Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (3064)

Coronavirus vaccine booster campaign may start next week

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The coronavirus vaccine booster campaign will start next week for hospital staff, rather than in December, sources have told broadcaster NOS.

Residential homes for the elderly and the disabled will also be able to place orders for vaccines next week, with deliveries planned for the week of November 22, the sources say.

The pressure on the government to start work on the booster campaign has become more intense because of the rise in the infection rate. In the current planning, the over-60s would not be eligible for a booster jab until next year, but this too is likely to be moved forward to December.



Coalition parties aim to have a new agreement by December 5

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The four parties working on forming a new coalition government aim to have a draft agreement finalised by December 5 and to have sorted out the ministerial line-up before Christmas, sources close to the talks have told current affairs show Nieuwsuur.

Next week the negotiators from the four parties – VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie – will spend three days at the defence ministry’s country estate near Hilversum working on their plans, with the target of a workable agreement by the end of this month.

According to broadcaster NOS, the new cabinet will have more ministers than the current one and will have a ‘different sort of job’. This is because the coalition agreement will be a broad sketch of ideas rather than a detailed plan, NOS said.

The Netherlands has been without a proper government since January 15, when the current administration resigned over the childcare benefit scandal. The general election took place in March.



Dutch students are suffering from stress and loneliness, survey finds

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Urgent measures need to be taken after a survey of 28,000 college and university students showed 16% are heavy drinkers and 50% suffer from severe stress and anxiety, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has told MPs.

The research, commissioned by the ministry, was carried out at 15 higher education establishments, and is the first large survey to be carried out into the mental state of the country’s students.

It found nearly all (97%) of students experience stress, because of both the pressure of work and the coronavirus crisis. Half said they had psychiatric problems and 25% were tired of life.

Three-quarters of the students in the survey, carried out during the lockdown, said they were lonely. The researchers said that the high number of students – 16% – who are problem drinkers is a cause for concern.

Four in 10 said that it is accepted within their group of friends to have 10 or more alcoholic drinks on a night out. Men and students living alone are more likely to be heavy drinkers, the research showed.

Some 13% of the respondents said they had used ecstasy in the past year and 9% had taken laughing gas. ‘During the coronavirus crisis, I spoke to many students who indicated that they suffered from loneliness, stress and pressure,’ Van Engelshoven said.

‘So, the results of the survey are cause for concern.’ Work has already started on trying to improve mental health services for students, she said. However, she added, ‘the stress and pressure on students comes from more than just education.

Their financial situation and housing and job prospects also play a role. So, the approach needs to be wider.’



New Political Party N.O.W. Registers with Electoral Council

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Electoral Council (EC) has accepted the application of the political party, Nation Opportunity Wealth of September 27, 2021, to be registered in the register of political parties, as referred to in Article 14, par. 2 of the National Ordinance on Registration and Finances of Political Parties.

This Decision shall enter into force on the day following the date of its publication in the National Gazette and shall be retroactive until November 5, 2021.

The registration of the reference N.O.W. as the reference that shall be placed above the list of candidates to be submitted by the aforementioned political party, the EC stated on Tuesday.

The reference N.O.W. shall be registered in the register of references as referred to in Article 14, par. 2 of the National Ordinance on Registration and Finances of Political Parties as the reference that shall be placed above the list of candidates to be submitted by Nation Opportunity Wealth.


Detention suspended for ‘Hyacinth’ suspects

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The detention has been suspended for two police officers suspected of seeking bribes, abuse of function, and divulging confidential information to a third party. They remain suspects in this investigation codenamed “Hyacinth”.

This case will be handled by the Court of First Instance in the first quarter of 2022.

The officers were arrested on October 30 and 31 by the National Detectives (in Dutch “Landsrecherche”) in this ongoing investigation. The two officers were subsequently suspended from their posts by the Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM.

Anyone with information about this case or any other that falls within the preview of the National Detectives is encouraged to contact the detectives on +1721 542 2409.

The National Detectives investigates criminal acts committed by public officials, including the police. The organization carries out investigations regarding corruption, abuse of power, favoritism, and professional misconduct among others based on facts and behaviors related to government, persons or legal entities that are involved in or execute public tasks.


Refugee worker from Drenthe to fight charges of human trafficking in Greece

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 73-year-old man from Drenthe is facing 10 to 25 years in jail after Greek authorities accused him of being involved in human trafficking.

Pieter Wittenberg told RTV Drenthe he was involved in volunteer work on the island of Lesbos following the destruction of the Moria camp in September 2020. He was also captain of a lifeboat and kept guard on a beach where refugees were sleeping.

He and 21 others are accused of spying, money laundering, membership of a criminal organisation and working with traffickers to smuggle people into the country. The case against them is due to be heard on November 18.

Wittenberg, from Peest, said he was the victim of a ‘bizarre European and Greek game’ and ‘outright intimidation of refugee organisations and volunteers’. He and his wife founded the organisation Stichting Shower Power in 2017 to operate showers for refugees living on the beaches of Lesbos.

‘We were just doing volunteer work, sheltering people on the beach,’ he said. ‘People who were cold, frightened and had soiled their clothing. People who’d had a difficult crossing in a rubber boat.

We gave them dry clothes, biscuits and water.’ Wittenberg said he wanted to attend the hearing in Greece later this month. ‘I want the chance to look the judges in the eye. It is a human being’s duty to help people in need.’



Dutch do u-turn on oil and gas investments at Glasgow summit:

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The caretaker government has decided to sign a commitment to ending investments in fossil fuel projects abroad after all, news website reported on Monday. said its sources have indicated that parliament will be briefed on the u-turn later in the day. Last week, it emerged that the Netherlands had decided not to sign the pledge at the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow.

The United States, Canada and 18 other countries on Thursday committed themselves to stop public financing for oil, gas and coal projects abroad by the end of next year.

According to the finance ministry at the time, the caretaker cabinet considered the issue ‘controversial’ and therefore a matter for the next government to decide on.

Environmental groups described the Dutch decision as ‘bizarre’ and described the call to action issued by prime minister Mark Rutte on the first day of the conference as ‘empty words’.

The failure to sign up was also a theme at Saturday’s march calling for action on climate change in Amsterdam, which attracted a record 40,000 demonstrators.



Faux Pas

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Michael Ferrier) - Dear Editor…. Allow me to play my violin as backup music to the disingenuous Rolando Brison “me, me, me sob story” I just watched as he announced his resignation from the position of President of Parliament (Ed. PoP).

Mr. Brison has convinced himself that the position he is leaving is (in part) a limiting factor in his own development. After all, healing takes time….from the Parliament chairmanship at least. His fall from grace (although self-inflicted) is a cautionary tale. It’s been a long time since I personally told him that he impressed me as being very smart and “going places” on the ladder of success. (At the time I was Chairman of the WINAIR Board).

I have now concluded that he is a damaged figure (possibly in need of professional help), having displayed a total lack of scruples and very little, if any, humility. He has elected himself the president of his own fan club.

Rolando has the gift of gab and probably can sell ice to Eskimos. But please don’t let those crocodile tears fool you. This young man is doing the ONLY thing he can do to prevent himself from being unceremoniously removed from the PoP position or otherwise judged for his behavior on the floor of Parliament. He is very clearly retreating for “better times”. I suggest you sit back and wait for his next “faux pas”.

Michael J. Ferrier


Luxury cruise ships return to Saba

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Saba has been eagerly anticipating the return of smaller luxury cruise ships after a pause in cruise visits during the pandemic. On Tuesday, November 2, the Crystal Endeavor came to the island, and it is expected that this season, more luxury cruise lines will add Saba to their itinerary.

The Crystal Endeavor had 46 passengers onboard. The guests could take part in different activities, including island tours, kayak tours or explore maritime life in the ship’s own submarine. Representatives of the Saba Tourist Bureau were present at the harbor to welcome the passengers and to provide information. Also present was a representative of the ship’s local agent, Saba C Transport. Director of Tourism Malinda Hassell thanked all partners and stakeholders for making the ship’s visit to Saba a success.

On October 21, another luxury cruise ship came to Saba, the World Navigator with 53 passengers. “During the upcoming season, we expect some more cruise lines to visit Saba. Even though we are not very known as a cruise destination, we do sometimes get added to the schedule of luxury cruise lines, which Saba tends to attract for its Unspoiled Queen product,” said Hassell.

“Most guests enjoy the lushness and appreciate that Saba is a different type of Caribbean island, with its picturesque villages, its hospitable community and the scenic views. We look forward to enhancing the on-island guest experience, as well as our product offerings as we continue to welcome visitors. All passengers and crew are following our guidelines and the easy entry requirements process also makes the process to visit us attractive,” said Director Hassell. The next cruise call is scheduled for November 30th with the visit of the SeaDream II.


Suspect arrested for being in possession of stolen vehicle

SINT MAARTEN (CUL DE SAC) - On November 2, 2021, at approximately 1:30 p.m., police spotted a gray Kia Picanto near Jose-Lake Ball Park in Cul-De-Sac. The car was pulled over and routine check found that the VIN number was tampered with and the licence plates did not match the vehice – all signs of a possible stolen car. The vehicle was confiscated pending further investigation.

The driver V.B.J.G. could not give a good story about how he came into possession of the vehicle. He was arrested and remains in custody for further questioning.

The Police Force of St. Maarten KPSM reminds the public to avoid purchasing potentially stolen vehicles. Many stolen vehicles are resold far below their actual value. Some buyers have no idea the vehicles are stolen until it is too late.

At that point, the buyers are at a double disadvantaged, as the vehicle can be seized by police, they may be arrested for being in possession of stolen property, and they have lost money.

KPSM is working with its French-side counterparts to halt vehicle thefts on the island. Law enforcement officers from both sides of the island have stepped up controls on all vehicles suspected of being stolen. (KPSM)

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