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CARIBBEAN AIRLINES INCREASES DOMESTIC OPERATIONS

SINT MAARTEN/TRINIDAD - Caribbean Airlines advises that effective Monday June 01, 2020 it will increase the flight frequency on the domestic air bridge between Trinidad and Tobago.

Customers may visit www.caribbean-airlines.com, download the Caribbean Airlines mobile app or contact the Reservations Sales and Service Centre for further details.

In keeping with the guidelines outlined by the Public Health Authorities, social distancing is in place on all flights and customers must wear face masks at check-in, at the gate and on board the aircraft.

Caribbean Airlines Cabin and Flight Crews are operating in full compliance with the instructions of the authorities and have strict procedures by which to work.

The airline continues to enforce the most stringent hygiene practices, adhering to all the current international guidelines, to combat COVID-19.

Caribbean Airlines thanks its customers for their support as we work together to ensure the safety and well-being of all stakeholders.

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Greece will allow in tourists from Dutch airports but they will be tested for Covid-19

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Greece will allow tourists flying in from the Netherlands to visit from June 15 after all, but everyone will be tested and have to spend time in quarantine first, the Greek tourism board has now said.

On Friday, the Netherlands was not included in the official list of countries from where Greece will welcome tourists, alongside France, Italy and Spain, when the borders open up again in June.

However, reportedly following the intervention of the European Commission, Greece has now revised its plans. Holidaymakers from the Netherlands will be now allowed into the country but everyone on flights from Dutch airports will be tested for coronavirus.

People with a negative test will have to go into quarantine for a week, those who test positive for two. The list of airports in areas where there is a high risk of transmission was drawn up by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Greece has reported 175 deaths and most of the country’s islands have no official cases of coronavirus, the BBC reported.

(DutchNews)

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MP Buncamper seeks information related to foreign remittances under current economic crisis

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Through his letter dated May 27th, 2020 to the President of Parliament, Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison, United St. Maarten Party (USP) MP Claudius Buncamper submitted a number of questions to the Minister of Finance, Ardwell Arion.

The questions come as a result of the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten's (CBCS) decision in March 2020 to place a stoppage of funds in excess of NAF 150.000,= leaving the country at once.

In his letter to the minister of finance, the MP expressed his concerns in regards to the effects the current remittances of funds being sent to family members abroad via the local banks and money agencies will have on the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) program.

The MP further queried if it is "fair practice" to allow monies to leave the country during this economic crisis, which will affect our foreign reserves. Thirdly, the MP asked if any measures will be taken to minimize or to prevent foreign exchange transactions related to family remittances from leaving the country at this time until further notice.

MP Buncamper perceives this to be an urgent matter and would therefore appreciate receiving the Minister's response no later than Friday, May 29th, 2020.

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Claim of attempted robbery in Cole bay under investigation. Police request do not share fake news on social media

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - On Tuesday May 26th, 2020 at approximately 3.30pm, the police patrol were sent to Cole bay for what the central dispatch explained was an attempted robbery, but upon further investigation it was discovered to be a escalated altercation then a robbery, police said on Wednesday in a statement.

Officers arrived on the scene at Dr. Lasly Lago Street after receiving reports that two males dressed in an orange vest, cleaning the streets attempted to rob an individual in the neighborhood.

The resident was curious as to what the two males were busy doing in the vicinity and questioned why they were in front of her gate. For reasons still unclear to the officers the resident was pushed to the ground by one of the road workers.

The male workers were later attacked by the resident’s dogs when they noticed that their owner had been attacked. They then fled the scene in an unknown direction once the dogs had begun chasing them.

The Special Unit Robbery looked in to the other claims of robberies which was said to have taken place on various days through the month of May by males wearing an orange vest and no such reports or claims had been made to the police.

The Sint Maarten Police Force are currently aware of the information circulating through social media regarding a spree of robberies happening within the communities and would like to publicly dispel those rumors.

Officers were sent to the same location this morning, Wednesday 27th May, where a new set of workers were also cleaning the road as they were contracted to do.

We understand that social media is a means to bring fast awareness, but we are also pleading with the community to be careful of the news you spread/forward without concrete facts, as it might cause unnecessary panic within the communities.

Sint Maarten on a whole is already on high alert during this COVID-19 pandemic and false information helps feed into the stress. The detectives are currently still investigating the incident that took place in its entirety and are asking the public to allow us to do so; please cease from spreading nonfactual information as it creates more harm then good. (KPSM)

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Ad Hoc Committee Integrity scheduled to meet on Thursday

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – The Ad Hoc Committee Integrity (AHCI), will meet on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

The AHCI Committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 10.00 hrs. and will be held in a virtual setting.

The agenda points are:

  1. Continuation discussion on topics proposed in connection with setting the parameters and work method for the Permanent Committee Integrity
  2. Approval for an invitation to the Integrity Chamber as a familiarization meeting and to inform the AHCI regarding (investigations) and integrity concerns (IS/812/2019-2020 dated May 4, 2020)

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is only allowing persons with an appointment to enter the Parliament building. 

The parliamentary session will be held virtually and will be carried out live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1 www.pearlfmradio.sx, via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Ad Hoc Committee Electoral Reform of Parliament to meet about Electoral reform and severance pay

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – The Ad Hoc Committee Electoral Reform (AHCER), will meet on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.

The Committee meeting is scheduled for 11.00 hrs.; and will be held in a virtual setting.

The agenda point is: Electoral reform and severance pay (IS/667/2019-2020 dated March 12, 2020).

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is currently closed to the general public until further notice.

The parliamentary session will be held virtually and will be carried out live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1 www.pearlfmradio.sx, via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Stranger than Granger

SAINT KITTS & NEVIS (COMMENTARY - Joel B. Liburd) - When the world looked on as Guyanese went to the polls two months ago, no one could have predicted today's predicament. The election date itself was shrouded in controversy for months, triggered by a no-confidence vote in the national Parliament that led to the great debate, which was finally settled by a unanimous ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice that 33 was greater than 32. In other words, a parliament consisting of 65 members, 33 forms a majority. 

Then there was the back-and-forth between the Government and the Opposition on the constitution of the Guyana Electoral Commission (GECOM) and the electoral list. That issue also was resolved in court. The election day itself did not present any alarming reports of disturbance or inconsistency, but that was probably the proverbial calm before the storm.

In the presence of many different groups of independent election observers, one of the most blatant and unsophisticated cheats was the tactic of choice for someone... just write down the wrong number. Even Steve Harvey, after having announced the wrong woman as Miss Universe, could not be more embarrassed.

Clairmont Mingo, the Returning Officer for Region Four, after complaining of aches and pains, returned to the GECOM office as the only region to declare – and decided which party was really first past the post. He tried to do so in a most unorthodox manner – by waving a spreadsheet and a calculator. Uproar. The Opposition would have none of it. The scores of international observers were flabbergasted and in utter shock and disbelief. Mingo went into hiding for several days and was more hunted than Charrandas Persaud, who voted with the Opposition in the no-confidence debacle.

Observer teams packed up and went home, and representatives from Barbados and Jamaica did not mince words in declaring the actions as the greatest attempt of voter fraud that they had ever seen. Granger said nothing. In fact, his party challenged the expected Opposition injunction by actually taking the Court to Court, to determine if the Guyana High Court had jurisdiction over Guyanese affairs. Amazing and absurd at the same time.

The recount continues at snail's pace as you read this, but Granger has realized that the writing is on the wall, and he might have held onto power if he had a few more Mingos. Well, it seems that Granger's St Kitts counterpart, Dr Timothy Harris, has been given the heads up. Harris is using tactics and ploys to secure a win in the upcoming General Election on Friday 5th June.

Despite St Kitts having less than ten percent of Guyana's electorate, if Harris had two Mingos, he would probably be assured of a whitewash victory, hatefully relegating his former mentor and father-figure Dr Denzil Douglas to a distant memory. In fact, so hateful appears the Baron of Basseterre, that he seems to have helped himself to eight Mingos! All eight returning officers in the eight constituencies of St. Kitts were handpicked by Harris. Granger did the same in Region Four.

Unrefuted reports suggest that all Returning Officers trained by the Supervisor of Elections were rejected by Harris, with no reason given. In fact, Harris left the recommended returning officers only in Nevis 9, 10 and 11. This would beg a second question as to whether Tim is beginning to feel threatened by Premiere Mark Brantley, and is forcing him to work harder for his place in the Assembly. Brantley know all too well that despite his political cuddling and coddling with Harris, he (Brantley) always must rely on the overseas vote for support. People on the ground know the man. They don't like his growing arrogance.

But back to the topic of the Returning Officers. Kudos to the team and executives who had the foresight to ensure that there was a cadre of trained and updated officers to supervise the voting process. However, it was too easy for the Prime Minister to summarily dismiss them.

What is even more alarming is who they were replaced with – Harris' own hand-picked loyalists:

  • Constituency #1 - Jermaine Lake (Harris' brother-in-law)
  • Constituency # 2 - Sharon Hanley
  • Constituency # 3 - Melvon Bassue
  • Constituency #4 - Meguel Thomas
  • Constituency # 5 - Vincent Hodge (brought out of retirement in the US to work as PS, Education)
  • Constituency # 6 - Edwin Warner
  • Constituency # 7 - Patrick Welcome (Harris'  2015 campaign manager)
  • Constituency # 8 - Phillip Browne

The unchanged Returning Officer remain listed as:

  • Nevis Constituency # 9 - Kevin Barrett
  • Nevis Constituency # 10 - Rogan Claxton
  • Nevis Constituency # 11 - Ermalita Elliott

This extra precaution to having persons favourable to the Prime Minister being in charge of the final tallies reeks of corruption to come. In fact, it in indefensible that the action was taken out of any "abundance of caution" according to one Cabinet member; it's more an abandonment of morality.

Morality is surely one of those terms with which Harris is a stranger. After securing the most important Civil Service positions with his own bloodline, the final frontier was always having the elections commission in his blood-stained hands. So, in order to secure another term in office, he set about mangling and eviscerating the last pillar of democracy in St. Kitts and Nevis: the electoral process. Let it be known that a fair and free election in which the people exercise their franchise is foundational to democracy. We may not like the outcome, but we have to live with it. The will of the people and their choices for political leaders must be respected. It is sacred.

For a man who claims to have done so many great things in five years, it is painfully clear to see that the Team Unity administration has been one of public cosmetics and private enrichment. Our people cannot eat new roads to stave off hunger; they cannot get the education to fill the vacancies that exist in the civil service; they do not have the motivation or support to seed and enhance the economy, especially in the service sector. But that is not the case with the gangs and their leaders. Harris made sure that they are paid handsomely every week while the rest of law-abiding citizens must scrounge for a living in this dry season brought on by Prime Minister Timothy Harris through his mismanagement of the economy.

Many of us are still crying for water, electricity, shelter, food and basic education. These are fundamental human rights identified in the United Nations Charter, which we have not only failed to achieve, but also reversed the progress on previous administrations. Administrations in which Harris himself was a key player. But in the midst of the wailing voices from ghettos across the island, the select few are having their mansions built; they are purchasing garages of high-end cars and SUVs; they wear the finest and drink the finest. Care has gone the way of the second cruise pier – take what little you get and be satisfied.

Harris was our great hope five years ago; now he has become the greatest hindrance. We are witnessing on a daily basis the Prime Minister's incompetence, his greed and selfishness, his wanton disregard for law and order, and his unhinged wielding of raw political power. This man would stop at nothing to barrel and bulldoze his way into political power. And his penchant for nepotism is stratospheric.

Never in the history of our beloved country have we seen such a naked and crass display of authoritarian leadership. We did not vote for this in 2015. But we got Harris, the son of Trump, and we bore it with patient endurance. But we are a strong and courageous people and we have had enough. Timothy Harris and Team Unity must go. Time for a change. YES, WE CAN. I call on my fellow Kittitians and Nevisians that come Friday 5th June, we will come out in our numbers and do our sacred duty and vote; vote to get rid of this cancer on our country. 

Joel B. Liburd
Communications Consultant

Basseterre/Quebec

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Hot weather will create early buzz, say mosquito experts

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The first mosquito peak will come early this year because of recent high temperatures, Wageningen University experts warned on mosquito monitoring site Muggenradar.nl.

An increase in reports on the site, which registers the extent to which people experience nuisance from bites, means lots of mosquitoes are already in action, biologist Arnold van Vliet told NU.nl.

May 21 and May 22, when temperatures soared to over 25 degrees, were particularly busy. ‘On the basis of temperature developments and weather forecasts we conclude that the first mosquito peak will take place at the beginning of June.

That is relatively early. Fifty years ago, the first peak only came at the end of that month,’ Van Vliet said. It is unclear as yet if there will more or fewer mosquitoes this year.

Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, which collects in water barrels, gutters and other containers around the house but many of these are now dry because of the extreme drought.

Nevertheless, Van Vliet warned people to get rid of any accumulated water after last Sunday’s showers before mosquitoes have had a chance to deposit their eggs.

(DutchNews)

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REGIONAL BANK COMMITTED TO SUPPORTING TOURISM SECTOR

BARBADOS/CARIBBEAN - Despite bleak forecasts for the tourist sector hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, a regional bank is committed to the sector and “will continue to be active” in supporting the Caribbean tourism industry. 

Speaking recently during a webinar entitled, "Covid-19 and Investment in Caribbean Infrastructure", Adam Carter, Managing Director and Head, Investment Banking at CIBC FirstCaribbean said the hospitality and hotel industry accounted for “a large part of our portfolio and we will continue to be active in it”.

He said tourism was the “lifeblood of the Caribbean” and the bank would continue to focus on it, putting “time, effort and capital into the sector. That is not changing”. Mr. Carter said the bank has had “lots of requests for support and we are helping our clients through this storm”.

Mr. Carter said there was a need to improve some of the region’s tourism infrastructure and this could be achieved through Public/Private Partnerships. He added that the region must “do all to improve its marketability so that when borders do re-open we are one of the first destinations visitors will want to come to”.

Fellow panelist S. Brian Samuel, Head, Public-Private Partnerships, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), had earlier warned that there may not be a quick rebound in regional tourism, neither long-stay or cruise arrivals. He further cautioned that the region needed to “adjust our tourism away from the mass market” as post-covid-19 may see less tourist arrivals.

He said the region was likely to see more high-end visitors as the cost of travel was expected to rise significantly as the world economy was expected to slip into a recession worse than the 2008/09 one.

Diane Edwards, President, JAMPRO agreed with Samuels noting that the high-end part of the tourism market will continue and the “challenge for hotels will be what protocols will be put in place to ensure their safety”.

The panelist also noted that the region should continue its push toward major investment in renewable energy as well as building up healthcare infrastructure in the region.

The latter point was stressed by Stephen C. Beatty, Global Chairman, Infrastructure, and Chairman, Global Cities Center of Excellence at KPMG. He noted that the region now has a “huge opportunity to transform how healthcare is delivered” by moving away from investing in building traditional hospitals and investing significantly in telemedicine and the technology to deliver it efficiently.

The webinar was moderated by Jon Whiteaker, Editor, IJGlobal.

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World Bank Group: 100 Countries Get Support in Response to COVID-19. Unprecedented Crisis Could Push Up to 60 Million into Extreme Poverty

SINT MAARTEN/WASHINGTON - The World Bank Group today announced its emergency operations to fight COVID-19 (coronavirus) have reached 100 developing countries – home to 70% of the world's population. Since March, the Bank Group has rapidly delivered record levels of support in order to help countries protect the poor and vulnerable, reinforce health systems, maintain the private sector, and bolster economic recovery. This assistance, the largest and fastest crisis response in the Bank Group's history, marks a milestone in implementing the Bank Group's pledge to make available $160 billion in grants and financial support over a 15-month period to help developing countries respond to the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown in advanced countries.

"The pandemic and shutdown of advanced economies could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty – erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation," said World Bank Group President David Malpass. "The World Bank Group has moved quickly and decisively to establish emergency response operations in 100 countries, with mechanisms that allow other donors to rapidly expand the programs. To return to growth, our goal must be rapid, flexible responses to tackle the health emergency, provide cash and other expandable support to protect the poor, maintain the private sector, and strengthen economic resilience and recovery."

Of the 100 countries, 39 are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly one-third of the total projects are in fragile and conflict-affected situations, such as Afghanistan, Chad, Haiti, and Niger. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) have also fast-tracked support to businesses in developing countries, including trade finance and working capital to maintain private sectors, jobs and livelihoods.

The Bank Group's support through grants, loans and equity investments will be supplemented by the suspension of bilateral debt service, as endorsed by the Bank's governors. IDA-eligible countries that request forbearance on their official bilateral debt payments will have more financial resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and fund critical, lifesaving emergency responses.

"The bilateral debt-service suspension being offered will free up crucial resources for IDA countries to fund emergency responses to COVID-19," said Malpass. "Nations should move quickly to substantially increase the transparency of all their governments' financial commitments. This will increase the confidence in the investment climate and encourage more beneficial debt and investment in the future."

The Bank Group's operational response will strengthen health systems, support the poorest households, and create supportive conditions to maintain livelihoods and jobs for those hit hardest. Country operations will deliver help to the poorest families through cash transfers and job support; maintain food security, nutrition and continuity of essential services such as clean water and education; target the most vulnerable groups, including women and forcibly displaced communities, who are most likely to be hit hard; and engage communities to support vulnerable households and foster social cohesion. The scale and speed of the Bank Group's response is critical in helping countries mitigate the adverse impacts of this crisis and prioritize the human capital investments that can accelerate recovery.

The Bank Group's operations in 100 countries aim to save lives, protect livelihoods, build resilience, and boost recovery by:

Strengthening health systems, monitoring, and prevention, particularly in low-income countries and in fragile and conflict-affected situations. The Bank Group's health response addresses emergency containment and mitigation needs for COVID-19, including strengthening countries' health systems to treat severe cases and save lives. Establishing and supporting efforts in fragile and conflict-affected situations is a priority, given the rapidly growing number of cases in some of these countries.

Disbursement is already underway on $20 million to Senegal and $35 million to Ghana, which includes funding to strengthen disease surveillance systems, public health laboratories, and epidemiological capacity for early detection. A $20 million IDA grant was approved for Haiti that aims to enhance testing, minimize spread through contact tracing of confirmed cases, and provide laboratory and protective equipment for health care staff.

Scaling up social protection: The Bank Group is leveraging countries' existing social protection systems to help families and businesses restore income, preserve livelihoods, and compensate for increasing prices and unexpected medical expenses. These safety nets will need to be augmented with safe, direct food distribution, accompanied by key information on nutrition, social distancing, and hygiene.

In Uzbekistan, a $95 million financing package includes funding for cash support to low-income families and one-off unemployment benefits, while in Tunisia $100 million is being reallocated from the existing portfolio to help finance additional social benefits and grants to small and medium-size enterprises.

Supporting businesses and preserving jobs: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) continues to implement its $8 billion fast-track financing facility, which aims to keep companies in business and preserve jobs. Close to 300 clients have requested support, and the facility may be oversubscribed. Building on this effort and market demand, IFC aims to provide $47 billion in financing to developing countries over 15 months. Cumulative COVID-19 related commitments under IFC's Global Trade Finance Program, which supports small and medium-sized enterprises involved in global supply chains, have totaled 1,200 transactions across 33 countries for $1.4 billion, with 51% of this volume in low-income and fragile countries.

Procuring medical equipment and supplies: Many developing countries import most, and in some cases all, of the medical supplies critical for fighting COVID-19, leaving them extremely vulnerable to supply disruptions and export restrictions.

In Pakistan, the first consignments of personal protective equipment (PPE) – including masks, gloves, protective suits, gowns, coveralls, shoe covers, goggles, and face shields – have already been delivered to doctors and paramedics. This assistance is part of a larger package that includes $25 million for emergency cash transfers to poor and vulnerable households. On April 23, the World Bank approved $100 million for the Philippines to procure materials including PPE, essential medicines, test kits, and key equipment such as mechanical ventilators, cardiac monitors, and portable x-ray machines. In Iraq, the World Bank redeployed $33.6 million to help finance the supply of essential equipment and supplies and strengthen intensive care unit (ICU) capacity at public hospitals.

The Bank Group is helping countries access critically needed supplies and equipment, for example, by identifying interested suppliers and negotiating prices and conditions.

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