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Last flight CN-Express is June 29

SINT MAARTEN/SABA/STATIA - The last flight of the CN-Express is scheduled for Friday, June 29.

The temporary air connection between Bonaire and the Windward Islands has been operational for a month longer than initially planned.

Starting the first of July, Winair will include the connection between the Windward Islands and Bonaire in their regular flight schedule. 

The CN-Express was established through a collaboration between the Ministries of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) and Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW).

After the hurricanes Irma and Maria, they saw the need for extra accessibility to the Windward Islands. The ministries joined forces and by the end of February 2018 they realized the CN-Express for a period of three months.

Recently Winair announced a flight expansion. As of July 1st, the airline will operate a flight to Curaçao from St. Maarten seven times a week, after which they’ll fly to Bonaire four times a week and to Aruba three times a week.

Because of this new air link, it is no longer necessary to maintain the CN-Express connection with the Windward Islands. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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130 Travel Agents from South America visit the Destination

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – In collaboration with the French Tourist Office, the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), on May 15 hosted a group of 130 travel agents from South America.

The travel agents are part of an annual mega familiarization trip that the MSC Cruises organizes every year.

This is the first time that St. Maarten is part of their itinerary. There was a total of 350 agents aboard the ship, and 130 signed up for the tour while the others did private tours or went shopping in Philipsburg.

STB said that they were very impressed by the recovery of the destination since the passing of the September hurricane, and feel that the island still has a lot to offer in terms of offering a great vacation destination experience.

STB gave the travel agents an updated fact sheet of hotels, activities and restaurants that are open.

A couple of the travel agents stated that they can’t wait for Copa Airlines to return to St. Maarten, so they could start selling the destination again.

The timing of the fam trip couldn’t be better as Copa airlines will resume flights to St. Maarten on June 2nd.

Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Cornelius de Weever, said on Monday that the fam trip and local coordination between the tourism entities of the North and South sides of the island demonstrates the importance and emphasis being placed on joint promotion of the destination.

“The tourism entities from both sides of the island have been working diligently together based on the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the Governments of North and South. This is the basis for the joint promotional activities of the island.

“The South American fam trip of travel agents is very important for the destination especially since it came at a time when Copa Airlines will resume providing service to and from the Central/South American mainland.

“This will be a significant development, because we also have a number of hotel properties that will be coming back online within the next six-months. These are positive things that are happening, and the future looks brighter each day and month as our island destination continues to rebuild and tourists continue to return for that unique St. Maarten/St. Martin experience that cannot be found anywhere else,” Minister Cornelius de Weever said on Tuesday.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses reject calls for independent inquiry into sexual abuse

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Jehovah’s Witnesses community in the Netherlands will not hold an independent inquiry into the sexual abuse of members, despite being urged to do so by justice minister Sander Dekker.

By last month, 267 reports of sexual abuse involving Jehovah’s Witnesses had been made to a hotline set up by the Reclaimed Voices foundation in 2017 after Trouw published a report on the growing scandal.

Dekker told RTL Nieuws on Tuesday that the organisation’s decision is ‘disappointing’ and that it is ignoring the victims who want to be heard. He has no powers to force the organisation to hold an inquiry.

A spokesman for the Reclaimed Voices foundation said that the victims had not expected much from the church itself. ‘But we are very disappointed in the minister,’ Raymond Hintjes said.

‘We had expected him to apply more pressure and make sure that there would be an independent inquiry.’ Dekker said last year that the church should look to the example of the Catholic church to dealing with complaints about sexual abuse.

In total, 3,712 people have reported being victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church to a special hotline set up in 2010. There are some 30,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands. (DutchNews)

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Up to four years to recover from 2017 hurricanes says World Tourism & Travel Council

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN – According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has released a report about the impact of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season on the Caribbean’s Tourism Sector.

The report assessed the immediate and long-term impact of the 2017 hurricane season on the Travel & Tourism sectors across the Caribbean as a whole and on specific islands.  The impact has been significant and there is a public misconception that the entire Caribbean was struck by the storms and this has been damaging the region.

The estimated loss in visitors as a result of the hurricane season in visitors to the Caribbean is over 820,000.  These visitors could have generated over US$740 million and supported over 11,000 jobs.

The WTTC report says that recovery for some destinations to post-2017 hurricane season levels could take up to four years and therefore the region will miss out on over US$3 billion over the aforementioned timeframe.

The WTTC report stated how important Travel & Tourism is to the Caribbean, attracting over 46 million visitors in 2016 who spent over US$31 billion which supported a total of over US$56 billion in Gross Domestic Product and 2.4 million jobs.

WTTC points out that natural disasters such as what the Caribbean experienced in 2017 during the hurricane season will continue to hit the region and elsewhere, perhaps on an increasingly frequent basis because of climate change.

WTTC advises Governments and Destination Management Organizations in each destination to develop and have in place plans and strategize to minimize the long-term impact and encourage visitors and spending to return to pre-hurricane levels of growth as soon as possible.

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY REPORT

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Coast Guard ends search for 37-year old MSC Seaside crew member

SINT MAARTEN/ST. THOMAS – The U.S. Coast Guard last week ended its search for Philippine crew member Michael M. Majaba (37) from the MSC Seaside cruise ship which after departing Sint Maarten and on its way to San Juan, Puerto Rico, went overboard from the seventh deck in the early morning hours of last Wednesday near the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan Command Center was alerted around 4am and responded with a search team that comprised of a C-130 aircraft, two MH-Dolphin helicopters, a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft for Law Enforcement, and the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence.

An area of over 1,200 square nautical miles was searched for several hours. The search also included the Tanker Rose and Carnival Glory cruise ship.

SOUALIGA NEWSDAY REPORT

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Maastricht, Twente universities may face court for having ‘too many English courses’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A lobby group campaigning for better education in the Netherlands is taking Maastricht and Twente universities to court for offering too many degree courses in English.

The Beter Onderwijs Nederland association says the two universities are breaking the law because they are offering English language courses without good reason to do so. The school’s inspectorate is also being taken to court by BON for failing to take action against the two universities.

‘The law states explicitly that educational establishments should promote Dutch language skills,’ chairman Ad Verbrugge told the Volkskrant. ‘Students should learn to express themselves as precisely as possible in Dutch.

This is an essential part of academic learning.’ BON has singled out Maastricht and Twente because they have gone ‘much too far’ in introducing English, Verbrugge said.

The use of English in Dutch higher education has become a political hot potato and education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has promised to publish her vision in June.

In a joint paper published on Monday, the Netherlands’ higher education institutions said the number of courses given in English should be capped in an attempt to contain the growing number of international students.

An upper limit would allow the sector to ensure universities remained accessible to Dutch students, the VNSU said.

Fees

The institutions also said that matriculation and course fees for students from outside the European Union should be raised. Students from EU countries have the right to pay the equivalent fees to their Dutch counterparts, currently around €2,000.

In August 2016, the Volkskrant reported that 60% of the 1,632 different degree courses at the country’s 13 universities are now in English.

When it comes to master’s degrees, just 30% are taught in Dutch and three universities only offer master’s degrees in English. Some 75,000 foreign students are currently studying at Dutch universities and hbo colleges, accounting for around 10% of the total student body.

Students from Germany, China, Indonesia, Poland and Belgium are most likely to stay in the Netherlands to work after they graduate. (DutchNews)

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Child, taken from foster home, is with family members in Lithuania

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The five-year-old girl who was snatched from her foster family by her biological mother on Sunday evening is no longer officially missing, police said on Friday.

Deimante Zasytyteis now living with her mother and other family members in Lithuania and the girl is not in physical danger, police said. The girl was taken from the foster family’s home in Maastricht and driven away in a silver car at around 10.20pm on Sunday.

Social workers and the public prosecution department are now trying to get in contact with the family and decide what steps to take next. In total 288 children in the Netherlands were reported kidnapped and taken abroad by a parent last year, according to new official figures published this week.

Most children were taken to Poland and Germany, followed by Belgium, the UK, Turkey and Morocco. In 70% of cases, the child was taken by their mother. (DutchNews)

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Dutch superyacht yards set new records for market value and share

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Like superyachts themselves, the Dutch share of the superyacht building industry keeps getting bigger. The Holland Yachting Group says the Dutch saw their market share in the total value of global superyacht deliveries rise by 7.6% to almost 30% in 2017.

With 23 new orders on the books, there is much more to come in the years ahead, the group said. ‘In essence, the Dutch are selling more superyachts at a higher total value, while also steadily increasing their market share over the past five years’.

The Dutch yachtbuilding industry defines a superyacht as being over 30 metres in length. The 21 deliveries of boats over 30 metres made in 2017 were made by 10 different yards.

The superyachts concerned had a total value of €1.19bn, which translates into an average price of €57m per superyacht, an increase of almost 10%.

It is also the highest total value recorded to date, Holland Yachting Group said. Germany, Italy and the Netherlands – in no particular order – are the world’s leading superyacht builders.

Germany specialises in larger yachts, Italy in series production, while the Netherlands specialises in custom-built yachts in the 24 to 70 metre sector. (DutchNews)

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Strict Protestant father of 19 is guilty of systematically beating his children

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A staunchly Protestant father of 19 children has been jailed for two years for repeatedly beating his children with a piece of wood and locking them up in the attic, an old potato shed and a shipping container.

Henk Koelewijn was arrested in September 2016 after a number of his adult children made a police complaint against him. The family live in isolation on an industrial estate in Bunschoten, a small town north of Amersfoort, where religious parties dominate in local politics.

‘It is a very religious family. The father takes all the decisions,’ RTV Utrecht reporter Mark van der Wel told tv chat show RTL Late Night last year. According to court documents, Koelewijn ruled his home with an iron fist and he told a television show several years ago that the Bible justifies beating children.

The court found Koelewijn, 57, guilty of systematically beating his children and locking them up in confined places. However, there was no evidence that he had sexually abused one daughter, judges said.

Koelewijn, who spend one year in custody ahead of the trial, will now be sent home, pending an appeal. However, he has been given a five-year ban on contacting any of his children and grandchildren. (DutchNews)

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Civil Servants return from World Bank training in Santo Domingo

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The World Bank Group recently organized a training on the 'New Procurement Regulations for Investment Project Financing (IPF) Borrowers' within the Caribbean region. The training was held in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic from May 8, to May 11, 2018.

The Netherlands established the recovery Trust Fund for Sint Maarten following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. The World Bank Group was designated by the Netherlands as the Trust Fund manager.

This means that Sint Maarten will utilize World Bank procedures for the procurement of goods, services and works financed through the Trust Fund.

In light of this, three (3) Civil Servants of the Interim Recovery Committee (IRC Committee), that will be tasked with the execution of procurement according to World Bank procedures, attended the training on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten.

The training was conducted by World Bank Group Procurement specialists, with the following objectives:

  • Implementation of the first two years of the Bank’s Procurement Regulations for IPF Borrowers, based on experience of the borrowers with emphasis on how the Regulations have been applied in the Caribbean.
  • Explore the new instruments introduced by the Regulations, including the Project Procurement Strategy for Development (PPSD) and the procurement plan.
  • Learn about the specific aspects of conducting procurement under the Regulations.
  • Preview about the Bank’s new IT platform for procurement.

Approximately sixty (60) delegates were in attendance, representing the Caribbean Region, Latin America, along with member states of Caribbean intergovernmental organizations such as Caribbean Communities (CARICOM) Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

During the training, the Sint Maarten team utilized the opportunity to gather specific information and best practices related to the Sint Maarten recovery Trust Fund.

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