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Nature Foundation Steps up Lionfish Control Efforts. Increase Noticed in Lionfish Population in Local Waters near Beaches and Dive Sites

COLE BAY - The St. Maarten Nature Foundation has stepped up recent lionfish removal dives both inside and outside of the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area after the conservation organization noted an increase in the lionfish population waters surrounding the island.

Over the last few weeks during their regular lionfish sweeps, Foundation staff has noticed an increase in the venomous creatures, particularly along some beaches and dive sites. “We have removed nine specimens during one day’s work from bathing beaches on the Dutch Side and we will return in a week or so to do follow-up checks,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Nature Foundation is also collaborating with various universities in the United States and in the Netherlands on various research projects figuring out ways to monitor and control the population.

Lionfish are an invasive venomous fish that can inflict a painful and sometimes fatal sting. Lionfish are usually found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans but were introduced into the Atlantic thru the aquarium trade.

Native fish species don’t recognize the Lionfish as a threat so they are unable to defend themselves against it. In other places were lionfish were spotted there are hardly any snappers and groupers left because those are the type of fish the lionfish likes to eat.

The Nature Foundation encourages fishermen, divers and all those who may have captured or sighted lionfish to report their catch or sightings to the Nature Foundation through calling 5270490 or via email atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Prime Minister Gumbs, Connor and Bourne-Gumbs attend Swearing in Ceremony in Anguilla of Elected Members of the House of Assembly

THE VALLEY, Anguilla - Hon. Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs led a delegation to Anguilla on Monday to attend the 1st Meeting of the First Session of the 11th Anguilla House of Assembly on Monday afternoon at the Atlin Noraldo Harrigan Parliamentary Building.  Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications Hon. Claret Connor and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports Hon. Rita Bourne-Gumbs were part of the delegation. 

The invite came from Chief Minister Hon. Victor Banks.  Banks is also responsible for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism.

At the ceremony, the swearing in took place of the new House Speaker, Elected Members, Ex Officio Members and Nominated Members.  A reception followed thereafter.

Prime Minister Gumbs on Monday pointed out that Sint Maarten has a very close relationship with Anguilla which also includes family ties that has kept the two islands bonded for decades.

"I met with the newly elected officials and expressed on behalf of the people and Government of Sint Maarten, our best wishes, and reiterate our countries family ties and friendship which remain unbreakable.

“Secondly, in the area of tourism, Sint Maarten’s hub function in the North eastern Caribbean also plays a key role to the surrounding islands including Anguilla.  Trans-shipment is also another area that the country acts as a hub to the small islands.

“The relationship between the two islands serves each other well, and we continue to look forward to a continued great working relationship as we move forward together," Prime Minister Hon. Marcel Gumbs said on Monday.

Anguilla's Government was sworn in by Governor Christina Scott on April 24.

The Anguilla United Front (AUF) won six of the seven seats with the other seat going to independent Palmavon Webster.

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SCDF meets with Ministers to discuss Carnival issues

PHILIPSBURG - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) met with Minister of Culture & Youth Affairs Rita Bourne Gumbs and Minister of Tourism Claret Connor on Thursday last to discuss several Carnival related matters as well as how to structure a better relationship between the SCDF and government. The SCDF said the meeting, which was more of a “wrap-up” of Carnival 2015, was the first in what is expected to be a few in the coming months.

The foundation was represented by its President Mike Granger and Media Director Alston Lourens. Both Ministers congratulated the SCDF on hosting a successful Carnival 2015 and shared the instances of the festivities they enjoyed the most. The Ministers also used the opportunity to express their concerns about certain aspects in particular the amount of minors in certain activities.

Though they understand that ultimately parents are responsible for their children, the Ministers said that there are some actions government can take in an effort to curb the high involvement of minors, which, according to Minister Bourne-Gumbs, can be classified as parental neglect in some cases. Minister Connor added that the message simply needs to be sent, and future measures enforced, to demonstrate that government and Carnival for that matter views the issue as a serious one that affects the community in the short or long term, while parents to have their responsibilities.

Although details could not be provided to the Ministers, the SCDF also disclosed that it is looking at several cultural initiatives for Carnival. In other words, Granger said, re-introducing activities and events that over the years have fallen out of Carnival for one reason or the other.

Granger also told Minister Bourne-Gumbs that the foundation will require her direct involvement in re-establishing the art form of Junior Calypso as a viable one and one that should find its roots via the elementary schools. This also goes for the participation of the schools in the children’s parade. The Minister said she is willing to assist in any way possible once it involves keeping St. Maarten’s children culturally active.

The SCDF further informed Minister Connor that it is currently exploring a new business structure for Carnival as part of its five-year development plan put in place three years ago. Heading into the fourth year of this plan, the foundation aims to break the cycle of always ending the Carnival year with a deficit and establish a structure of financial independence and flexibility. The board of the SCDF along with its marketing branch is currently in the process of finalizing this new business structure.

“We thank Minister Bourne-Gumbs and Minister Connor for requesting the meeting with us so soon after Carnival. It shows genuine concern on their behalf for Carnival and its development. We have received opposition over the last few years for many changes that we’ve implemented. But as we can see from last year and this year, those changes have resulted in terrific Carnival seasons, unrivalled in the North Eastern Caribbean,” Granger said.

“But for us the main focus is on our financial health. We will address other concerns of course, but it is still too much of a struggle financially to pull off Carnival and there are things that can and must be done to address this. The festival is getting bigger annually, now we have to get healthy financially. We talk about it every year. Now it’s time to get it done,” Granger added.

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Sonesta Resorts in Sint Maarten Register Good Season. Resorts own marketing initiatives played a big role

MAHO – St. Maarten’s premier and only all-inclusive resorts Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino and Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa have experienced a good high season.

Sonesta Great Bay had a good first quarter of 2015 mainly due to its repositioning in the market. The first quarter was the first high season months the resort had the full advantage of its renovations and repositioning after contracting the Butler Rooms and Grande Room categories with majority of partners since Spring 2014.

The resort has seen an increase in the charter segment. Thomas Cook Charter from Sweden with a long 14-night stays have definitely positively contributed to the overall results. A fifth plane added by Sun Wing from Ottawa, Canada has also increase occupancy. It is unfortunate that Thomas Cook will not operate a charter next year. The end of the charter is due to the poor booking results of St. Maarten compared to other Caribbean destinations where they fly.

The results seen by both Sonesta resorts are directly driven by the Maho Group's own sales and marketing efforts.

“Our marketing initiatives and advertisement with our wholesale partners has also played a big role in the overall results. Most of our partners performed better than in the first quarter of 2014 in occupancy as well as per person rate, including Expedia, Liberty travel, Mark Travel and Travel Impressions,” said Eliska Hesova, Sonesta St. Maarten Director of Business Development.

Apart from the charters, 70 per cent of wholesale reservations represent US market, 18 per cent Europe and rest account for South America and the Caribbean.

“The overall success of the first quarter is a reflection of our team work, as without providing excellent level of service and under the leadership of Sonesta Great Bay General Manager Karl Bourne, focusing on constant training and customer service, we would not be able to achieve,” said Hesova.

Like its sister resort, Sonesta Maho Beach had an equally good season.

“We have seen overall higher demand for accommodation and noticed customers traveling in high season,” said Hesova.

Same as for Sonesta Great Bay, Sun Wing contributed with the fifth plane to overall demand from Canada. US market has been strong as well, accounting for with 81 per cent wholesale bookings.        

For the coming months, the resort group looks forward to benefits its newest addition, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, will bring to the destination. Ocean Point is the only resort on St. Maarten offering unique location, Butler Service, strong style and design, swim-out suites and other amenities. This new addition is poised to create the opportunity to attract new operators and guests who are looking for high quality product.

"Sonesta Ocean Point is a unique product for our hospitality sector from which our destination can only benefit,” said Hesova.

Heading into the low tourist season and looking to the upcoming high season, the Maho Group looks forward to strong support and cooperation from the Ministry of Tourism.

“We will endeavor to work closely with the Ministry to bring about an aggressive marketing plan and adequate budget for 2015 and 2016 to compete on equal footing with other Caribbean destinations,” said the Hesova. “With the investments we are making, we have and will continue to have very competitive hotel products. But, to be successful we need to be competitive overall as a destination.”

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Sint Maartener Alfonso Blijden now member of UNESCO Regional Committee

GREAT BAY (DCOMM) – Sint Maartener Alfonso Rolando Blijden has been appointed as the country’s representative on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Memory of the World Programme of UNESCO.

This is a very significant development for Sint Maarten since it is the first time that the country will be represented at a regional level for one of UNESCO’s programs, Marcellia Henry, Secretary General UNESCO, Sint Maarten said over the weekend.

The Memory of the World Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (MOWLAC), was established in 2000 in order to support the Memory of the World UNESCO Programme.

The objective of this programme is to preserve and allow access to the most important works of Latin America and the Caribbean documentary heritage and for the creation of a Regional Register.

In addition to MOWLAC’s many tasks, it also shares collective information and exchanges experiences about the work of MoW’s National Committees, which have already been established in 17 countries in the region.

MOWLAC consists of nine experts who have been selected according to their qualities and skills in the fields of library and information science, archives and documentary preservation.  The committee members serve for a four-year period. 

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Minister TEATT Meets with Council of Advice

PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Hon. Claret Connor earlier in the week met with members of the High Council of State, the Council of Advice led by Vice Chairlady Mavis Brooks-Salmon.

There was a very good and extensive discussion that took place on a number of issues resulting in a working and cooperation methodology where feedback and input would be sought from the Council of Advice on initiative laws thereby foregoing a long tedious process to get legislation approved.

Minister Connor presented his vision and plans related to his ministry. Some of the points discussed include public transportation, tourism, telecommunications and forthcoming legislation.

“I was very pleased with the way the meeting went with the Council of Advice.  When it comes to drafting a law for the country, the Council of Advice trajectory will move along in more efficient manner after reaching an agreement on the modus operandi.

“We can work more effectively in the execution of both our responsibilities and safeguarding the best interest of our High Council of State, the Constitution and our country,” Minister of TEATT Hon. Claret Connor said over the weekend.

The meeting took place in the conference room at the Council of Advice.  

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Rhoda Arrindell: “resounding themes” at Future of the Caribbean forum in Trinidad

GREAT BAY—Linguist and author Dr. Rhoda Arrindell attended the international “Forum on the Future of the Caribbean” at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Hyatt Regency, Trinidad and Tobagoon May 5 – 7, 2015. 

“Based on the conference banner of ‘Disruptive Thinking. Bold Action. Practical Outcomes,’ there were at least six resounding themes from the very beginning,” said Dr. Arrindell, who is also a St. Martin educator and former minister of Education, Culture, Sports, and Youth Affairs.

“Education, especially access to tertiary education, was put forward as critical to poverty reduction and alleviation. It was emphasized that entrepreneurship should be central to any education reform. Thirdly, citizens must be empowered, and, the State must play a central role for any economic model to be successful,” said Dr. Arrindell.

Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and The Grenadines, said at the conference that a number of the subject areas and solutions presented and discussed were already ‘known about ourselves,’ said Arrindell.

“Dr. Gonsalves said that part of the problem was a significant lack of ‘the will to do.’ He called on Caribbean people and their leaderships in all areas to ‘master ourselves.’ He noted that when we know what we have to do to advance the Caribbean, ‘laziness is an absence of virtue,’” said Dr. Arrindell.

The other “resounding themes” that Arrindell said were prioritized toward Caribbean solutions and progress were heritage, unity, and the Caribbean recognizing, respecting, and incorporating the resources of its own variedness within the one region. 

According to key speakers, “We must look to our own history and heritage to solutions to the challenges being faced today.Furthermore, Caribbean convergence is important to the growth of the individual states; and, the Caribbean must be seen as a multiplex world,” said Dr. Arrindell in an interview from Trinidad and Tobago.

Caribbean Heads of State and international thought leaders from the US, China, Thailand, Nigeria, Malta, the UK, and Chile were scheduled for the event, according to UWI organizers. The forum brought together political leaders, academia, private sector leaders, youth, civil society and policymakers to engage in a vigorous debate and discussion under the forum banner of: “Disruptive Thinking. Bold Action. Practical Outcomes.” http://caribbeanfutureforum.com.

The Forum was organized and hosted by UWI and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, in conjunction with the United Nations System in Trinidad and Tobago, “and a wide range of international development partners,” according to the organizers. 

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FBI Gets Involved in Medical Student Murder Investigation

THE BOTTOM, Saba - The investigation, with the code named Hector, of the young 23-year old medical student found dead on Saba on April 15, is in full swing. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is now getting involved in the on-going investigation.  The investigation is the responsibility of the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Public Prosecutor’s Office BES (Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba) and the Chief of the Dutch Caribbean Police Force.

Because the victim is not from Saba and has lived most of her life in the United States, investigations will also be carried out in the United States. In order to do so, contact has already been established with the US authorities and cooperation with the FBI is being formulated.

On Thursday, 7th of May, the lead investigator, the Chief of Police, the Chief Public Prosecutor and the Island Governor discussed how the investigation will continue and how information will be communicated to the public.

A meeting was also held with the management of the Saba University School of Medicine.

The cooperation between the prosecutor’s office and KPCN with the US authorities will be based on, so called, mutual legal assistance. This means, that the BES authorities will be responsible for the investigation, but will be granted support from the United States.

From the start of the investigation the Chief Public Prosecutor and the Chief of Police have been working together and the investigation team has been strengthened with investigators and specialists from the Recherche Samenwerkings Team (RST). In the week of May 11 the investigative team will get support from the Police Force from the Netherlands.

On April 17tha special team and the public prosecutor came to Saba to initiate the investigation which continues on Saba as well as on Bonaire. Various items have been confiscated, and information was requested from individuals, and witnesses were interviewed. The investigation was intensified the moment it became clear from the preliminary results of the forensic autopsy carried out on the body that a crime has been committed.

The investigation has a very broad approach with respect to trying to figure out what happened and who is involved. The investigation team is trying to trace as much as possible information about the victim and her whereabouts.  For this purpose, many more witnesses need to be interviewed, and therefore the investigative team will be active especially on Saba in the coming days and weeks.

Victim support is available for people affected by the occurrence.

There is a special phone number for people who have information which could be important to the investigation: 00599 416 6073.

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Minister of Justice Richardson receives Annual Report on Joint Court of Justice

PHILIPSBURG – The Minister of Justice Hon. Dennis Richardson earlier this week received from Supervisory Board member Kelvin Bloyden and Vice President Coen Luijks of the Joint Court of Justice, the joint courts 2014 Annual Report.  The court received a clean bill of health from external auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The report outlines the operations of the joint court over the year 2014.  The overall theme in the report is ‘Quality.’

The report covers the Joint Court’s activities of the past year and its future plans as well as information about the number of cases filed and dealt with by the Joint Court.

The Joint Court covers the Courts of First Instance on the six Dutch Caribbean islands and strives for quality judgments in all its jurisdictions on time, within the budgetary frame, whilst considering the needs of the societies it serves.

Financial results
Financial resources are limited, whilst higher investments are needed. By implementing a personnel hiring-stop and through cost control, the Joint Court has been able to limit the operational expenditures. The result is that the 2014 budgetary year has closed with a limited, but positive financial result. The Joint Court was forced to take hire-stop measures, due to budget cuts and the delayed financial contributions by the governments of the countries it serves.

Improvement of quality
In the past year, the available resources were used to improve the quality of service, both through training and better facilities, such as the ICT-infrastructure. The skills and knowledge of the personnel were improved through legal training and courses in customer service. More efficient and transparent business processes have also been implemented.
With the introduction of the Personnel Council, employees have a platform for their voice to be heard and through which they are structurally included in the organization of the Joint Court.

Case load
There has been a shift in the cases brought to the courts. The number of light cases has reduced significantly. However, the work load of the Joint Court has not dwindled as the number of larger and difficult cases has increased. Significant differences in the courts of first instance have resulted in a demand on the flexibility of judges and staff.

“Caribbeanization”
There has been significant improvement in the context of “Caribbeanization” of the Joint Court.  New local jurists are in training at the Joint Court, whilst those who have completed the training successfully have been proposed to be nominated as judges. Interviews with two of them have been included in the annual report.

External communication and adjustment
The external communication of the Joint Court has been strengthened by improved publicity and a more active press policy. In this regard, press directives has been introduced and the communication with external partners, such as lawyers and the Prosecutor’s Offices, have improved.

Improved accommodation
The accommodation of the courts has been improved. In Aruba, the Court of First Instance moved into a newly renovated building. In St. Maarten the former old Parliament has been added as an extra location next to the Courthouse. In Curaçao, several renovation projects have taken place. There, separate and secured offices have been realized for the investigating judge in criminal cases.

The joint court is responsible for Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, for the administration of justice in first instance and in appeal on the islands.

The members of the Joint Court of Justice deal, in first instance and in appeal, with civil cases, criminal cases, and cases of administrative law. 

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NEW: Sub-Tropical Storm Ana Forms near the Carolinas

SINT MAARTEN/MIAMI – The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami on Thursday 7 May at 11.00pm, upgraded the low pressure to the first tropical storm of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season.  The system is called Ana and at 11.00pm was located 170 miles south southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  It has 45 mile per hour winds and is moving north at two miles per hour.  A tropical storm watch has been issued from Edisto Beach South Carolina to Cape Lookout North Carolina.  

SINT MAARTEN/MIAMI – The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami on Thursday 7 May in a special tropical weather outlook bulletin at 1.45pm increased the formation chance of a tropical storm developing at from 70 this per cent this morning to 80 percent high this afternoon.   

Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that the nearly stationary area of low pressure located about 210 miles south-southeast of the South Carolina-North Carolina border is now producing 40-45 mph winds mainly to the north and west of the center. 

Environmental conditions are favourable for some additional development, and any increase in the organization of the associated thunderstorm activity would result in the formation of a subtropical

cyclone.

The low is expected to drift to the north or north-northwest over the next couple of days, and interests along the south eastern coast of the United States should continue to monitor the progress of this system.

Regardless of development, heavy rain is expected over portions of the coastal south eastern United States for the next few days.

The first is Sub-Tropical Storm to form was Andrea in 2007 which developed offshore Georgia and the northeast Florida coast during May 9th, 10th and 11th. The biggest impacts from Andrea were very large waves and coastal flooding from eastern North Carolina to eastern Florida. In addition, a storm surge of two to three feet was also reported.

The second is Tropical Storm Beryl in 2012 which tracked westward from offshore of northeast Florida and actually came ashore very near Jacksonville, Florida as a 60 mph tropical storm on the night of May 27th.  

It is not uncommon for storms to develop outside the hurricane season which starts officially on June 1st.

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