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Monument Council Officially Established

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Honourable Wycliffe Smith, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) met with the newly established Monument Council to briefly discuss their appointment by law and associated duties last Wednesday. 

The Council consists of Chairman, Mr. Patrice Gumbs, Senior Policy Advisor at Foreign Affairs within General Affairs, Mr. Alfonso Blijden, Archives and Application Manager within General Affairs, Ms. Marla Chemont, Marketing Officer at the Tourism Bureau within TEATT, Ms. Natasha Richardson, and Educator and Monument Owner Ms. Emmalexis Velasquez. 

The positions of Secretary and Treasurer of the Council will be selected during the Council’s first meeting as an advisory body. The Monument Council is appointed for a period of four years and is responsible for liaising with the Department of Culture to oversee the issuing of monument permits, preparing work concerning heritage conservation and advising the Minister of ECYS. 

Included in the meeting was head of the Department of Culture, Clara Reyes. The Monument Council solicits advice based on the Monument Ordinance and other pieces of legislation that aim to protect Sint Maarten’s tangible heritage.   

The Parliament of Sint Maarten had approved the list of Council members as was recommended by the previous Minister of ECYS. However, Minister Smith thought it prudent not to appoint his own son, Mr. Donovan Smith, to the Council based on principles of good governance and integrity.

For further information on the Monument Council of St. Maarten, kindly contact the Department of Culture via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Dutch state buys stake in Air France-KLM to ‘increase influence’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch state has bought a large minority shareholding in the holding company of Air France-KLM in order to exercise more influence on the company, finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told a news conference on Tuesday evening. In total, the Netherlands has bought 12.68% of the company for €680m on the open market but plans to raise this to 14% – in line with the stake held by the French government. The aim, Hoekstra says, is to better guarantee Dutch public interests. ‘The position of Schiphol and KLM are of great importance to the Dutch economy and employment,’ he said. ‘It involves thousands of direct and indirect jobs.’ In addition, KLM’s destination network is one reason so many foreign firms decide to relocate to the Netherlands, he said. The Dutch move, which apparently was not shared with the French authorities ahead of time, follows a turbulent period for the company. Holding chief Ben Smith is known to be keen to see Air France and KLM unify through common aircraft orders, alliances and flight programmes but the plans have caused unease in the Netherlands. ‘Over the past few years it has become obvious that important decisions about KLM strategy are being taken at a holding level,’ Hoekstra said on Tuesday evening. ‘At the same time, talks about strengthening existing agreements… and the make-up of the board, have been difficult.’ KLM also reports better financial results compared to Air France, which has been hit by strikes, even though it is much smaller. France French economic affairs minister Bruno Le Maire told Les Echoes that the shares had been bought up without prior knowledge of the Air France-KLM board or the French government. The French government has a 14.3% stake in the holding, which was created in 2003 when the two airlines merged. The Dutch state retains a 5.9% stake in KLM itself. ‘The big question is, what will you achieve with this,’ aviation economist Eric Pels told broadcaster NOS. ‘It cost a lot of money, you don’t have a majority and you can’t sit in the chief executive’s seat. Operational decisions, the day to day affairs, are not taken together with shareholders.’ (DutchNews)
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Independence and the Price of Freedom

SINT MAARTEN COMMENTARY (By Dr. Rhoda Arrindell) - Just the other day, I asked some folks in a gathering if they were happy with the way things are taking place on our island, and, like me, they are not happy. When I asked if what they intended to do about it, the response was tepid. That was a warning bell to me and even more reason to fear the direction our island nation is headed. A few years ago, when he visited the St. Martin Book Fair, the young professor MK Asante left a message with the audience: “If you have an observation, you have an obligation.”

The then 26-year-old reminded us that we cannot remain silent and complicit when we notice injustice taking place in our community. I understand why some people choose to remain silent out of fear of being targeted by the powers that be. Many of us who have dared to stand up to injustice and other ills over the years know all too well what the repercussions can be.

They can range from being disregarded for jobs and funding opportunities, economic boycott of your business, shady “investigations” of you and your family, to even death (Mr. Helmin Wiels being the most recent example). However, we also know that Freedom comes at a price, but it is a price that must be paid. Many St. Martiners will tell you that they know that Independence is the solution to St. Martiners taking full control of their destiny as a people, with all the ramifications thereof. Yet, just a few are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices for this to happen.

I’m not talking about the perceived material sacrifices that so many attribute to being a politically independent territory in this region. I am referring to sacrifices in terms of comfort zones and especially false notions of “power,” when in reality our people remain powerless in shaping our destiny. Colonialism—whether by the USA, Dutch, French, British, or whomever—is evil and unjust. No matter how it is dressed up or whatever euphemisms are used to conceal it, it always works to the detriment of the colonized people and their way of life.

The fact is St. Martin is a colony, and the contrived colonial domination that is currently taking place (on both sides of the island) is not in the interest of the St. Martin people, no matter what politicians tell you. At this point in our development, my dear St. Martiners, the right thing for all of us to do at this time, regardless of age, political colors, passports, etc. is to unite and take a strong stand against colonialism and the continued use of our island nation and people as pawns to satisfy an evil agenda.

We must do this not just for the common good today, but also in the interest of our children and future generations. We as St. Martiners, too, need to be honest with ourselves, that if we want our freedom and to preserve our island for the future generations, we must be willing to make sacrifices today, now. I am calling on all St. Martiners to talk to your representatives, on both sides of the island, and urge them to put down their campaigning weapons and get together to fight this evil noose of colonialism around our collective necks.

Those of us who know that independence is the way to save St. Martin cannot afford to sit idly by or remain complicit in the annihilation of our people and our values. For those aspiring to get into Heaven, know that you cannot get in there while you’re still alive. W. Somerset Maugham once said: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.” February 25, 2019

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Minister De Weever comments on school violence and bullying

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Nearly one-in-three boys and girls have been bullied at least once at school over the last month, and a similar proportion have been affected by physical violence, according to a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report, “Behind the numbers: ending school violence and bullying.”

Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever said on Monday that bullying continues to abound in schools globally.

The report further states that physical bullying is the biggest problem in most regions, but in North America and Europe, psychological bullying is the most common, followed by sexually-related bullying.  Online and smartphone bullying is on the rise.

“Bullying can significantly effect a child’s mental health, quality of life at home, and academic achievement in the classroom.  A child that is bullied in school are more likely to be bullied out of school, either on their way to or from school or through cyberbullying.

“I call on parents and guardians to pay attention as a child being bullied while growing up can have a lasting effect even transitioning into adulthood.

“Everybody has a role to play.  The school system has to ensure a safe and positive school/classroom environment for the pupil to study, and therefore must have strategies in place to prevent bullying occurring.  

“Parents and guardians need to be involved with the school to ensure that they are clear that the school does not tolerate bullying and are aware of the procedures to follow if they believe that their child is being bullied,” Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever said on Tuesday.

“Physical bullying is more common among boys, while psychological bullying is more prevalent among girls,” and Minister De Weever believes that the trend is also changing amongst boys and girls. 

Meanwhile, online and mobile phone bullying is on the rise

“Children perceived as different in any way from the norm, are the most likely to be bullied, with physical appearance being the most common cause followed by race, nationality or skin colour.

“Frequently bullied children are nearly three times more likely to feel shunned and more than twice as likely to miss school. Their educational-outcomes decline, and they are more likely to leave after finishing secondary school,” the report states.

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Minister De Weever responds to Dutch MPs

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The recent publication of an article regarding the current state of the detention facility in which they referenced two Members of Parliament in the Netherlands requires clarification, the Cabinet of the Ministry of Justice said on Tuesday on behalf of Minister Cornelius de Weever.  

“It is unfortunate but expected, as this seems to be the modus operandi of both MPs van Raak and Bosman.  They have chosen to pick one sentence out of the entire conversation in an attempt to perpetuate their skewed view; this type of unnecessary media coverage does not benefit anyone. 

“As Minister of Justice, I fully accept and understand the responsibilities to ensure that inmates have the facility/facilities that meet human rights standards to which, the ministry even hired a lawyer with a human rights background. This will ensure that all minimum requirements are met and that no policies and procedures violate any human rights.

“It is important to highlight that before 2010, the entire Justice Chain fell under the responsibility of the former Netherlands Antilles, which included the prison. The state of the prison before 10/10/10 was already described as deplorable.As of October 10, 2010, this responsibility was transferred to country Sint Maarten. Since the responsibility shifted, the facility has not been properly maintained and very little was improved on the already deemed deplorable state. This has led to the current state of the prison, which by international and European standards are violating several human rights. Since I have taken office, the reality of the Point Blanche prison has had my full attention. Despite the current (post-Irma) financial shortfalls, I have already started making the necessary structural and organizational improvements.

“Also important to note, while according to the Charter of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sint Maarten has the responsibility to realizethe fundamental human rights, article 43, subsection 1, the Charter also obliges the Kingdom to guaranteethe fundamental human rights in the Kingdom. 

“The United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) has emphasized this obligation in their concluding observations of the hearing of November 2018: “in accordance with article 43 of the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands providing that promotion and protection of human rights is a Kingdom (Netherlands) affair[1]. This was again echoed in an expert meeting initiated by the Kingdom affairs committee of the First Chamber where experts voiced their opinion that: “there is a moral obligation of the Netherlands to take action when human rights are violated in the Kingdom[2]. In addition, this responsibility has been confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the Corallo vs The Netherlands-case where the Netherlands was brought before the ECHR and fined by them.

“Despite its financial hurdles, Sint Maarten is paying for all current repairs that are being executed to the Point Blanche prison, which also include Ms. Lalie Center for youth detention and the Phillipsburg & Simpson Bay holding areas, based on our improvement plan. These repairs have amounted to almost 1.7 million US Dollars thus far, which in addition to this substantial amount Sint Maarten has to pay daily fees for the inmates who are being housed in the Netherlands. We have already been invoiced 385,203 Euros for the period November and December 2018 (@ 249 Euros per inmate daily) and another 188,945 Euros for the month of January 2019 (@265 Euros per inmate daily). It must be highlighted, that Curacao has not charged St. Maarten - its fellow Kingdom partner; that is a testament in of itself. This reality amplified by the CFT’s imposed limitations to Sint Maarten’s 2019 Budget, further restricts the much-needed improvements for the entire Justice Chain, including that of the prison. 

“Therefore, I strongly believe and oppose the manner in which the two MPs van Raak and Bosman have chosen to selectively and negatively emphasize statements made. This only attempts to mislead but more importantly adds nothing to the ongoing efforts to improve the entire justice chain on Sint Maarten. It is factual that the Kingdom (Netherlands) has to take its responsibility in the improvements, in order to adhere to European and International standards regarding Human Rights.  Sint Maarten is still a part of the “Kingdom” hence, the Netherlands responsibility is to effectively cooperate with and support its partner Sint Maarten in realizing and guaranteeing human rights. 

“It is my sincere hope that the communication and cooperation to achieve the improvements for Sint Maarten will no longer be handled in useless tabloid articles but in a responsible and productive manner. Sint Maarten as a partner in the Kingdom will continue to address its responsibilities and ensure progress with the support of the responsible colleague ministers in the Netherlands.”

[1]United Nations Committee against Torture, Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the Netherlands,CAT/C/NLD/CO/7 (7 December 2018), p. 4.

[2]https://koninkrijksrelaties.nu/2018/12/11/experts-nederland-verplicht-curacao-en-aruba-te-helpen-met-opvang-venezolanen/

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PostNL to take over main competitor Sandd, recreating national post network

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – PostNL, the former Dutch state postal monopoly, is taking over its main competitor Sandd for €130m, the two companies announced on Monday. 

The government last year said it would allow postal delivery firms to merge to cope with declining volumes of mail. PostNL currently controls some 70% of the Dutch postal market and Sandd virtually all the rest – primarily business deliveries.

The takeover must first be approved by the Dutch competition authority ACM. This deal will ‘secure the foundation for a sustainable postal service in the Netherlands,’ PostNL chief executive Herna Verhagen said in a statement. 

‘Combining the two national postal networks is of vital importance for the postal market in the Netherlands to remain reliable, affordable, innovative and accessible for everyone.’ 

‘Opting for one strong national postal network is the best long-term solution for the consumer, the business sector and for employees,’ Sandd managing director Ronald van der Laan said. 

‘It is the only solution if we are to guarantee the continuity of the postal service in the Netherlands.’ PostNL will also ‘offer to employ Sandd delivery workers’, many of whom are officially freelancers. 

PostNL has a workforce of 38,000, of whom 18,000 are delivery workers. Sandd has 19,000 workers, of whom 16,000 deliver mail. 

Shrinking market 

Sandd delivered 720 million items of post last year, PostNL 1.7 billion but the market is shrinking by around 10% a year. Last June the government cleared the way for a merger when junior economic affairs minister Mona Keizer said the shrinking postal market presents major social and economic challenges. 

While competition is important, it should no longer be a goal in itself, Keizer said. The current situation has led to ‘two or three postal delivery workers walking through the same street, each with increasingly empty bags,’ the minister said.  (DutchNews)

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Two-day training candidate members of political parties Bonaire

BONAIRE - In the run-up to the elections of the 20thof March 2019, a two-day training was held for candidate members of political parties on Bonaire. The Public Entity of Bonaire organized this in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Wethoudersvereniging and the University of Aruba.

During the two-day training, which took place at Plaza Beach Resort Bonaire, several experienced trainers discussed in detail what an Island Council member or governor on Bonaire needs to know in their specific role, in order to be able to do the work as well as possible. 

Topics discussed include good island governance, leadership and effective communication. Focus was not only on the theory. A connection was also made with daily practice. In addition, the participants also increased their knowledge about the functioning of the Island Council and the Executive Council in general.

Governor Edison Rijna was also present and was very pleased with the two-day training sessions and the fact that the participants teamed up very collegially despite their ideological and political differences. 

This gives hope for a positive impulse to local democracy. Furthermore, the program makes it possible for the new Island Council and the Executive Council to make a successful start immediately after the March 20 elections. To conclude, the participants received a participation certificate. Almost all political parties have participated in the two-day training.

The Public Entity, together with the aforementioned partners, will continue to provide training and courses on a regular basis during the new term. As a result, the council members and island representatives are structurally provided with information and tools to carry out their statutory tasks at level. The democratic process is thus increasingly being strengthened. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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Cft: “Decisiveness is needed to realize intentions”

BONAIRE -The Board of financial supervision of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Cft) has called on both the Executive Council and the Island Council to show more decisiveness in the realization of policy intentions and financial management actions. The Cft observes that too many financial resources have remained unused in recent years, while necessary improvements are still lacking in various policy areas. When the financial management is put in order, a timely and reliable budget and accountability cycle can be attained.

Preliminary figures show that Bonaire has realized a surplus of approximately USD 12 million over the year 2018. The revenues were approximately USD 3 million higher and the expenditures approximately USD 9 million lower compared to the 2018 budget. In almost all policy areas the available resources have not been fully utilized. The Cft has advised the Executive Council to ensure that the 2018 financial statements are finalized in time, so that a proposal can still be made to the Island Council to spend the money that has remained unused. Discussions were held with the Executive Council about the possibilities to achieve a situation whereby the policy intentions that are incorporated in the budget will be fully implemented in 2019.

In November 2018 a government agreement (bestuursakkoord) was concluded between the State of the Netherlands and Bonaire. The Cft will monitor the execution of the agreements to improve financial management and has received an explanation from the Executive Council on the current state of affairs. The Cft has agreed that the present financial management improvement plan will be finalized in February 2019. This is important since it has been agreed with Bonaire that the 2021 financial statements will receive an unqualified auditor's report.

The government enterprises have also been discussed. These companies carry out government tasks and their proper functioning is therefore of great importance for the citizens. The Cft has called for the improvement of the governance and to comply with the agreements in the government agreement. Specifically, the full staffing of the supervisory boards was discussed and the timely drafting and submittal of the annual accounts. Also, in this area decisiveness is essential in the short term.

During the visit of the Board on Tuesday, February 19th, meetings were held with the Lieutenant Governor, the Executive Council and the Island Council.

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10 percent more flights to and from the Caribbean Netherlands

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS - In 2018, there were nearly 23 thousand aircraft movements to and from the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands, a 10 percent increase on the previous year. The number of passengers on these flights rose by nearly 11 percent. All three airports in the Caribbean Netherlands recorded growth figures. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures. 

At Flamingo Airport on Bonaire, the number of aircraft movements went up by over 9 percent last year. The number of travellers grew year-on-year in each consecutive month of 2018. Total passenger arrivals and departures grew by more than 11 percent to over 359 thousand travellers. With 33.7 thousand travellers, December was the busiest month. The busiest day was Saturday 22 December: 2.2 thousand passengers. September was least busy with 25.2 thousand passengers. 

Curaçao is the most popular (direct) origin and destination for passengers at Flamingo Airport, although this does not mean that Curaçao is their actual place of origin or destination.

12 percent more aircraft movements on Saba

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport on Saba is the smallest airport of the Caribbean Netherlands. The total number of flights here rose by nearly 12 percent. This growth took place despite the temporary closure due to major maintenance work done between 10 September and 9 October. The airport was also closed down in 2017 after Hurricane Irma for a period of one and a half weeks and the regular timetable was disrupted for some time. 

Saba’s airport welcomed over 28 thousand passengers in 2018, of whom most were on their way to or from St Maarten. The runway for landing at the airport is just 400 metres long and only small aircraft which carry a maximum of 19 passengers may land or take off there. 

More aircraft movements and passengers for St Eustatius

F.D. Roosevelt Airport on St Eustatius saw over 6.8 thousand aircraft arrival and departures in 2018. This is 10.5 percent more than in 2017. The number of passengers handled by this airport stood at 42 thousand, an increase of 11.5 percent. St Eustatius as well was badly affected by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Due to their location further north, Saba and St Eustatius are more prone to hurricane damage than Bonaire. 

Sources

StatLine - Caribbean Netherlands; Aviation, monthly airport data

https://statline.cbs.nl/Statweb/publication/?VW=T&DM=SLEN&PA=82332ENG&HDR=T&STB=G1,G2#/CBS/nl/dataset/82332NED/table?dl=192D0

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Injured Dutch SS members are still getting benefits from Germany: report

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – At least 34 Dutch nationals, some of whom were members of the SS during World War II, are still getting benefits from the German authorities, according to research by current affairs show EenVandaag. 

The amounts vary from a few hundred to €1,300 a month and the beneficiaries do not pay tax over the money in the Netherlands, EenVandaag said. The German agency responsible for making the payments would not give any further details, only saying that the beneficiaries were injured during WWII. 

But EenVandaag’s research shows that some of them were injured while serving with the Waffen SS. In 14 cases, the benefits are payed to widows and in 10 cases the recipients are dual Dutch and German nationals. 

Historian Cees Kleijn, who has been following former SS members and has spoken to around 150, told broadcaster NOS it could not be ruled out that some of the beneficiaries are war criminals. 

Although Germany says it does not make payments to war criminals, this cannot be checked because the agency will not name names, Kleijn said. Dutch Jewish organisation CIDI said it is scandalous that former SS members are receiving cash from Germany. 

‘They worked with the Nazis during WWII and are still benefiting,’ spokeswoman Naomi Mestrum said. According to the Dutch institute for war documentation NIOD, some 25,000 Dutchmen volunteered to join the ranks of the German Waffen SS. 

This number was not only relatively but also absolutely, the largest contingent of non-German volunteers from all of the Nazi occupied territories. (DutchNews)

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