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We Are Disregarding Our Environment at Our Own Peril

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - It is four in the morning and we have just crossed the Anegada Passage on a forty-foot sailing boat. I’ve just spent three days racing in the BVI Spring Regatta and we are delivering the boat back to Sint Maarten. It was an excellent few days, with sailors supporting the British Virgin Islands in their first regatta since the disastrous 2017 Hurricane Season, just as they did in Sint Maarten a few weeks earlier for the Heineken Regatta.

It is a beautiful evening; we left in the late afternoon for the thirteen-hour haul across the Drake and then the Windward Passages. The sea is calm and the wind favorable as we sail past Necker Island, the once luxurious home of Billionaire Philanthropist Sir Richard Branson, now a shell of splintered wood completely gutted by Irma and Maria. The sun set in the fiery glow of optimism that this time of day brings, and the rising of the stars guide our way home across the Northeastern Caribbean. Before the moonrise we can see the bioluminescent organisms organize their own stellar constellation in our wake. And then, finally, the unblinking eye of the moon watching over us as we make our way overnight to Simpson Bay.

After about eleven hours we can just make out the lights of Anguilla ahead of us as we start to see the colors in the East softening with the rising dawn, and a breeze is picking up out of the Northeast. Suddenly, on that same breeze that has blown for centuries over our humming islands, a scent so acrid and chemical is being carried. A scent that burns our eyes and scratches our throats. After eleven hours smelling fresh air at sea we are confronted by our terrible post-hurricane reality. We have just been welcomed back by that which has been the defining aspect of Sint Maarten; the toxic, poisonous smoke of the Philipsburg Landfill.

We have barely one month to go before the start of what is predicted to be one of the busiest Hurricane Seasons in seventy years. Not good news for an island still reeling from the last season, but especially not good news in terms of an island failing in terms of resiliency, sustainable development and responding to our environmental disaster.

Make no mistake; Hurricane Irma and her aftermath are environmental disasters. The storm was fueled by the environmental effects brought on by Climate Change. The storm has impacted and affected our environment, and in turn, it has impacted our economy. Despite the total disregard for the environment on Sint Maarten the past few months, whether in terms of recognition from the highest decision makers of the land or the ‘small man on the street,’ the protection of our natural resources is the only way to recover from this event. Yet, the environment is again taking a back-seat on Sint Maarten. And this time it will be at our own peril. 

Right after the hurricane the environment was the hot topic; the Nature Foundation received calls, emails, messages and requests of information from our community and from the tourism industry to get a status update on our defining tourism product: the beautiful nature of Sint Maarten. Cruise Ship companies and tour operators depended on clean beaches good water quality for guests to return. It were the updates on the health of our environment immediately after the storm that helped form the decision for tourism to return to the island. Scuba divers and snorkelers wanted to know the status of our coral reefs, a resource that provides fifty-million dollars to our economy annually. 

But now that the dust has settled we are again struggling on the environmental front: water quality is an issue at our swimming beaches; wetlands are being filled-in and mangroves removed; sewage is being recorded everywhere; the work of environmental and conservation organizations are being largely ignored, under-financed and under-appreciated; littering and solid waste issues are on the increase; and we are being poisoned daily by the landfill.

If there is anything the past few months should have taught us is that our environment and our economy are inexorably linked, and the conservation of our natural resources coupled with the social support of our populace and the diversification of our economy are the only ways to ensure our survival. 

The only way we can overcome this challenge, this major test of our resolve and of our love for this island, is to make our environment and the conservation of our resources a priority. Splitting Environment from the rest of the VROMI Ministry is something which has been suggested by various international organizations that visited Sint Maarten in the aftermath of the Hurricane, making the observation considering the environmental challenges that we face and the lack of attention it receives.

We are small yet diverse enough, and have enough dynamic minds on this island, to focus our rebuilding energy on sustainable development. We need to focus on the looking after of the social needs of our population (so many still without roofs, without jobs), the diversification of our economy, the protection of our natural resources and the support for renewable energy. We are contained enough as a community to ban the use of single use plastics, to protect our terrestrial ecosystems and to start to have a concrete and swift resolution to our solid waste issues. We need a national campaign regarding the beautifying of our neighborhoods, taking pride in our place and in our identity. Only then can we truly be St. Maarten Strong for to be Strong is to be Resilient and Prepared.

We are tying up the boat now to the dock in Simpson Bay, looking forward to have a solid breakfast and get some hours of good sleep. Hopefully, by the time we awaken from the nightmare that Irma has left us in, Sint Maarten will be at the pinnacle of sustainability in the region. And no longer will sailors smell us before they see us.

Tadzio Bervoets

Cole Bay

COMMENTARY: The points of view expressed here are the sole responsibility of the author.

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LEADER OF SMCP SMITH REMEMBERS JOSEPH RICHARDSON

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Board of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) would like to extend sincere condolences to the wife, family and friends of the late Joseph Emmanuel Richardson, affectionately known as Joe, SMCP said in a press statement on Sunday.

“As leader of the SMCP, I have a strong connection to Mr. Richardson who was always a source of inspiration and encouragement to me, Smith said. Joe was the youngest person in the Netherlands Antilles to be appointed as Administrator, which inspired me to eventually also pursue a career in government.

“In October 1969, the well-known Ebony Magazine published an article about Joe, entitled “Saba’s Youngest Ruler” with as subtitle: “Administrator of remote volcanic island is only 24”. As a teenager I read and re-read this article many times. Several years later, even though I did not make it in the Ebony Magazine, the headline of one of the Dutch Antillean newspapers read: “Saba’s First and Youngest Lt. Governor at age 34”.

“Joe was a man who was able to stand above politics and reach out across party lines. After entering active politics, whenever I met Joe he would always have a word of encouragement for me. I remember clearly his last words to me the last time we met. We talked about politics at bit and then he looked at me, smiled and said. “If I wasn’t committed to another party I would join the Christian Party”. Sint Maarten has lost a political icon who was committed to his country, Sint Maarten.

“Therefore, on behalf of my brother and sisters, the members of the Sint Maarten Christian Party, and the people of St. Maarten, I hereby extend my sympathy to the family and friends of the late Mr. Joseph Richardson. May His Soul rest in Peace,” Member of Parliament (MP) Wycliffe Smith, Leader of SMCP said on Sunday.

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Vector Control Awareness campaign starts May 8th in Sucker Garden

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The department of Collective Prevention Services recently launched a Vector Control Awareness campaign themed: “If you clean it Up, we will pick it Up”.

The Ministry of VSA (Public Health, Social Development & Labour) would like to announce an important change in the execution of the campaign activities. In the press release of April 26th, it was stated that “the campaign would commence on May 8th in the following districts: Sucker garden; Middle region; Dutch Quarter; Belvedere; Mount Williams; Defiance and Bishop hill. Residents were asked to prepare their debris for pick-up by 7am.” 

This is no longer the case. In order to ensure effective use of resources and desired outcome, the campaign will be executed per district and will be extended for a longer period.

On May 8th, the campaign will commence solely in the district of Sucker Garden at pre-identified homes that will be assessed for clean-up assistance.

Vector control teams will conduct assessments of residents that were previously identified for risks of on-site mosquito breeding grounds. These homeowners will be provided with assistance from the project teams to have debris collected from their homes and disposed of.

A collective effort of Government and community to combat mosquito breeding grounds, one home at a time.

The assessments will commence on May 8th in the district of Sucker Garden. Identified homeowners who have given consent for the clean-up will be assisted on appointment basis.

On appointment date, the following debris are to be collected: Trash/Hurricane debris, Tires, Washing machines, Refrigerators, Discarded buckets and other containers, unmaintained fountains and/or birdbaths.

Construction materials will NOT be collected and individuals are responsible to dispose of these at the landfill.

For more information about this campaign and preventative measures related to mosquitoes, call CPS at 542-2078, 542-3003 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Government Acknowledges National Administrative Professionals’ Day

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Wednesday April 25, 2018, the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers on behalf of the Council of Ministers hosted an interactive information session and expo for civil servants that fall within the job function of administrative support staff in honor of National Administrative Professionals’ day.

Welcoming words were expressed by the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports, Ms. Jorien Wuite who highlighted the importance of professional/human capital development through focusing on collective skills, knowledge, or other intangible assets of staff.

“Today, the Government of Sint Maarten recognizes you, your value to the organization, your hard work and the contributions that you make to enhance the development of a professional governmental organization that has as its purpose to serves our country and its residents as clients to our organization, being it students, businesses, organizations or residents in need for services such as drivers licenses, passports just to name a few of our core activities.

“We are conscious of your hard work and we therefor take this moment with this event to express our gratitude and say THANK YOU, for every effort, contribution, and task and result you accomplished, each day, each week at a time. For those of you that therefor initiated opportunities for further learning to perfect your skills, knowledge or learn a new area or innovative subject I say THANK YOU once more for, ” said Minister Wuite.

Ms. Clara Reyes, Head of the Culture Department, also gave a presentation that incorporated key skills, such as EFT tapping points that can be utilized as a tool to deal with post-Irma stress as professionals in the workplace.

Civil servants from several ministries attended the event, some of which were not familiar with each other, which created a perfect opportunity for the last presenter Ms. Ife Badejo, the founder of Experience PWR, to engage with them, in her networking segment.

Throughout the event, attendees were able to win several prizes that were sponsored by Telcell, the Princess Juliana Airport and the Tourism office.

Also a part of the event were several booth holders for the information expo which included the Soualiga Toastmasters Club, EH Image Consulting, Experience PWR and the University of St. Martin.

The Council of Ministers thanks all sponsors, persons that attended and all individuals and businesses that took the time out to be a part of the event.

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Government recognizes Memorial Day Acknowledging a day of Peace on May 4

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Friday, May 4, 2018 the Government of Sint Maarten recognizes Memorial Day, (“Dodenherdenkingsdag”).

This day is recognized throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands in remembrance of military and civilians who died during World War II and military personnel who died during military operations among which peacekeeping missions, since World War II.

During that day the Military, Police, VKS and the Youth Brigade will participate in a silent march procession from Clem Labega Square towards the Captain Hodge Wharf.

A short ceremony will take place in front of the repositioned plaques that commemorate the local names that have fought for our freedom within the Kingdom.

Two minutes before the official program begins the bells will toll by the surrounding churches in the Philipsburg area, which will end at 5:00 p.m.

There will be an official wreath laying ceremony by the (Acting) Governor, Prime Minister and President of Parliament.

The program includes a prayer by Father Rawlins which will lead to the two minutes of silence, followed by a tribute poem by Ms. Maugada Jackson. The general public is invited to come to this event to pay tribute on a day the nation of Sint Maarten shows appreciation of our Freedom. 

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Nature Foundation Stocks Coral Nursery as Part of ‘Fragments of Recovery”

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has started to populate its first coral nursery structures as part of its ‘Fragments of Recovery, Coral Reef Restoration Program.

The project was recently launched after most of the previous coral nurseries were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. 

“The first Staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) have been transplanted to the coral nursery station on the dive site ‘Moonscape, close to Simpson Bay.  

“The two nursery ladders from the Nature Foundation are now populated with coral fragments in order to raise new coral colonies to repopulate the damaged coral reefs,” commented Nature Foundation Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.  

“Now that we are in a phase where we further along in our recovery we have started to relaunch our coral restoration program. We received tremendous help from the community after the Hurricane as well as from the Coral Restoration Foundation, the US National and Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Coral Reef Restoration Consortium to get our project going again.

“Slowly we will be adding coral in our nursery which we will eventually outplant on our reefs that were severely impacted by the Hurricanes. We estimate that we lost about80% of our coral combined,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Nature Foundation also received support and expert assistance from Jamaican Coral Restoration Expert Michelle McNaught during the initial stages of populating the fragments.

CRF3 INS1

CRF1 INS2

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Lee: Recovery period will be one of the most challenging times

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – On Tuesday, May 1, International Labour Day, Minister of Labour Emil Lee took part in an activity organized by the Windward Island Chamber of Labour Unions.

Minister of Labour Emil Lee made the following address: “It’s an honor to celebrate Labor Day with you today. Today we come together in unity and solidarity to recognize our local workers, our local heroes.   To those that have and continue to contribute to St Maarten, Thank you. Without your efforts, there’s no doubt that St Maarten wouldn’t have become the leader in Caribbean tourism that it is today.

“St Maarten has endured and overcome many challenging times and despite the blow from Irma, St Maarten will rise again. But, let’s be candid and honest with ourselves, this recovery period will be one of the most challenging times St Maarten has experienced.

“Our airport has been badly damaged and apparently still working to resolve its insurance claim, a story which is far too common. Anecdotally, many businesses and residents speak about unresolved or unacceptable insurance settlements. Government also struggles with its own insurance claims.

“Our tourism infrastructure has suffered a devastating blow. And as I visit different neighborhoods, without exception, there are homes and businesses that haven’t even begun to rebuild.

“While we welcome the assistance from many donors especially the much anticipated 470 Million Euros in assistance from Holland to be channeled via the World Bank, clearly finding the financial means to reconstruct much less build back better will be challenging. Fact is as our economy struggles to rebound, until insurance money flows into our economy and recovery money becomes readily available, everyone will struggle to make ends meet.

“Unless of course, you are part of the reconstruction economy.   Some have made the transition already either as employees or as entrepreneurs. As government and especially as the Ministry of VSA, we are putting as many programs as possible in place for people interested in participating in the reconstruction economy to find decent and rewarding work.

“As Minister, I have worked to ensure that the Ministry has the resources it needs to be able to function and that we have allocations in the Recovery fund for our programs. Programs designed to train and support our workers who for whatever reason can’t find work in the rebuilding of St Maarten, all in an effort to bridge the gap until we can reignite our economy.

“The Hospitality training program and PIERS Program or cash for work programs have been developed from scratch after Irma. And while they are still in beginning phases and under evaluation, they are operational. The voucher program and community assessment has begun phase 2, in the communities. And while these are good programs, we know they are temporary and basic solutions.

“Whenever there are limited resources and intense competition for those resources, tension is natural. Add to that the stress which is to be expected after Hurricane Irma. Anxiety, Anger, Fear, Avoidance, Sensitivity, Frustration. And then there is the reality that hasn’t quite sunken in…..Hurricane season is one month away.

“There can be little doubt that these will be challenging times ahead. But today is a day to celebrate and come together…And that is exactly the message that I want to bring today. It is only through Unity and Solidarity will St Maarten build back better.

“We have an opportunity to build back better, not only stronger buildings but a stronger economy, one that is resilient to climate change. One that cares for our environment.  One that ensures that no one is left behind. One that ensures that everyone can work with pride, dignity and respect.

“It would be easy …even understandable that we resort to fighting amongst ourselves… but St Maarten needs us to continue to work together as we have been doing already. Lean on each other. Complement each other. Help each other.   Talk to each other.   And if necessary defend each other.

“I want to thank the Ministry of VSA, they were there immediately after Irma and ever since despite the most difficult of circumstances and in spite of their own personal challenges, they have worked tirelessly to serve the community.  I know I don’t say thank you enough. Or good job often enough.   Thank you. Good job.

“I want to thank the Unions for being amazing social partners. We have maintained an excellent relationship over the past 2 years and I look forward to continuing that relationship.

“I want to thank the business community for keeping the faith. I know some have given up and left the island. I know how challenging these days are. And while the first and most natural reaction is to help the most vulnerable in our community, we know you are also struggling for your survival.

And most of all, I want to thank the thousands of workers that have helped to build St Maarten and on whom we are depending to help to rebuild St Maarten better than ever….

“I assure you that the Ministry and Minister are here to help. Our doors are open. Ready to dialogue and work together. We stand ready to defend the interests of workers that are treated unfairly. We stand ready to find win-win solutions to our problems.  We will stand side by side with all of our partners to fight to restart our economy and to ensure that our people ….all of our people… can prosper and live with dignity.”

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Governor’s King’s Day Speech: Recovering through Resilience and Service

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - On the occasion of King’s Day Celebrations at the Simpson Bay Resort and Marina, His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday, delivered the following speech.

Esteemed Guests, Good evening,

Marie Louise and I bid you a very warm welcome to this King’s Day celebration in honor of the birthday of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander. We do so in the spirit of this evening’s theme: Resilience and Service. That in the context of our post-hurricane Irma reality. The theme has been chosen to celebrate the resilience of the people of Sint Maarten as well as the service provided by various groups to our country as a source of inspiration for our recovery. I have therefore named my address: Recovering Through Resilience and Service.

Having lived through the strongest hurricane on record and looking for ways to recover from its impact, it suffices to say that we are living at a critical crossroad in our nation’s history. Looking back there can be no doubt that we have made great strides in responding to the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma to our island. Hurricane Irma and her aftermath have set our country back in no small way. Looking ahead it has left government, businesses, households and individuals – yes, all of us – with a most daunting and urgent challenge; What steps are we to take to secure our recovery?

The book of Jeremiah provides some guidance for action in that regard, were it states: and I quote:

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it.”[1]    Unquote.

We must according to those words, learn from our past, complete our vision and our plans for our island and get ready to execute them, which is get ready to walk the good way. In doing so, I believe that we can draw inspiration from the words of Nelson Mandela where he stated, and I quote:

With resilience, we realize that life is not a sprint but a marathon, and that we will need patience, endurance, pacing, and faith in order to weather the rough spots and keep going. So, persevere. Refuse to stay down for the count. You never know if your next attempt will be your breakthrough” unquote.

Nelson Mandela’s words are profoundly applicable to our situation. I say that, because I believe that we have the strength and responsibility to pull ourselves up and propel our nation’s recovery. That is after all what we started in the past 7 months and that is what we must and will do in the period ahead. Considering our situation we can, even though there is a long way to go, safely state that our daily life has in large part been restored. This because of the resilience demonstrated by our people and thanks to the dedicated service of many persons and organizations, some present and represented here tonight. Persons who, having suffered damage to their property themselves, came out and continue to come out under difficult circumstances to serve our community and make recovery possible.

Esteemed guests,

Imagine where we would be today without the sacrifice and commitment of so many – such as, police officers, military, nurses, doctors, firefighters, teachers, technicians, volunteers, business owners, government officials and others – who, in so many different ways, worked and continue to work to create a foundation for our recovery. Thus, as we stand at the crossroads to chart our path for recovery, let us stand still to celebrate our resilience and to express our gratitude to those who have helped brought us this far.

And as we celebrate this evening, let us with an eye on our future, remember the words of Mandela. Namely, that our continued pursuit of our recovery from the effects of Hurricane Irma, requires that we – you and I – must prepare for the marathon. And as we do so, let us draw inspiration from our resilience, which time and time again has fueled our efforts and country’s progress. It is with that knowledge and appreciation for the valued service of so many to our community that we can look to the future with hope for the full recovery and further growth of our country.

Esteemed Guests,

It is therefore with gratitude that I have chosen this King’s Birthday Celebration as a moment to stand still to celebrate the resilience of our people and to highlight all invaluable service rendered to the people of Sint Maarten.

Thus as we continue the tradition of celebrating King’s Day let us do so this evening with an emphasis on Resilience and Service and I wish you an enjoyable evening.

Thank you,

God Bless you,

God Bless the King, and

May God Bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.

[1] [Jeremiah 6:16.]

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Person(s) shoot at family Ottley home. Nobody injured

UPPER PRINCESS QUARTER - On Saturday April 28th at approximately 05.00 a.m. police patrols and detectives were directed to the home of the Ottley family located at Upper Princess Quarter where shots were reported fired.

On the scene the investigating officers found evidence that indeed indicates that shots were fired at the house and the vehicles on the premises. This evidence was collected by the Forensic Department for further investigation.

No one was injured during this incident and no suspects have been identified or arrested. The reason for this hooting is also unknown.

The Police Department is asking anyone who has information that can help solve this case to immediately get in contact with department by calling 54-22222 ext 213, 214, the Emergency Dispatch 911 or the Police anonymous Tip line #9300. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Guyana Consulate announces arrival of new passports

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – All persons of Guyanese citizenship who applied for new passports in March can uplift same at the 158B Back Street office of the St. Maarten Guyanese Association (SMGA) in Philipsburg, says Honorary Consul of Guyana, Mr. Cleveland Beresford.

Additionally, persons are being urged to use the new number and email address for the consulate when requiring assistance in all matters. The new number to use for the Consulate’s Office is 542-7314 and the email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

All persons who have not picked up their new documents since January are being asked to do so and others are reminded that applications for new passports must be submitted at least six months before the travel document expires.

The Consulate Office, which is housed in the same building as the SMGA, will be closed for the Carnival holidays until Wednesday, May 2, 2018.

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