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First official meeting between Government and the new Territorial Council of Saint-Martin

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) - The Honorable Prime Minister of St. Maarten Silveria E. Jacobs and members of the Council of Ministers consisting of Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran, Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson, and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport drs. Rodolphe Samuel attended their first official working meeting together with President Louis Mussington and the elected representatives of the Territorial Council of Saint-Martin at the Hôtel de la Collectivité on May 5. This first formal meeting was organized in a joint effort to create a strong working relationship from the beginning of the new Territorial Council’s tenure, and to discuss matters of cooperation common to both parts of the island such as the COVID-19 situation, disaster preparedness and the Q4 binational meetings.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Jacobs rendered an update on St. Maarten’s COVID-19 situation. Fourth Vice-President of the Territorial Council Michel Petit also rendered an update on Saint-Martin’s COVID-19 situation with both territories sharing similar public health protocols such as optional mask usage and encouragement of precautionary measures. However, both territories are now experiencing the endemic phase as citizens move towards a life of normalcy.

Disaster preparedness was also a key point of discussion in light of the upcoming hurricane season which begins on June 1. The need to inform each other about the possible actions to be taken in the event of a major hurricane, was discussed. Prime Minister Jacobs took the opportunity to give a brief introduction of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and its structure comprising various Emergency Support Functions. “We have a responsibility before, during, and after a disaster, as such, each ESF has their individual plans for different types of disasters. Additionally, St. Maarten has 12 shelters,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

Second Vice-President Frantz Gumbs explained that the Territorial Council shared the responsibility of disaster preparedness with the State of France. However, the management of any crisis then goes back to the state as a crisis is a matter of security to the territory. Prime Minister Jacobs then informed of the intention for a key person from the Government of St. Maarten to attend disaster meetings on Saint-Martin at the Prefecture of Saint-Barthelémy and Saint-Martin and a key person from the Prefecture to attend similar meetings of the Government of St. Maarten. In this manner, public announcements and measures taken would be synchronized as much as possible.

Quadripartite cooperation, within the framework of the Q4 binational meetings, was widely discussed, in particular the need to establish more sustained cooperation between the two national States, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France, and the territories of Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten.

The question of the delimitation of the French and Dutch borders was one of the subjects of the last quadripartite discussion which will be discussed in upcoming Qmeetings to be held later this year. Any agreements made will then be ratified either as an appendix to the Treaty of Concordia or through the implementation of an appropriate treaty. The elected officials also discussed the police force’s cooperation and subjects such as the progress of the tax system reforms undertaken by the two territories at their own level.

Finally, the elected officials discussed education and the need to maintain and strengthen the actions initiated jointly. President Mussington and Prime Minister Jacobs insisted on the need to communicate more regularly on these joint actions undertaken within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten.

This French and Dutch cooperation meeting was the first of many to come. The elected representatives of the two territories agreed to be part of sustained and structured cooperation and look forward to the benefits that this renewed working relationship will bring for the population of the entire island.

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Prison Director provides IPKO with prison updates

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In the week of May 3 to May 6, the Interparliamentary Kingdom Consultations (IPKO) was held in St. Maarten as the host country in which delegations from the Parliaments of St. Maarten, Aruba, Curaçao, and the Netherlands participated.

The main goal of the consultations was to discuss topics of mutual interest such as current bottlenecks, proposals for improvement, recent developments per country, the country package and its measures, the proposal for the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO), healthcare, the financial sector, economic reforms, education and more.

During the session of May 5, the Pointe Blanche Prison Director, Mr. Steven Carty, was invited to present the recent developments within the prison system. The Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson and support staff of the Ministry of Justice were also in attendance.

The presentation delved into several topics, starting with a general background of the three detention facilities, being the Pointe Blanche Prison and House of Detention, HVB (Huis van Bewaring) Philipsburg police holding cells and the Miss Lalie Youth Detention & Rehabilitation Center.

Mr. Carty went on to discuss the main bottlenecks currently experienced within the prison system. One of the main challenges at the Point Blanch prison particularly is the age of the current infrastructure. The physical state of the detention facilities worsened considerably due to the passage of catastrophic, category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.

The buildings, equipment and overall organizational capacity of the justice sector institutions were directly impacted by the hurricanes. This resulted in risks to public safety and security in St. Maarten.

The virus SARS-CoV-2, which was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, further hampered the operations at the prison as educational programs were halted, and the movement within the prison was kept at a minimum to prevent transmission. In addition, the limitations in financial, policy and human resources were discussed. There are quite some challenges that have been identified in terms of manpower and personnel.

Although there are clear challenges that the prison is faced with, there have been quite some positive developments over the past 6 months. Firstly, a permanent director with renewed management team has been appointed and established, which has brought much stability and movement within the prison thus far.

Aside from this team, upon the request of Minister Richardson, assistance has been provided by the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). A prison program team comprised of two experts, that being a prison program manager and an HR manager, has been deployed from the Netherlands since December 2021, to assist in implementing the improvements needed within the prison system.

Since then, a 2022 prison plan of approach has been drafted, from which great improvements have already been realized. Large renovations have already taken place at the prison, security systems are being repaired and installed, the inmate day-time program has been improved whereby inmates participate in GED classes and human resources matters such as the high levels of absenteeism are being tackled. The first group of prison officers has also officially started their re-fresher courses. Aside from the recent developments within the current prison, some information was also provided on the new prison construction developments.

On May 6, the IPKO’s day program started with a visit to the prison facility. All delegations were provided the opportunity to tour the Point Blanche Prison facility and become more familiar with the prison departments. The Members of Parliament alongside the Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson, were welcomed by the prison management team and led up to the conference room for the introductory meeting. The tour included, the recreational areas such as the air spaces, the renovated gym and more.

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Tzu Chi spreads Easter cheer to 300 pupils

SINT MAARTEN (CUL DE SAC) - The St Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation helped spread some Easter cheer to 300 pupils from the kindergarten to grade 6 levels, at two primary schools in April, by donating Easter baskets to them and at one school, exposing them to vegetarian treats. 

The first stop was at No Kidding With Our Kids Foundation in Sucker Garden on April 8. Two Tzu Chi Commissioners and five volunteers assisted during the event and distributed a total of 100 Easter packages to excited students. 

The foundation was appreciative of the visit by Tzu Chi saying “it was an awesome afternoon.”

"In our programme, we have children from all layers of the society. We take care of them and offer them opportunities to grow and develop their skills and to become as independent as possible in the near future, “said Foundation Director Merlyn Schaminee, who added that agriculture, art and craft with recycling materials and dance classes are amongst the activities that children are engaged with at the foundation. “Every afternoon all enjoy a warm meal. For some, this is their only meal. Most of them need a lot of help with their homework. We are a home away from home for the children and are very thankful and grateful with Tzu Chi's assistance.”

Schaminee thanked Tzu Chi Founder Master Cheng Yen for the donations received including the donations of rice, which she said helps in guaranteeing a warm meal for each child at the foundation.

“The children enjoyed the afternoon and couldn't wait to dig into their Easter bag,” said Schaminee.

The next stop was at the St. Joseph School on Back Street on April 20, where six volunteers and one Tzu Chi Commissioner assisted in donating packages to 200 pupils, which included underprivileged school goers. Tzu Chi also used the occasion to let pupils experience vegetarian breakfast treats. A school representative was initially worried that the pupils would reject the vegetarian breakfast, but to the contrary, pupils enjoyed it very much and requested that Tzu Chi return.

The volunteers enjoyed participating in the initiative. One volunteer said it felt good doing something to give back and she was happy for the opportunity to serve. Another volunteer said it was her first time at the St. Joseph School and she was happy to see the smiles on the faces of the children. “It was a blessing,” she said.

Another volunteer said she was happy to see Tzu Chi teaching kids about healthy eating. 

The schools were grateful for the visit and thanked Tzu Chi for the kind gesture. “Thank you for your time and dedication. We enjoyed it very much. It was very much appreciated,” said a St. Joseph School representative. 

Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung thanked all the volunteers for sparing some of their valuable time to assist and the schools and pupils for being grateful recipients.  

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Minister Ottley attends the official opening of SMMC new service centers

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - On Monday May 9th, the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Hon. Omar Ottley attended the official opening of the new Operating Theatre, Oncology and Dialysis Suite, and the five Double Patient Rooms at the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC).

The oncology room has a capacity to treat five patients comfortably, which also includes a private room, and an office for private consultations.

The upgrades to the dialysis suite allow SMMC to increase the number of patients that can be treated and two operating theaters with state of the art equipment that is compatible with the equipment used in the Netherlands and the United States.

During the tour, the Director of SMMC Dr. Felix Holiday expressed his gratitude to the steering committee, project managers, SMMC board members, his staff, nurses, and the Minister of VSA, for allowing these milestones to come to fruition.

During the ceremony, Minister Ottley stated that these milestones could have only been achieved through dedicated teamwork and offers his continuous support to SMMC on its trajectory to being able to expand its services to the general public of Sint Maarten.

“I look forward to attending more opening ceremonies of this kind, that will provide better care locally for our people throughout my tenure as Minister of Public Health,” said Ottley.

With the official opening of these new centers, SMMC will now be able to offer services that once required referral abroad.

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Government commemorates National Remembrance Day

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The annual National Remembrance Day commemoration ceremony took place at the New Testament Baptist Church followed by the formal wreath-laying ceremony at the Captain Hodge Wharf on May 4. Several readings in light of Remembrance Day were done in the Church, followed by a silent procession to the Captain Hodge Wharf.

During the church ceremony, recipient of the Governor’s Youth Award Ms. Jamie Lynch read an excerpt from ‘Schoolboy in wartime, memories of my early years,’ a book written by the late Mr. Gerard van Veen. Recipient of the Governor’s Youth Award Ms. Faith Peterson rendered a reading on behalf of Mrs. Elsje Bosch who lost both parents during the Second World War. Philipsburg Jubilee Library Director Ms. Glenderlin E. Holiday highlighted the importance of written history in today’s society, whilst the Commander of the Marine Detachment in St. Maarten Drs. Arie Noordam shared his views about Remembrance Day.

Lastly, five generations of persons ranging from their eighties to their pre-teens, consisting of Mrs. Arlette Bute, Mrs. Helianthe Lynch, Ms. Maryland Powell, Recipient of the 2020 Governor’s Youth Award Mr. Ray-Angel Simon, and lastly Ms. Sanaa Lake shared what freedom means to each one of them through spoken word and poetry.

After the silent procession towards the Captain Hodge Wharf, the Governor, His Excellency drs. Eugene B. Holiday, Vice-Chair of Parliament Sidharth Bijlani and Honorable Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs laid wreaths at the Memorial Monument on the wharf to commemorate all Dutch victims – civilians and soldiers – who have been killed or murdered in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or anywhere else in the world, in war situations or during peace-keeping operations since the outbreak of the Second World War.

Thereafter, the Commander of the Marines, Chief of Police, Commander of the Marechaussee, and Commander of the VKS jointly laid a wreath on behalf of all uniformed troops, for those who lost their lives during combat, and for those still alive today. Mrs. Bernadine van Veen and Mrs. Elsje Bosch jointly laid a wreath on behalf of all those innocent children that were impacted, in one way or another, by the Second World War and any other fight for freedom. Lastly, invited dignitaries and guests were given a moment to lay a single flower at the Memorial Monument.

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Prime Minister Jacobs: You are the backbone of our healthcare and have done a tremendous job

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On May 6, the St. Maarten Nurses Association (SMNA) held their opening ceremony at Taloula Mango’s on the Boardwalk to commemorate Nurses Week from May 6 through May 12 under the theme ‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead. Investing in Nursing and Respect Rights to Secure Global Health.’ The ceremony began with a torch walk from Walter Plantz Square ending at Taloula Mango’s signifying the location of the old St. Rose Hospital.

During the ceremony, Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs stated, “As I look out, I see many generations of nurses and nurses of all our different healthcare organizations on the island. I am very much in awe of what you bring to the table as nurses, as such, investing in nurses is something that Government will always continue to do. Going through the COVID-19 pandemic and knowing what the World Health Organization and other international organizations say about safeguarding human rights, I believe St. Maarten and our nurses, being the backbone of healthcare, have done a tremendous job. When everyone else could stay home and be safe, you had to brave the elements just like other frontliners, but in healthcare, you were the top frontliners and we cannot thank you enough.”

“On May 12, we celebrate our pioneer Florence Nightingale’s birthday. We are hosting a dinner honoring nurses, as such please come out and enjoy yourself. The SMNA takes this opportunity to thank all of our hard-working, caring and dedicated nurses who are working tirelessly to care for the population of St. Maarten and surrounding islands,” SMNA President Mrs. Mavis Rombley-Hassell said as she addressed the nurses present.

Nurses week activities continue at the John Larmonie Center with a lecture on Infertility by both Women and Men this evening May 9, a Scavenger Hunt at the St. Maarten Medical Center on May 10, a Movie Night at Caribbean Cinemas on May 11, ending with the hoisting of the ‘Nurses Flag,’ at Collective Prevention Services offices located at the Vineyard Building, a free health check from 10 AM until 1 PM for the public at the Government Administration Building and a dinner honoring nurses all on Nurses Day, May 12.

“I hereby express my gratitude on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten for being there and caring for the people. The people of St. Maarten are grateful for your courage and the sacrifices you make in keeping us safe on a daily basis. Happy Nurses Week!” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

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Minister of Health Ottley visits Youth Vaccination Community Outreach

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) calendar of health observances vaccination week in the Americas (VWA), is observed every year in the last week of April (April 23 – April 30) by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) together with the countries, territories and partners of the Americas region.

The Calendar of Health Observances is aimed at promoting health related issues and topics during a designated time of the year.

The Collective Prevention Services, Section Youth Health Care Baby Wellness Clinic in collaboration with the department of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs, has planned some activities to commemorate vaccination week.

This year’s slogan is: “Are you fully vaccinated? #GETALLYOURSHOTS #VWA 20.

The specific objectives of this year’s campaign are to:

  1. Build trust and confidence in the safety and effectiveness of all vaccines.
  2. Strengthen the scope and reach of the routine vaccination program during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Accelerate COVID-19 vaccination operations in all countries and territories of the Americas to achieve high national vaccination coverage rate, with focus on all priority groups.

This year Section Youth Health Care will focus on being visible and accessible, by going into to the community with its youth immunization program.

They will be at the Community Help Desks in the Dutch Quarter, St. Peters and Cole Bay Districts to offer their services.  By providing these extra services, we ensure that we are keeping up with this year’s slogan.

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Minister of Justice Richardson visits US-based Victim Service Unit

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson recently returned from a short family vacation to the United States. While there, Minister Richardson took notice of an advertisement of the New Castle County Police Crime Service Unit in the State of Delaware. Having the Ministry of Justice at heart and with the Victim Support Services (VSS) unit for St. Maarten being in its final stages of setup, Minister Richardson seized an opportunity to contact the department and secured a visit to the facility.

Minister Richardson met with Unit Coordinator Ms. Marki Mosley and had an enlightening discussion. Much like the core services VSS is structured to provide, the Victim Service Unit (VSU) of New Castle County Division of Police provides help to victims and witnesses affected by crime, trauma, and tragic circumstances by providing support, information and referral to community agencies and services to help reduce the impact of trauma.

The VSU of New Castle is staffed with five specialists in the field of victim support. Specialists undergo special training to handle matters of domestic violence, homicide, suicide, sexual assault and other high-impact crimes. The unit has been assisting victims since 1989 and continues to devote itself to helping victims of trauma.

A crime can take place in a matter of seconds but the negative impact can last a lifetime. Therefore, it is essential to have a department or entity outfitted with certified specialists who are compassionate and focused on helping victims and witnesses regardless of their age, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, disability or mother tongue.

In March of this year, the positions to outfit St. Maarten’s VSS were published and a healthy number of reactions were received. The resume packages of the applicants are being reviewed and interviews are currently underway to identify the most qualified persons for the positions.

During the discussion Minister Richardson had with the VSU of New Castle, she inquired about training courses and seminars that are hosted to ensure specialists in the field are aware of current and relevant information needed to facilitate support to victims. Unit Coordinator Ms. Mosley confirmed that seminars and information sessions are constant and with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, much is administered online. These online training and seminar platforms grant a great opportunity for VSS St. Maarten to have a broader-based network of information sharing.

In this regard, it was relevant to mention the existing MoU between the United States and the Ministries of Justice within the Dutch Kingdom to stimulate joint activities and enhance sharing of information in the area of criminal investigation and uphold public order and security and strengthen the mutual cooperation in the areas of forensics and the organization of the criminal justice system.

On June 2, 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the United States Department of Justice and the four Ministries of Justice within the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established to enhance the existing cooperation as well as to strengthen law enforcement and the criminal justice systems in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands by rendering each other assistance. It is determined in the MoU that this assistance can be provided through i.e. the training of personnel and the exchange of experts.

During her visit to the VSU, Minister Richardson made reference to the existence of this MoU between the US and the Kingdom. She intends to explore how this MoU can be utilized more efficiently to actively participate in international and Kingdom training- and seminar platforms as this can be a viable opportunity for VSS.

Minister Richardson remains fiercely committed to providing members of the Law Enforcement chain with all the tools and confidence to carry out their tasks in the best manner possible for the community of St. Maarten. Making use of the existing agreements between our international and Kingdom counterparts in order to benefit from their build-up expertise, could be a welcome addition to realizing this ambition.

“As Minister of Justice, I am always seeking to improve and strengthen the Ministry. Though I was on vacation, I thought it imperative to contact this agency and request a meeting with its Director to learn more about their operation. As such, I’d like to thank Ms. Mosley for receiving me so positively and taking the time out of her busy schedule to meet with me. I am elated for the opportunity and look forward to the sharing of information and best practices between VSU and other similar institutions globally in the interest of providing the best support to those in need of it the most; victims, witnesses and their families,” stated Minister Richardson.

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Gordon Carty: Actions and decisions must reflect our current realities

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The leader of the United St. Maarten Party stated on Sunday in a media statement that as a former minister of Labor she looked back on the irony of Labor Day celebrations filled with award ceremonies, and motivational speeches in celebration, and wondered why our laborers current realities were not effectively reflected in the day’s celebrations.

“Recent developments with regards to workers’ rights has been far from celebratory, many are without jobs, others were suspended or fired unjustly, some resigned because of victimization and or suppression, and the majority are being systematically abused,” said Gordon-Carty.

“Labor Day celebrations is a tradition deeply rooted in the fight against injustice. Public recognition of individuals, nice words, and promises should never overshadow the significance of the day.” Our forefather’s, once slaves were mistreated abused and used as free labor. Today it seems like proposed laws, and forced agreements are being used to either formalize and or orchestrate modern day slavery, continued Gordon - Carty.

Some use futile writing, crafty negotiation or manipulative expressions to disguise the obvious, and as in the past the truth is seldom, partially or selectively written.
While many today might want to forget that part of our history, it is important for us to keep things in perspective and pay close attention to any decisions that erode the progress we have collectively made as a people.

“Together we stand stronger and able to overcome any and all obstacles. Our history and the legacy of our forefathers is living proof of that fact. We should not allow ourselves to be used as stepping stones to fulfill the agendas of others. The development of this country thus far has been born on the backs of its people, laborers who worked tirelessly to build and support institutions and an economy that has been developed without the influence or support of those that now want to dominate and manage it. The laborers efforts need to be rewarded, respected and applauded, not downplayed, belittled and/or disregarded to justify the importation of so called none available local expertise, with dragged out promises of local counter parts,” said Gordon-Carty.

“We cannot allow ourselves whether mentally or figuratively to be placed in a minority position while in reality we are the majority.” The playing field must remain level at all times, history must never repeat itself, returning to a time when people were not treated equal, or as objects, there must be justice for all without prejudice at all times. “What I am witnessing now on many levels is a far cry from being just and as a people we deserve better,” said Gordon-Carty.

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After two years, Teen Times ready for Prom Night 2022

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The young team of youth publication Teen Times is excited to be able to once again host Prom Night after a two-year absence due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Prom Night 2022 under an Egyptian theme “Pearls & Pyramids”, will be held on Sunday June 26.

The Class of 2022, are preparing to attend their once in a lifetime Prom Night. The event is

a very formal affair exclusively for the senior (exam) students of the Milton Peters College, St. Dominic High, St. Maarten Vocational, Academy PSVE, St. Maarten Academy, Sundial, Learning Unlimited, MAC High and CIA.

Prom Night gives these seniors the opportunity to have one last great time with their school mates before they go their separate ways to further their studies or into the work place. According to Teen Times, “it is just one big formal party with some activities in between, organized to being the curtain down on their high schools years in style.”

This year the décor at Prom Night will carry a distinct Egyptian atmosphere as Teen Times go all out annually on its décor. “Our themes as everyone knows changes every year. It doesn’t mean that students have to dress to match the theme, but we don’t discourage it either,” Teen Times said.

“What is a Prom? A Prom is one night where students create a lifetime of memories. We provide the venue, the music, the snacks, the ambiance. They simply have to bring the fun and the Prom spirit. That is all. They have to create their own fun. And judging from how Prom has grown over the past 26 years, our students have fully grasped the idea of Prom Night,” Teen Times added.

Central to Prom Night is the crowning of a Prom King & Queen, a Prom Prince & Princess, Best Couple, Best Dressed girl and boy and much more. Teen Times also gives a prize to the “Best Arrival” at Prom which has become a spectacle in and of itself. Entrance to prom Night 2022 is US $20 per student.

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