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Soualiga Newsday Top Stories (2394)

Student funding body DUO to close digital access point for a month for upgrade

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Students will be unable to access details of their funding online for a month while the service provider upgrades its user portal.

The Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO), which oversees student financing, said the transfer of Mijn DUO would not affect payments, but students will not be able to make changes to their details such as an increase in the amount they receive.

The transfer will take place between March 29 and April 30. DUO said the old system, which dates from 1986, needed to be upgraded and the new version would be easier to use.

Students will still be able to view their details and will be able to submit changes on paper if they cannot wait until the end of April. All DUO’s users will receive letters in the next few weeks advising them to make any changes before March 29 if possible.

The service’s phone hotline and social media accounts will remain open for queries. (DutchNews)


Additional House searches in “Squid” vote buying investigation took place on Monday

PHILIPSBURG – “In connection to the ongoing “Squid “investigation, which concerns accusations of “vote buying” during the 2016 Parliamentary Elections, a number of data storage devices were confiscated from a suspect on the Dutch side of the island this morning,” the Public Prosecutors Office (OM) announced on Monday evening in a statement.

“The Public Prosecutors Office informs that the “Squid” investigation is in full swing. As part of the investigation several homes on the French side of the island, are currently being searched and a number of suspects and witnesses will be interrogated in the near future.

“As part of the ongoing investigation one suspect, F.R. was arrested on February 14th, 2018 and later released on February 23rd, 2018. F.R. remains a suspect in the investigation,” the OM concluded.


Traffic measures in connection with Parliamentary elections

PHILIPSBURG - The Police Department is informing the general public that following traffic measures will be taken in connection with the Parliamentary elections which will be held on Monday February 26th2018.

  1. Front Street will be closed on that day from Hotel Steeg (L’Escargot Alley) to Emmaplein.
  2. No commercial delivery vehicles and public transportation will be allowed to use Arlette Peters road (Old Cake House road) on that day.

All drivers making use of the public roads on that day should take keen note of this information and follow the measures that have been taken. (Sint Maarten Police Force)



SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Last week, the Minister of Public Health, Social Development, and Labor (Ministry VSA), Emil Lee announced the commencement of an Emergency Transitional Housing Program to be managed in by the Dr. J. Foundation.

Minister Lee recently took a tour of the facility together with Dr. Judith Arndell to inspect the progress of the renovations currently taking place. Inspections by VROMI and Fire Department are slated to take place this week.

The location will come move in ready, fully renovated and furnished with the basic necessities for living and office space for assisting resident to transition back to the community.

"Due to the fact that no emergency housing solutions have been finalized, the Ministry of VSA embarked on a quest to find a solution. On a daily basis we witness the challenges faced by persons wanting to get back up on their feet but cannot do so due to lack of stability, a simple decent night's rest. 

“I am proud that we were able to step out of 'our role' and offer solutions to our community members most in need of our support at this time." - Emil Lee, Minister VSA 

With almost six (6) months after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, many persons are still homeless and in need of various types of support.

This program is one of the many that the Ministry will be carrying out in order to assist those most in need of adequate accommodations, professional guidance, stability and a plan to transition back to ‘normalcy’.

The program will be housed in Sucker Garden and will be able to accommodate 80 persons at a time.

The program offers a temporary solution with the aim to assist persons towards regaining their independence and help them transition back to their community within a period of 3-6 months.

The Dr. J. Foundation will offer residents at the housing program; counseling, assistance with finding new permanent homes, financial guidance; budgeting and saving methods, assistance with sourcing employment opportunities and more.

PHOTO CUTLINE: An example of Studio​ room for a family.

minvsa housing inside1


US Leader Richardson released from detention

PHILIPSBURG - Today is the day that the confinement of MP Frans Richardson has ended, was the statement of Leader of the United St. Maarten Party (US) Member of Parliament (MP) Frans Richard’s lawyer Sjamira Roseburg of Sulvaran & Peterson Law firm.

The statement continues: “The detention of people is considered as an ultimum remedium (last resort). It must be strictly necessary. Knowing that the situation in the Point Blanche prison is far from optimal and that other means are available, the detention of MP Frans Richardson was not necessary in the viewpoint of the defense, there were other means other than the imprisonment of Mr. Richardson.

“In short, the reason for this is that the investigation has been running since 2016 and the co-suspects are already free. There was never any need for the Public Prosecutor to hold on to my client. Not in 2016 and not in 2017. Suddenly 12 days before the election this was necessary?!

“The Public Prosecutor has decided to release Mr. Richardson today, because they also know that if they wish to retain Mr. Richardson for a longer period, they must first have an order of persecution from the Court of Appeal under Article 2 of the National Ordinance on Persecution of Political Authorities. The Appeal Court will first look at the case and then decide whether there is any need to give this order.

“The public prosecutor already saw that it would never get that far and decided to release my client today. However, the same prosecutor also stated last Friday that he did not had the intention to keep Mr. Richardson for further custody after the 8 days that has been given to him. The defense then must ask itself why was there any reason and necessity to keep my client in detention for those few days? This seems, according to my client, to purely influence of the upcoming elections that is only three days away.

“By holding Mr. Richardson for 10 days, it seems that an attempt has been made to undermine his campaign. The investigation for which Mr. Richardson was arrested concern investigations from 2016. What was the need to hold Mr. Richardson up for two years later?! It seems that everyone here on Sint Maarten can be arrested, detained whether it is necessary or not?

“Frans Richardson is a member of parliament and a party leader. This situation has brought a lot of negative publicity for the island of SXM. While this was never necessary. Mr. Richardson could also be called upon, as is done more often. If the authorities needed my client, he would have volunteered for possible interrogations, while retaining his rights.

“Holding a representative of the people in an investigation that has been running for more than 1 year, should not be taken lightly. A detention will always have negative shadow effects. Detention should only follow if it is strictly necessary, as an ultimum remedium (last resort). The European Court of Human Rights has already spoken about this on several occasions.

“The Public Prosecutor will not be able to convince anyone that it could not have acted differently concerning the detention of a party leader, just before the elections, in a crowded prison that is about to collapse! The defense can only hope that the objective of the Public Prosecutor is not to improperly influence the forthcoming elections on February 26th 2018.

“The Public Prosecutor could have also chosen to wait until after the election, because now they have the appearance of being against it. Again, the investigation has been going on for quite some time!

“Whatever may be true, Mr. Richardson is now more than ever convinced that SXM must regain control of the autonomous powers, including justice, as quickly as possible, so that the SXM population can monitor the exercising of these powers. Because with the current consensus laws of the Kingdom, SXM has no control over the exercising of judicial powers.”


TelEm Group says material shortages causing slowdown in network restoration

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - TelEm Group says a chronic shortage of telecommunication material in the region is affecting restoration of services to St. Maarten customers following the passage of Hurricane Irma and Maria in September last year.

Five months after the passage of the storms, TelEm Group has restored services where possible using materials in stock and limited materials donated by other telecommunication companies in Holland and in the Caribbean, however much of these supplies have been spent, and the company anticipates it will be another two to three weeks before a bulk of cables and other restoration equipment arrives. Some of the materials needed for the overhead reconstruction will is also due to arrive in the coming days.

TelEm Group Chief Technical Officer, Mr. Eldert Louisa, says he understands the frustration of many TelEm Group customers in a number of areas around the island who have been waiting for many weeks for voice and data connections.

“Wherever we can assist with the limited resources we have we are assisting until our supply of materials come in,” said Mr. Louisa.

He said the company is already making arrangements to employ additional technicians and contractors so that outstanding installations and repairs can be carried out as soon as the necessary materials arrive on the island.

Mr. Louisa said one of the delays in receiving materials is the destruction of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure following the passage of Hurricanes late last year.

“Puerto Rico is a hub for materials coming to St. Maarten and other islands in the Caribbean. Because of the problems there and also because they have been using up the supplies themselves, we and the rest of the Caribbean are having difficulties with our regular transport routes,” explained Mr. Louisa.

He said at other times in the past, TelEm Group has been able to depend on other telecommunication companies on the island and on the nearby islands for spare materials and equipment, but this time around these companies and islands are in need of materials themselves.

“We are all affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, and five months later, the shortage of materials is really starting to affect our early progress in restoring our networks,” said Mr. Louisa.

The CTO is appealing to customers to continue to be patient in the knowledge that the company and staff are doing everything in their power to restore their telecommunication networks to pre-hurricane Irma status as soon as possible.

“We are continuing to register the areas where customers are being affected and we are creating patch up solutions where we can until more permanent solutions can be provided, so customers should continue to report their status to our customer service staff who are keeping records,” said Mr. Louisa.

TelEm Group says it will continue to source materials from wherever it can when available to speed up the process. The company has also meantime taken steps to place more infrastructure underground to be better prepared for future storms.


Sold out Fundraiser at Holland House Hotel last Saturday for NIA

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - It seemed like not only a delicious three-course meal was on the menu, but also laughter and music were served last Saturday at the Holland House, the National Institute of Arts Foundation (NIA) said in a press statement on Wednesday.

“DJ Jansen and Joost de Jong were hosting an evening called “Diner Chantant” together with the fabulous staff from the Holland House. The two Dutch musical entertainers flew in a few weeks ago to help the people of St. Maarten in the aftermath of hurricane Irma.

“They started at the beginning of February teaching free musical theatre classes at NIA and cooking free plant-based lunches and sharing them out on the streets to the people in need.

“The couple raised funds in Holland to be able to buy the groceries and to allow the children to join the musical theatre classes for free. However, when talking to Paul Boetekees, the idea came up to have a fundraiser for NIA and Animal Defenders Sint Maarten at Holland House, so both the foundations could benefit more from the gentlemens’ presence on the island.

“Since Joost and DJ have been singing and dancing in Holland for years they took the opportunity and made the fundraiser not only an evening of appetizing food, but also of singing and putting the fun in the FUNdraiser.

“While eating a mouthwatering vegan crab cake, songs like “I’m yours” from Jason Mraz, “Shape of you" from Ed Sheeran and “Everything” from Michael Bublé made the guests sway on their chairs and eventually they all sang along. The most beautiful moment was when the first notes from “All of me” (known by John Legend) seeped from the soundsystem., one of the guests ran up to DJ and asked if he could sing the song.

“DJ allowed him to, and knowing that the song contained pretty high notes, all guests where holding their breath. But when the most difficult part of the song reverbed in the restaurant, a big round of applause filled the room. It turned out that this young man was Kristopher Mercuur, who is taking the Art Heals musical theatre workshop at NIA.

“At this point another student could not control her enthusiasm and beckoned Joost to hand over his microphone, Stacy-Ann passionately joined Kristopher, magic was happening on the spot.

“The gentlemen took a moment to explain why they were raising funds for the two foundations. The astounding singing of Kristopher and Stacy-Ann proved that Art really does Heal and the directors of NIA, Arlene Halley and Clara Reyes received a warm applause from the guests for their countless efforts in using the arts as a form of relief for the St. Maarten people. Present were also Mercedes de Windt and Mohana Ceasar with part of their team of volunteers. The gentlemen took the opportunity to address and praise them for their ongoing work benefiting  the animals on St. Maarten.

“The icing of the cake was when the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, the Honorable Jorien Wuite, who was present at the venue, surprised the fundraising party by addressing the guests and taking her precious time to contribute inspiring words towards the effort of the two organizations.

“The last set of disco music got the crowd dancing at the Holland House. With the help of Chef René, who served a delicious vegan three-course meal, (because how can you raise funds for the Animal Defenders, while eating them at the same time) the evening turned out to be a great succes, everyone left with full bellies and a joyous feeling.”


Over 200 enter for Elektra’s Love is in the Air contest with Winair on Oasis 96.3

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Elektra in collaboration with Winair hosted “Love is in the air Valentine’s contest. Elektra who recently started back on radio January 8th on Oasis 96.3 with her new radio program Groovin wanted to do something special for her fans and radio listeners.

“The concept for the Love is in the air Valentine’s contest came after a meeting with Winair. I work ON AIR and Winair flies in the Air, I thought the name to be very fitting for this Valentine’s contest.

“February is observed as the month of Love and many people enjoy a romantic getaway. The time was short but together with Winair, we were able to bring this contest to our Oasis 96.3 fans. Winair also provided a weekend complimentary stay at Le Hermitage in Nevis.

“’The Hermitage’ is a unique boutique Nevis hotel that is built around the oldest wooden house in the Caribbean, ca. 1670. It tells the story of years of Caribbean living and offers a taste of island life. A small family-run inn, with a mission to share this beautiful island, her people, history and culture.

“To participate in the contest was very easy. The participants had to log on to our website Oasis enter their full name and a telephone number. The Winners’s were announced on Valentine’s Day together with Elektra’s weekly co-host Kenty Lichtenberg of Kerai Kreative Style who is an internet nominated Blogger and Helena De Bekker of Winair.

“The first prize was two round trip tickets to Nevis and a Weekend stay at Le Hermitage won by Corwin James.

“Second prize was a chocolate couple’s therapy massage won by Erica Vlaun and the third prize was a romantic breakfast box for 2 won by Carlyle Cornet. Other partners that made the contest possible were Rubic Aesthetic Spa and the Breakfast Box.

“I am happy and highly appreciative to continue to collaborate with the business community to entertain, bring joy, love and laughter to the airwaves of St. Maarten to my listening audience and I thank all my collaborating partners.

“Tune in to Elektra Groovin on Oasis 96.3 7am to 10am Weekdays and stay connected for more great contests and prizes,” Elektra said in a press statement on Tuesday.


Posters of TelCell Breakthrough Talent Search winners do the talking

POND ISLAND - TelCell Breakthough winner, Manukiell Edwards, addresses scores of his schoolmates each morning as they pass through the front gate of the Sundial School in Philipsburg – and just for good measure, he does the same at the St. Dominic School in South Reward each morning also.

The greeting is not a physical one, but comes in the form of a poster message that Manukiell delivers to his peers, courtesy of the TelCell Breakthrough Telent Search organizers.

Each year the Breakthrough team rewards the talent search winners with a series of posters featuring all the winners with a positive message aimed at St. Maarten youths. Posted a various strategic locations around the island where young people congregate such as the Philipsburg Jubilee Library, they are most prominent at the entrance of a number of the island’s secondary schools.

In the latest Sundial school poster unveiled Friday, Manukiell advises his classmates to (here), while at the St. Dominic School his message reminds us that “a man without education is like a building without foundation.”

“I have a double responsibility this year because I have also been voted President of the Student body at Sundial so I feel very proud to present these messages to our St. Maarten youth,” said Mnukiell. He says he’s looking forward to taking part in other activities with the other TelCell Breakthrough winners in the coming weeks and months, including work on a music video and lots of studio recording sessions. 

Also Friday, another TelCell Breakthrough 2017 winner, Temaia Dennis, assisted in the unveiling of a new sponsor for the Philipsburg Jubilee Library poster, graced this year by follow Breakthrough winner, (name here).

“A lot of young people visit the Library every day and I urge them to read the message on (name) poster and take inspiration from it,” said Temaia.

TelCell Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Mr. Brian Mingo, thanked the youngsters for turning out for Friday’s unveiling and for assisting in TelCell Breakthrough’s mission to bring positive and uplifting messages to St. Maarten youth.

“You people today face many challenges as they navigate through a very important stage of their lives, making it equally important for them to identify with other young people like them who are doing positive and exciting things that are not only uplifting, but fun too,” said Mr. Mingo.

The CCO also thanked the TelCell Breakthrough team who continue to put all their efforts into the island’s youth with all they do with organizing, staging and promoting of the TelCell Breakthrough event each year.

PHOTO CUTLINE: TelCell Breakthrough Winners Manukiell Edwards and Temaia Dennis point to a poster of dance category winner Jeremiah David delivering his own message to visitors to the Philipsburg Jubilee Library.



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