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Landmark research report on Legislative Function in Sint Maarten approved

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - The Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs is pleased to announce the approval of the comprehensive research report titled, “Legislative function in Sint Maarten.” This landmark report, which was given the green light by the Council of Ministers at the end of July.

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Caribbean Centre for Leadership (CCL) and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, as stipulated in the Country Package. The primary objective of this ambitious project was to conduct a thorough analysis of the legislative function in Sint Maarten. This involved an in-depth examination of the structure, processes, and organization of the legislative function with the aim of assessing whether they contribute sufficiently to the timely and adequate implementation of the legislation required in Sint Maarten.

The report, a culmination of extensive research and analysis, contains a wealth of valuable insights and recommendations to enhance and fortify the legislative function in our beloved nation. The recommendations provided in the report are intended to serve as a guiding light for policymakers, administrators, and stakeholders, as we collectively endeavor to strengthen and improve the legislative process in Sint Maarten.

Importantly, the report underscores the need for external expertise and assistance to facilitate the proposed changes. Recognizing the significance of this, the Ministry of General Affairs is actively exploring avenues for collaboration with external organizations and experts to ensure the successful implementation of these recommendations.

“I firmly believe that the publication of this report represents a significant step toward a more efficient and effective legislative function in Sint Maarten. The transparency and accountability inherent in this endeavor are testament to our government's unwavering commitment to the betterment of our nation.” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

In the spirit of transparency and accessibility, the “Legislative function in Sint Maarten,” report will be made available to the public on the Government's official website. This will provide citizens, scholars, and stakeholders with the opportunity to engage with the findings and recommendations outlined in the report.

The Prime Minister continued, “The Ministry of General Affairs extends its gratitude to all those involved in the research process, including the Caribbean Centre for Leadership (CCL) and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, for their dedicated efforts in producing this invaluable report. It also expresses appreciation to the public for their ongoing support and commitment to the progress of Sint Maarten.”


Ministry of Education seeking to Ensure Minimum Disruption in Services due to School Bus Drivers “Go Slow”

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (MECYS) Hon. Rodolphe Samuel, is very concerned to learn of the decision taken by the School Bus Owners Association and their membership as it related to a planned “Go Slow” today, Friday, September 22, 2023, that could affect approximately 2,000 school-aged children.

“The safety of the students involved is of paramount importance to the Ministry. As such, all parents of children who make use of the school bussing service are requested to collect their children from school where this is possible.

“In the event parents are unable to collect their children, please inform your child’s school immediately so that transport can be arranged.

“The Ministry is seeking to ensure a minimum disruption in services, however, given the short notification of the planned action, the support of parents and guardians in ensuring a safe commute home for their children is most appreciated.

“The Ministry has informed school boards so that their schools can be informed. The Police Department and the Ministry of TEATT have also been informed and are collaborating to support during this time,” Minister of Education Rodolphe Samuel said in a statement on Friday.


De Weever: 554 days with no resolution to GEBE crisis

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - Independent member of Parliament (MP) Ludmila de Weever issued a media statement on the status of NV GEBE, St. Maarten’s sole electricity provider. De Weever, who has spoken passionately about the situation at GEBE since the March 2022 cyberattack, didn’t mince words when she said that GEBE is a matter of national security. The MP said that she feels as though that statement has fallen on deaf or indifferent ears.

“It’s been 554 days since the ransomware cyberattack,” De Weever stated, “and to date, the situation at GEBE remains an unsolved mystery of inaccurate billing and growing mistrust from customers whose invoices are hitting never-before-seen amounts.”

De Weever explained that she was confident that there remain a significant number of customers who have yet to receive an invoice since the cyberattack. Her confidence, she explains, stems from the confirmation that customer information was lost; the same information that was discovered had not been backed up for over a year at the time of the attack.

“It’s not difficult to understand that GEBE was relying on outdated information to repopulate the system following the hack,” De Weever stated. “It’s highly likely that they were using hard copy documents of new customers or customers that were closing their account to compensate for the outdated customer information. Hearing from ministers on the floor of Parliament has done little to give me hope that this crisis was being handled effectively and efficiently.”

Even more concerning to De Weever than the integrity of the data being used to help the company recover is the fact that even as employees worked frantically after hours and over weekends to get invoices out, an armada of consultants were brought in to assist.

“Whether this has helped or not is irrelevant to me,” De Weever stated, continuing “what concerns me now is the ever-increasing costs of consultants over an extended time, the challenge to collect payments on invoices from a weary and mistrusting customer base and an incomplete customer data set.”

She called the intervention of a minister to help negotiate a different payment plan a “valiant effort,” but noted that it must be remembered that the longer it takes to pay an invoice, the harder it will be to pay the ever-increasing balance. Lump sum payments, de Weever laments, are difficult in today’s economic reality, even at 25%.

“Ultimately, GEBE must survive,” de Weever concluded. “While my warnings may have been ignored in the past, I do want to share a possible solution, for the public’s knowledge as well. Several years ago, a complete inventory was conducted of all water and electricity meters in use. This was done to ensure that all meters were accurately linked to a customer account and properly billed. I firmly believe that last year was the time for this to be done again; however, it’s still possible now. It may seem tedious and rudimentary, but it will ensure that every meter in use is matched to a customer account and that any potential inaccuracies can be resolved.”

De Weever believes that with a concentrated team effort, the country can rebuild trust in a company that has served it well for 63 years, through numerous crises.


Government’s internal network has not been compromised nor any of its systems

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Department of the Government of Sint Maarten was alerted to a phishing email blast originating from the email account of a civil servant.

Upon investigation of the account, it appears that their email was indeed compromised and sending out phishing emails to the contact list and previous persons that were in their correspondence.

Mitigation actions were taken to avoid further spread of these malicious emails and further security measures are being taken to limit such risks in the future. 

While this incident is unfortunate, the government’s internal network has not been compromised nor has any systems been affected.

There’s been no data loss nor further security risks detected. The ICT Department continues to monitor for any additional risks and continues to prioritize strengthening its environment to avoid such situations.


URSM Wever proposes sexual predators listing to prevent them from working with minors

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - The recent verdict in the child molestation case has sent shockwaves through St. Maarten, and today, Mr. Christopher Wever, Candidate of the Unified Resilience St. Marten Movement (URSM), has stepped forward to address the concerns surrounding this unsatisfactory outcome. 

Wever said that as a parent, he reserves the right to express his disappointment with the leniency of the recent judicial ruling in the child molestation case, highlighting the need for stronger punitive measures to deter potential sexual offenders and protect the rights of children victims.

Mr. Christopher Wever, a former Minister and Deputy Leader of URSM, expressed deep concern over the widespread of sexual misconduct cases in St. Maarten. He acknowledged that such cases occur far too frequently and called for immediate and stringent action to address this critical issue.

Wever emphasized that the safety and well-being of children should be high priority for the Government and Parliament of St. Maarten and not the political land mines seen, as of recent on the social media platforms to ensure that they hold office, post-elections.

"These unlawful acts should be treated with the highest priority, and it is incumbent upon the Government of St. Maarten to implement preventative measures and campaigns. There should also be a dedicated facility to assist the victims and those sexual predators to allow them the opportunity to break the cycle," Wever added.

Citing alarming statistics, Christopher highlighted that many perpetrators of such crimes were once victims themselves. He proposed the establishment of a predators listing to prevent individuals with a history of sexual misconduct from working with our children, thereby minimizing the risk of such cases occurring in the future. "Preventative care is paramount," Wever emphasized.

Furthermore, he stressed the importance of proper counseling and mental health support to ensure that survivors receive the care they need to prevent long-term psychological harm. 

"Addressing issues like depression, anxiety, and the risk of suicide is an integral part of our collective responsibility," he divulged.

As a social worker himself, Christopher Wever's commitment to the well-being of the community and the protection of its most vulnerable members is unwavering. The URSM Candidate is now calling on the Government, the judiciary, and the public to come together to combat this pressing issue and ensure a safer future for the children of St. Maarten.



SINT MAARTEN (DUTCH QUARTER) — On Friday, September 15th, 2023, Christian Faith Ministries International in Dutch Quarter hosted a critical session entitled "Bringing Awareness on Substances." This event brought together community members, parents, and experts to address the pressing issue of youth substance abuse and violence and the importance of youth awareness.

The guest speakers for the evening, representing two departments under the Ministry of Justice, shared invaluable insights and expertise on this critical topic. Dr. Tasheena Thomas, Director of Turning Point, and Inspector Felix Richards, Community Police Officer of KPSM, delivered compelling messages during the event.

To everyone's surprise, the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson graced the occasion with her presence, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to addressing the critical issue of youth substance abuse and violence.

Dr. Tasheena Thomas, Director of Turning Point, discussed the various drugs affecting our community and schools. She emphasized the changing patterns of substance use, from nicotine vaping and marijuana to synthetic drugs like molly and ecstasy.

Dr. Thomas also highlighted the dangers of cocaine, crack, and the emerging narcotic, isotonitazene (iso). She stressed the importance of parents paying attention to behavioral changes in their children and the need for accurate education on substance use.

She underlined, "Marijuana is a drug, and our community is often misguided on the truth about what it does to our mental health. All drugs are deadly, and seeking help with addiction is nothing to be ashamed of."

Inspector Felix Richards, Community Police Officer of KPSM, expressed his gratitude for the community's support during the presentation. Inspector Richards outlined five key pillars to address youth substance abuse:

  1. Parents' Role: Highlighting the importance of returning to traditional parenting values and guidance within the home.
  2. Schools: Innovative and comprehensive educational approaches that nurture creativity and foster holistic development.
  3. Government: Emphasis on the need for government initiatives that strengthen the social fabric and empower families to create stable and nurturing environments.
  4. Churches: Spiritual institutions were highlighted as vital in uniting and fortifying communities, serving as pillars of support and solidarity.
  5. Police: Law enforcement should evolve into mentors, big brothers, and coaches to our youth, beyond their traditional enforcement role.
  6. Business: The business community can create job opportunities like a summer camp job or weekend within their own community where they conduct business

Minister Richardson also shared her thoughts on this event, stating, "Youth substance abuse is a pressing issue that demands our collective attention. The insights provided by Dr. Thomas and Inspector Richards underscore the urgency of our response.

“We must work together as a community, with parents, schools, government, churches, and the police, to protect our youth and ensure a brighter future for all." I express a heartfelt thanks and congratulate Apostle and Prophetess Arrindell and their time at Christian Faith Ministries International church for organizing and hosting this much needed platform for awareness and discussion.”

The session ended on a hopeful note, with a call to action to recognize individual roles, responsibilities, and capabilities in addressing youth substance abuse. The community is urged to seek accurate information and support, and to join hands in preventing and combating this grave concern.


COCI Concerned about Certain Practices by NV GEBE

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) is keenly aware of the operational challenges faced by NV GEBE.

COCI adds in a press release on Wednesday, that: While we acknowledge the complexity of such issues, certain practices have emerged and in recent days escalated raising heightened concerns, particularly due to their significant impact on our vibrant business community and the citizens of St. Maarten.

COCI is resolute in its commitment to safeguarding the interests of businesses and residents alike. Considering the absence of a dedicated consumer bureau, we are taking proactive steps to address these concerns through appropriate channels.

It is imperative that such matters are dealt with in a structured manner, serving the interest of all who are dependent on the provisioning of utilities by NV Gebe to have long term effective results.

We therefore invite the businesses and the community at large to come forward with their specific issues and complaints pertaining to NV GEBE's operations and/or utilities provisioning. Your feedback is invaluable in ensuring that the concerns are comprehensively understood and effectively resolved.

COCI remains steadfast in its mission to advocate for the prosperity and well-being of the business community and citizens of St. Maarten. Together, we can work towards fostering a business-friendly environment and enhancing the quality of life for all.


WYCCF Honors 45-Year Service Milestone of Mrs. Equilla “Irene” Kemper-Brown

SINT MAARTEN (ST. JOHN’S ESTATE) - The White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation proudly celebrates the remarkable 45-year career of Mrs. Equilla Kemper-Brown (better known as Irene), an exemplary employee who has dedicated her working life to the Foundation’s mission of providing trusted care and administrative support.

Irene commenced her journey with the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation on September 14, 1978, at St. Rose Hospital, situated on Front Street. Her initial role saw her manning the front office, where she was responsible for managing the front desk and administration. Alongside her esteemed colleague, Mr. Peterson, Irene played a pivotal role in establishing an efficient and organized administration system, a task that was paramount to the Foundation’s operations.

As the Foundation grew and adapted to new challenges, many of her colleagues transitioned to the newly constructed Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) in 1991. However, Irene remained steadfast in her commitment to the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation, continuing to contribute her expertise.

One of Irene’s most significant contributions was the rapid transition from paper-based administration to digital systems, greatly improving the Foundation's administrative processes. Her dedication and tireless efforts have cemented her as a valued member of the team, fostering strong relationships with colleagues, especially Mr. Peterson.

Reflecting on her long and impactful career, Irene shared her experiences: "I started at St. Rose Hospital, where I had the privilege of meeting people from different cultures and learning a multitude of medical procedures, billing, and collections of outstanding bills. One of my most enjoyable responsibilities was assisting parents in naming their newborns. I owe a great deal of my knowledge in bookkeeping to Mr. Peterson, and I'm forever grateful to Mr. Mulder (former chairman of the WYCCF board) for giving me the opportunity to remain with the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation.’’ She further expressed her gratitude to Mr. Jan Peter Holtland for imparting independence in her role within the administration department. Irene also acknowledged her appreciation for the support and guidance of the WYCCF Operations Manager Bregje Boetekees, particularly in pursuing professional development courses.

Aside from her dedication to her work, Irene has been actively involved in sports within the Foundation and has a deep affection for her colleagues. Her enthusiasm for organizing staff parties has been a cherished part of her tenure. As a trusted colleague with a keen listening ear, Irene often indicates what is needed to support those around her on the work floor. Especially during challenging times, Irene’s ideas to organize something relaxing to destress are important to keep the WYCCF running.

"I arrive at work each day with a joyful heart, eager to collaborate with my wonderful colleagues," Irene said, expressing her enduring passion for her role at the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation.

Irene’s dedication, commitment, and continued pursuit of excellence have left a permanent mark on the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation, its staff, and the community it serves. Her 45-year milestone serves as a testament to the Foundation's unwavering commitment to delivering trusted care and administrative excellence.

The White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation extends its heartfelt congratulations to Irene on this momentous occasion for this exceptionally rare milestone.


One SXM Welcomes Discussion on Reparatory Justice and demands for Reparations

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - One SXM is pleased to see that the issue of reparatory justice and demands for reparations finally become a prominent discussion in St. Martin, as this has been an extensive process, with many in the community such as Rastafari, labor unions, the Independence for St. Martin Foundation, and countless others making these demands for decades.

Today as the world, but particularly the Caribbean, through the efforts of CARICOM’s Reparations Commission (CRC), is making strides in the Reparations Movement, One SXM is playing its part through its activism and as an associate member of the CRC.

In particular, One SXM continues to demand from the Dutch State a commitment to reparatory justice for its involvement in Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, crimes the State has acknowledged it committed, and for which the State has issued two apologies.

From One SXM’s perspective, while the dialogue between CARICOM and the Dutch State takes place on the level of governments to bring the Dutch State to account for the atrocities committed in the Caribbean region, there are some key issues to be addressed within the kingdom of the Netherlands vis a vis the Caribbean islands, and One SXM condemns the approach within the kingdom in addressing the effects of this brutal crime committed against our people.

First there is the issue of trying to link Reparations to sustainable development. We subscribe to the view that discussions on reparations are a precursor to discussions on sustainable development. Any attempt to conflate the two issues negates the just claims for reparations for crimes committed under enslavement and colonialism. This is about making amends for wrongdoing which continue to be entrenched in systemic injustice, racism, and a disrespect for people of African descent.  

Secondly, the Dutch colonizing State has neglected to assume its responsibilities toward the development of the colonies, and it has neglected to adhere to the United Nations’ calls undertaken for the development of colonies to ensure a foundation for viable self-determination and sustainable development.

The fruits of reparations are not intended to fix what was not fixed by the colonizer as the beneficiary of colonialism, now determining disbursements through “projects.” We submit that if the State can defy the international community, we cannot trust its treatment of us through projects. The Dutch State must stop the commodification of the people of St. Martin.

Furthermore, One SXM is of the opinion that human rights cannot be fully realized within the context of perpetual colonialism by the Dutch State.

For One SXM, it is dishonorable to engage in discussions about grants from the State for projects while our island continues to be straddled with debts by the State, leaving future generations of St. Martiners to bear a burden for which they are not responsible. There can be no talk of loans and grants when there are outstanding payments for centuries of unpaid labor. Moreover, the term grant suggests some largesse, and we are not asking for charity.

Addressing the crime of enslavement and colonialism is not the responsibility of the people of St. Martin. Neither is the spending of reparations claims within the remit of the colonizer.

Lastly, while One SXM subscribes to the CARICOM Ten-Point Plan as a guiding platform for discussions about reparations and other forms of reparatory justice, the Plan has not appeared on the agenda for discussion within the Dutch kingdom.

Self-determination, equality, removal of discrimination, and an international voice must all form part of reparations discussion with the Dutch State; from One SXM’s perspective, the issue of reparations is inextricably linked to full decolonization in the form of political independence.


WITU: The Future Classroom and the Urgent Need for Responsible AI Integration

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - “The landscape of education is undergoing a transformation powered by advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI). As we step into an era of unparalleled technological progress, it is crucial to recognize the potential of AI in shaping the future classroom. However, concerns loom large over the responsible implementation of AI in education, highlighting the need for a balanced and thoughtful approach to ensure optimal learning outcomes for all,” remarked Stuart Johnson President of the Windward Islands Teachers Union on Tuesday.

Johnson added, “With AI's capabilities to personalize learning experiences, provide instant feedback, and adapt to individual student needs, educators around the world need to explore innovative ways to harness its potential. Intelligent tutoring systems, automated grading, and personalized learning pathways are just a few examples of AI-driven tools that promise to revolutionize traditional education models.”

“Yet, as we seek to embrace these advancements, it is essential to address the concerns that arise from the improper utilization of AI in the classroom. One of the most pressing issues is the potential exacerbation of existing educational inequalities. If AI tools are not carefully designed and monitored, they might inadvertently disadvantage certain groups of students, widening the gap between those with access to technology and those without.” Johnson said.

Johnson cautioned, “Privacy concerns are another critical aspect of AI implementation in education. As AI systems gather and analyze vast amounts of student data, questions about data security and student privacy come to the forefront. Striking the right balance between collecting relevant data to enhance learning experiences and safeguarding students' sensitive information is a challenge that requires immediate attention.”

To address these concerns, education stakeholders, policymakers, and technology developers must collaborate closely to establish guidelines for responsible AI integration in classrooms. Transparency in how AI algorithms function, equal access to technology, data protection measures, and continuous teacher training are some of the key measures that need to be put in place.

“The future classroom has the potential to be a dynamic, engaging, and inclusive space where every student's unique needs are met. As AI continues to reshape education, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that this transformation is not marred by unintended consequences. By acknowledging the concerns surrounding AI in education and taking proactive steps to address them, we can harness its power to create a brighter and more equitable future for learners in our country,” Johnson concluded. 

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