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TelCell Breakthrough team counting down to Saturday’s finals event

POND ISLAND - Organizers of the TelCell Breakthrough talent show have started their final countdown to Saturday’s finals at the Theatre Royale, Maho.

 Last-minute arrangements for the night, including seating, security and crowd-handling were discussed during a meeting of the entire team in the Conference Room, main TelEm Group building, Tuesday.

According to coordinator, Angel Richardson, everyone is upbeat and excited that the day for the show is almost here.

“We have been promoting the event for many months and there really is a buzz in the social media and around the island generally for our Breakthrough show this year once again. Everyone wants to see and hear what these stars of tomorrow have to offer,” said Angel.

During Tuesday’s meeting Angel outlined where the group is in terms of preparation for Saturday and also what arrangements have been made to accommodate the panel of judges and also the VIP guests who will be arriving.

She said the show is completely sold out, therefore no tickets will be available at the door at show time Saturday.

The program for the night and other matters related to sound and recording were also finalized with the assistance of co-organizer, Bertaux “Mr. Rude” Fleming of Xtratight Entertainment.

Present at Tuesday’s meeting was Chief Commercial Officer, Mr. Brian Mingo, who thanked everyone for their tremendous effort, particularly, the co-coordinators Ms. Richardson and Mr. Rude.

“I am very happy to see the energy that everyone continues to put into making this the biggest and best event for St. Maarten’s youth each year. It makes us very proud that such an event carries the name of TelCell,” said Mr. Mingo.

Mr. Mingo said from the reports he received Tuesday, he is “very satisfied” that all the bases are covered and that everything is in place and being put in place for nothing short of a spectacular night at the Casino Royale Theatre, Maho, Saturday.

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Live 2 Lead Addresses: How to Thrive Through Challenge and Change

MAHO REEF - In a world where challenges abound in relationships, businesses, organizations and communities, many persons often find themselves stressed out without tools to cope effectively with life. Consequently, relationships suffer, marital discord increases, the family unit becomes vulnerable and unstable, and our communities feel the negative consequences through school drop outs, crime and violence.

Research shows that resilient people think differently. They have a set of skills – sometimes learned, other times innate – that allow them to persevere, manage stress, and triumph in the face of challenges.

Recognizing that many persons are hurting, and struggling with life, Victorious Living Foundation (VLF) exists to empower, enlighten and reconcile individuals, couples, families, communities and nations to maximize their potential in life. Consequently on October 9th 2015, Victorious Living Foundation is hosting Live 2 Lead, a live simulcast half-day, leader development experience designed to equip leaders from all walks of life with new perspectives, practical tools and key takeaways to take their leadership and vision to a higher dimension.

Live 2 Lead is organized by the internationally renowned leadership expert John C. Maxwell who in 2014 was identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association® and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazines. By registering and attending Live 2 Lead, persons locally will join thousands around the world, learning significant leadership truths and practical applications for their work and life.

Life coach and bestselling author, Valorie Burton, one of the speakers at Live 2 Lead will focus on How to Thrive Through Challenge and Change. She will help participants create building blocks of resilience to effectively manage challenges encountered in leadership and life. Burton will equip participants with a survival toolkit that will allow them to navigate disappointments in a way that makes them better, not bitter. They will learn to maximize opportunities, bounce back from setbacks, and develop the thinking style that research has proven will help them succeed under pressure.

In addition, Live2Lead has partnered with the University of North Georgia (UNG) Continuing Education Division to provide Continuing Educational Credits (CEUs) for the 2015 Live2Lead event. The UNG Continuing Education Division has approved 3 contact hours or .3 Category 1 Professional Development CEUs for this event.

Registration is open until October 2nd 2015. Persons may register by going to http://tinyurl.com/registerL2LSXMor learn more about the event athttp://tinyurl.com/Event-L2L-SXM. Persons interested in the VIP packages of an all inclusive stay at Sonesta Maho by registering for Live 2 Lead may visithttp://tinyurl.com/Victory4u.

Victorious Living Foundation is located at the Royal Palm Plaza # 92 Front Street, upstairs. For more details persons may call VLF at 1-721-524-8731/1-721-542-2652 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Local Postal Services PSS attends Caribbean Postal Conference in BVI

TORTOLA, BVI/SINT MAARTEN - Postal Services St. Maarten (PSS) attended the Caribbean Postal Union (CPU) and Universal Postal Union (UPU) 18th annual Postal Conference in the British Virgin island of Tortola.

The St. Maarten delegation arrived on Sunday in Tortola comprised of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Directors (SBD) Stuart Johnson and interim-Managing Director Antonia Wilson. The conference duration was from September 14 to 18, 2015 and the conference was held at Maria's by the Sea Hotel. 

The primary purpose of the conference was to formulate a strategy to highlight and adequately address several facets within the postal Caribbean region. The St. Maarten delegation joined with a selected number of countries to form a working group which will work out improvements to the regional movement of mail traffic especially by air transport. 

"PSS felt it fitting to join this working group considering that our country serves as a hub for the north eastern Caribbean especially with our two main modernized ports of entry," PSS SBD Chairman Stuart Johnson stated. 

The Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Marcel Gumbs joined the conference on Thursday morning for a two day session of the Caribbean Council of Ministers of Postal Affairs which concluded late on Friday afternoon. 

"We need to look creatively at how the postal organization fits in our society today especially considering the many influences facing PSS," Mr. Gumbs stated. 

Mr. Gumbs stated, "I was truly grateful for the warm welcome received by the Honorable BVI Premier Dr. D. Orlando Smith, the BVI Post and all conference support staff."

Johnson mentioned, "we need to continue networking regionally with our colleagues in the postal world and truly build the young organization of PSS which serves to ensure the continuity of our postal company." 

The CPU/UPU conference also focused on a number of topics such as, point of sales, postal security, regional logistics, identifying global/regional trends, E-commerce and the CPU's 2016/2020 strategic plan. 

"PSS surely gained a lot of knowledge and exposure during this conference as we continue to ensure the further growth of our postal organization. We will continue to work diligently with all stakeholders both locally as well as regionally," PSS Interim-Managing Director Ms. Wilson stated. 

The next CPU/UPU conference will be held in the twin island nation of Trinidad & Tobago in the month of May 2016. 

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First Tropical Wave East of Lesser Antilles chance for development diminishes. Second system has potential

SINT MAARTEN – The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in its tropical weather outlook of Monday evening (September 14) says a low pressure area located about midway between the Cape Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles continues to produce a limited amount of shower activity.  

Some development of this low is still possible during the next couple of days while it moves generally north westward. After that time, however, upper-level winds are expected to become unfavourable for development.  This tropical wave chance for development has diminished from 90 to 60 per cent. 

A second tropical wave accompanied by a broad low pressure system is located about 500 miles south-southeast of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands.  Shower and thunderstorm activity is showing some signs of organization, and environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for the formation of a tropical depression over the next few days while the system moves westward at 10 to 15 mph.  This wave has a 60 per cent chance for development.

Crown Weather reported Monday morning: “There are two tropical disturbances in the eastern Atlantic that I am monitoring. The first disturbance is a broad low pressure system, designated Invest 93-L, that is located to the west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands near 11 North Latitude and 38 West Longitude. Satellite imagery indicates that the overall thunderstorm activity associated with this system has become less organized and the overall structure looks more elongated than it did yesterday. Since this system remains entrained within the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, it continues to track nearly due westward with no signs of a turn to the west-northwest or northwest, but this should change by a little later this week.

“At this point, I’m not so sure that Invest 93-L will develop as much as some of the model guidance suggests, especially given that much stronger shear just to the north of this system seems to be already impacting it. Even if it does not develop, it looks like a pronounced weakness in the ridge of high pressure that stretches as far west as 45 West Longitude should pull this system north westward and northward into the open Atlantic as the week progresses. Bottom line is that Invest 93-L poses no threat to the United States, Caribbean or Bermuda.

“Turning to another tropical disturbance that is currently located just off of the west coast of Africa. Satellite imagery indicates that this disturbance is also disorganized and slow development seems likely. In fact, analysis reveals that this disturbance is likely to be impacted by 20 to 30 knots of westerly wind shear over the next couple of days or so and this will likely limit development. I think it may not be until later this week before we see any development from this disturbance. As for a future track, a general west to west-northwest motion is expected throughout this week and it remains to be seen if this second disturbance is pulled northward by a central Atlantic trough of low pressure or whether this trough will miss this disturbance. The GFS model guidance forecasts this system to be pulled northward along 50 West Longitude by early next week while the European model guidance forecasts a much more westward track with it possibly impacting the northern Lesser Antilles by the middle part of next week.

“Both disturbances will be monitored, however, at this point, I think the disturbance closer to the coast of Africa has a better chance of becoming a tropical cyclone than Invest 93-L does,” Crown Weather concludes.

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY TROPICAL WEATHER WATCH (www.soualiganewsday.com)

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Upcoming Lions Peace Poster Contest. Deadline for submission October 31st

PHILIPSBURG - The theme of the 2015-16 Peace Poster Contest is "Share Peace." Students, ages 11 - 13 on November 15, are eligible to participate in this year’s Lions Peace poster contest. Young people are encouraged to express their visions of peace through art in the Lions International Peace Poster Contest. Lions clubs around the world proudly sponsor the contest in local schools and youth groups.

ART

Participants use a variety of mediums, including charcoal, crayon, pencil and paint, to express a different theme about peace each year. The works vary greatly and reflect the young artists’ life experiences and culture.

LOCAL ARTIST

 Students will be given tips and will be mentored by local artists.

The winning poster, representing St. Maarten, will be selected by renowned artists Max Phelipa & Loic Bryant & Youmay Dormoy and Lucinda Audain. St. Maarten’s entry will compete to represent District 60B and hopefully appear in the Lions International Peace Poster competition.

Drawings must be submitted to the St. Maarten Lions Club by 31 October 2015.

GLOBAL

Judges from the art, media, youth development and humanitarian communities select 24 international finalists representing the more than 350,000 children who participate annually. Posters are shared globally via the Internet, social media, news outlets and traveling exhibits.

Registration contact: Lion Merlyn Schaminee

Mentor session will start on: Saturday September 19 2015

Time: 11:00am to 1:00pm

Place: Lion’s Den, Lower Princess Quarter

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Attorney General Schram calls on Sint Maarten Community to Join Judicial System in Fighting Crime

PHILIPSBURG - Attorney-General Guus Schram, on the occasion of the installation of members of the Joint Court of Justice 11 September 2015, in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, delivered the following speech to invited guests.

“Thank you so much. I am deeply honoured with this opportunity to speak at the installation of Sander van Rijen. Dear Mister Chairman, Members of the Joint Court, it indeed gives me great pleasure to congratulate Sander van Rijen. I wish you much judicial wisdom, but of course also a lot of happiness and fun in your new activities.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office is looking forward to a pleasant cooperation and I also congratulate the Court with this new Judge. Today no Prosecutors are being installed. Usually this means that the Public Prosecutor’s Office only uses a limited amount of your time of the granted speaking time. I do not know if I will succeed in that, Mister Chairman. In particular I would like to address the current events around the fight against crime in Sint Maarten. And there is a lot to say about that. For that matter the period in which Mr Van Rijen starts with his work, can be described as turbulent and exciting at best.

“Wednesday, August 5th, Sint Maarten was shocked by a horrific incident, which took place in the middle of the day, nearby the Courthouse in a busy Front street. Officer Gamali Benjamin together with a colleague arrived at the scene of a reported armed robbery at a jeweller's shop. On site the assailants directly opened fire on them.

“Shopkeepers, tourists and Members of Parliament experienced mortal fear and ran for their lives with dozens of bullets flying around. Also those present in this Courthouse heard the shots and the screaming. They must have experienced the most dreadful moments. Officer Benjamin turned out to be mortally wounded and passed away after three days. The funeral service made a big impression. The island is in shock. Sadness, anger and indignation struggle for preference. Officer ‘Benji’, as he was nicknamed, was somebody well known in Philipsburg and loved by many.

“Sint Maarten has lost an excellent cop and above all a good person. This horrible drama has painfully demonstrated how crime increasingly affects the society, while costing the lives of the best kids of this island. With the violent death of Officer Benjamin a critical boundary has been crossed. The Friendly Island has lost its innocence. Needless to say that the Public Prosecutor’s Office with its work partners shall do everything within their power to have those responsible for this crime arrested and tried, but more needs to be done.

“The population of Sint Maarten deserves a safer community with less crime. That is a communal undertaking. Police and Justice have an important role therein, but they cannot do it on their own. The community must also raise its voice and demonstrate adamant rejection of crime. I am calling upon that community to speak out: leaders of civil society organizations and associations, such as churches, schools, trade unions, community centres, as well as business people and politicians. You all can constitute an important counterforce. I would in particular like to call on our parents and families: criminal behaviour is not acceptable and it is threatening individuals and society.

“Teach your children and lead by example. Protect your children: they are the sons and daughters of this beautiful island. Another threat exists by the transnational undermining crime, the crime which consists of and results from a mixing of the upper world and the criminal underworld. During the past weeks the Caribbean and Dutch media paid much attention to the discussion between the Governments of Sint Maarten and the Netherlands about how to tackle this type of crime. Not all information published on the subject, formed an accurate representation of reality and not all opinions voiced did correspond with the ones from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

“Since this issue largely concerns a political matter between both governments, the Public Prosecutor’s Office is reluctant to raise its own voice regarding this subject. However the Public Prosecutor’s Office ideas in this matter (on fighting this type of crime?) need to be told to the community of Sint Maarten. After all it is responsible for and in charge of the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses. The community has to be informed as objectively and as completely as possible, about the manner in which the Public Prosecutor’s Office fulfils that task.

“Therefore it is essential that the Public Prosecutor’s Office actively communicates about this as well. Three extensive reports about integrity on Sint Maarten were published within a year. The conclusions of these reports are the same: in comparison with international agreements and frameworks concerning integrity promotion and the fighting of corruption, the overall integrity architecture of Sint Maarten falls short.

“Several serious wrongs have been observed and there were, inter alia, instances that politicians, directors, top officials and other influential people, deliberately went against government policy for the sake of self-interest, interests of third parties, financial gain, or on other illegal grounds. The De Wit Committee sees the political-governmental culture and the official organizations therefore as a transcended problem and states in its report that, and I quote, “in particular, the time-honoured system of patronage, nepotism and ‘give a little, take a little’ is an obstacle for further improvements”.

“Besides these reports, Sint Maarten also knows of specific criminal examples which confirm the image of structural integrity violations. I refer to the case in which a Member of Parliament and a brothel owner were condemned for, subordination and human trafficking amongst other things; or the case in which a Member of Parliament was condemned with regard to tax evasion and forgery. There still criminal cases going on sub judice with reference to election fraud as we speak. In short, there are numerous indications showing that the underworld and legitimate society in Sint Maarten, are structurally intertwined. This expresses itself through undermining crime: corruption within politics and governance, abuse of power, self-enrichment, intimidation, election fraud, criminal organizations which are unassailable, etc.

“Unfortunately the list of examples is very long. Subversive crime is a malignant and many-headed monster: violent, unscrupulous, deeply rooted and solely focused on power and financial gain. Moreover it is extraordinarily well-organized and more or less accepted by a large part of the society. As a result it gnaws away at the foundations of our rule of Law and Democracy. At this moment the Law enforcement chain is not sufficiently able to fight this type of crime, which seeks the vulnerable shell of our young democracies and small-scale societies in which to nestle. Where the crime has developed itself further, the chain of law enforcement agencies, including my own organization the Public Prosecutor’s Office, is insufficiently organized to respond adequately.

“We, Mister Chairman, can no longer afford this to go on. It is in the interest of the whole Kingdom, that an incorruptible, broad and well organized, professional Law enforcement system is positioned, which is motivated and able to address all types of criminal behaviour to counter the flood of crime. The Public Prosecutor’s Office considers as her task and responsibility to render a substantial contribution to this. In that framework plans have been made during the past months and are being put in place to adequately deal with transnational undermining crime. Therein, my Office has an initiating role and can count on widespread support of the Judicial Chain Partners within the Kingdom.

“The Dutch Government has recently made financial means available to contribute to the realization of these plans. To this end the Joint Criminal Investigation Bureau (RST), the Joint Court of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office will be strengthened. The need and urgency to take action now, is broadly felt within the judicial chain as well as in the whole community. I am keen to make optimal use of this momentum: if we do not grab it now, when will we ever? The image may have arisen by the coverage in the media that the collaboration with the local law enforcement agencies, such as the Police Force of Sint Maarten and the Landsrecherche, is dismissed. That is certainly not the case.

“A constructive collaboration between the several judicial and law enforcement agencies within the Kingdom is essential for success in fighting crime effectively. That has always been the case and that will always be the case. Its relevance is recognized and emphasized wholeheartedly by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Would that have been different, the support of those local services for the current plans would have never been so substantial. This need for cooperation does not change the special approach required because of the nature of the transnational subversive crime Teams specifically designated for this purpose with specialized detectives must, operate in a shielded environment and set apart from investigation subjects for a longer period of time. They need to be able to conduct complex and sensitive investigations. Such so-called embargo-investigations, have a high risk of failure which need to be limited as much as possible.

“Therefore it is necessary that such a team can operate independently. Under those circumstances, cooperating with other investigation services is only possible to a certain extent. The intended result of this approach and the interest which is thereby being served is our, common goal which is a safer and fairer community with more integrity and less crime. The basic principle is that where possible the current successful cooperation with local law enforcement agencies will continue, and that also a valuable and appreciated contribution will continue to be rendered to the further professionalization of these services.

“Only in certain cases, such as embargo-investigations on transnational subversive crime, there will be a need for restraint in information sharing in the interest of these investigations. The Court will also be confronted with these current developments and will have to deal with them. The financial means at our disposal are also intended for a strengthening of the Court, and rightly so. An Extensive RST and Public Prosecutor’s Office are meaningless if the judiciary is not organized to deal with the expected influx of large, complex and sensitive criminal cases. In any event sufficiently specialized Criminal Court Judges and Supervisory Judges will have to become available, and the legal and administrative support must be up to standard.

“Moreover, attention must be paid to more fundamental issues, such as the question whether it is realistic and desirable to continue the procedure where in first instance only one judge rules in major criminal cases. This not only puts a heavy burden on the individual judge, but also enlarges the risk for intimidation and miscarriages of justice.

“The mere fact that the Law currently prescribes single settlement, should not stop us from continuing to reflect on how law enforcement may be strengthened and improved and what would be required to reach that goal. We should not allow ourselves to be limited in reflecting on the future, by the reality of the now and here. Having said all this, you will understand that these are challenging times. Times in which we need to be inventive to be able to carry out changes in the existing structures and resources, and to get other organizations involved, but it is also a time in which we will be looking for new resources so that further reinforcements are made possible.

“As the Public Prosecutor’s Office we will commit ourselves wholeheartedly to it. Let me finish by inviting Mr Van Rijen and by him the complete Law enforcement chain, to do the same. That way we all will render a contribution to a safer and fairer Sint Maarten. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you,” Attorney General Guus Schram said on Friday.

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St. Maarten Yacht Club new sponsor of the NARC

SIMPSON BAY - The Sint Maarten Yacht Club is excited to announce that they are officially sponsoring the North American Rally to the Caribbean (NARC). The NARC, which departs November 1st, (or best weather window near that date) 2015, is free for participants to join. The sponsorship puts new emphasis on the NARC's finish in St. Maarten where the Sint Maarten Yacht Club will host the final party and offer an early sign-up discount for the 36th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, scheduled for March 3 to 6, 2016.

The 16th annual NARC's primary function is to encourage boats that are heading south from the U.S. East Coast to join together for socials, discounts, and shared weather routing. "The NARC started in 2000 as a way to move the Swan charter fleet to the islands and over the years it has morphed into a much anticipated event for boats making the annual pilgrimage south," said Hank Schmitt, organizer of the NARC and CEO of Offshore Passage Opportunities (OPO), a crew network service.

Also new is an opportunity to participate in the first annual Dominica P.A.Y.S. (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services) "Yachtie Appreciation Week" on the island of Dominica. P.A.Y.S. is a non-profit organization aimed at providing yacht services and security to visiting yachts, thereby assuring future development of the yachting industry in Dominica.

Scheduled for February 14 to 21, the Yachtie Appreciation Week has been organized to celebrate the installation of a new mooring field that Schmitt - working with P.A.Y.S., the Tourism Board of Dominica and generous OPO members and other sailors - has been orchestrating in Prince Rupert's Bay over the last few years. The current situation in Dominica after Tropical Storm Erika, a 20 plus loss of life and great damage to the roads and infrastructure, makes the idea to build a mooring field and help the local economy recover, all the more important.

The Sint Maarten Yacht Club will additionally organize a race/rally from Dominica to St. Maarten to get boats to the island in time for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.  The Yacht Club feels that this sort of partnership is beneficial not only to the island but to the region and is pleased that St. Maarten will be location for the final party of this rally.

Chairman of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, John Gifford, stated "The Yacht Clubs aim is to promote the sport of sailing in St. Maarten, which it successfully does with the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. In addition to other events that the Yacht Club organizes, like the La Course de L'Alliance, this sort of Rally brings much needed sailing tourism to the island during the low season, which is why the club is so pleased to be a part of it. Hopefully the NARC participants will want to spend some time on the island and take advantage of the vast marine industry that it has to offer."

For more information on the NARC or Offshore Passage Opportunities, contact Hank Schmitt, 1-800-4-PASSAGe, +1 631-423-4988 or visit www.sailopo.com.

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AUC, Caribbean Gems donate to ACE School

CUL DE SAC - Caribbean Gems on Front Street and American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine Phi Chi Fraternity in Cupecoy have thrown their support behind education with donations to All Children’s Education (ACE) Foundation School on the L.B. Scott Road.  

Caribbean Gems blessed the school with a donation of US $555.55, while AUC blessed the institution with US $350. The Phi Chi Fraternity acquired the funds donated via a fundraiser it held.

The funds donated were used to acquire much-needed educational material for classrooms, teaching material and ample stationary for pupil’s daily work.

The school said after the institution had been cleaned in preparation for the start of the new academic year, the funds were used to ensure that ACE’s grades two to six had sufficient school material to start off the new academic year. Items such as math books, exercise books, colouring books, story books, sciences books, chalks, pencils, pens, colour pencils, crayons, glues, rules, sharpeners, erasers and copy papers, etc were acquired for the school to use.

Pupils and teachers were very happy to receive the items, which were handed over on August 10, 2015. The teachers said the items received would definitely help make their work to educate pupils much easier and would save them a lot of time that they would have used to make their own materials due to the financial constraints at the school.

ACE School said it is very grateful for the donations from the two community minded groups and thanked them for their gesture and thoughtful blessings.  

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“SXM Reads” literacy campaign officially launched this Friday

PHILIPSBURG - A brand-new literacy campaign, called “SXM Reads” will be officially launched this week with an opening ceremony on Friday September 11th at 7.00 pm at the Asha Stevens School in Cay Hill.

The “SXM Reads“ campaign aims to create awareness and find support for persons with low literacy skills. Many persons in our society have difficulty with reading and writing. People with low literacy skills are often neglected and suffer from isolation and low self-esteem.

The keynote speaker of the evening will be Ms. Jenny Fraai, President of the Pro Alfa Foundation Curacao. Ms. Fraai and her fellow volunteers have more than 25 years of experience in working with illiterate and semi-literate persons in 9 different communities in Curacao. Minister Bourne-Gumbs will also be present at the opening ceremony at the Asha Stevens School and will address the audience.

The partners in the campaign are the Philipsburg Jubilee Library, COME center and the Sint Maarten National Commission for UNESCO. The opening ceremony on September 11th is the first activity of the September literacy awareness month. 

Other upcoming activities are a workshop for literacy tutors on Saturday morning, September 12th, at the COME Centre, a movie and discussion evening under the title “the Reading Room” on September 19th  at the Library and a “Reading and learning in the park event”  on Saturday September 26th at the Emilio Wilson Park.

The General public is invited to attend the launching of “SXM Reads” this Friday September 11th at the Asha Stevens School.

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Governor Holiday address Parliament at Opening of new Parliamentary Year and presents Government's Agenda

PHILIPSBURG – The Governor His Excellency Eugene Holiday addressed the House of Parliament on Tuesday morning presenting the Government’s Agenda for the new parliamentary year 2015-2016 which are projects, programs and policies that will span over a number of years.

Various dignitaries were at the House of Parliament for the traditional annual opening of the new parliamentary year.

Here is the Governor’s address of the Government’s Agenda:

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

I herewith congratulate the people of Sint Maarten and the members of Parliament on the opening of the 2015-2016 Parliamentary year. As prescribed in our constitution this annual recurring event, held on the second Tuesday of September, marks the beginning of a new political year where as Governor, I present you and the people of Sint Maarten with an outline of the policy plans of the government for the coming year. This constitutional act as such represents an act of projection, an act of accountability and an act of transparency.

In just over one month, on October 10, 2015, we will celebrate Sint Maarten’s fifth anniversary as a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. As we approach this lustrum celebration, I invite all Sint Maarteners to reflect and to project. And in doing so, I encourage all Sint Maarteners to imagine ways to build a better and brighter St. Maarten for our and future generations. I believe that to achieve that, that we the people of Sint Maarten must work together: to strengthen families, to nurture  and educate our children, to increase community engagement, and to grow the general interest.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Together with government, you have been entrusted with a profound responsibility to serve the public interest on behalf of all Sint Maarteners. Thus as we look ahead I trust that you will carry that responsibility in concert with government to address the variety of challenges our country faces today.

Challenges due - in part - to our changing demographic landscape. Our population is ageing and people are living longer. There is an increasing number of single parent households and an associated increase in the number of lower income families. Attention is therefore needed to safeguard and promote equality, social inclusion and social cohesion as well as to facilitate the necessary support mechanisms. This is especially the case for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the disabled, youths and migrants.  This in the face of moderate economic growth, tight budgetary conditions and an increasingly competitive regional and global tourist economy.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

The Government has, based on its assessment of the issues faced by our nation, outlined its policy plans for the coming year. These plans are anchored in the Governing Program 2014 – 2018, entitled “Ready to work for you”.

The objective of government’s policy agenda is to improve the quality of life of the people of St. Maarten. That through measures to stimulate sustainable development and economic growth.

Government’s point of departure in seeking to realize its objectives is the continued adherence to the principles of good governance through effective representation, greater transparency, improved accountability and stronger fiscal discipline.

As a result government aims to create awareness and to motivate the general public; that through the completion of a National Development Plan with priorities in the short and in the medium to long term. Through the National Development Plan government intends to establish a shared national vision by working with and taking into account the aspirations of all stakeholders.

Having a national development plan is important. However, an implementation strategy is needed to strengthen national planning and to ensure that development objectives succeed. Essential components of government’s implementation strategy are (1) that its evidenced-driven “strategy for growth” development projects are results-based and (2) that these projects take place in a sound governance system.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Central to the implementation of government’s policy plans is the strengthening of the civil service to provide effective and efficient services for the people. Much has been done over the years, but improvement and re-development are concepts that are always on the move. Essential in that regard are:

  • First, establishing standards, increased use of technology, and data synchronization, aimed at reducing redundancy and bureaucracy;
  • Second, strengthening legal capacity through recruitment and a partnership with the Legislative Academy in the Netherlands to improve the legislative process;
  • Third, the creation of incentives in support of the “Brain Gain” activities;
  • And fourth, the further enhancement of the public service center formula based on the one-stop service provider concept.

Government’s efforts to strengthen its administrative capacity will - to be successful in meeting the needs of the people - go hand in hand with initiatives to strengthen national identity, participation and capacity. In that context government will take steps to implement a number of cultural programs. These include:  

  1. Development of national cultural awareness campaigns to teach citizens about the culture of Sint Maarten, along with support of existing efforts by local cultural organizations;
  2. Supporting of programs that create  opportunity for talented young artists to contribute to the development of the creative industries; 
  3. Investing in the national cultural infrastructure by building a Center for the performing arts, a National Library, a National Art Gallery, a National Museum and an Archaeological Center to develop, showcase, record, protect, and preserve Sint Maarten’s cultural heritage;
  4. The preservation of and support for our national monuments; and
  5. The development, revision and establishment of the requisite legislation to regulate these programs.
  6. short term labor contracts;
  7. the counterpart policy;
  8. enforcement of existing laws to promote fair business practices.
  9. First, the review and update of the public housing policy aimed at providing affordable housing;
  10. Second, the continuation of work on zoning plans directed at realizing greater control on the spatial development of our island; and
  11. Third, continued investment in the expansion of the sewage treatment facilities within the various districts.
  12. maintain reporting on key economic and social indicators;
  13. establish a tourism authority;
  14. strengthen its marketing efforts;
  15. reinforce product developmentthrough tourism awareness programs, service level training, and the cruise conversion program;
  16. promotion of private investments to complement public sector investments;
  17. introduce legislative and policy reforms supportive of services to foster Small and Medium Enterprises; and
  18. establish a national Civil Aviation and Shipping Registry.
  19. to promote economic growth as outlined aimed at providing a stable long term financial basis for increased government revenues; and
  20. to organize the tax system to improve the levying and collection  taxes with a focus on addressing tax arrears in the short term.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Integrity of government has been and continues to be at the forefront of the national debate. Addressing these issues is therefore essential. Government is committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the four integrity reports, that were published recently. Based on the recommendations, the national ordinance regulating the introduction of the integrity chamber has recently been presented to and approved by you and subsequently ratified. The implementation of the ordinance is one of the priorities of government. In addition, draft laws are being prepared to adjust existing legislation and where necessary to introduce executive regulations of the existing laws.  The project bureau integrity, as was established last year, is charged with the coordination of the execution of the recommendations.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

With the focus on improving the quality of life, government’s education, youth and sports policies will focus on providing quality opportunities for all, with lifelong learning and career development. In 2016 government through its education, youth and sports policies will place special emphasis on continuous personal development, on capacity building and on standards and organizational reforms.

Government will therefore guide, partner and support the further strengthening of educational institutions offering secondary vocational education and tertiary education, namely NIPA and USM. Government will as a result present Parliament with (1) the Study Finance Ordinance, (2) the Higher Education Ordinance, (3) revisions to the Foundation Based Education ordinance and (4) amendments to the Secondary Education Ordinance, during the 2015-2016 parliamentary year.

With respect to secondary education government will continue adapting Secondary Examination requirements to maintain the equivalency of diplomas within the Kingdom.  Plans also include the introduction of higher standards within Vocational Education to ensure that all students leaving secondary education possess the skills required for continued education or to join the labor market on their way to becoming independent responsible adult citizens. Government considers vocational education a key in the future of our economy. As a result innovative strategies for learning will be sought and implemented. This to ensure that students remain engaged in further lifelong learning to enhance their position in the labor market, decrease youth unemployment and build resilience that contribute to our youth reaching their full potential.

Within Public Education, initiatives such as the extension of the school day will be introduced as a strategy to enhance student performance. Government will also establish one public school as a Dutch primary school.  These initiatives will be supported by the establishment of a Summer School Program, a “One Tablet per child program”, a Comprehensive National Early Childhood Development Policy and an After School Care Policy.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Government’s 2016 objectives are to ensure the continuity of Sports Development on Sint Maarten as part of its quality of life vision. The focus remains on the further development of National talent, National Teams and National facilities. Government will to that end through its sports awareness campaign and the establishment of a national sports institute continue to work at partnering with schools and the various sporting governing bodies.

An area of concern however, is the number of at risk youths. The strengthening of prevention programs is as a result an essential policy strategy, to curb and ensure that the number of at risk youths does not continue to rise.

In the context of the social environment we must safeguard our youth against poverty, drug abuse, unemployment and human rights violation. The Court of Guardianship has, in this context, recently activated a child abuse alarm center.

In the context of the economic environment, youths must be prepared and given the opportunity to contribute as employees or productive citizens within the society.  Government’s emphasis will be placed on an interdisciplinary strategy to identify at risk youths and generate support mechanism to cater to their needs.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Government will in addition move to realize essential reforms to the social safety net systems such as healthcare programs, government welfare provisions, and pension schemes to safeguard their accessibility and sustainability.    

With people living longer government is in the process of introducing reforms to increase the participation of the elderly and secure the financial sustainability of support systems. Government plans to work with Parliament to introduce the draft legislation to increase the old age pension and to increase the pension age from 60 to 62 by the end of this year. Moreover government is reviewing the feasibility of a compulsory pension system.  

In the area of health care government’s emphasis is on managing health care costs and securing quality service. This by promoting public and private investments in preventive measures through the encouragement of healthy life styles and reducing medical measures and costs. That with a focus on reducing the number of persons suffering from prevalent illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

In the area of the labor market government’s objective is to decrease unemployment and to increase labor productivity. To complement its education and training policies  to prepare youths for the job market, government’s labor policies focus is on providing frameworks that encourage employers:

  • to take more responsibility for risk prevention in the workplace;
  • to promote good occupational safety and health conditions; and
  • to foster improved industrial relations.

As a result government is in the process of pursuing labor market reforms in the area of

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Government to comply with its objectives and responsibilities, shall take measures to safeguard and improve the living environment and conditions of our citizens. Important programs in this regard are:

Moreover, located in the north eastern Caribbean, hurricane preparedness is key for our island.  As a result it is a priority of government to ensure the safety of residents and visitors by investing in the disaster preparedness infrastructure of our island. As a result government intends to introduce revised legislation that focusses on the quality of the construction of buildings and structures and to develop a storm water drainage and management plan.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Safety and security is key to the quality of life of our citizens. Recent developments in violent crime and the murder of police officer Benjamin in the line of duty is cause for grave concern. It is government’s policy to put safety and security first.

In line with its safety and security first policy government has decided to deploy a country wide security camera system to help fight crime and to realize a more effective and efficient logistical use of police resources on patrols as well as ambulance services. The preparations to implement this measure are in their final stages.

The security camera program will complement the community police program which has proven to be successful. Moreover, a new police sub-station was opened in the Maho area, while plans for another sub-station in the St. Peters area are being prepared.

In addition, government is continuing to invest in the training and development of law enforcement officers. A board for the Justice Academy comprised of the representatives of the law enforcement services has been installed. And a complete new program for basic and further training and education as well as certification of officers is in its final stages of development. At the same time plans for the purchasing of property to establish a new state of the art shooting range, operational training and logistical center, as well as a forensic laboratory for the police force, have already been worked out and are nearing completion.

Moreover, government has introduced a new comprehensive justice information system with the Court of Guardianship functioning as a successful pilot. Meanwhile information systems for the Prison, Customs, Probation Services, Youth Detention Center and Immigration are ready for installation for use in combatting crime.

And finally in the area of law enforcement, the renovation of the present prison has been finalized and concrete measures to increase the security around and in the prison at Pointe Blanche will be implemented by the end of this year. Additionally plans for the expansion of the prison are ready for implementation.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

The realization of government’s policies is dependent on favorable economic developments. As a result government’s economic policy agenda will be geared at facilitating sustainable economic growth and development within its coordinated “Strategy for Growth”. Central aspects of government’s economic agenda are the enhancement of service, the creation of jobs and economic diversification. To pursue its economic agenda government intends to make use of the following policy instruments:

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Essential to Sint Maarten’s development as a small open economy is the maintenance of good external relations.

On a Kingdom level government will continue to work at partnering with other members in Kingdom. Key areas of cooperation are law enforcement, central banking, and dispute regulation.

The joint cooperation teams of the police, royal military police, customs and immigration and border protection services are proving to be effective. Recently successful operations have been carried out in the area of human smuggling and trafficking leading to the arrest of several perpetrators.

The functioning of the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten continues to be a point of attention and discussion with the government of Curaçao. Government is at the same time also working towards the renovation of the existing facilities and the transformation of the local office into a full-fledged branch. This in addition to plans to pursue the construction of a new building.

In fostering good relations, Government will host a tripartite meeting with the prime ministers of Aruba and Curaçao, in November of this year. And next year Government will host the fourth Kingdom Conference.

Considering the tensions between the Kingdom partners related to the discussions regarding the instructions by the Kingdom Council of Ministers, Government is a strong advocate of the introduction of an independent Kingdom dispute institution. Government considers an institution like this necessary to build trust and strengthen ties between the Kingdom partners.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

On a foreign relations level, government considers cooperation on a regional and international level important to support its domestic agenda. As such government will continue to work at maintaining good relations with its regional and international partners. Government’s objective in this regard is to continue to develop closer ties with Saint-Martin. This through an efficient cooperation structure to address issues of mutual concern. In particular, Government as part of its safety and security first policy, will work closely with its Saint Martin counterparts on the implementation of the recently ratified Treaty on Police Cooperation in the fight against crime.

As a young country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands Sint Maarten intends to present itself in the region and at international fora to protect and promote St. Maarten’s national interests abroad. This will be realized through bilateral partnerships with regional partners and participation in international organizations.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

To cover the costs of government’s policy agenda it is essential to generate additional revenues. This to ensure compliance with provisions of the national ordinance for government accounts as well as with the criteria of the Kingdom Law on financial supervision.  In that respect government has in an effort to generate funds developed a Strategy for Growth as part of its policy agenda. The objectives of this strategy are:

To support these actions and generate needed additional funds government shall implement measures:

  • to control and clean-up the tax registry;
  • to accelerate the collection of  tax arrears and the handling of complaints;
  • to improve tax compliance; and
  • to reform the tax system starting with the wage, income and profit taxes.

In addition, government to support its national development plans, shall seek external funding from potential donors such as the European Union, the International Labour Organization as well as the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organization. This where possible in  collaboration with French and British territories.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Government in keeping with its governing program “Ready to work for you” is committed to delivering its policy agenda to improve the quality of life of the people of Sint Maarten. 

In this new parliamentary year, government will therefore present you with various legislative initiatives towards the execution of its plans and realization of its objectives. As representatives of the people of Sint Maarten, government looks forward to your participation and your support to serve the public interest on behalf of the people of Sint Maarten.

Mr. Chairman, Members of Parliament,

Thus, as you deliberate and decide on the issues that will come before you in the period ahead, I wish you much wisdom, strength, and God’s speed.

Thank you, God Bless you and God Bless our Beloved Sint Maarten.

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