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CPS: May 31 is World No Tobacco Day. Poisoning Our Planet #TobaccoExposed

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Throughout its lifecycle, tobacco pollutes the planet and damages the health of all people. The theme for World No Tobacco Day May 31 is “Poisoning Our Planet #TobaccoExposed.”

Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).

600,000,000 trees are chopped down to make cigarettes; 84,000,000 tons of CO2 emissions are released into the air raising global temperatures; 22,000,000,000 tons of water is used to make cigarettes.

According to the WHO, the harmful impact of the tobacco industry on the environment is vast and growing adding unnecessary pressure to our planet’s already scarce resources and fragile ecosystems.

Tobacco kills up to half of its users. The WHO adds that tobacco kills over eight million people every year and destroys our environment, further harming human health, through the cultivation, production, distribution, consumption, and post-consumer waste.

More than seven million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Over 80% of the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries. In 2020, 22.3% of the global population used tobacco, 36.7% of all men and 7.8% of the world’s women.

All forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco use worldwide.

Other tobacco products include waterpipe tobacco, various smokeless tobacco products, cigars, cigarillos, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, bidis and kreteks.

The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, encourages the smokers within the Sint Maarten community to follow the advice as advocated by the WHO for World No Tobacco Day 2022.

When tobacco users become aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. However, nicotine contained in tobacco products is highly addictive and without cessation support only 4% of users who attempt to quit tobacco use will succeed, the WHO points out.

Professional support and proven cessation medications can more than double a tobacco user's chance of successful quitting.

The WHO says that smokers can lower their risk from of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses.

The objective of the annual campaign WNTD is to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, to discourage the use of tobacco in any form, CPS, said on Tuesday.

For more information call CPS at 542-3003; or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Online Condolences Register Opened in honor of Acting Governor Reynold Groeneveldt

SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) - Following the sad news of the passing of Acting Governor Reynold A. Groeneveldt, the Cabinet of the Governor hereby informs the community that an Online Condolence Register has been opened at the website of the Cabinet of the Governor under the news section. http://www.kabgsxm.com/news.aspx

As mentioned previously Condolence Books are opened in his honor for all to sign at the Cabinet of the Governor and at the Government Administration building.

The condolence book at the Cabinet of the Governor, Falcon Drive 3, Harbour View, Philipsburg is placed until the day before funeral. The days and times for signing are as follows:

  • Every workday: 08:00 – 12:00 hours

The Condolence book at the Government Administration building, Soualiga Road #1, Pond Island, Great Bay is placed until the day before funeral: The days and times for signing are as follows:

  • Every workday: 08:30 – 17:00 hours
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Prime Minister Jacobs & Women’s Desk to host family themed panel discussion

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Honorable Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Silveria E. Jacobs and Women’s Desk of the Department of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs (CDFHA) are hosting a panel discussion surrounding International Family Day 2022.

This panel discussion themed “Family, the Core of Society” will mainly include dialogue between family affairs experts and the public on the topic of family. The event will serve as a way to gather information that can determine if there is a need for family-centered policy development and highlight possible policy directives.

Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “Families are the core, foundation, pillar and bedrock of any given society, as the continuity of human civilization is dependent on the family. A family, which can include biological parents, extended family, or adopted parents, gives us our identity, and help to shape who we become by the passing down of cultural norms, beliefs, morals, and values. As such, June 3rd was chosen as the date to host this important event as it falls between three key family celebration days in the year, Mother’s Day, Family Day, and Father’s Day.”

Though the traditional image of the family continues to evolve, the family remains an essential element of society. Considering that, whatever affects the family, has a trickling effect on society and the reverse is true, be it negative or positive.

The family-themed panel discussion will be held on Friday, June 3, 2022, from 6 – 8:30pm at the Government Administration Building in Conference Room 1. Prime Minister Jacobs and Women’s Desk hereby encourage the general public to attend the event as the importance of families and the issues faced by them are discussed to increase awareness of the social, economic, and demographic processes affecting families and work towards solutions together.

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MP Wescot is seeking information and more communication from Government

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - “The government of St. Maarten might as well decide to have less press briefings or even none at all”, is the view of Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot after a critical analysis of government’s current modus operandi, as she also addresses government’s media policy, the MP said in a press statement on Monday.

“I say this because of the confusing and mixed signals that we are getting every week and at the same time members of parliament, many of us in any case, continue to ask for meetings and seek to obtain information from the government, but to no avail.”

MP Wescot gives as an example of mixed signals and confusion that the government is sowing, the issue of the three infamous ordinances that were passed as part of the conditions set by the kingdom council of ministers, following the second transfer of liquidity support that St. Maarten received in 2020.

The three laws being the reduction in the labor benefits of civil servants and like personnel (persons working for government and semi government institutions and subsidized institutions etc.), the one regarding the cut in the salaries of ministers and members of parliament to the amount of 25% of their salaries/benefits, and thirdly the so-called standardization of top incomes, in other words incomes of top personnel, management etc. of government owned companies. These would be tied to the salary received by the Prime Minister, a so-called Prime Minister norm and cannot exceed a certain amount above the salary of the Prime Minister, the MP explained.

“What we are now hearing after months of being told that the current state secretary was amenable to the idea of undoing the 12 1/2% cut, is that State Secretary van Huffelen has attached additional conditions, if the government wishes to revoke the “salary cuts”.

“It should be noted that this 12 1/2% cut in the case of civil servants is not salary related, it has to do with withholding vacation allowance, reducing vacation days, cutting overtime, and capping promotions.”

MP Wescot elucidated that while the government has been promoting the idea that the state secretary was very receptive to talk about undoing this ordinance, it needs to be made clear that this ordinance and the other two can be undone by a national decree, in other words, can be revoked by a decision of the government of St. Maarten. “It doesn't have to come back to Parliament or be changed by another ordinance.”

“Now government, via the Prime Minister is telling us that in order to undo/cancel the 12 1/2% which is law, that there are eight conditions that have been attached to this, however we of the parliament and the population at large can't get to know what five of the eight conditions are, because only three have been made public so far.”

“The State Secretary allegedly writes a letter to the Prime Minister indicating 8 conditions. What is wrong with outlining what those conditions are; if they have already been put on paper as conditions, why can't the parliament and the population at large be told what these conditions are?” the MP is asking.

“No, instead the government says they can’t divulge the five others, only the three such as financing it ourselves in first instance, maintaining the cut in the salaries of ministers and members of parliament, and thirdly to adapt the law regarding the top incomes; those are the three conditions that the Prime Minister has divulged as being part of the eight”, the MP exclaimed, obviously frustrated with the government’s attitude.

What the other five are we don't know, because the government is looking for time to discuss them firstly with the state secretary.

It can be recalled that the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten, when these conditions were first put in place, especially the one cutting the salaries with 12 1/2%, said that move and that decision would lead to further impoverishment on St. Maarten! Now we’re hearing that “we have to negotiate and there might be a delay because of these extra conditions that are being imposed”.

On the other hand, adding to the confusion, the minister of finance is having negotiations with the unions regarding paying out vacation allowance for the period June 2020 through May 2021 in exchange for a reduction in vacation days, is what I have learned from especially social media because again the government sees no merit in briefing parliament as to where this entire matter is going and what the issues are.

The Minister of Finance is now negotiating an exchange and is promising to pay out vacation allowance in June 2022 for the period just mentioned (June 2020 through May 2021) and in exchange thereof, the workers would have to accept a reduction in vacation days.

My question is when I read this and assuming that the information is correct: “is the government going to annul the law that blocks the payment of vacation allowance and if so, when?”

Parliament empowered the government to annul this law by decision of the government, reasoning that the government could quickly reinstate the vacation allowance etc. The law leaves no opening for the government to change the makeup of the cuts and the question begs “what about the other workers that fall under the workings of the law (government companies, foundations etc.)?”

MP Wescot: “I feel that the minister and the government -for whatever their reasons at this time- are jumping at everything, here, there and elsewhere, but in essence taking the people of St. Maarten, especially the persons who have been told ‘now you are going to get your vacation allowance’ for a ride, because the law that governs this 12 1/2% cut regulates the cut for everybody falling under the government operation, semi government operations, as well as subsidized entities. So, what are those entities now supposed to do?

“I guess we're not going to be hearing answers anytime soon and the government is going to play this game and when things do not work out, put the blame in the lap of the Dutch/kingdom government.”

There is no one who can question the ministers and get straight answers, because if a member of the media does it, they are put on notice.

And on that topic, it begs the question, why is it that parliament receives correspondence from the Prime Minister and a representative of the media on St. Maarten that the two parties are going to sit together and work things out after the botched media policy that the government had issued, but still warnings, which are mentioned in the media policy are issued to a journalist? Is the policy in effect or not?

“Is the government going to be having discussions with the media, yes, or no?”, the MP queries.

Two other fiascos are the budget 2022 and the fuel cost reduction. And to add insult to injury, while we have no view on a timeline of the reduction for the consumer, the Minister of ECYS announces a 1 cent charge on fuel that will go towards sports. Just like they did with Minister Lawrence’s proposal to reduce the fuel cost for the consumer, the other ministers approved this, but none can explain how this will work in practice and will it be a reduction big enough to then add 1 cent?

The government has none but themselves to blame for the general cynicism, due to their poor and one-sided communication, the MP said in conclusion.

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Minister Samuel says farewell to Blijden. "We have lost a true treasure of the island"

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On the heels of the passing of local historian and long-time civil servant Alfonso Blijden, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Hon. drs. Rodolphe Samuel has expressed what he describes as "great sadness and a profound sense of loss" at the news of Blijden's death.

Blijden joined the local civil service many years ago after coming to St. Maarten and dedicated his life to recording and sharing the history of St. Maarten. "He was an undeniable expert in his field and because of him a lot of our history is pretty well documented and available to this and future generations," Minister Samuel said of the late Alfonso Blijden.

“We are blessed in St. Maarten to have very dedicated and hard-working civil servants, but even in a pool of so much talent and passion, Blijden was able to stand out as special and he will surely be missed. He brought his own personal brand to the position making it his own and people took notice,” Minister Samuel notes.

According to Drs Samuel, more than 30 years of dedication and passion to a role "is not something you come across every day and Blijden’s loyalty must be commended." Alfonso Blijden will best be remembered for his passion for all things culture and for his role as a historian. In his 30-plus years as a civil servant for the government of St. Maarten, his positions included Archive Officer, and Application Manager for the Department of Records and Information Management. He held the latter position until his passing last weekend. The late Alfonso Blijden was also a former member of the UNESCO Memory of the World Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean and a member of the National Monument Council.

"I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the late Alfonso Blijden and hope they find comfort in the knowledge that Blijden was also well-loved by his colleagues and many on the island including myself. We have lost a true treasure of the island. May you find strength in this emotional time," Minister Samuel concludes.

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Frans suggest possible ways to offer economic relief to citizens

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Former Member of Parliament Frans Richardson over the weekend suggested a number of ways that the government of St. Maarten could offer true, meaningful economic relief to the people of St. Maarten if put in place for a two-year period. He said it is incomprehensible that almost every Caribbean nation can find ways, creative or direct, to offer their citizens relief, while St. Maarten still cannot do anything.

Richardson noted that food prices, construction material and other commodities have increased dramatically over the past year and even more so since the conflict in Ukraine kicked off. The business community, he said, has responded as they normally do in crisis situations; implemented an increase in prices and services in order to stay afloat.

"Typically, you would expect a government to look after its citizens when cost of living increases due to instances that are no fault of their own. The government controls or influences services and can implement measures that can alleviate the economic pressure on its citizens. All that is needed is the political will and basic human decency to do so. To date we have seen or heard nothing from the government with the exception of the occasional "We are working on it," Richardson said.

To directly ease the burden of citizens, Richardson suggested that the Minister of Economic Affairs (TEATT) start with the immediate reduction of the gasoline tax and throughput fees which will also significantly affect GEBE's fuel clause.

"If there is one thing that can immediately help the people of St. Maarten is doing everything to address that fuel clause. It is probably the lone economic killer for individual persons and businesses alike. You have to address it with indirect measures if you are serious about helping people. Along with the fuel clause you also have the throughput fee for containers which continue to drive food prices up. We import our food. With container prices already sky high due to the pandemic and even more so now with the conflict in Eastern Europe, we have to do something to keep costs for importers as low as possible. If not, you will continue to get what’s happening now, everything is being passed on to the consumer," Richardson said.

Additionally, Richardson suggested that the Minister of Finance, with the Central Bank, arrange a reduction in the interest rates by 2% at the banks and across the board for every type of loan. He explained that interest rates often change in response to economic activity, and are lowered when the economy is down or sluggish.

"Not only would this result in savings for citizens, but it would also make borrowing money much cheaper. This encourages consumer spending at a time when you need the internal economy to circulate and perform well since the world is in economic chaos. More importantly, you want your people to have some kind of disposable income to buy necessities. But with high interest rates, high utility rates, high rent and high food prices, which translates to a high cost of living, people will continue to suffer without government action," he said.

As for the Minister of Social Affairs (VSA), he urged the Minister to review his budget and "find approximately five million guilders" to establish a fund to assist seniors and mothers to purchase food goods and food supplies for babies and children under some sort of qualification scheme.   Richardson said that there must be "unnecessary fat" (such as unspent funds for the pandemic) in the VSA budget that can be cut and re-directed to helping the vulnerable.

"Some of the most vulnerable are our seniors and our children and by extension their parents. Seniors have to deal with a miniscule pension that is being taxed leaving them with barely anything to live on when times were so called good. Imagine now. Mothers can't send children to school with a good meal because the money simply isn't there after basic need purchases including rent," Richardson said.

"In times of crisis or hardships, a government must find a way. A government must put aside pet projects and lofty departmental initiatives and put those resources directly into helping its citizens. It can be done. Any government that tells you that it cannot be done have lost sight of their true calling as representatives of the people and have lost all connection with its citizens. If others around us can do it, why can't we? It is time for the government of St. Maarten to finally do something substantive and meaningful for its citizens," Richardson concluded.

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Leader of the US Party: Agriculture should be owned and managed by our own

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Leader of the United Sint Maarten (US) Party Pamela Gordon-Carty lamented on Sunday that we should not be giving away our patrimony. The Former Minister of VSA (Public Health, Social Development and Labour) referenced an article published in the Daily Herald on May 24th 2022, “proposing a floating farm in the great salt pond and an aquarium in the Simson Bay Lagoon; I was surprised to see the magnitude of the projects and the suggestion that it will be funded by the Dutch government or APS.”

An Agriculture plan as an alternate source of income with details on its execution was outlined in a book named Recovery Plan written by Mrs. Gordon-Carty and made available to government in August 2021. I requested an audience with the governments and governors of St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba to present them with a copy of the book, and to discuss the plan that can provide employment for the masses; by utilizing the hills for farming and producing product that can generate funds for the coffers of government putting country St. Maarten in a very strong financial position. I was well received by the government and Governor of Curacao, and we had extensive discussion, but to date I haven’t received a response from the St. Maarten government or Governor.

“Here we are today and government is entertaining plans that will benefit a minority at the expense of the majority. As usual it’s not about the plan, but about who presents the plan. I wrote a book detailing a plan formulated with local farmers taking the lead and government playing a minimal role so as to not have the country entangled in more conditions that seem to fall directly in the laps of the people,” said Gordon- Carty.

“St Maarten we need to stop giving away our patrimony and start recognizing our own and their potential to do great things if given the tools and opportunity.”

“Our lands are our patrimony and it must not be given away, for the sake of a project that can otherwise be spear headed by government at a lessor cost. The great salt pond, I believe can be revived to generate for the country on a larger scale and until proven otherwise, it should remain untouched. Any project that concerns itself with the Simpson Bay lagoon should be made public in its entirety so that the environmental impact and the social economic benefits are transparent and readily available for review by the population,” continued Gordon-Carty.

“I’m for all plans that makes St. Maarten better as long as the people are directly and positively impacted in all levels. Agriculture if done in an organized and proper manner will benefit the majority, in my book ‘Financial, Economic and Social Recovery Plan – Part 1’ it is outlined perfectly. I believe that we can sustain ourselves once agriculture is taken seriously and incorporated into our economic structure. St. Maarten people if given the opportunity can become producers instead of solely being consumers,” said Gordon - Carty.

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COM extends condolences to family and friends of historian Alfonso R. Blijden

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - It is with great sadness that the Government (Council of Ministers COM) of Sint Maarten received news concerning the passing of civil servant and historian Alfonso R. Blijden today, Friday, May 27. Mr. Blijden was born in 1964 on Aruba before making St. Maarten his home in 1985. He was a valued civil servant from 1987 to present, making a difference in the lives of all who met and interacted with him. Mr. Blijden will always be remembered as hard-working, dedicated, and committed to learning and sharing the history of St. Martin.

He began his career in government as an Archive Officer in 1987, under the leadership of the late Louis Duzanson who ignited a passion for archiving and history in him. Mr. Blijden continued to develop his career in government as a very knowledgeable and dedicated civil servant earning his bachelors degree in Public Administration in 2007. As an expert in his field, he transitioned towards Senior Archive Officer and Application Manager for the Department of Records and Information Management (DIV) in 2013, a position he had a passion for up to his passing.

Having developed a true passion for history, Mr. Blijden served the government of St. Maarten for the past 35-plus years. Colleagues of Mr. Blijden describe him as an outstanding civil servant with a passion for history and culture. He became a member of the UNESCO Memory of the World Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean from 2015 to 2019, and was an active member of the National Monument Council, as well as many other local organizations until his passing. He will surely be missed.

“On behalf of the Government and people of St. Maarten, we extend deepest condolences to his wife Mrs. Blijden, his two daughters, family and friends. The Department of Records and Information Management (DIV) and by extension St. Maarten, has lost a master historian and researcher with a drive to know more about our history. Mr. Blijden laid the groundwork for most of our archives as he also discovered and recorded a lot of information on his own. His contributions and legacy will continue to live for years to come," stated Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs.

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Ministry VROMI Tree Removal also Includes Replanting. Effort is to Improve Traffic Safety

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Ministry of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure (Ministry of VROMI), commenced on Wednesday May 25th, 2022, with a project regarding the mangrove trees in the area of the Prince Bernard Bridge.

The primary objective of the project is to improve traffic safety at this intersection.

It has been determined after an on-site assessment once the works started on May 25th that certain vegetation within 25 meters of all four corners of the Prince Bernhard Bridge will be completely removed.

In the coming weeks, the cleared areas will be replanted with young green buttonwood mangroves and native vegetation that will be maintained on a regular basis in order to ensure a line of site for traffic safety and an aesthetic view into the pond for enjoyment and recreation.

Motorists have already experienced the traffic safety improvements by having better visibility.

The Ministry of VROMI has received a number of communications and observed public comments with respect to this project and would like to thank all those for their views and input.

The ministry welcomes a continued dialogue with the community related to any public sector project or activities regarding any concerns or recommendations.

Persons can submit their views, concerns, or recommendations via the following email address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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UNOPS arrives to assess and prepare for the development of the new prison

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) first official working visit to St. Maarten is scheduled to take place from Friday, May 27th until Thursday, June 2nd. The Ministry of Justice has planned this working visit with the purpose of finalizing the UNOPS Project Agreement and Project Proposal for the first phase of the prison’s new construction project. A delegation consisting of UNOPS technical team and the Director of the UNOPS Multi-Country Office for Costa Rica, Panama and the English and Dutch Speaking Caribbean Mr. Alejandro Rossi will arrive today, May 27th and on May 29th for the introductory visit. The visit will also allow UNOPS technical team to get its first impressions of St. Maarten by gathering information through site visits and discussions with important stakeholders.

The Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson stated, “I am delighted to finally welcome UNOPS technical teams to St. Maarten as we begin the discussions for the new prison with all stakeholders at the table. During my working visit to the Netherlands in September 2021, my support staff and I gained much-needed insight into how prisons function in the Netherlands and how St. Maarten’s detention facilities compare to them. As such, the Ministry’s goal for the prison is to firstly replace the thirty plus years, damaged and restricted structure we currently have. With the building of a new structure, even more rehabilitation programs can be offered as the new prison will be outfitted with proper facilities and operational spaces.

During the visit, the working group will be meeting with His Excellency, Governor Eugene Holiday, the Council of Ministers, the Justice Committee of Parliament, the Steering Committee Representative for St. Maarten, the Point Blanche Prison Director, the National Recovery Program Bureau, the World Bank Steering Committee Representative for St. Maarten, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Representation Office in St. Maarten, the Public Prosecutor Office, the Probation Office (SJIS), St. Maarten Medical Center, Mental Health Foundation, and Turning Point. The working group will also tour the Pointe Blanch Prison, Immigration holding cells and KPSM holding cells.

UNOPS is an operational arm of the United Nations (UN that implements projects on its behalf, as well as for international financial institutions and governments. UNOPS’ proposal for the construction of the new prison, divides the project into two phases. The first phase will last 13 months while the final phase will take four years. “Now that UNOPS is on the ground, I look forward to the discussions going into higher gears so that we can get all the necessary agreements signed and the work to commence. The Ministry of Justice will remain committed to finalizing the process for the first phase,” concluded Minister Richardson.

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