Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (1526)

InselAir opens route between Aruba and Puerto Rico

SINT MAARTEN/ARUBA – InselAir on Thursday carried out its first direct flight between San Juan, Puerto Rico and Aruba.  Puerto Rican authorities see this as a major development with many opportunities from the Latin American tourism and business markets of Venezuela and Colombia.

For Aruba, it also opens up major tourism possibilities with respect to Puerto Ricans travelling to Oranjestad to enjoy the islands beaches and shopping.

The flight takes an hour and twenty-five minutes.  The flights operate twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays.  InselAir operates a Fokker-70 aircraft on the route carrying approximately 80 passengers.



Prime Minister Gumbs Emancipation Day Message

PHILIPSBURG – Prime Minister Hon. Marcel Gumbs delivered the following Emancipation Day Message at the Emilio Wilson Park on Wednesday, July 1 as part of the national observances for Emancipation Day.

“We come together today to celebrate freedom; freedom from the oppressive system that saw people robbed of their homeland, their family, their dignity, and in extreme cases their lives. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade is a historic event that binds St. Maarten together with all its Kingdom partners.

“The joint realization that slavery is a crime against our humanity is another historic moment that binds us together. It is that latter fact that should drive us in this modern age. That is the way for us to give life to this year’s theme: “Emancipation from within; the voice of our people!” As government, we speak on behalf of our people, and our discussions and actions should always lead to greater freedom for our people.

“On June 23, 2000, the people of St. Maarten chose to become an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Some 10 years later on October 10, 2010, that status began a new era; a new era that I think mirrors the historic effort to end slavery. One of the commonalities between the end of slavery and the new status for St. Maarten is that both were born out of calls from the people on this island to be liberated; to be free; to not have others speak for them; to be able to chart our own destiny.

“Coming to a joint consensus that slavery is abhorrent and that we should be allowed greater autonomy are also both part of a realization in the Kingdom that we can do more if we work together, instead of for each other; that we are all better off when we work in a spirit of partnership, and not through the use of subjugation.

“This is the context in which St. Maarten continues to engage especially the Kingdom government; a context in which we directly give voice to the concerns of the people of St. Maarten. Forums such as the Kingdom Conference and the Inter-parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom are now places where our people can directly speak to our issues. We once had the Government of Netherlands Antilles speaking on our behalf; today, we are able to do this for ourselves. We see with each meeting, more and more, that the voice of our people is being heard. That is something we should celebrate this Emancipation Day.

“But even as we celebrate the voice of our people being heard more clearly, we must also admit that there is much work to be done to emancipate our people here at home; right here within the borders of our sweet St. Maarten land. Every day, as my cabinet and I go about our duties, we see people locked in a state of reliance; we see people locked in a state of subsistence. It is our goal to emancipate them from that position.

“This government wants our people to be free in every aspect. That is why we remain committed to projects like the National Development Plan and to the creation of a new comprehensive Economic Plan. These two projects are important elements of our vision to make the people who live here free; to emancipate us, if you wish. We will do this by listening to the voice of the people. We will be guided by the expressed thoughts and wishes of those we are called to serve. It is government’s hope that the entire population will join us in this project of creating and maintaining emancipation for all.

“There will likely be a plethora of views expressed today about emancipation; about freedom. Some may talk about being politically free, others may speak of being financially free and some may even talk about being free of societal influences. As Prime Minister, I hope the common thread in everything shared today is that with freedom comes responsibility.

“When I look at the period after slavery, our ancestors did all they could to ensure that not only could they enjoy their freedom; they used that freedom to improve their lives. I call on each of us to do the same. I make this call because enforcing freedoms from the top down is not the correct approach. To sustain freedom we must all actively participate; we must all make the effort.”


Minister Plenipotentiary Fleming-Artsen briefs FRED participating companies and institutions about role and tasks

THE HAGUE, the Netherlands - During the Flinx Recruitment Expo Dutch Caribbean (FRED) Job Expo held earlier this month in Rotterdam, Minister Plenipotentiary Josianne Fleming-Artsen invited all Sint Maarten companies and institutions to Sint Maarten House where the minister gave a presentation about the tasks and role of the office of representation in the Netherlands.

Angelique Romou gave a presentation about the BrainGain project. 

The companies and institutions that attended the information session by the minister were: United Telecommunications Services (UTS), TelEm, SXM Airport, Social & Health Insurances (SZV), St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), White & Yellow Cross Foundation, Mental Health Foundation, and the SLS Laboratory.

The main sponsors of FRED were: KLM, Air France, TRAKX, I LOVE SXM, and the Government of Sint Maarten.

The fourth FRED Expo brought together professionals, graduates, and pre-graduates and more than 30 companies including a number from Sint Maarten.

Flinx Recruitment acts as a bridge between Dutch Caribbean professionals and local employers.


Armed robbery at Ken’s Bar leaves cashier injured

DUTCH QUARTER - On Saturday June 22nd, 2015 at approximately 8 pm, an unknown and armed man stormed into the Ken's Bar and Restaurant in Dutch Quarter and robbed the establishment of a sum of money.

The cashier was hit with a solid object and as a result was injured. He was brought to the Hospital-SMMC for medical assistance. 

According to witnesses another robber on a scooter stayed close to the entrance. He was on the look-out while the other emptied the cash register. After committing the act both suspects took off on the scooter in the direction of Belvedere.

Immediately after the robbery, the police was called via 911. The dispatchers informed a Patrol Unit and the Detective Department, and they headed to the crime scene to carry out an investigation. Witnesses were questioned by the Police. The Forensic department came to the scene to look for evidence.

The Detective Department is investigating the case. (Police Force Sint Maarten)


How to fly to Paradise

ST. BARTHS - While in the Caribbean, I sat down with Steven Kong, Managing Director of TLC-Aviation, the executive handling operation of choice on St. Maarten. We talked about St. Barths, the exclusive destination of the “Rich and Famous”. St. Barths is short for the official name ‘Territorial Collectivity of Saint-Barthélemy’.

It is part of the French Republic and therefore French-speaking and French-flavored. Celebrities and luminaries have long flocked to this high-end, luxury isle for its privacy and exclusivity. Although it has a reputation of being a chic getaway, the international crowd enjoys the combination of low-key European sophistication and Caribbean laid-back lifestyle. How do private jets get there? They don’t! St. Barths does have an airport (SBH-TFFJ), but the too-short 650 m/2,133 ft runway is furthermore listed as one of the most difficult approaches in the world and not something for the faint-hearted.

“The principal gateway to the island is through St. Maarten’s International Airport, where also the scheduled flights arrive daily from both the USA and Europe,” explains Steve Kong in his office at Princes Juliana Airport. The TLC-Aviation people are easy to recognize at various business aviation conferences; they wear a bright orange shirt which is almost a trade mark. 

“Every year we attend EBACE. Whenever we introduce ourselves, before we know it, we get the question ‘How do we get to St. Barths?’ as if they are asking for ‘How can we get to Paradise?’ Private jets of any size land here in St. Maarten. We do get a lot of assignments from major European and Russian charter operators. In many cases the passengers have a private yachts waiting to bring them to St. Barths, or cruise to the various islands. For those who don’t have a yacht, we provide a seamless transfer to a charter flight of ten minutes with a Twin Otter, Cessna Caravan or Britten-Norman Islander. Those are about as big as an airplane that can land there. But also for the yacht owners and passengers, we provide a smooth transition from airport to harbor through our subsidiary called “Seagrapes”, a yacht support and concierge service provider. So, we’re a one-stop-shop-service for Jetting and Yachting, which is something seldom heard of in FBO circles”

During the winter months, mostly Hollywood stars and producers as well as Russian oligarchs and their following of friends and business partners visit the island. They stay in boutique hotels and resorts of about 12 units and pay US$ 8,000 per night for luxury accommodations and outstanding personal services.

On the eve of New Year’s Eve, the local yacht registry of St. Barth’s harbor usually records about 130 vessels. Fifteen to twenty of them may be in the mega-yacht category of 60 m/ 200 ft or longer. Too big for the harbor, they are anchored in the azure waters of the bay in front of the rustic port Gustavia with the brick-red roofed villas dotted in the surrounding hills. Local fishing boats sit happily next to the super yachts. In the midst of this luxury flotilla at the anchorage is the ultimate show-off in the exclusive fraternity of the super-rich, the world’s largest yacht, the 164 m/ 538 ft ‘Eclipse’. The owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is a St. Barths regular and owns a 70 acre estate there.

Le Yacht Club is the place to “see and been seen” filled with moguls, luminaries, models, and general genetically-blessed types. The club, set back high at the top of the harbor, is a supper club cum nightclub, with spacious lounging areas and private tables by a sleek dance floor overlooking the mega- yachts. A great place for a bit high level chitchat like “this yacht is bigger than the other yacht” and, “this entourage is better looking than the other’s entourage.”

“The same clientele makes several trips per year to our region. Usually, the mega-yachts sail to the Caribbean long before the owners and passengers arrive by plane. So, much of the provisioning is done here,” continues Steve. “The yachts and their crews will be all set and ready to sail. But, for perfect timing and making the best impression to its owners, a captain of the yacht wants to know at exactly what time the jet is coming in. And so, he calls us. He can count on us to get the most updated airport traffic information when plane and passengers are arriving. Although St. Barths is synonymous with Caribbean elegance and chic, our airport of St. Maarten (SXM/TNCM) is the most popular and convenient option for travelling to what is reputed for being a tropical sophisticated paradise and a mixture of all that is best in the Caribbean.”

What makes landing at St. Barths airport such a thrill? Someone explained it as follows: ‘To land there, pilots, unaided by electronic landing guidance, must make a steep, slow glide, thread their way between a pair of wind-buffeted peaks, skim 150 feet down a hill while holding a 10-foot altitude, then level, touch down and brake hard.’ In other words, they have to fly through a notch between the peaks of the relatively high Mont Tourment hill.

The pilot has to work the yoke violently trying to keep level in the pretty strong winds and it creates turbulence. The small and short airstrip ends directly on the beach. All in all, it is pretty exciting. Watching the planes land from the top of the hill where four roads between the twin peaks meet in a roundabout is almost as exciting as being a passenger on the aircraft itself.

The planes come in nose down, diving directly at whatever drives or whoever walks there. It can clear it by about 10 feet before the steep descend over a hill to make the landing. St. Barths has one of those airports where a landing will make one’s hair rise and gives one the goose bumps.

by Cdr. Bud Slabbaert


How Eve Survives the Adam-less Urban Rainforest. Loretta Collins Klobah’s The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman, a book review

A BOOK REVIEW: By Faizah Tabasamu - On a pedestal, in the eye of this hurricane of multilingual poetry—“a vibrant blend of English, Spanish, and Patois”—written by Loretta Collins Klobah, womanhood sheds her skin of “concrete and steel.” Sometimes this skin is personal or societal loss, the loss of a lover or husband who left, or the loss of a young child, whose dead body was burrowed through by a motherless bullet. In the poem, “El Velorio, The Wake (1893),” it is a harkening to the Puerto Rican national painting of the same name that had prophesied the “halo of flies” above the sleeping child. Also embedded in this skin, is a fisherman, brutalized by a police officer, who wrestled him to the ground like a fish baited and bleeding from the mouth. 

The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman, an OCM Bocas Prize-winner in the poetry category, is Klobah’s white bud offering, dripping wet from the painful seasons of the soul and the perpetual injustices we are tempted to look away from, like Juanito, a singing street person with AIDS and festering foot sore in “La Madonna Urbana.” He reaches over into another poem, “By the Waters of St. Lucia”; his legacy and foot sores, “bloody legions that boil into small volcanic mountains,” are fixed in the poet’s mind.

Klobah draws our senses back, quietly beckoning with the soft rhythmic weaving of languages, lolling us to look again until the deeds are done, until we have received the harsh truths about Caribbean urbanization, the harsh truths about the histories we live daily—Maurice Bishop and all the Krik? Krak! moments and massacres that cause us to write our bitterness on paper, plant it in a melon and throw it into the sea so that we can remember without the retching sorrow. Her pieces are bit-sized and beautiful and sometimes violent: the “… rag-doll woman catapulted from her hammock into god’s lungs!” becomes the stylishly spread corpse in Klobah’s “Novena a La Reina María Lionza” second night prayer. And “Canute Caliste” recounts a brutal story of students shot and killed, a story Klobah recounts:

“From the high fortress wall, tumble five bodies, their appendages flailing like starfish legs, turning like pinwheels. Small black figures—children of the revo—fly backwards into the rocks below or the sea. Sea foam gleams like new jewels, frothy dreams uttered the hoarse voice of the sea” (29).

In her collection of twenty-nine poems, Klobah captures some of the places women seek sanctuary from the leering public eye and men who’ve left and crumpled their hearts. Her poetry reveals the rooms they find, the walls they build or the way they use their bodies or female friendships to bask in a tranquility that is impossible to maintain. It is in a painting, in the unshared conversation between “Two Women Chatting by the Sea (1856).” It is the place to slap their children, the refuge in a Chicago public bathroom, where “the growl rising like acid vomit in dry throats” can be released (58).

It is in the sustaining bonds of female friendship, in the London flat, where ill-fitted clothing is the first of many exchanges. It is in Jamaica, where her eighty-year-old landlady soothes her “man-worries” with milky soursop tea. “Matron” rules her home with a “no men” policy, a serene fortress her estranged son infiltrates when he passes a bag of tears to her through the iron gate. It is at “The First Day of Hurricane Season,” peace, simplicity, and aloneness that find their way into other poems like “Bosque San Patricio” and “Night Wash.”

Like a displayed Christ who feels like coming down and forgetting, wanting to be un-caged and wanting to rail about injustices in love letters to the next generation, the poet is alone and content in the kitchen, her mind rollicking with sensual, feel-good memories of a man whose left traces of his stance behind her. His hands once clasp her shirt about her. He isn’t there anymore, just the tree, the serpent and her, alone in the urban rainforest, walking her daughter through it, wishing they were away from it.

She is also like the tree on her block: “Heat clogging the veins of its dry, cracking heart, my flamboyant tree survives, solitary on a street named Los Flamboyanes for the once vibrant red satin-lined boulevard of torch trees and fallen blossoms” (17).

Klobah examines the solitary life through other women: Sister Carol and the nuns residing by the St. Lucian seaside, and even sixty-nine year old Yesmarie, whose dead and decimated body, half-bitten tongue and the “cocaine-packed condom” filled the poet with a longing for peace and an Adamless garden of plantain shoots and small animals when she herself is aged. For Yesmarie, she constructs a pleasant eulogy of childhood memories to tuck around the news of her cruel death in “Snort This.”

These poems hold hands, dancing around reoccurring themes, fingers interlaced tightly. For example, her daughter dreams of becoming one of the mermaids, who Canute Caliste says no longer “Lifted their heads to peep at him—bobbing like a handful of yellow sea roses on the surfs” (28). 

Despite the unnaturally wild display of the sea with its mountain-mimicking waves in “After Hurricane Lenny, Carriacou,” despite the “maracas of gunshots,” “orisha of whirlwinds” and kicking the “rosary of fallen flamed blossoms” in the air, the dispossessed, like Juanito, sees the magic of the barrio, where “…sometimes Our Lady’s hair also moves, tossing like in a Clairol commercial” (15).  

Klobah is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico. With the weight of Puerto Rico on her tilted hips, she starts her collection with a praying woman offering up her “wilted white bud” and ends it as a praying poet, speaking more to her daughter about a hope and future filled with more trees than the one El Cristo de Buen Viaje carried. She hopes for a place “above the flood plains, where after our terrible storms, only roosters cry” (85).

(Editor’s Note: Faizah Tabasamu (Rochelle Ward), is a leading St. Martin poet; high school teacher; and blogger at Her poetry appears in the anthology Where I See The Sun – Contemporary Poetry in St. Martin.)


Puerto Rico Pushing for Medical Tourism. 30,000 patients, 3,000 jobs and US$300 million economic impact

SINT MAARTEN/PUERTO RICO – Medical tourism promotion continues within the Caribbean region.  Puerto Rico, approximately 120 miles from Sint Maarten, recently organized its first tourism medical summit entitled, the CARIBE HEALTH SUMMIT. 

More than 30 healthcare companies from the United States, Latin America and Canada sent representatives to the summit.  Medical sector and local health care providers also took part.

The Puerto Rico Economic Development and Commerce Department is hoping to develop the sector by attracting 30,000 patients in a period of three-years; to also increase the number of certified providers and partnerships with insurers.

Puerto Rico hopes to generate an economic impact of about US$300 million and create 3,000 jobs.  The stakeholders who attended represent thousands of future patients who may visit Puerto Rico for medical reasons.

U.S. hospitals and clinics accredited under the Joint Commission (formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations), with direct air access to the U.S., tax incentives, and services are about half the cost of those on the U.S. mainland, and these are some of the advantages for Puerto Rico whose medical tourism facilities would have an advantage under such accreditation. 



Sint Maarten Shoppers be Aware of Hazardous Toys

SINT MAARTEN/PUERTO RICO – Puerto Rican authorities have seized Farmacias Caridad nine stores and a warehouse which sells toys from China for sale in Puerto Rico.  Sint Maarten shoppers should be aware when shopping for toys while visiting the island.

According to reports, on Friday nine stores and a warehouse owned by Farmacias Caridad were raided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), for importing hazardous toys.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission was also part of the raid.

Puerto Rican authorities have seized toys from Farmacias Caridad last August and September on five containers from shipping containers entering the U.S.

Tests carried out on the toys found a high presence of lead content.  The tests revealed excessive lead found in the toys’ paint, plastic and cloths.



Statistics Netherlands: Incoming tourism contributed 16.4 percent to Bonaire’s economy in 2012

BONAIRE (CARIBBEAN NETHERLANDS) Statistics Netherlands (CBS) announced today that incoming tourism accounted for a direct contribution to Bonaire’s gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately 16.4 percent in 2012. This is the first time that Statistics Netherlands has surveyed the contribution of tourism to the economy of Bonaire.

126 thousand tourists visited Bonaire by air in 2012

In 2012, 126 thousand tourists travelled to Bonaire by air. More than 60 percent were Dutch nationals; another 20 percent were Americans. Cruise ships also regularly called at Bonaire and tourists sailed to the island on their own boat.

Direct tourist spending amounts to 160 million dollars

Bonaire’s GDP totalled 372 million dollars in 2012. Direct tourist spending was estimated at about 160 million dollars. If the costs of the tourism sector are taken into account, the value added of direct foreign tourist spending was approximately 60 million dollars, i.e. 16.4 percent of Bonaire’s GDP.  Other sectors like are ‘real estate’, ‘the government sector, education and care’ also play an important part in the island’s economy.

Hotels and restaurants most important sector for tourism

Foreign tourists spend their money mainly on overnight stays, food and drinks. Hotels, holiday parks, restaurants and bars benefit most from the inflow of tourists. The sector hotels and restaurants generates nearly half of total value added of the tourism sector. Recreational activities also play an important part in the tourism sector on Bonaire, in particular scuba diving, snorkelling and water sports like wind and kite surfing.

Incoming tourism more important for Bonaire than for the Netherlands

The direct contribution of incoming tourism to the Dutch economy is much smaller (less than 1 percent) than the contribution to Bonaire’s economy. Compared to the Dutch economy, Bonaire’s economy leans heavily on incoming tourism. The contribution of incoming tourism to Bonaire’s economy (16.4 percent) is about the same as on similar Caribbean islands.

Scope of the survey

The contribution of tourism to the economy on Bonaire has only taken into account so-called direct activities. Indirect effects, like the effects on suppliers and the so-called ‘induced effects’, e.g. wages earned in the tourism sector, which are spent in the rest of the island’s economy are beyond the scope of this survey. Investment-related activities like, for example, the construction of holiday cottages and hotels are also beyond the scope of this survey. (State Service Caribbean Netherlands)


‘Een toerismerekening voor Bonaire (2012): een haalbaarheidsstudie’:


Ministry of Public Health Monitoring WHO Mission related to MERS-CoV Outbreak in South Korea

GREAT BAY (DCOMM) – The World Health Organization (WHO) is carrying out a joint mission with the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Health & Welfare in South Korea, in light of a recent outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

WHO remains vigilant and is monitoring the situation.  Sint Maarten’s Ministry of Public Health, Social Development, and Labour, is also monitoring the situation closely and looks forward to the findings of the WHO mission.

MERS-CoV is a relatively new disease and information gaps are considerable. The joint mission will bring us a step closer to gaining a better understanding of the nature of this virus.

The team will comprise of experts in epidemiology, virology, clinical management, infection prevention and control, as well as public health officers who have previously handled other MERS-CoV outbreaks in the Middle East.

The pressing objective of this joint mission is to gain information and review the situation in the Republic of Korea including the epidemiological pattern, the characteristic of the virus and clinical features. The team will also assess the public health response efforts and provide recommendations for response measures going forward.


Since the outbreak, WHO has been working closely with the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on response measures. WHO appreciates the Government's cooperation in sharing up-to-date information and facilitating the joint mission.


Based on current data and WHO’s risk assessment, there is no evidence to suggest sustained human-to-human transmission in communities and no evidence of airborne transmission.

Given the lack of evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in the community, WHO does not advise special procedures at points of entry, or travel or trade restrictions with regard to this event.

Subscribe to this RSS feed

Soualiga Radio