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Minister Doran: Full Cooperation given to Ombudsman

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Earlier this week, the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (Ministry of VROMI) was presented with the final report of the Systemic Investigation on the Solid Waste Collection Tender (SWC) (2021-2026), which concludes the investigation by the Ombudsman. The Systemic Investigation was embarked when two bidders that participated in the SWC tender filed official complaints at the office of the Ombudsman concerning the outcome said tender.

Prior to commencing the investigation, the Ombudsman requested the Ministry to respond to the complaints filed which the Ministry complied with, and the Ombudsman subsequently decided to start a systemic investigation into the SWC tender process. It is important to note that it is the prerogative of the Ombudsman, based on the National Ordinance of the Ombudsman to start to start a systemic investigation into the work of Government, regardless as to whether a complaint is filed or not.

During the process of the Systemic Investigation, the Ministry provided the feedback as requested by the Ombudsman along with additional information beyond what was requested by the Ombudsman to ensure a complete and thorough investigation. For several months during the investigation, a multitude of documents and correspondences was shared between the Ministry and the office Ombudsman. During this period, the Ombudsman and staff members were extended an invitation by the Ministry to in order to discuss and provide clarity into the many documentations in multiple boxes that were submitted by the Ministry. Although the mentioned invitation by the Ministry was declined by the Ombudsman, the Ministry thereafter suggested providing in-person feedback on the documents, but this offer was also declined by the Ombudsman. “It is therefore unfortunate to now read that the Ombudsman finds that the Minister refused to provide certain information, while many attempts were made at doing just that” Minister Doran eluded.

The Ministry is of the opinion that it has provided the requested documentation as well as additional documentation to the Ombudsman and that it has therefore complied with the investigation of the Ombudsman.

During said Systemic Investigation, the Department of Infrastructure, Cabinet, the act. Secretary-General and the Minister of VROMI were invited to meetings at the Ombudsman’s office. These meetings took place in the format of an interrogation and were attended by all invited whereby answers to the questions posed by the Ombudsman and colleagues were provided.

At these meetings, the Ombudsman recorded the hearings but refused to allow the persons invited to hearings to also record the hearings. Requests for copies of the recordings after the conclusion of the hearings were also not honored; even after all persons were heard. The Ombudsman was made aware that her stance on the recording of persons and specifically not allowing them to also record in return, is in violation of the rules set forth by other Ombudsman colleagues and offices (see www.nationaleombudsman.nl and the report (rapport 2014/166) published by the National Ombudsman in 2014 (in the Netherlands).

It is also noteworthy that the report of the Ombudsman includes a section on post-awarding of the SWC contracts. The Ministry does not align itself with this section as it falls completely out of the scope of the investigation as indicated by the Ombudsman. When an entity which has been awarded a parcel in the SWC does not live up to their expectations based on the contract in place, then the Ministry should act according to in clauses in the contract for enforcement. Enforcement of a contract is a right afforded to a party in a contract; it does not indicate an issue with the awarding of said contract.

The duration of contracts is known when they are entered into by parties. The Ministry works to avoid allowing the terms of contracts to lapse, thereby allowing those who were awarded contracts under a previous tender, to continue working under expired contracts. This puts undue pressure on the budget, and it also provides those with existing contracts an added benefit of collecting funds beyond the duration of their contract. It also goes against article 47 of the ‘Comptabiliteitslandsverordening’.

It was for this reason that the Department of Infrastructure was reminded that time was of the essence with preparing the necessary tasks related to executing the tendering process.

When the then department head requested the Minister of VROMI for additional manpower, the Minister responded by providing the requested help. It is no secret that the Ministry of VROMI (among others) is short-staffed. The Ministry has been working diligently, within the confines of what is possible to fill vacancies to improve services rendered. As many may know, recently a job mixer was held to recruit potential candidates which was well attended and have provided some solid candidates for said vacancies.

Prior to the awarding of contracts for the SWC tender, the process went through the Department of Infrastructure Section of Contracts, the Dept. Head of Infrastructure Management, the financial controller, the act. Secretary-General, Cabinet, Councils of Ministers and was checked and verified by the Governor and his cabinet. For this reason, the Ministry of VROMI respectfully does not share the position of the Ombudsman that the tender was neither fair nor transparent. The Ministry was requested to provide feedback to the preliminary findings of the report and complied also indicating that the report of the Ombudsman was found to be incomplete in details and therefore affecting the conclusions and outcome of said report. The Ombudsman has included the letter sent by the Ministry as a response to the report in question, but the Ministry has noted that the Ombudsman did not provide any feedback on said response in her final report.

“Despite not agreeing on the final report of the Ombudsman, it is abundantly clear that the Ministry and Ombudsman share (among others) one main and similar goal, to promote good governance. A tender procedural document was prepared in December 2021, which is used within the Ministry and applied to each tender. It is good to see that the Ombudsman shares this initiative of the Ministry in her recommendations. The Ministry will discuss this report internally and provide feedback to the Ombudsman on her suggestions made in her report.”

The Ministry of VROMI will continue to work endlessly on improving in all areas as well as continue to uphold the good governance which is being pursued by the Government of Sint Maarten. In closing the Ministry of VROMI looks forward to great cooperation between the two entities.

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PFP: Ombudsman’s report is the final straw in a long list of poor governance

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Following Monday’s publication of the Ombudsman’s report on the tendering and awarding process of the garbage collection contracts 2021-2026, outraged Party for Progress (PFP) Members of Parliament (MPs) Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson have called on Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert J. Doran to immediately resign because of his demonstrated history of irresponsible governance and questionable decisions.

The Ombudsman’s final report is the conclusion of the systematic investigation into alleged wrongdoings in the tendering and awarding process of five-year public contracts to collect solid waste in Sint Maarten’s various districts. The investigation - which started in 2021 after several contractors filed complaints at the Ombudsman’s Office - has found that the process was unfair and not (sufficiently) transparent.

The PFP MPs submitted a request for an urgent public meeting of Parliament to discuss the Ombudsman’s report on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. MPs Christopher Emmanuel and Sarah Wescot-Williams co-signed the meeting request, which states that the MPs are willing to interrupt their recess if necessary to facilitate this critical meeting, as this is the last meeting week before Parliament goes on break.

“This is the latest in a long-list of the Minister’s governance failures, and the report gives a clear indication that this tendering process was designed to advantage certain contractors at the expense of others,” said MP Gumbs on Monday evening. “There is proof that there was arbitrary decision-making, along with information in the terms of reference being changed and not being clearly communicated to all bidders, only some bidders receiving points for pricing criteria and not others, the emails between the Minister and the acting Head of Infrastructure Management, and, the most glaring fact of all, that the Minister outright obstructed the investigation by deliberately withholding vital pieces of information, such as signed evaluation sheets.”

MP Peterson also had a grim conclusion after reading the Ombudsman’s report. “From the findings, it is obvious that the Minister already had some contractors in mind when starting this process. How else can you explain why he was so heavily involved? Or that the rules seemed to benefit some more than others? Or that some rules were changed at the last minute? Or that Cabinet members were also involved in the process when they shouldn’t be? Or that the Minister tried to shut down the Ombudsman afterwards by saying the investigation was ‘out of scope’ of her legal authority?” questioned MP Peterson.

As a former civil servant in the Ministry of VROMI, the latest fiasco in public accountability is particularly disappointing to MP Peterson, who has previously questioned government’s tender procurement policy on the floor of Parliament, as well as other financial management measures.

“I asked the Minister of Finance about additional policies on the government’s financial administration, and warned that they need to be strengthened,” Peterson said. “At the time, the Minister of Finance told Parliament that we don’t need more laws to better control the government's use of funds; that our existing laws are insufficient. Having worked in the Ministry of VROMI, I know that the current checks and balances do not protect the public’s money from being misused by Ministers that are eager and determined to go against good governance practices. I know that the current Council of Ministers is aware of this fact as well. The only question left is, why are they okay with letting it happen.”

Regarding the government’s recently-published tender policy, the Ombudsman’s report called it a “modest start.” However, she still found that it “does not fulfill the obligation of the government pursuant to article 47, paragraph 6 of the National accountability ordinance.” This is the exact same portion of the law that MP Peterson questioned the Minister of Finance about in last year’s Public meeting on the country's budget, which he also reiterated last week in the TEATT committee meeting where the topic of putting the Carnival on bid was discussed.

“A modest start is simply not good enough. This is especially true when we are talking about the tax money that the government has taken from hard-working citizens and spent on dubious contracts. The result of this seemingly-rigged tender process is that the people suffer, as the contractors cannot live up to the obligation to collect waste on behalf of the government. The people need more than modesty, they need capable, effective, honest, and fair governance from leaders who are known and respected for their integrity. This is a bar that the current government, and especially the Minister, has fallen terribly short of,” said MP Gumbs.

Over the past two years, MP Peterson says he has seen an alarming pattern emerge from the behavior and conduct of the Minister of VROMI.

“I’m beginning to run out of fingers to count all of the Minister’s mis-steps and sometimes outright violations of the law. It includes giving away large parcels of land to two close relatives, allowing several buildings to be constructed on the island’s hillsides in contravention of the hillside policy, destroying the mangroves at the stop lights in town in violation of the nature ordinance, trying to hand out long-lease land to relatives, acquaintances and party-supporters in Vineyard Heights, questioning the Ombudsman’s objectiveness and aggressively trying to undermine her authority when she began an investigation into Vineyard Heights, suspiciously trying to place family members and friends on the board of a government-owned company under his portfolio as Minister of VROMI, blatantly lying to MPs about NV GEBE’s ICT audits, to now this biased tender process in which a close relative of his colleague Minister was awarded a contract,” added MP Peterson. “In the last two years, I have seen a Minister committed to setting up his own people, instead of the entire community. I have seen a Minister that is okay with breaking the rules to fulfill his agenda, and who stoops to public intimidation when anyone stands in his way. Not to mention the intimidating and threatening manner in which he addresses the civil servants working under him in the Ministry, who are in constant fear of a warning letter if they do not act according to the Minister’s wishes.”

Important to note in the Ombudsman’s report is the allegations against the acting Secretary General of the Ministry, who is also believed to have held back relevant information requested by the Ombudsman to conduct the investigation. This became clear in the feedback on the synopsis of the hearing with the evaluation committee, in which it was made clear that the committee members were only allowed to communicate with the Ombudsman through the acting Secretary General. The result of this was that certain committee members did not respond officially, and that some of their responses were not sent to the Ombudsman by the acting Secretary General. In addition to that, only the cabinet members of the Minister who sat on the committee were informed of the hearings to be conducted by the Ombudsman, information that was sent to only the Minister and his acting Secretary General. This brings the position of the acting Secretary General into question.

“Several weeks ago, I asked the Minister of VROMI several questions on the current position of Secretary General. And this was exactly why. I asked if the gentleman received a landsbesluit to act as Secretary General, as this is regulated by article 25 of the LMA. I already know the answer; it’s no. And this brings every decision since the individual’s appointment as acting SG, including this whole tender process and how it went, seriously into question,” Peterson said. “Was it even legal? And what is the result of this report for the victims, the Ministry, and Country Sint Maarten? Because the country will have to pay the damages caused not only by the Minister and his arrogance, but also by his cabinet members and certain civil servants in management positions, who seemingly are all part of the same circle of corruption.”

In October 2021, VROMI Minister Doran was issued a motion of disapproval on the floor of Parliament, with ten (10) MPs voting in favor and two (2) against. The motion, which was initiated by PFP, stemmed from Minister Doran’s handling of the Vineyard Heights long-lease land controversy. A motion of disapproval is one step below a motion of no confidence, which would require the Minister to vacate office.

“We have warned the Minister about his irresponsible and questionable conduct, and I am tired of the constant scandal that seems to follow every official decision that he makes,” said MP Gumbs. “In light of this serious breach of public trust and confidence, and the several others that have preceded it, I urge the Minister to do the honorable act and resign from his position immediately or be prepared to answer to Parliament.”

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World Ocean Day: Nature Foundation SXM and CC1 Lead Successful Beach Clean Up

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - On June 10th , Nature Foundation St. Maarten partnered with CC1 St. Maarten and Corona Beer to conduct a successful clean-up at Mullet Bay in honor of World Ocean Day. Nearly 100 people came out to support this worthy cause and collected over 1955.6lbs (887kgs) of litter!

Various groups collected over 100lbs of litter per group, with the winning group of 4 people collecting 427.1lbs (193.7kg). The Nature Foundation would like to thank the prize sponsors which included CC1, The Scuba Shop and Ocean Explorers. This beach clean-up is one of the many activities listed under the In-No-Plastic Project that aims to prevent, remove, and repurpose marine plastic litter. 

The Nature Foundation conducted this event in partnership with CC1 in line with the In-No-Plastic Project. A consortium of 17 partners and 10 different countries in Europe and the Caribbean make up the project.

The Nature Foundation will work alongside the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), a partner participating in the In-No-Plastic project in the development and execution of this project. In-No-Plastic started October 2020 and is a three-year project funded with a 7.4 million Euro grant from the EU H2020 research project, funded under the call “Pilot action from the removal of Marine plastics and litter”, Topic ID: CE-FNR-09-2020 (Grant Agreement 10100612). 

Due to the tremendous efforts on behalf of CC1, this event was very successful and greatly benefited the community and environment of St. Maarten. CC1 is one of the biggest distribution companies in beverages, water, liquors, beers, and wine on St. Maarten. CC1 organized the clean-up in partnership with Corona Beer, and donated free beer, water, and pizza to all participants, and three cases of beer as a prize. 

Alice Manley, In-No-Plastic Project Coordinator states “This clean-up was a huge success! We were amazed with the support from our community, seeing many new and known faces, and their efforts in collecting as much trash as possible.

“Many individuals at the clean-up expressed their concerns with how much trash they found, and that they would like to do more for our island. Most of the clean-up participants were under the age of 18, and many had stated that they received presentations from the Nature Foundation at their schools or that they had attended a free Nature Foundation educational event in the past. We are grateful that our education efforts are showing a positive impact in St. Maarten’s youth!” 

During clean-ups, the Nature Foundation provides reusable garbage bags, and gloves to all participants to minimize the usage of single-use plastic. The Nature Foundation has many informational flyers and posters that are brought to all clean-ups so that participants can walk away with more information about the unique ecosystem of the island and what we can do to protect it.

Foundation staff has been heavily focused on the education aspect of environmental protection including free educational events and school presentations, as well as clean-ups along our coastal areas. 

“We are grateful to see the enthusiasm and determination of the participants in this event. We would like to see more St. Maarteners come out to these kinds of events because it’s important to keep our beaches beautiful, clean, and safe for everyone including our wildlife,” said Zakiya Peterson, In-No-Plastic Project Assistant. 

Schools, groups, and businesses are welcome to reach out to the Nature Foundation to request a presentation or assistance from the Nature Foundation for any educational activity. These activities could take place in a class, or at another location if requested. 

To learn more about this project, you can check out Nature Foundation’s website. You can also follow the Nature Foundation on social media to keep up to date with our work and learn when future clean-ups will occur. If you are interested in joining the Nature Foundation’s volunteer list to receive emails about volunteer opportunities, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NFCC1 Clean up

 

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Minister Ottley kickstarts collaborations with Curaçao for registry of medical professionals

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Mr. Omar Ottley has gained the commitment from the Minister of Public Health in Curaçao, Drs. Dorothy Pietersz-Janga to join forces to finalize the establishment of a local ‘BIG’ registry for medical professionals.

Both countries have identified the benefit of working together in order to expand the current pool from which medical professionals can be sourced, making it easier for the countries to hire qualified medical professionals from around the world to provide care that is not available locally.

At present, Sint Maarten can only hire foreign medical professionals with credentials from the European Union (EU) or medical professionals who are ‘BIG’ registered in the Netherlands.

During the visit, Minister Ottley and his delegation learned of the experiences and challenges with the establishment of the Curaçao BIG registry.

Representatives of the Ministry of Public Health in Curacao will be joining the committee that has been established by Sint Maarten to further these preparations.

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Islandpreneur Virtual Summit focuses on the Future of Islands on Jul 1

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - Islandpreneur Live 2022 commences on June 27 and will continue with a week of activities through to July 1. These activities include in-person masterclasses (June 27 -29) with experts covering topics such as tourism, public relations, resilience, innovation, and adaptive strategies to thrive. Masterclasses include Lela Simmonds, Business Development Manager at Port of St. Maarten Group of Companies, Haddy Folivi, a global public relations specialist based in the United Kingdom, and Elly Moesquit, Supervision Specialist of the Centrale Bank van Curaçao en SInt Maarten. In addition to the masterclasses, the 2nd Annual Islandpreneur Awards will take place at Motorworld SHowroom on June 30. This awards ceremony recognizes those who are making a significant difference and impacting islands.

Islandpreneur Live 2022 will conclude with its virtual summit that brings experts from around the world to share on the topics of innovation, finance, and entrepreneurship. This year the theme of the virtual summit is “The Future of Islands”.On July 1, the virtual summit will kick-off with a welcome address from the Minister of Finance, Hon. Mr. Ardwell Irion and will immediately transition to a panel discussion on the future of islands. Panelists include Errol Cova, Head of Expert Supervision Department and Chair of Innovation Platform at the Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten, Damien Schmidt, Project Coordinator at the Princess Juliana International Airport and an entrepreneurship advocate, and Claudine Pohl of Lemoneight Consulting and International Brand Ambassador of the Port of Sint Maarten.

This year, except for the panel discussion, all sessions are facilitated by women. Ruth Kudzi of Optimus Coaching Academy in the UK will share about the Future of Business and touch on topics such as the psychology of entrepreneurship and how to accelerate growth. Caterina Rando (USA), who is focused on serving women on a mission and has built businesses and non-profits alike, will share the influence equation, gain long term clients, and how to sell with authenticity during the Future of Sales. Shellya Rodgers- Webster is a Member of the House of Assembly and former Deputy Director of Tourism at the Anguilla Tourist Board. Mrs. Rodgers -Webster will share her unique perspective on the Future of Tourism. Telly Onu, has been at the forefront of the financial innovation ecosystem with over 20 years’ experience. Based on the island of Nevis, Telly is an internationally regarded digital finance infrastructure architect and will share what the future of finance looks like based also on the developments in blockchain technologies.

Dr. Ife Badejo (h.c.), world class connector and strategist, will host this year’s free virtual summit. Ife, as she is often called, obtained an honorary doctorate for the work she has done in entrepreneurship and innovation development focused on islands from the United Graduate College and Seminary International. Ife has also been awarded the Entrepreneurship Civility Person of the Year by the I Change Nations, the largest civility focused organization in the world. Ife is also the executive producer of Islandpreneur.

“Islandpreneur aims to scale impact on islands through quality programs and services. One of the pillars of Islandpreneur is innovation. This includes both content in the form of expert knowledge and context as in the experience (online or virtual). This year, the virtual summit will be held on Hubilo. This platform not only allows for booths, networking lounges and a reception area, much like an in-person conference but it has tools for business matching that are extraordinary.

The virtual summit is free. Our focus is to create quality experiences for our attendees, speakers, and partners and foster strategic relationship building for impact. We’re excited about this year’s Islandpreneur Live as we believe it will spawn so many opportunities for both local and international experts.”, Ife stated.

Islandpreneur Live is the signature event that brings together global leaders and experts together to provide island-based entrepreneurs and creators with strategies and tools to accelerate growth. Official partners include Ministry of Finance, Centrale Bank van Curacao en Sint Maarten, Motorworld, Port of St. Maarten Group of Companies and TelEm N.V. the official telecommunications provider.

To register for the Islandpreneur Virtual Summit, go to https://events.hubilo.com/islandpreneur/register. To learn more about Islandpreneur Live 2022, go to https://www.islandpreneur.co. Stay connected on the Facebook Page, https://fb.com/iamislandpreneur or WhatsApp +1-721-520-0033 for details.

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APAP: Progressive meeting with Minister VSA on Mental Health issues

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Sint Maarten, just like the rest of the world is currently facing a mental healthcare crisis, while already burdened with the community wide impact of the aftermath of hurricane Irma and more recently the impact of the Covid pandemic.

Recently, the Association for Psychologists and Allied Professionals Sint Maarten (APAP SXM) met with the Minister of Health, Social Welfare and Labour (VSA), the Honourable Omar Ottley and his team regarding the state of mental health needs and licensed services available on Sint Maarten. APAP was represented by their board and its members, psychologists Alexandra van Luijken, Miranda Veltman and Islaya Streefkerk, and counselor Lisa Wilson-Gittens.

Manpower planning and preventive care

APAP requested Minister Ottley to revisit the findings of the manpower planning, whereby the applied model of system of referring, the number of professionals considered and the effective use of affiliated professionals in the field and other factors are not in agreement with the proposals from APAP in the last years. Apap has several points that its members would like to be considered in the upcoming evaluation.

OZR and SZV payments

Added to the workload, the licensed mental health caregivers are forced to maintain their business operations out-of-pocket for extended periods while they await reimbursement from SZV for insured clients. APAP has been lobbying for the timely payment of insurance claims, though the situation is becoming increasingly burdensome. These delays are ultimately jeopardizing the continuity of available quality mental healthcare. Minister Ottley assured the association that this matter has his full attention and he will be working assiduously with SZV to have the payments regulated.

Adjustment tariffs and need of exemption ToT

APAP is pleased that in 2021 the milestone of adjustment of the outdated tariffs was finally reached with the final approval of Minister Ottley and looks forward to continuing to solve the other urgent and pressing matters which have been brought forward in the meeting.

Since 2016, APAP has been bringing forward to ministers and parliamentarians their opinion that an administrative error occurred with the transfers of 10-10-10 ToT laws, where the exemption for ToT for psychologists was overlooked. This resulted in the private practices being incorrectly taxed until this day. Minister Ottley extended his assistance to APAP by following up on the correction with his fellow ministers and parliamentarians.

Procedures on licensing

While agreeing with the need to guard the quality and update the ability of each mental health care provider, the current procedures of short two-year agreements are counter-productive for the established psychologists on Sint Maarten. The frequency of administration and paperwork is a challenge compounded by the uncertainty of long term arrangements for employment on the island. This discourages professionals from committing to Sint Maarten.

Working towards solutions

APAP understands that Minister Ottley is currently working on a mental health reform for Sint Maarten and has reached out to the stakeholders of each sector for their contribution. APAP has been working for many years to bring attention to the several challenges of working within the mental healthcare sector. This is a good moment to give further and structured follow up to this initial meeting. APAP looks forward to partnering with Government and other stakeholders, and continuing contributions to bring St. Maarten’s mental health care to a higher level.

APAP finds it important to stress again that Mental health must take priority for the overall development of our community. APAP commended Minister Ottley for the work he has been doing with his efforts to reach the youth for violence prevention. “In the same light, mental health must be placed at the forefront of our recovery as the limited availability of service providers leads to unattended mental health issues for adults, in the labour market. This carries over to the home, affecting our youth who in turn transfer it to the education system. Ultimately, the breakdown of the social fabric results in crime and judicial issues. Therefore, an integrative approach to preventive mental health care is vital,” Wilson-Gittens shared. Van Luijken stated, “I believe in the power of a healthy community. Let’s all work towards a well-organized and professional mental healthcare system to keep our community healthy and safe. Then everything else will follow.”

Minister Ottley was very receptive towards the information and the sharing of the several issues and confirmed the importance of mental healthcare on his agenda. Minister Ottley expressed his concerns with the mental health issues that he sees in the community and the matters that are brought before him as minister. He finds that too often the regulations are limiting the assistance that he can render. This fuels his passion to bring about change for the betterment of Sint Maarten by way of a mental health reform. The Minister VSA has requested a follow-up meeting with APAP by early July.

For the last several years, APAP has been working diligently on improving the work conditions and the quality mental health care for the psychologists and affiliated professionals in the field. Especially the licensed psychologists working in their private practices have been experiencing serious challenges. These difficulties are ultimately threatening their existence, while not willing to give up because of the importance of their work and not wanting to transfer the burden to their clients in need. Experience in the past has shown that the Government, when discussing issues in mental healthcare, has mostly focused on the Mental Health Foundation. APAP would like to stress the importance of the existing licensed private practices which are doing great work as well.

APAP SXM has been established since 2016 to promote the practice and professional development of psychology and related fields and to serve the social and professional interests of psychologists and related professions on Sint Maarten (Dutch side).

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Dept. of Culture invites the community to learn the “Ponum Dance” in prep for the Emancipation Day

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In preparation for this year’s 159th Emancipation Day celebration on July 1st, the Department of Culture is inviting all interested citizens and persons residing on Sint Maarten to learn the Ponum Dance as part of the festivities that includes the reenactment of the “Diamond 26 Run For Freedom.”

The free Ponum Dance workshop will be held at the John Larmonie Center on Monday, June 27th, 2022, at 7:00 pm in which attendees will view the Ponum Dance documentary, learn its history and experience the historical importance of this cultural dance expression.

Emancipation Day is a day to celebrate and come together as a people to reflect on the voices of our ancestors and their experiences as we stand on their shoulders. Together the people of Sint Maarten must work collectively as one nation to retain its cultural and economic momentum, by redefining the strengths of our legacy in order to pay homage to the ancestors that fought for their human rights to be a free people.

Emancipation Day 2022 with the theme “Ancestral Echos”, will mark the 159th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Abolishment of Slavery on Sint Maarten. The Minister of Education Culture Youth & Sport, Honorable drs. Rodolphe Samuel will be hosting the celebration event, which will take place on Union Road Cole Bay, June 30th starting at 10:30 pm featuring the “Diamond 26 Run For Freedom” that goes right into July 1st with a cultural manifestation at the Belle Vue Saint Jean Plantation.

Emancipation Day, was the first public holiday established by the Parliament of Sint Maarten since becoming a Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as such the Government of Sint Maarten would like the community to take a moment to reflect on our past triumphs and tribulations as a people. Many believed the road to our freedom on the Southern side of the island was easy and granted to us by the European powers. Contrary to popular belief, our ancestors fought for their freedom.

The strong and resilient Sint Maarteners of that era were a people that were aware that the former enslaved persons on the Northern part of the island were freemen as of 1848 and many of them ran away from the deplorable conditions that they were forced into.

These actions by the enslaved persons seeking their freedom culminated in the Proclamation of the Abolishment of Slavery as the European powers knew that slave labor system could not continue as it did for so many years.

Freedom for the enslaved ancestors was inevitable. There are many accounts of rebellion and resistance towards the oppressive slave system such as the Diamond 26 Run for Freedom and the expressions of the Ponum Dance and Song.

MECYS Emancipation Day Invitation June 30 2022

 

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Minister of Justice and KPSM congratulate Keenan Benjamin

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson, Chief of Police Carl John and officers of the Police Force of St. Maarten (KPSM) attended the Methodist Agogic Center (MAC) Primary School graduation ceremony held today, Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in support of Keenan Benjamin, son of the late Police Officer Gamaly Benjamin.

Minister Richardson stated, “Officer Benjamin’s untimely departure six years ago, rocked the entire nation of St. Maarten and to this day his memory lives on in KPSM and in our hearts. It gives me great joy to see Keenan carrying on his father’s legacy on admirable levels.

“Today he was honoured as the most outstanding student among his peers receiving an award for the Best Student of Group 8B of the Rev. John A. Gumbs Campus. Keenan also received awards for the subjects of Dutch, General Science, Moral Education, Social Studies and Music."

The graduation was aptly themed “Fearless in Times of Adversity.” Powerful words with exemplary examples as to how the students have all faced adversity and overcame them were shared. Today’s graduation ceremony commemorates the students’ fearless approach to all things and are today triumphant.

“On behalf of the Ministry of Justice, I take this time to congratulate Keenan Benjamin, the graduating Class of 2022, and their families. I wish you all much success in high school as you continue to be a great example for your schoolmates and friends,” stated Minister Richardson.

The Ministry of Justice hereby thanks the management and staff of MAC for allowing the Minister of Justice and KPSM to have that special moment with Keenan Benjamin on behalf of the Police Force of St. Maarten in memory of his dad.

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Brison is concerned as social aid recipients have challenges with bank accounts

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - "It's time for the Government to have its own bank," which, according to Leader of the United Peoples Party, MP (Ed Member of Parliament) Rolando Brison, will alleviate many challenges experienced by persons within the community when they try to open new accounts or keep the existing bank accounts.

MP Brison has expressed concern about complaints from various recipients of social aid, pension and other government aid that their bank accounts would be closed due to not having "a valid form of income".

"I've seen some of these notices coming from the bank to (prospective) clients, and I am in total disbelief. Banks are not even wishing to honour the bank accounts of social aid recipients and some pensioners because they claim that the account holder cannot sufficiently prove their source of income. This is a serious social concern in our country," explained MP Brison.

"Here we have the Minister of VSA Omar Ottley and his Ministry working tirelessly to provide social aid to our people in these difficult times, and now the banks appear not to want to honour their accounts. So let's think: If the banks are abolishing checks and don't want these people to have bank accounts, how is the Government supposed to provide this much-needed aid?" stated Brison.

Even the MP received complaints from clients undergoing treatment at institutions like Turning Point, Key to Freedom and Mental Health Foundation, who were told they would soon no longer have bank accounts. These clients are often unfit for work during their treatment and rely on social aid to survive.

The MP also believes it's time for the Government to explore an alternate solution for the banking of its citizens. "The Government or a government entity should apply for a banking license to service especially those with social needs. We can no longer allow our most vulnerable citizens to be at the mercy of the commercial banking sector. I believe the Government should immediately explore having even at least a rudimentary bank that caters to those with social needs. There should be no worries of competition since the commercial banking sector seems to have no interest in servicing these clients," stated Brison.

The MP, who drafted the consumer banking protection law and the Motion for it to be vetted by the Central Bank, is now also renewed his call for at least the "Right to a Basic Bank Account" aspect of the law to be sent to Parliament as soon as possible.

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Relief on Gas prices to go into effect on Tuesday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Ministers of Finance, Justice, and the acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT), Omar Ottley, would like to inform the public that the long-awaited relief on gas prices will go into effect on Tuesday June 21, 2022.

The relief consists of a reduction in the import duty (formally referred to as excise tax in the price build up model) from NAf 29 cents to NAf 15.5 cents per liter.

As a result of this, the previously published prices for the sale of gasoline will drop from NAf 3.294 to 3.145 per liter, resulting in a savings of roughly NAf 15 cents per liter.

Considering that the import duty (or excise tax) is not applied to diesel, the price of diesel will remain unchanged at NAf 2.562 per liter. The foregoing relief will remain in place for a maximum period of 6 months.

The Government of Sint Maarten would like to remind the public that the price of fuel products on the world market remains highly volatile and as such the population should be prepared for more frequent fluctuations in prices for the coming months.

Minister VSA Omar Ottley

Acting Minister of TEATT Hon. Omar Ottley

Minister of Justice Anna Richardson

Minister of Justice Hon. Anna Richardson

Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion

Minister of Finance Hon. Ardwell Irion

 

 

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