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Minister Doran encourages homeownership to the SBoD of SMHDF

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The honorable Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment, and Infrastructure Management (Ministry of VROMI), Egbert Doran, has inquired on the potential opportunity for homeownership on a case-by-case basis for Belvedere residents in recent discussions.

A letter was addressed to the chairman of the Supervisory Board of Directors (SBoD) of the Sint Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF), following his town hall meeting with residents held on November 2nd, 2021, at the Belvedere Community Center. 

The Minister noted that documents including sales information invitations, appraisals for duplex homes and draft purchasing contracts dating back as far as 2004 suggests there were previous considerations by SMHDF to enable homeownership.

However, these efforts were never materialized. The minister expressed his interest in exploring feasible measures, including the appropriate criteria and considerable factors that need to be taken into consideration to materialize homeownership and permit residents to execute the necessary repairs and improve their living conditions. 

The chairman of the board at SMHDF has since acknowledged the Minister’s request and a meeting has been scheduled for this coming Friday amongst the SBoD.

Minister Doran has always championed homeownership which empowers individuals in being able to improve their quality of life. There will be further discussions and the Minister looks forward to a positive collaboration with SMHDF.

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Tourism Leaders, Minister Lawrence and Vice President Damaseau work together to maintain excellence in tourism quality

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications (Minister of TEATT) Hon. Roger Lawrence met with Vice President of Tourism of Saint-Martin Hon. Valerie Damaseau to discuss the isolated events on the northern side. The two parties are very pleased that progress has been made on the Northern side of the island with respect to ensuring a steady product offering and reaching a level of normalcy as it pertains to business especially within the tourism sector.

Communication is essential when there are concerns that need to be resolved. We are happy that dialogue continues at different levels and these discussions will in the end drive change and result in resolutions to the various challenges being faced.

“The projections for this tourism season are high, which is extremely positive for both sides of the island. The uniqueness of each side adds more to the overall destination experience and visitors will open a window and discover two different vibes that can only be found here. A positive and safe experience is important for the success of both the French and Dutch side, by continuing to work together we will ensure this upcoming season will be a success for all,” Minister Hon. Roger Lawrence said on Tuesday.

Vice President of Tourism of Saint-Martin Hon. Valerie Damaseau in a statement on Tuesday stated: “On behalf of the Government of St. Martin I am pleased to report that, following the demonstrations by a section of the public, all is well. The State has assured us that all public roads in Marigot where the demonstration occurred have been reopened and business as usual has resumed.

We acknowledge the concerns expressed by the demonstrators and we recognize that the right of the public to peacefully voice objection to any decision by the government, is a fundamental tenet of a good democracy.

“We wish to assure our residents and guests, stakeholders and anyone conducting business with or within St. Martin, that the demonstration has ended, and you should feel free to go about your normal activities. Let us always be mindful and keep the COVID precaution practices top of mind.”

Directors of the Tourists Offices from both sides of the island Aida Weinum (St. Martin) and May Ling Chun (Sint Maarten) said on Tuesday: “The best and most memorable experiences for the guests is when they are able to experience our destination freely as one island and so therefore, we are pleased that the situation has been resolved and tourist can enjoy our Friendly Island.”

Minister of TEATT Hon Roger Lawrence

Minister of TEATT Hon. Roger Lawrence (Sint Maarten)

Vice President of Tourism Valerie Damaseau

Vice President of Tourism Valerie Damaseau (Saint-Martin)

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Boyfriend bites Girlfriend on the Lip. Son Punches Mother. Police Arrest both domestic abusers

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Police made two arrests over the weekend in connection with domestic violence.

On Friday, October 16, 2021, around 5:00 p.m. officers arrested the man with the initials T.J.J. for seriously injuring his girlfriend after an altercation. This incident took place in the Dutch Quarter neighborhood.

During the altercation, the victim received a bite on her lower lip by the suspect. She was subsequently taken to the Sint Maarten Medical Center for further treatment.  

Following his arrest, the suspect was transported to the Philipsburg police station, where he is being held for questioning.

In the subsequent arrest, patrol officers were dispatched to the Arbutus Road in Saunders on Saturday, November 13, 2021, around 10:55 a.m. for a case of ill-treatment.

During the preliminary investigation it was determined that the young man with initials S.D. had punched his mother several times after she questioned him about the theft of cash from her purse. This suspect was arrested and brought to the police station where he was detained pending further investigation.

The continued number of reports of domestic and family violence is of great concern to the Sint Maarten Police Force.

Community awareness must be raised to drastically stop this abuse. This behavior should no longer be considered a "private" matter. It is recognized by all sectors that abuse towards a person in a relationship is considered "criminal" behavior and is punishable by law.

Individuals who choose to engage in abuse will be held accountable for their actions, it is only a matter of time. Instead of engaging in this illegal act, choose to walk away from the situation.

Do the right thing, put an end to domestic violence.

(KPSM)

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Minister Richardson applauds 17 Immigration Officers on training course completion

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Friday, November 12, 2021, a certificate ceremony was held as the department of Immigration Border and Protection Services (IBPS) attained another milestone whereby 11 officers successfully completed their course of PLM Praktijk Leermeester (Coaching, training, and mentorship) and 6 officers completed their course of PO Praktijk Opleider (Teach courses and prepare officers to do so as well). 

The PLM/PO courses began on November 8, and were possible with the assistance of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (KMAR). These are two of the many courses included in the ongoing education curriculum between the Ministry of Justice and KMAR. The courses are tailormade and designed to strengthen border control which stems from the mutual agreement on strengthening border control.  

During their training in the Netherlands, KMAR operates based on the ideology of "train the trainer," as such, this principle was adapted so that officers of the department of IBPS become skilled and equipped on how to train their colleagues.   

Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson stated, "One of the primary goals of the department of IBPS is to increase the overall knowledge of each officer so that they may carry out their task efficiently. As such, the community can take pride knowing that 17 of our immigration officers remain committed and dedicated to moving St. Maarten forward in the safest manner possible."

With the enforcement of immigration laws under high implementation the department of IBPS intends to continue to train its personnel to the highest possible level. These training ensure that immigration officers remain prepared to protect our borders at all times.

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Rotary Sunset Distributes 400 Hot Meals to Vulnerable Citizens

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Members and prospective members of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset prepared and distributed 400 hot meals to underprivileged persons in various communities on the island through its fourth annual Reach 1 Feed 1 initiative.

Reach 1 Feed 1 (R1F1), carried out annually on the last Sunday in October, is a program organized by the club to assist underprivileged families that are faced with various economic challenges especially during these unprecedented times, by providing a warm meal and a cold beverage to those in need. The project targeted districts such as Dutch Quarter, Sucker Garden, Philipsburg, Pond Island, Cay Hill, Cay Bay, St. James, and Agrément.

“The month of October marks ‘Economic and Community Development’ month for Rotary clubs worldwide and I am happy that we are able to yet again carry out this project for 4 consecutive years. I am deeply touched by the dedication and commitment from the members towards the self-preparation and execution of so many meals in a matter of hours. It is always a pleasure to give back to our community in whatever way we can, and I hope that in doing so we can bring more awareness to the economic hardships that many of our fellow citizens and residents are faced with daily, especially during this ongoing worldwide pandemic,” Rotary Sunset Service Projects Chair Jaida Nisbett stated.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset would like to thank its partners; the members of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset, for preparing the meals, the St. Dominic Primary School for allowing us to use their premises to prepare the meals for delivery and Mr. Russell Bell, Mr. Mario and Mr. Ricky of Elle Si Belle Tours for providing the transportation to all the districts visited. The club encourages the community at large to do their part in assisting where possible, which in turn will improve the island’s economy and community.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset meets every second and fourth Monday of the month at Carl N Sons Unique Inn and Conference Facilities in Colebay at 7:30pm. The club can be contacted via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via the official Facebook page at facebook.com/rotarysxmsunset.

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Sarah on the Vineyard Heights/Over the Bank land, “Let’s see if parliament’s motions have any teeth”

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In the view of Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot, “The coalition might have breathed a sigh of relief, following the contentious meetings of parliament on the long lease land policies of government, but this saga seems far from over. In the case of the Vineyard Heights/Over the Bank land, concerns remain regarding the mounting claims by inheritors.”

It is on this matter, that the public meeting of parliament produced 3 motions directed to the ministry of VROMI.

Motion no. 1 dated October 20th, i.a. called for cessation of all handlings regarding Vine Yard Height/Over the Bank, until a policy is put in place and the infrastructure is done.

“It would be interesting to ascertain whether the minister of VROMI has even entertained this motion or has he thumbed his nose at the parliament? In addition to that question, are 2 related issues that surfaced following the meetings of parliament. If accurate, these issues would be completely opposite to what the minister told the members of parliament.”

The first issue is an overview that surfaced on social media that would suggest a meticulous registration of the first set of applicants for land at Over the Bank. If this is factual, it contradicts what the minister presented to parliament.

And then there is this claim that government is unlawfully owner of the land in question, presumably by heirs to the land.

The minister is sticking to a legal opinion, which according to his statement, dismisses this claim against the government.

The minister of VROMI has some explaining to do and I am therefore using my right as member of parliament to solicit clear and honest answers from the minister.

Questions:

Has the motion to refrain from further action or any part thereof been executed? If so, which part(s) and how? If not, why not?

Recently again the Vineyard Heights/Over the Bank land has been challenged by claimants to the inheritance of the property. In the meeting of parliament, I requested the legal brief that advised the minister that these claims did not affect the government’s actions in connection with the property in question.

Are the Minister and advisor still of the same view? Please share the legal opinion with parliament soonest.

The minister stated in the meetings of parliament that official information regarding the initial recipients of land at Over the Bank was lacking/missing in government’s records. Yet, published documents tell another story. Has the Minister seen the document, circulating on social media? Is this document accurate? Has the Minister verified why this information was not (made) available?

MP Wescot concluded her statement by expressing the hope that the minister would promptly and truthfully respond to these questions.

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Prime Minister Jacobs meets with civil servants on Constitutional Court decision

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs met with the government organization on Friday, November 5, 2021, to render an update on the decision taken by the Constitutional Court concerning the three Temporary National Ordinances to reduce the employment benefits of the civil servants, (semi) public sector workers, and political authorities. The result of the verdict signifies that the legislation will go into effect three weeks after the day after the verdict was rendered.

Prime Minister Jacobs told the organization, “Although Government’s position was confirmed by the court, the only constant in all that has transpired is your dedication and commitment, and I appreciate that so very much. This is a tough time for all, and I sincerely empathize with the organization for the sacrifices they continue to make for the people of St. Maarten. This is not our permanent state as the laws are of a temporary nature, and will be retracted once we are able to handle our financial obligations independently. As strongly emphasized by the Court this government will continue to consider the human dimension when making decisions on the next steps forward.”

The Council of Ministers will be meeting with the Committee for Civil Servants Unions and the respective unions next week November 17, to finalize the steps in which the ordinances will be implemented. Thereafter, an update will be provided to all civil servants in a follow-up meeting with the organization.

During the meeting Prime Minister Jacobs also announced her intention to grant Friday, November 12, as a day off for all civil servants following St. Martin Day which will be celebrated on Thursday, November 11th.

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Police monitoring border situation as situation deteriorates

SINT MAARTEN (BELVEDERE) - The Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM is monitoring and analyzing the situation at one of the border crossings with the French side (St. Martin).    

In the process of monitoring the Belvedere-French Quarter crossing, it became apparent that a group of masked individuals had barricaded the border with construction materials. The situation has now deteriorated to the point where those wishing to cross presumably have to pay a “border crossing” fee.

Due to the prevailing situation, KPSM urges drivers wishing to cross to the French side to use an alternative route.

The police will continue to monitor this situation. (KPSM)  

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Biennial Live Emergency Drill Exercise Staged at the Princess Juliana International Airport

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - Despite the weather conditions, it was a momentous morning at the Princess Juliana International Airport for both the emergency responders and management alike, as the Princess Juliana International Airport in conjunction with the St. Maarten Government Emergency Support Functions Department (Disaster Management) hosted its biennial live Emergency Drill Exercise at the airside on Tuesday, November 2, 2021. At approximately 9:40 am a large-scale drill was executed in the proximity of the taxiway BRAVO on the airport’s runway. 

The testing of the aerodrome emergency plan is a standard requirement at airports by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and sanctioned by St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority (SMCAA). 

Taking up his post at the Emergency Management Center of the control tower, the Airport Chief Brian Mingo acknowledged “The mandatory drill exercise serves to evaluate the various emergency agencies' response, procedure, and contingency plans should an aircraft accident occur, on or in the vicinity of the airport. Simultaneously, there was the testing of the quality and the abilities of the procedures as stipulated in the airport’s Emergency Management Manual.” 

The re-enactment of the large-scale scenario involved students of the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) and the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA). Before the emergency exercise, residents were forewarned by the SXM Airport’s Corporate Communications not to become alarmed, as the mock drill response and rescue operation involved alarming roadway activity by the rescue and firefighting, ambulance, marines, and police units. 

In a requested statement on today’s drill, the PJIAE Deputy Fire Chief, Gerald Baptiste disclosed that the evaluation team will assess the various disciplines (Rescue and Firefighting, Airport Security, Air Traffic Service, Police, Airport Emergency Management Team, and Ambulance) activities and the handling of the mitigation of the entire staged incident, as laid down in the Airport’s Emergency Management Manual. The exercise was followed by a debriefing at the St. Maarten’s Red Cross on the Airport Road and was dubbed a success.

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US Board: Court ruling will stifle middle class, further Dutch plans

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The United St. Maarten (US) party expressed disappointment with the verdict of the Constitutional Court to uphold the three ordinances in connection with income and benefit cuts, despite the existence of laws that protect workers’ rights.

The party board is of the opinion that the court used convenient excuses and considerations to arrive at the underlying reason for its verdict: that it upheld the laws because St. Maarten needed liquidity support. Nothing should ever supersede the constitutional rights of the people. The verdict showed that the National Alliance led coalition government did not consider the far reaching consequences or research how the laws would affect the people. “But neither did the court. Nor did it address the trampling of workers’ rights which the three ordinances clearly do,” the US board said.

“This verdict further strengthens the Dutch agenda to financially weaken the country and stifle the little middle class that is left. It opens the door for the establishment of the COHO and the various entities, some financial in nature, that is scheduled to be setup on St. Maarten under the COHO. This is all being facilitated by the National Alliance led government,” the US board said.

“A burnt bridge that was not crossed” is how the board of the US party described the statement by the Constitutional Court that the St. Maarten and Dutch governments not lose sight of the “human dimensions” of enacting the three national ordinances in connection with income and benefit cuts. In other words, “the National Alliance government did not consider the far reaching consequences or research how the laws would affect the people. The National Alliance government now fully owns the setbacks and hardships many families and public servants are encountering,” the board said.

The board continued: “The acceptance without negotiation of the three laws that have not only stifled the growth of our middle class, but will ultimately set them back for a unspecified period of time, has yet to be complemented by an economic recovery plan to offset the cost of living that is shooting through the roof. At a time when countries around the world including the Netherlands were finding ways to maintain the livelihoods of their people and stimulate their economies the Jacobs cabinet was busy agreeing to counter-productive instructions and making decisions hoping to be rescued by the constitutional court.”

The US board stressed that the Jacobs norm, which represents a cap on the earning abilities of St. Maarten’s brightest and most talented people who manage to retain executive positions on at government owned companies, offers no incentives to graduating students, and those that have acquired experience in their fields of study.

According to State Secretary Raymond Knops, the board continues, St. Maarten lack the capacity to implement and or execute the country packages that Prime Minister Jacobs has signed on to. “It then begs the question, with limitations placed on the earning capacity of our people, how are we expected to address our capacity issues? Are we to assume that our capacity issues will be addressed and financed under the umbrella of COHO to circumvent the three laws accepted and imposed without negotiation and a defined time line?”

The US board also noted that the court somehow used the minimum wage to partly justify its ruling. With the court pointing out that at least the minimum wage wasn’t affected, it created a false impression that citizens are living a good life on the minimum wage. “The court’s considerations in arriving at its verdict were off-base and weren’t helped by the fact that there was a serious on lack of data to counter those considerations. Which means the government didn’t care enough to properly prepare its legal representatives,” the board said.

“We recall that the National Alliance from its origins of SPA/SPM days, had always championed itself as a fighter for the rights and livelihood of the middle class citizens of this country. How could this modern day NA stray so far from its history, its core beliefs and principles. The far reaching consequences of the decision by the National Alliance led coalition to accept and implement the so called 3 laws voted for by all the members of parliament except MP Christopher Emmanuel was never taken into consideration said the board,” the US board said.

The US board is of the opinion that all of the life changing agreements and or decisions made thus far by the Jacobs cabinet were void of the human dimension, because the only motivation given thus far by Honourable Prime Minister Jacobs is that “our backs were against the wall”. “Members of parliament who motivated their votes against the 3 laws presented, did so in an attempt to show solidarity with the people, only to turn around and vote in support of the motion that stripped civil servants and workers of government owned companies of their spending power, and benefits,” the US board said.

“The National Alliance who once championed themselves as the defenders of the middle class, have seemingly abandoned that position in the last year and a half and most recently passed it on to the constitutional court who in-turn passed it right back. How can our people ever place any level of confidence in the National Alliance again?” the US board concluded.

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