global pandemic continues to shift, online learning should be improved and promoted to make sure that teachers and students alike are better prepared for the future.

PFP ended their questions by inquiring about the Tweede Kamer document circulated within the Kingdom on 24 March 2020, asking the Minister if he or his predecessor, then-caretaker interim Minister Irion, had received and reviewed the document. The faction inquired if Minister Samuel had held any consultation with the SVOBE school board and MPC management in or since March 2020 with regards to the content of the document, as it outlines how schools in the Kingdom should handle their end-of-year requirements. As per the document, an alignment discussion was possible between the Minister of Education in the Netherlands and the Minister of ECYS. PFP queried if this meeting had occurred, as the current setup puts increased strain on the students, as well as on their teachers.

“Exams are a stressful time to begin with,” PFP states, “and that’s with a ‘normal’ learning situation. Since March 2020, there has been a ‘new normal,’ one with expected roadblocks and bumps. There must be some consultation to find a middle ground that protects the teachers and students, as well as their academic future by making sure they are as prepared as possible and have the time to receive necessary feedback. This is why we have asked the Minister for clarity on this topic.”

Melissa D. Gumbs

PFP MP Faction Leader Melissa Gumbs

 

 

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SINT MAARTEN LIONS HONOR WHITE YELLOW CROSS FRONT LINERS

SINT MAARTEN (ST. JOHN’S ESTATE) - It is evident that nothing stands in the way of the Lions Club of Sint Maarten in rendering humanitarian service to the community of Sint Maarten.

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic Lions have not been able to raise the necessary funds to execute pending community projects. This however did not withhold them from showing their appreciation and honoring those who during these difficult times continue to go beyond the call of duty to give humanitarian service to others.

On Friday last, no matter the circumstances, Lions were able to execute what they call a COVID Project. In looking at Front Line and Essential workers they selected the team at the St. Martin’s Home. This selection came about in the fact that management of the Home was able to put a plan in place to secure the safety of their clients by closing off all traffic to the property. Also, in particular that the staff of the District Nurses of the White & Yellow Cross Foundation continued to visit the shut-ins and sick patients at home during these challenging times.

 As such the Lions gathered with management and staff of the St. Martin’s Home, the Sr. Basilia Center and the District Nurses and treated them to deliciously prepared lunches and drinks. In this way showing their appreciation for the entire team of the White & Yellow Cross Foundation as the Lions and Leo Clubs’ Frontline and Essential Heroes.

On the occasion of Nurses’ Week, the staff was also treated with music by Mr. Rudolph (Rudy) Davis (drumming) and the Mr. Isidore York on steel pan.

Sint Maarten Lions and Leo Clubs says Thank you to all Front Line and Essential workers of the White and Yellow Cross Foundation.

lions grp ins1 18may

lions ins2 18 may

 

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NIPA to hold virtual commencement ceremony

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - The year 2020 has been fraught with much loss but, as we test the waters to a brighter tomorrow, we venture out into new territory and in doing so pave the way for a better, more optimistic future.

The National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) is proud to announce the virtual commencement ceremony of our 2020 Graduating Class, to be held Wednesday, July 3, following a special commemoration of "Construction Cohort 3: Retraining to Rebuilding", on Thursday, May 28.

Beyond making history as the first of its kind on Sint Maarten, celebrating the accomplishments of our students is a way to uplift those who, in spite of global catastrophe, have persevered, deserving the finest and most distinguished recognition.

Both ceremonies of this momentous occasion honoring our resilient students, now fully equipped with expertise for success in the workforce, will be presented live on NIPA's Facebook page. Follow us for more details on the 2020 Virtual Commencement Ceremony.

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French side COVID-19 positive cases increase by one and two probable cases hospitalized

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) – The Prefecture of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barths issued a press statement on Sunday afternoon stating that border controls will be maintained due to an upsurge in activity on the French side; one new confirmed case who has been hospitalized in Guadeloupe and two probable cases, bringing the total number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases to 40. 

Contact tracing is currently underway by the French health authorities related to the new positive COVID-19 case.  In addition, on Saturday night, the L.C. Fleming Hospital in Marigot received a patient from the Dutch side of the island who was in isolation at home on the Dutch side.  This person is being taken care of for another health-related problem.

The two probable cases have been hospitalized in the COVID-19 section of the L.C. Fleming Hospital awaiting test results with respect to their status.

The Prefecture calls for continued vigilance in order to avoid an outbreak, adding that the new case demonstrates that a heightened level of hygiene must be maintained at all times.

The public health authorities of Saint-Martin are still awaiting the results of the community outreach that took place from May 4-18 throughout a number of districts on the French side.

Border controls by French Immigration officials and Gendarmes will continue at the two border control points, namely, Bellevue and French Quarter.  The borders crossings in Oyster Pond and Lowlands according to the Prefecture will remain closed into the territory of French Saint-Martin, the statement says based on a translated version.

The Prefecture stressed that the health of the people of Saint-Martin is the only argument that must guide decision-making when it concerns cross-border movement, and that this has been the primary reason for closing of the border between both sides of the island.

Therefore, the Prefecture has decided to maintain the border control into French Saint-Martin whereby residents of Sint Maarten who need to go to the French side will have to continue to present a travel certificate issued by the Prefecture that justifies the reason to be on Saint-Martin.   

stat french side one new case sun

 

 

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COM Agree to Cease Border Controls for St. Maarten as of Sunday

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – After deliberation in the Council of Ministers' (COM) meeting on Friday, May 15, 2020, it was decided that based on the efforts of the government to properly contain the virus, leading to a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases on the both sides, as well as the bonds that exist between the people, it is no longer necessary to maintain the border controls and restrictions of movement between the two sides.

Oyster Pond Border Closure to be Removed Sunday 

As of Sunday morning, which is a non-movement day, the Dutch Police Force will no longer control the internal borders of St. Maarten. The container which was placed by our police force at the Oyster Pond border to minimize the number of borders requiring control, will also be removed on Sunday.

The police force will be refocusing its energy on de-escalation measures, and on ensuring that safety and security is maintained during this process as businesses re-open in phase 2 on Monday morning. Prime Minister Jacobs informed that the police force will continue to maintain the night curfew which will be from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM as of Monday evening.

“Just as before the ‘State of Emergency,’ the Dutch side of the island will no longer require waivers. As one small 37 square mile island, we have tried our utmost to synchronize measures with our northern counterparts to protect the population from the spread of this virus, at times causing some stress to our citizens with family and economic ties on both sides.

“We see no need for this any longer as the COVID-19 cases are well under control, and it is time to normalize even further. As our businesses reopen, more persons will need to access their business, or place of work, making this extra task unreasonable.” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

Collective Prevention Services (CPS) community outreach testing campaign will continue this weekend and next weekend, however, during the week, normal movement is allowed to allow persons the opportunity to earn a living and get our economy restarted while upholding the guidelines for safety of employees and clients.

After discussions with our French counterparts on Saturday morning, where they were updated of the decision of the Council of Ministers, it has been confirmed by Madame la Prefet Feucher that the French gendarmes will maintain the controls as they require additional time to evaluate whether their containment efforts via community testing have been successful. As this is the case, our French counterparts will continue to require waivers to allow movement to French Saint-Martin.

“In discussions with President Gibbs and the Collectivite, I have been informed by President Gibbs that he has contacted the Minister of Overseas Territories Annick Girardin and has advised her to also lift the border controls due to the decision taken by the Council of Ministers of St. Maarten in an effort to synchronize the measures on both sides of the island as border control is a competency of the state.

Our population is much more aware of the dangers of the virus and will continue to practice the guidelines to be out in public; wearing a mask at all times, keeping a social distance of 2 meters and practicing proper hand hygiene frequently in order to avoid a second wave. Our behaviour will determine the success of our de-escalation of measures.

There are times, unfortunately, when our different systems cannot synchronize, as such we will continue to meet and discuss best practices moving forward and do our best to foster cooperation as we de-escalate measures and continue to fight the spread of COVID-19.” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran and Minister of Justice Anna Richardson

L to R: Deputy Prime Minister Egbert Doran, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Minister of Justice Ana Richardson. 

 

 

 

 

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10 Persons arrested for Violating Curfew

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In implementing the first Phase of the police action plan, which includes maintaining public order during the set curfew hours and deterring car thefts and burglaries, the police detained ten (10) persons on the night of 15 May 2020, police said in a statement on Saturday night.

Most of the suspects arrested were in connection with violating the curfew. They were brought to the police station in Philipsburg and held overnight for questioning. After being questioned, they were given a heavy fine and released.

The police force of Sint Maarten again would like to make it clear to some members of the community, that we are taking a zero-tolerance approach to persons, who insist on disregarding the curfew laws. (KPSM)

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French and Dutch Tourist offices launch joint inspirational destination video

SINT MAARTEN/SAINT-MARTIN - The St. Martin Tourism Office together with the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau jointly launched launched a destination video that captures beautiful shots of the destination, showcasing the dynamic and multicultural essence of the island. A special poem written by Ms. Ruby Bute was also incorporated in the video, which highlighted the beauty of the island, and placed emphasis on the current situation in a way that is artistic, hopeful and inspirational. With this video, both tourism offices aim to inspire travelers to continue dreaming of the destination while travel restrictions are still in effect.

The video has officially been launched locally and internationally and can be seen on both tourism offices official destination Facebook and Instagram pages under the usernames @DiscoverSaintMartin and @VacationStMaarten.

“This inspirational video not only showcases the beauty of our island, but also the talent of our own local artist, Ms. Ruby Bute, who wrote a heartfelt poem on video. It is crucial to keep viewers inspired and informed so that the destination can remain top of mind. In the crowded marketplace where many other competing destinations are vying for the attention of the traveler, the island should remain on the forefront and continue to disseminate captivating content. We encourage everyone to view the video on our social pages and feel free to share it amongst your friends and family.” said Aida Weimun, Director of the St. Martin Tourist Office.

“It is important to inspire and offer a visually appealing experience that resonates with the viewer, and this video not only captures the beauty of the island, but also offers a sense of hope, that emotionally engages with the viewer. We want to increase the awareness of the destination so that people may be reminded of our destination. This video is one of the many steps towards increasing the destination brand awareness, but also to re-establish our position as one of the leading destinations in the Caribbean.” said May-Ling Chun, Director of Tourism at the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau.

With certain countries re-opening their borders, travelers are already searching vacation options. Based on industry reports, travelers will primarily seek safe destinations that offers many leisure activities amongst relaxation. Keeping visitors inspired and informed will remain a top priority for both tourism offices, alongside with ensuring that the necessary protocols and guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are in place prior to re-opening the borders.

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Raymond Gradus reappointed as Cft chairman

SINT MAARTEN/THE HAGUE - As per July 1st, 2020 prof. dr. Raymond Gradus will be reappointed for a three-year term as chairman of the Board of financial supervision Curaçao and Sint Maarten, the Board of financial supervision Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba and the Board of financial supervision Aruba. 

Prof. dr. Gradus is chairman of the three Boards as of July 1st, 2017. The reappointment of Mr. Gradus has been discussed in the Kingdom Council of Ministers of May 15th. The reappointment shall take place by Royal Decree.

Prof. dr. Raymond Gradus is professor in governance and economics of the public and nonprofit sector at the VU University Amsterdam. Besides he is affiliated with the accounting department and the Zijlstra Center for Public Control, Leadership and Governance. He has moreover several scientific publications to his name, amongst others about social security, fellow governments, environmental policy and market mechanisms.

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Be The Change Foundation announces Philipsburg mural project

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Be The Change Foundation (BTC) is looking for artists residing on Sint Maarten & Saint Martin who would like to be part of their ‘Color Me SXM – Philipsburg Art Walk’ mural project.

The idea is simple: create 10 photo-friendly murals to beautify Philipsburg and showcase the islands’ artists. The project, written by Laura Bijnsdorp, who will also be executing the project, is inspired by the artwork found in various districts of Curacao. The project also includes the distribution of a self-guided map, videos, dedicated Instagram account, and a webpage to further market the creative talent on the island – and encourage everyone to explore Philipsburg.

“We hope that this project brings a bit of positive news to our island while we are facing this health crisis. Thanks to our sponsors, partners, and participating artists we aim to bring some uplifting colors to Philipsburg.” says Melanie Choisy, President of BTC Foundation.

The Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunications (TEATT), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports (MECYS), and the Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds (PBCF) are the main sponsors – and will be supporting BTC throughout the execution of the project. Sherwin Williams has also committed their expertise and resources to help complete the murals.

“I was excited to hear about this mural project. Hand-painted murals have experienced a revival in recent years and are shared globally via social media in recognition of the artists' vibrant colors or statements. I would love to see this project celebrate and incorporate our local legends and heroes while reflecting the interpretation of Caribbean island life through the artists' eyes. The finished work will surely be an inspiration to all,” said Honourable Ms. Ludmila de Weever, Minister of TEATT.

“As Minister of MECYS, I am proud to announce MECYS as a co-sponsor (through the Department of Culture) of this project that highlights our Sint Maarten expressive culture and art and helps to protect and honor our Sint Maarten heritage.

At the same time, this project puts emphasis on the pivotal role of the artist and the creative industry in the evolution of our tourism product, economy, and society. As such, this project is the almost perfect expression of our desire for sustainable development of Sint Maarten, for Sint Maarten, and by Sint Maarten. I wish the Be The Change Foundation, Melanie Choisy and Laura Bijnsdorp, much success in carrying out this project and look forward to do the Philipsburg Art Walk,” commented Drs. Rodolphe Samuel, Minister of MECYS.

BTC would also like to thank all property owners in Philipsburg who have committed walls to the project thus far. Although a number of walls have been identified for the project, the foundation is open to suggestions by property owners who have a wall that they deem fit for a mural.

Artist Information
Artists (all ages) who would like to participate in this project are requested to send their design or sketch for the mural and a short bio about themselves to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before Monday, June 1, 2020. Artists will be informed if their design is selected by June 5, 2020.

All artists will receive $600 in payment for the making of the mural. In addition the material costs such as paint, brushes etc, will be covered. BTC would also appreciate an estimate of costs (budget) alongside your mural-design.

Artists residing locally or with strong ties to Sint Maarten, will have preference in the selection process. The selected artists will be expected to complete their murals by June 30, 2020 (subject to change depending on current COVID-19 restrictions).

Mural design requirements:
- Must be ‘Instagram/photo’ friendly.

- Get as creative as you’d like! Think outside the box.
- There will be 4 spots ‘reserved’ for historically and/or culturally relevant (to Sint Maarten) murals.
- Final murals must be at least 2m x 3m large.
- Artists will be asked to make adjustments to their design according to the wall they are assigned to, as the walls differ in length and width.

- BTC Foundation will select the placement (on a wall) of the mural.

- Mural must be treated with a protective coating by artist (provided by BTC).

- Must be able to complete the mural between June 5 and June 30, 2020.

Choisy: “I hope that artists will take this opportunity to be inspired by the initiative and help us spread a message of hope, art, and culture, especially during this difficult time.”

For more information or those interested in collaborating on this project email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or go to www.facebook.com/bethechangesxm

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Unions submit counter proposal to Government to save more than Naf.100 million

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Union presented its counter proposal to the Government of St. Maarten, via the Committee of Civil Servants Union on Thursday May 14, 2020, by email, the five unions the Windward Islands Civil Servants Union – W.I.C.S.U., the Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Union- W.I.C.L.U., Windward Island Teachers Union – W.I.T.U., Nederlands Antilliaanse Politie Bond -N.A.P. B., and the Algemene Bond van Overheidspersoneel - A.B.V.O. said in a statement on Friday.

“Our counter proposal presented a list of measures that will not affect the salaries and vacation allowance of civil servants. Instead it focuses on other areas by which Government can reduce its expenditure and save money.

“Some examples are: cutting the travel costs of Government, cutting consultancy fees, freezing trainings, reducing gas vouchers and use of Government vehicles, encourage Ministers to purchase gas from their own salaries instead of using gas vouchers, reduce the transitional allowance of Ministers and Members of Parliament from 2 years to 3 months, freeze monthly credit cards of Ministers until the end of 2020, place all civil servants, who were Ministers or Parliamentarians, back in their function before June 16, 2020, without the transition allowance, reduce the salaries, stipends and allowances of top positions, committee members on boards, across all Government owned companies or agencies, freeze the election budget for the next 3 years, etc. 

“These proposed cost cutting measures will save Government more than Naf. 100,000,000 (one hundred million).  Which is much more than the Naf.10,000,000 (ten million) the honorable Minister of Finance projects to save with cost cutting measures on civil servants’ wages.    

“The unions recognize that no one is responsible for the emergence and disastrous effects of the unprecedented COVID 19 virus to St. Maarten’s economy, healthcare system, labor market and society on a whole.  As workers representatives, the Union is always ready and willing to collaborate with our social partners in this case, the esteemed Government of St. Maarten to successfully navigate through the far-reaching consequences of the social and economic impact of Covid 19.      

“The Unions, however, would be remiss if it did not point out its grave concerns regarding Government’s unsavory and ad hoc approach in presenting, the proposed cost cutting measures in the public sector, to the Unions.    

“The first meeting in question did not comply with the conditions and procedures as laid down in article 112 of the LMA which stipulates in no uncertain terms that Government is required to submit a request for approval from the Committee of Civil Servants Union, especially when it pertains to making any changes that will directly impact their legal position and rights as civil servants.

“Said advice must be accompanied and presented with supporting documents to be reviewed by the Committee of Civil Servants Union. It has been said on many occasions that St. Maarten is a nation of laws and said laws are still valid even in a crisis or pandemic. 

“Therefore, given the rush to fast track a host of measures that will in no uncertain way directly impact civil servants, it stands to reason whether or not, the unions were expected to circumvent and deviate from rules and laws governing this very important process.

“Please know that during the meeting of Wednesday May 14, 2020, the Council of Ministers were asked to submit all relevant and supporting information as is customary, in order for the members/unions to make a sound and evidenced decision based on facts. The Members are yet to receive such documentation.

“Nonetheless the Members submitted their counter proposal that would save Government more than the Naf. 10,000,000 the Minister of Finance is looking to save by cutting civil servant salaries and vacation allowances, bonuses, etc.,” the unions statement concludes.

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