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US$2800+ Donated to the Diabetes Foundation St. Maarten

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – On May 6th, 2021, the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten- Mid Isle, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise, and the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset donated a total of USD $2,831 to the Diabetes Foundation St. Maarten (DFS).

The Diabetes Foundation St. Maarten is a non-profit organization established in January 1998, with the intention of creating awareness to prevent Pre- Diabetes.

Present at the presentation were some members of all the three Rotary Clubs and representatives of the Diabetes Foundation St. Maarten. This donation was made possible by the collective funds from the tickets’ sale for the previously held “Prevent & Manage Diabetes Walk-a-thon, that took place on April 24th, 2021.

The representatives from DFS expressed their gratitude for assisting the foundation financially and explained that they are in dire need of a special chair for the Diabetic Foot Pedicurist. With the funds donated by the Rotary Clubs, DFS is now able to purchase not only the chair, but other needed items as well.

DFS conducts glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure testing and checking of the feet every other week, all free of charge.

The Rotary Clubs would like to wish the Diabetes Foundation St. Maarten much success, and we hope that they can continue their good work in the community for many more years to come.

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Sint Maarten requests follow up on loan agreement for liquidity support

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs questions follow-through from the Netherlands on liquidity support and requests Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte's intervention to address unnecessary delays and have the loan agreement for the liquidity support sent to St. Maarten without any further delays.

St. Maarten has largely complied with all the conditions placed by the government of the Netherlands, and thus, the current delay is inexplicable.

In March 2021, the first delay of the fifth tranche of liquidity support was due to the questions of the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR) surrounding the support for this trajectory from the Parliament of St. Maarten. Clarification of meaning of the petition that was submitted to the United Nations (UN) was requested. This matter was ultimately resolved after State Secretary Knops approved the letter from the Chairman of Parliament, providing clarity on the petition; the request for liquidity support for St. Maarten was once again placed on the agenda of the RMR meeting for April 23, 2021.

During this meeting, the RMR decided that St. Maarten will receive the much-needed NAf. 39 million after signing of the implementation agenda for the execution of the country package.

The signing of the implementation agenda was the agreed condition for allocating the fifth tranche of liquidity support. Prime Minister Jacobs met and signed the implementation agenda with State Secretary Knops on Monday, April 26, 2021.

Prime Minister Jacobs stated, "Once the RMR has taken a decision to grant liquidity support, a loan agreement is a necessary step for the release of the liquidity support. So far, we’ve experienced that the loan agreement is sent right away after the decision is taken. This has been the case in the last two RMR decisions granting liquidity support. However, today Friday, May 7, will be two weeks that have passed since the RMR decided to grant St. Maarten the liquidity support and the loan agreement has not yet been received. Once the loan agreement has been received, it will be signed by the Minister of Finance for finalization.”

On both the technical and ministerial levels, contact has been made with the Ministry of BZK to receive updates on the status of the loan agreement. “Contact was made immediately, last week with BZK’s technical staff and the loan agreement was promised by the end of the week, which would have been a week away from the last RMR meeting, and to this day, we have not received the loan agreement,” Prime Minister Jacobs continued.

Prime Minister Jacobs has exhausted every effort to acquire the loan agreement, including reaching out to State Secretary Knops a few days ago. He indicated that he would follow up; however, no prospect was provided regarding when the loan agreement will be finalized and sent. Contact has even been had with the Dutch Representation office here on the island and they too are indicating that they have no information on the status of the loan agreement. So far, the only indication shared from the Ministry of BZK was that key personnel were out on vacation, leading to the delays. No timeline was given as to when the loan agreement would be sent.

Given the fact that there have been no positive responses, nor has the loan agreement been received, Prime Minister Jacobs sent a letter to the RMR addressed to Prime Minister Rutte on May 6. In the letter, Prime Minister Jacobs outlined the experience St. Maarten has had with delays and a lack of communication. She has requested that Prime Minister Rutte intervenes and implores the Ministry of BZK to move forward with the process and facilitate St. Maarten with the loan agreement by today, May 7, so that it may be finalized. This way the funds can be made available to St. Maarten by early next week.

Prime Minister Jacobs hopes for a swift resolution that would ensure the needed liquidity is sent to St. Maarten. This latest delay only puts further pressure on the relationship between St. Maarten and the Netherlands which both parties have agreed to work on.

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Minister Ottley: My mission is for us to restore faith in our Health Facility

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Wednesday May 5th the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Omar Ottley made a site visit to the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC).

The Minister was greeted by the Medical Director Dr. Felix Holiday, World Bank Project Manager Ms. Ingeborg Verwoerd, Contract Manager St Maarten General Hospital Ms. Erika van der Horst

and the Facilities Manager Mr. Michael Sargeant.

An introductory presentation was given to the Minister, which shed light on the developments at SMMC. The presentation depicted the overall progress and the financial standings from past to present. The Minister was able to see a detailed outline of the construction plans, the timelines, the way the construction is progressing and what the end product is expected to look like.

Minister Ottley was pleased that the improvements are advancing without having to wait on the new General Hospital to be built. "This really makes me happy to see that SMMC is making strides in the right direction to better serve our country while we await the General Hospital”. Ottley said.

The St. Maarten Medical Center is adding outpatient units for both oncology and dialysis services, two operating rooms and a state of the art MRI facility.

The Minister told the hospital representatives that these efforts should be made known to the public and he congratulated the Interim Director and his colleagues on a job well done.

The Minister asked for transparency throughout the expansion process of SMMC and the construction of the St Maarten General Hospital. Minister Ottley stated that; not only is it time for the people to have faith in our Medical System, but that we owe it to the people to see this project through in it’s entirety.

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USLAUNDRY staff receive information about COVID-19 vaccine

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - This week, USLAUNDRY collaborated with White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation on a COVID-19 vaccine information session for all its employees, USLAUNDRY said in a media statement on Thursday.

USLAUNDRY is an industrial laundry that serves the hospitality and health care industry on Sint Maarten for over 25 years.

The company considers it very important to have all its staff members vaccinated against COVID-19. USLAUNDRY wanted to have its employees make a well-founded decision by having the WYC experts share facts regarding the pandemic, available vaccines and debunk myths from the internet in the process.

In effort of making sure all team members are well informed Bregje Boetekees, Director of White & Yellow Cross, visited the laundry to provide the information. From the point of view of the company, empowering everybody to get the COVID-19 vaccine avoids not only employees getting seriously ill but also helps to protect those around them.

Moreover, the company hopes that herd immunity will contribute to the tourism comeback of the island. Amongst others, USLAUNDRY is an important supplier for many hotels and tourism players on the island.

The two-hour workshop answered may questions and took away doubt from various employees. Registration forms in English, Spanish and Creole were given out after the meeting to be able to register for the vaccine right away.

USLAUNDRY is grateful for the assistance of White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation of providing instruments for a successful comeback of the island. 

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MP Pantophlet: “There is no better time than now to end abuse of the short-term contract”

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The abuse of the short-term contract/labor agreement better known as the 6-month contract has been disputed for years and National Alliance Member of Parliament, George Pantophlet in his role as legislator, is ready to tackle this head on with the support of the coalition.

“In May of 2011, the initiators of the Draft amendment, the National Alliance supported by the United St Maarten People's party, embarked upon a mission to address this very serious matter. After many deliberations, the final draft of the National Ordinance amending the Civil Code and other National Ordinances has been finalized. I must insert here that there are changes made to the initiative law by former Ministers of labor that do not reflect that of the initiators but for expediency, these will be dealt with in the not too distant future. What is vital is that instead of 36 months, the term has been shortened to 24 months. I am a firm believer that if the abuse of this law by some employers who practice sending home persons whose contracts have expired for 3 months and then reemploying them in the same function is properly regulated and enforced, the economy of St. Maarten will flourish. This is why I have been consistently and vehemently pursuing the completion of this law.” MP Pantophlet explained.

Other changes in the draft legislation include matters such as those relating to maternity and paternity leave, pregnancy and childbirth, night work and standing work of a pregnant employee, transfer of an enterprise, equal treatment, provision of electronic pay slip, pension plan and saving plan and many more. However, MP Pantophlet’s focus for now is the short-term labor agreement. “Job security is key.

“The continuous issuing of short-term labor agreements for jobs that are of a permanent nature prevents persons from securing loans, threatens their ability to pay their rental agreement and other related responsibilities which was discussed on numerous occasions.

“Their very existence is at stake. There are establishments, companies, or businesses that are season-related or projects that have a time frame wherein they have to be completed. It will require the hiring of additional staff on a temporary contract for the duration of the season or project.

“The modus operandi has been that persons are employed for years with the same company on a rotation basis being sent home for 3 months and as mentioned before rehired while the job is permanent. This is abuse and counterproductive and does not help the economy which is the people. I intend to do my utmost with the assistance of all (in the public and private sector) to eradicate the abuse of the short-term contract.” MP Pantophlet further elaborated.

“Some might be asking why now since many businesses are closed and persons are unemployed. My response is, there is no better time than now. I close with this quote by Minister of Public Health Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley; "The pandemic has shown us that labor protection is not just a popular political phrase, rather a dire necessity for the workers who contribute to our economy. It is especially for that reason that labor protection is one of my priorities for the labor force of St. Maarten” MP Pantophlet concluded.

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Minister Ottley: The Drive to 85%, SXM race to normalcy

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA), Omar Ottley is elated to announce the launch of the Island-wide vaccination awareness campaign “The Drive to 85%, SXM race to normalcy”.

The objective of the campaign is to encourage at least 85% of the community to go out and get vaccinated, in efforts to achieve herd immunity.

Many persons have been enquiring about activities that are possible economic boosters, such as music festivals and carnival, however such events can only be considered if we achieve an 85% vaccination rate.

The campaign will consist of a series with local entertainers and video producers, who will focus on the many issues that we face daily due to COVID-19.

The series will inform the public on what we must do to achieve some sense of normalcy.

Minister Ottley is encouraging the community, to go out and get vaccinated. Persons can register for the vaccine through our online portal or by visiting select locations to pick up a registration form.  

Registration forms are located at the government administration building, all doctor’s offices, at CPS and pharmacies.

The community help desks in Dutch Quarter and Cole Bay, along with the vaccination locations at CPS and Belair are also accommodating persons who would like to register to take the vaccine.

Persons are free to walk-in or visit any of the pop-up locations to receive the vaccine.

If we work together, we can achieve great things. Encourage, educate and assist your family members, friends or colleagues on the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Minister of VSA Ottley reiterates, This is our race to normalcy, join me.

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CPS & Belair Community Center extended opening hours for Vaccine Walk-ins postponed

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Vaccination Management Team (VMT) would like to inform the community that due to unforeseen circumstances, the extension of the opening hours outside office work hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at both vaccination administering locations, the Collective Prevention Service office in Philipsburg, and the Belair Community Center, is postponed until further notice.

The VMT hopes to offer the public the opportunity for a vaccine walk-in outside working hours as soon as possible, but for now, both vaccination locations invite all Sint Maarten residents who have not yet registered to go to the Belair Community Center between the hours of 9.00 AM and 3.00 PM and at CPS between 8.30 AM and 4.00 PM for on-site registration and vaccination on the same day.

The VMT would like to emphasize that to prove eligibility for a walk-in vaccination, the person needs to show one of the following documents (not all of them).

  • Rental agreement of Dutch side in the name of the person;
  • Payslip of Dutch side company in the name of the person;
  • A Sint Maarten ID card, Sint Maarten driver’s license or a Dutch passport;
  • A non-Dutch passport with the latest immigration entry stamp dating back six months or longer, showing that the person is here six months consecutively six months;
  • Proof of registration from the Census Department;
  • SZV Card;
  • A copy of a residence and/or work permit;
  • Proof of residency application.

Sint Maarten Protected Together.

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St. Vincent Support Group receives 60 tons of goods for Vincentians

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Over the past couple of weeks the St. Vincent Support Group's (SVSG) efforts led by Clarence Derby, Natasha Wright Derby, and Augustus Thomas, have met and exceeded all expectations by receiving approximately 60 tons of items including water, food, medical supplies etc. for the people of St. Vincent who have been suffering from the fallout of the La Soufriere Volcano.

The assistance has been coming from so many citizens and organizations in the community, said the SVSG, and they would like to thank everyone too numerous to mention right now for their support. 

The SVSG is also full of praise to radio personality Billy D at SOS Radio who has done a tremendous job in helping to raise funds for the volcano victims as well as the Tradewinds Cruise Club.
 
“Getting these items to Saint Vincent created a major challenge but soon was solved. The owner Mike McKenzie of the big red boat, a boat with a capacity of over 35 tons have made the boat available to us without charge to transport these items.

“With the only obligation that we supply the fuel. As is evident in the photos attached, the boat has already made its first voyage to Saint Vincent as a result of a huge contribution by the Tradewinds Vacation Club who paid for the fuel.

“The good news is that thanks to Sol, CEO Mr. Robert James, the boat is able to make a second voyage for the relief effort,” according to a media statement from the SVSG.

The Big Red Boat was scheduled to leave Saint Vincent on the morning of May 2nd and is expected to be back in St. Maarten on Tuesday May 4th with the mission for the Big Red Boat to depart with another load of relief items for Saint Vincent next weekend.

The group in its effort to continue its disaster relief drive to collect items for St. Vincent, said they have two drop off points: • WIFOL Building Walter Nisbeth Road and • The St. Maarten Festival Village.

Both locations have been accessible as of Saturday April 17 from 10am to 7pm daily. This drive is in collaboration with National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) St. Vincent. This drive is also supported by the Adventist development Relief Agency (ADRA), Dutch side Fire fighters Association, WIFOL, and the Caribbean Unity Foundation, the Trade Winds Cruise Club, K1 Brittannia Foundation, and Alicia Stay Foundation.

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There will be boxes at all major supermarkets where nonperishable items can be dropped off. The following is a list of relief items that is needed:

  • Bottled Water
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Cereal
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Hand Sanitizers
  • Feminine supplies
  • Bath towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Masks
  • Blankets
  • Sheets
  • Pillows
  • Baby wipes
  • Baby formula
  • Baby clothing
  • Diapers (babies and adults)
  • Canned Foods
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Rice
  • Children snacks
  • Batteries
  • Pain Killers
  • Adult clothing
  • Shoes slippers
  • Rubber Boots
  • Socks

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Prime Minister Jacobs encourages SMTF graduates to remain lifelong learners

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Sint Maarten Training Foundation (SMTF) hosted their final certificate ceremony for 200 plus students participating in the course of Public Health and Hospitality on Thursday, April 29, 2021.

These courses were started after Hurricane Irma and were the first component of the Emergency Income Support and Training Project EISTP; one of the Trust Fund projects under implementation at the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) offering training to unemployed persons. Over the period of just over three years some 2000 students have made use of this opportunity and received certification and pins for courses in public health and hospitality.

In the presence of the Board, management, and staff of the SMTF, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs addressed the graduates, as the keynote speaker. In relaying her message under the theme: 'Employer's Expectations of new Recruits”, Prime Minister Jacobs highlighted three points for graduates to keep in mind:

  1. Prepare for the new function while taking into consideration the expectations of your employer.
  2. Go beyond the expectations of the employer and ensure you are always at your best - your attitude determines your success.
  3. Never stop looking for opportunities to keep on learning and improving.

Prime Minister Jacobs told the graduates, “We are now 4-years post-Hurricane Irma and are still facing recovery challenges, a challenge made even more significant by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these challenges make your accomplishment so significant because as St. Maarten continues to change and grow, the needs within our economy for your skills also grow.”

“These opportunities are incredibly essential to St. Maarten’s long-term sustainable plan. So, I thank all the graduates here this evening and all the graduates who have successfully completed these courses. You have aided in our aim to build a strong labor market. Each individual who is able to build their skills creates a stronger labor market. A strong labor market can help us narrow economic disparities and start to heal the damage inflicted by past economic difficulties and natural disasters,” she continued.

SMTF Program Director Sergio Walsarie Wolff also congratulated the graduates and spoke about transitioning. He told them, “I am incredibly proud of all of you, who picked yourselves up and have shown up to come to class, week after week. And now, that you are transitioning back into the work field, you are armed with a valuable certificate and invaluable knowledge passed on by your SMTF teachers.”

During the ceremony, several SMTF Students expressed words of thanks to the Management and staff of SMTF as well as encouragement to their fellow students. “I am grateful to God for having closed this chapter with success, I am grateful for Professor Early and the translator Luz, for their patience and dedication. Also, I am grateful for all the office staff, who facilitated every question, and to the Government of St. Maarten who opened the doors to these new experiences in such a difficult time. Finally, I am grateful to all my classmates, may luck accompany you in your future endeavors," said F. van Heyningen, one of the student speakers.

Prime Minister Jacobs congratulated the Class of 2021, and all students receiving accredited certificates and pins in the past years. “On behalf of the Government of St. Maarten, I wish you success in your future endeavors whichever path you may take, as long as you become lifelong learners," concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

Prime Minister Jacobs addressing the graduates

Prime Minister Jacobs addressing the graduates.

 

 

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Tzu Chi donates food packages to 129 Pond Island families

SINT MAARTEN (CUL DE SAC) - The St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation continued its benevolent efforts to help put food on the table of families affected by the COVID-19 crisis by donating food packages to 129 families earlier this month.

A total of 22 volunteers took time out to assist in the distribution drive. For many of them it was the first time experiencing a food package relief drive with the foundation. Families had to register in advance to receive the food package relief A total of 135 had registered and 129 showed up to collect their packages on the day of the event.

Having to battle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is extra difficult for some families as the homes of many are still in a state of disrepair almost four years after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the island causing widespread destruction and devastation in September 2017.

While recipients were waiting on their food packages, they were offered water and snacks by volunteers, who also took time out to share information on how Tzu Chi started by founder Master Cheng Yen, whose charity work began with a group of 30 housewives who set aside NT 0.50 cents (equivalent to US $0.02 cents) of their grocery money each day to help needy families.

Master Cheng Yen’s dedication and continued commitment over the years has transformed Tzu Chi into one of the largest non-governmental organizations in the world. Tzu Chi has built many hospitals and schools worldwide and has helped hundreds of thousands around the world. It has over 10 million members in 129 countries.

One of her philosophies is that giving is not the privilege of the rich but is the privilege of a sincere heart.

Recipients were grateful to receive the food packages, and they also had an opportunity to give to create blessings.

“I am very happy to receive the help because I need a lot,” said one recipient. “I don’t work and I have some problems. I am so happy that Tzu Chi can help me. It is beautiful that you are helping everyone.”

Another recipient expressed her gratitude. “Thank God for the Tzu Chi Foundation and God’s blessing for helping everybody and for giving people some food to eat. The situation right now is bad, people cannot work and are in the house all day. The situation is bad, but God is good. Everyone is happy for the foundation and its help.”

Volunteer Kenneth Skerret originally had a day mapped out to focus on himself, but when he saw the volume of work that was required he decided at the eleventh hour to give a helping hand to assist. “We delivered some packages and assisted people who were really in need,” he said adding that because of Tzu Chi’s organization, the event flowed smoothly and went without hiccups. “I myself couldn’t believe everyone was orderly especially when they saw the smile from the Tzu Chi volunteers… Everyone needed a package and we tried to assist each and every one because that is pure love from the heart. This is Tzu Chi and we always want to give love.”

Volunteer Mathew was grateful for the opportunity to be able to help in the distribution process. “Tzu Chi Foundation is doing a great job and the help is coming in handy because things on the island are slow right now,” he said. “I hope you can keep up with what you are doing. I see a lot of sharing. A lot of people are in need and a lot of people are happy to receive the help. I am happy with what is being done. It is very helpful.”

First time volunteer M. Cocks was humbled by the experience. “It’s my first time with Tzu Chi Foundation on Pond Island and I really enjoyed it. It was nice meeting and interacting with people. It was a nice gesture to help, and I would love to continue.”

Another volunteer said it had been a pleasure volunteering with Tzu Chi for the first time helping, giving love and sharing with persons in the community, who are in need.

Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung thanked all volunteers for their humble efforts and recipients for graciously accepting the food packages with a grateful heart.

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