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Prime Minister Jacobs issues the following statement on World NGO Day

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On February 27, across the globe, we celebrate World NGO day. As the name suggests, the day brings awareness to non-governmental organizations’ work and those efforts that contribute to making the world a better place. These efforts often go unnoticed, so it is important that we take this time out to recognize these generous contributions as we did this morning during the Virtual NPOwer NGO World Day – SXM Conference under the theme ‘2 for 1.’

The day established by Marcis Liors Skadmanis, a UK-based social entrepreneur, is celebrated by many European countries. In 2014, the day became recognized by the United Nations and the European Union.

All over the world, NGOs safeguard human rights, the rights of individuals to access basic human needs, and developing effective policies through advocation.

On World NGO day, I thank local NGOs. They give so selflessly and work so tirelessly to better our society, including our citizens who volunteer, our business community who collaborates and take up their corporate social responsibilities via these NGOs.

Volunteerism and civil society are crucial elements of a society that cares about those less fortunate than us. Government and the private sector play essential roles in our society’s development. Still, civil society can fill gaps untouched by these groups and do so even more efficiently for many reasons.

COVID-19 is providing a perfect example of this critical role played by civil society. Through various programs, our community received support for income loss, which complemented the programs being executed by the Government of St. Maarten.

For this reason, the Government of St. Maarten commits to the continued partnership with NGOs. It helps to facilitate the success of the work being done by NGOs with inclusive policies. The Government will continue to engage with NGOs of all sectors to build a stronger community and adverse some of our community members’ challenges.

I encourage every capable citizen of St. Maarten to get involved in civil society and experience the reward of being a part of something greater than yourself. Happy World NGO Day!

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Minister Ludmila de Weever delivers on securing outstanding concessions for TelEm

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications, Ludmila de Weever, is very pleased that the Governor has signed off the national ministerial decrees thereby finalizing the outstanding concessions for the Sint Maarten TelEm Group of Companies.

On January 29, 2021, His Excellency the Governor and the Minister signed off on the aforementioned decrees to grant concessions to Sint Maarten Telephone Company N.V. (TelEm N.V.) and St. Maarten International Telecommunication Services N.V. (SMITCOMS N.V.).

“I am very pleased to have been able to see this matter come to a conclusion with the signing of the national decrees.  This is a significant development which will allow the TelEm Group of Companies to proceed with their planning and investments,” an elated Minister of Telecommunications Ludmila de Weever said on Wednesday. 

Both concessions are extended for a period of 15-years, subject to earlier revocation or termination, under the conditions as mentioned in the national decrees.

For more than five years, the concession agreements led to a stalemate between the telecommunications sector regulator Bureau of Telecommunications & Post (BTP) and TelEm.  Minister De Weever in her planning related to outstanding issues, put this matter on the table as one of her main agenda points to have resolved within her first year as minister.

“Your diligence on this is very appreciated by TelEm and its subsidiaries. We have been working on this for years now and without your involvement we were starting to get concerned. Again, our heartfelt thanks,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TelEm Kendell Dupersoy said to Minister Ludmila de Weever after the process came to a successful conclusion.

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Buncamper: MOU about passenger boats between St Maarten and Anguilla was signed in 2013

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On February 5th, 2021 Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius Buncamper sent a letter to the Minister of Justice, the honorable Anna E. Richardson regarding Anguilla Boats entering St. Maarten, the United Sint Maarten Party (USP) parliamentary faction office said in a press statement on Friday.

“In his letter to the minister, MP Buncamper pointed that it had come to his attention that boats registered in Anguilla are picking up and dropping off passengers at pier at the Simpson Bay ferry, while boats registered in St. Maarten and other boats are prohibited by Anguillan authorities from taking passengers to Anguilla or on day trips to the uninhabited islands around Anguilla, such as Prickle Pear.

“The MP asked the Minister of Justice if she was aware of this practice and if there were plans to rectify it. The Minister of Justice in her response of February 19th, to MP Buncamper outlined that the works to formulate a document to regulate such practice started in 20212 with former Minister of Justice, Roland Duncan and former Minister of Tourism, Romeo Pantophlet.

“The work was finalized in December 2013 when the then Minister of Justice, Dennis Richardson and Minister of TEATT, Thadeus Richardson signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Chief Minister of Anguilla, Hubert Hughes and Minister of Home Affairs, Jerome Roberts, regulating the operations of passenger vessels transporting persons between Anguilla and St. Maarten via the Ferry Terminal in Simpson Bay.

“Due to the global pandemic, the government of Anguilla implemented stringent travel restrictions and closed their ports of entry to all foreign vessels. This differed to St. Maarten’s travel restrictions after the border closure was lifted.

“As Anguilla has always been classified as a “low risk” country to Sint Maarten based on the COVID19 infections rate, passengers arriving from Anguilla are allowed to enter and transit Sint Maarten without need to quarantine, whereas passengers going to Anguilla must pay a sum of US$300 to US$500 to enter Anguilla and quarantine upon their arrival as well as administer 2 negative COVID19 test before being allowed to discontinue their quarantine.

“Conversations are being arranged with the government of Anguilla to revisit the terms of the current arrangements and identify how both countries will benefit. This must be done in conjunction with the Ministry of General Affairs, The Ministry of TEATT and the Ministry of Justice.

“MP Buncamper inquired if country St. Maarten benefits from the revenues generated from these boat trips and was informed that prior to the COVID19 pandemic the ferries that operated at the Simpson Bay pier did not pay any daily fees to SLAC, and that such payments are not regulated in the national ordinance (regulating the rate for the use of berths at the piers, wharves, moorings and mooring buoys and anchoring fees).

“The Minister further explained that there is currently interest in creating a Sint Maarten/Anguilla terminal, which will result in generating income for the government of Sint Maarten. When asked how long this practice is intended to continue, the minister responded that the government of Sint Maarten will arrange a meeting with the government of Anguilla whereby dialogue will be held to identify a new agreement beneficial to both countries,” the USP faction press statement concludes.

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Saba surpasses 1,000 vaccinations mark on Friday

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - Shortly before 12 noon on Friday, February 26, Saba surpassed the 1,000 vaccinations mark. Janelie Barnes was the 1,000th person to get her Moderna vaccine in a highly successful COVID-19 vaccination program.

Saba’s vaccination program got off to a good at start on Monday, February 22 with 260 vaccinations in one day. On the second day, Tuesday, the 500th mark was surpassed with a total of 546 persons having received their vaccination. On Wednesday, February 24, vaccinations took place specifically for senior citizens residing at the Home and clients of the LIFE Center program, resulting in a total number of 623. By Thursday, February 25, the tally reached 908.

The Health Care Department together with Saba Health Care and with the assistance of the Red Cross has been running a smooth, effective vaccination program. “The dedication and super friendliness of this team contributed to the success of the vaccinations,” said vaccination coordinator Tedisha Gordon of the Public Health Department.

The vaccination team has been working in shifts, vaccinating 8 hours a day, with each team member carrying out their assigned task, said Gordon. There are flow coordinators, registration personnel, vaccinators, prep nurses, observation personnel, a doctor and floor manager.

Persons to be vaccinated first arrive at the checkpoint outside the Eugenius Johnson Center, then proceed inside to the registration point. There are three vaccination stations, of which two are used on a continuous basis and a flexible third when it gets really busy. Once vaccinated, persons spend 15 minutes in the observation area.

“It has been a very good experience. People wear their ‘I got vaccinated’ button with pride. The community is very enthusiastic. There is a positive sentiment going around,” said Head of the Public Health department Dr. Koen Hulshof, who is particularly proud of the vaccination team. “We have a great team that also includes lots of volunteers.”

Saba has 1,450 to 1,500 current adult population. “We are well on track to vaccinate at least 80 percent. With these numbers, Saba can work towards partly reopening the island in May and easing the measures such as the mandatory quarantining upon entry, depending on the pandemic’s developments,” said Dr. Hulshof.

There are two days of vaccination left in the first round: tomorrow, Saturday, February 27 and Monday, March 1. Both days are for persons who didn’t register beforehand and those who could not make it to their original appointment. The second round of vaccinations takes place in about 4 weeks.

Vaccination team

The Saba vaccination team.

 

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Saba, the Netherlands win Elsa Shipping case

SABA (WELLS BAY) - The Saba government is pleased with the verdict of the Rotterdam Court on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A panel of three judges together formed the maritime chamber of the Rotterdam Court that reviewed the case and concluded to dismiss all claims of Elsa Shipping Limited (Elsa Shipping).

Elsa Shipping took the Public Entity Saba, the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) and the Netherlands to court for the stranding and total loss of the ship, the MY Elsa on March 22, 2017. According to Elsa Shipping, the Public Entity Saba, the SCF and the Netherlands were both jointly and severally responsible for the main sums of US $ 7,090,925.63, € 8,361.52, and £ 5,971.72 and legal interest.

According to Elsa Shipping, in summary, the Netherlands was liable because they are the responsible and competent authority for the waterways around the islands Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius. Elsa Shipping claimed the Public Entity Saba was responsible because it was the owner of the mooring that broke, and the SCF was responsible because the park ranger that instructed the crew of Elsa Shipping to use the mooring that broke works for the SCF.

According to Elsa Shipping, the risk and responsibility for moorings that break lies with these three entities jointly because the mooring qualified as a permanent fixture that was constructed in the sea, which in Dutch is also called an ‘opstal’. The qualification of the mooring as a permanent fixture would have the legal consequence that the risk and responsibility was indeed for the defendants, should anything go wrong.

Next to that, Elsa Shipping claimed that the Netherlands was separately responsible because it did not ensure that the mooring was not faulty, nor did tit properly maintain the mooring or offer any guidance with detailed instructions upon use of the mooring. According to Elsa Shipping, the SCF was responsible because it was their park ranger that provided uninformed instructions to the Elsa crew to use that mooring.

All three defendants were jointly represented by the solicitor general of the Netherlands (in Dutch: ‘de landsadvocaat’), Mr. Edward Brans of the firm Pels Rijcken, based in The Hague, the Netherlands, who worked closely together with the local legal counsel of the Public Entity Saba Mr. Gerald Simmons – de Jong. The three defendants jointly requested the judges to dismiss the claims.

According to the defendants the cause of the stranding was not the line that broke off the mooring. They argued that the ship stranded because the captain and crew had turned down the volume of the alarm sound that was supposed to warn them in combination with the fact that there was no apparent crewmember designated with watch duty, which was disastrous, particularly when in open sea conditions over 350 meters away from the shore.

The defendants disputed that the mooring qualified as a permanent fixture, because it has the shape of a big metal anchor and can be moved freely. The Public Entity Saba argued that it could not be blamed, because the mooring had just been commissioned two months before and was only up for its first scheduled check-up later on. The SCF argued that the park ranger did nothing wrong because he just called the captain of the Elsa to ensure that he would not anchor outside of the anchor zones and only confirmed the capacity of the mooring as was confirmed by the company that commissioned it.

Regarding the question whether or not the mooring qualifies as a permanent fixture (in Dutch: ‘opstal’), which then would be accompanied by all of its legal consequences regarding risk and responsibility, the judges considered that it was not a permanent fixture. The main considerations for this were that neither the anchor, nor its chain were permanently anchored into the bottom of the sea by either drilling a hole in the sea bed or by installing a concrete foot. This meant that the mooring did not qualify as a permanent fixture as meant in article 6:174 paragraph 4 of the BES Civil Code, but a loose asset (in Dutch: ‘roerende zaak’) as meant in article 6:173 of the BES Civil Code.

The next main question was whether the mooring indeed was defective and if the defendants were aware of the dangers in using this mooring. According to the judges, Elsa Shipping did not provide substantiated proof that the defendants were aware of this. There was no inconclusive proof that the mooring was faulty and that the defendants were to blame for this. The installation report of the mooring confirmed that it could carry ships over 1,100 ton in normal weather and that it was only installed two months before the stranding. The first scheduled maintenance and inspection was scheduled for April 20 or 21, 2017.

The specialist damage report as commissioned by Cunningham Lindsey Dutch Caribbean also confirmed that the installation itself met the requirements that it should meet, but that it was not installed in the right position. The wrong position had caused it to be located too close to rock formations that in turn caused the line to chafe and eventually break. There was no reason for the Public Entity Saba to doubt the installation documents.

The main advisor of the Public Entity Saba in this case Mr. Gerald Simmons – de Jong said that this verdict was another result made possible by a great collaboration between the different departments in The Hague and the Public Entity Saba. “Both the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management showed great trust and understanding towards the local circumstances on Saba and we really worked well together to present the case as best as we could to the panel of judges,” he said.

Elsa 3

 

 

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White & Yellow Cross and SMMC ready for vaccination

SINT MAARTEN (ST. JOHN’S ESTATE/CAY HILL) - The White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) and St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) are prepared to begin vaccinating their staff against COVID-19 on Monday, February 22nd.

These rules around the administering of the vaccines are very strict, and thus a well-planned and smooth-running organization is essential. The Pfizer vaccine has to kept at a temperature of -70 degree Celsius, and can only be kept outside this super freezer for a limited amount of time. That, in addition to the still existing coronavirus regulations, make this operation quite a logistical challenge.

Because of this, both organizations started preparing weeks ago. At the WYCCF a special vaccination team was formed, which went over every detail of the plan. Several rooms were freed up and reorganized to streamline the process, and several trainings were organized. Today, all will be in place, staff will be trained and appointment invitations will be sent out. Monday at 10 AM, Quality Nurse Claudette Rijff will be receiving the first dose, which will also be live streamed via the Government of St. Maarten Facebook Page by the Department of Communications.

Bregje Boetekees, Operations Manager at the WYCCF, says she’s proud of her team for setting up a complex and precise operation like this in such a short time span. The commitment and energy that my staff put into this in the last couple of weeks is really fantastic. Where in the beginning many of our staff were still doubtful of taking the vaccine, we notice now, that many did their research and changed their mind. The vaccine is safe, and it is very important for our clients that we make sure we do everything we can to protect them against the Covid-19 virus. I’m definitely looking forward to Monday!

WYCCF and SMMC both fall within the first priority risk group and thus will be among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The first shipment contains the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and is scheduled to arrive on St. Maarten today after weeks of preparations. The regulations regarding the transportation, storage and the administering of the vaccines require logistical precision for effective vaccination with no errors or wastage.

The vaccination administration at WYCC is managed by a multidisciplinary team formed specifically for creation and management of the vaccination plan. The plan entailed making space available to administer the vaccines and organizing training sessions for staff and clients. It also entailed an extensive social media campaign which saw influential members within the community being interviewed about the vaccine.

SMMC’s vaccination administration process was created and is managed by the Hygiene and Infection Control Department, supported by the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), the ER Department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare. In addition to vaccinating all staff, SMMC is also responsible for the vaccination of two other front-line healthcare organizations; the Ambulance Department and St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS).

Nurse Bregje Boetekees, Operations Manager at WYCCF is looking forward to receiving her vaccine and seeing her staff and clients vaccinated and said “I’m proud of my staff for setting up a difficult and precise operation like this in such a limited time. The commitment and energy that my staff put into creating and executing this plan is remarkable. In the beginning, some staff members were doubtful of the vaccine and the safety of it but after having done research using credible sources, many have positively changed their minds and opinion on the vaccine. All in all, the vaccine is safe and it is important for our clients that we do everything possible to protect them from COVID-19.”

OMT Chairman and Medical Director Dr. Felix Holiday will be among the first to receive the vaccine on Monday and said “after weeks of intense preparation, we are ready to administer the vaccine to our staff and our colleagues at the Ambulance Department and SLS. As a hospital, we have seen the effects of this disease first hand. Too many people have been affected and too many lives have been lost so we cannot sit back and do nothing. Vaccination is necessary, not just to protect ourselves but to protect our healthcare system, our way of life and more importantly, our economy. I am proud of our staff and their efforts from the beginning of the pandemic to now. I am happy to be one of the first to receive this life-saving vaccine and encourage everyone to do their part and get vaccinated as well.

While the vaccines are not mandatory, both organizations encourage members of the public to sign up to receive the vaccine to protect themselves against the risks of contracting COVID-19 disease. Persons interested in receiving the vaccine can sign up via https://bit.ly3tOsJLa or using a form that can be collected at CPS at the Vineyard Building, the Division of Labor Affairs public service center in Simpson Bay or at the Government Administration Building.

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Unions provide their take on the meeting with the Minister of General Affairs

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The local media houses ran a press release captioned “Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs meets with CCSU membership,” the Unions said in a press statement on Wednesday.

The press release continues as follows: “Where the presence of the representatives of the various Unions that form part of the Committee for Civil Servant Union (CCSU) was detailed.

“Prime Minister Jacobs, who in that setting is referred to as Minister of General Affairs as in that role she attends to the affairs of the Civil Servants where it pertains to their legal status as employees of the Government.

“We the Unions find it very disheartening that after a year of explaining to the Prime Minister the difference of a meeting with the Committee for Civil Servant Union (CCSU) and the Unions is not the same. In meeting with the unions, the interest of ALL workers is represented.

“These Unions are separate entities with operating boards that represent workers from varying parts of the community. When necessary they come together as a collective body of unions under the umbrella of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions. (WICLU)

“It is constantly being reported that the Prime Minister met with the Unions when the Prime Minister met with the CCSU. The role of the CCSU which is known as a committee governed by law, is where discussions should take place when changes to the working conditions of the civil servant are to be discussed.

“When Laws that will affect the civil servant is proposed to be implemented, where it pertains to civil servants’ remuneration, changes to the renumeration or anything that would influence their working conditions. Note must be taken that this committee only represents Civil Servants and not the private sector.

“The Windward Island Chamber of Labour Unions has requested numerous meetings with the Prime Minister, to date the Unions have not been successful in having this request honoured.

“The first step, before any negotiations can take place in the CCSU or any unilateral decision is made such as the changing or implementing of any law, should be a dialogue with the Unions as these are the entities that represent all the workers that are 99% of the time affected by these changes. The membership of the CCSU are members placed there by the union to represent the civil servants on behalf of the union.

“In our opinion, the organisation previously referred to as the GOA (Georganiseerde Organisatie Ambtenaren zaken) which was changed as explained by the personnel department, to the English translation Committee of Civil Servants Union (CCSU) this is what has confused the whole situation, because the Ministers feels that the CCSU are the people representatives instead of the Unions.

“However, the Prime Minister in her many elucidations on the floor of parliament stressed the independence of the CCSU thus it is very confusing for the Unions to understand how the Prime Minister cannot distinguish between the two. The workers cannot complain to the CCSU as they are not paying any dues to the CCSU, they complain and hold the Unions who they are paying dues to accountable.

“The Unions is kindly requesting the Honourable Prime Minister to please stop the erroneous announcement in Parliament, and the various media including Social Media that she met with the various Unions or that the Unions refused to meet with her.

“We the Unions are kindly requesting the Chairperson of the CCSU to inform the Minister of General Affairs that in the setting of the CCSU she is not meeting with the unions but with a committee that looks out for the wellbeing of the Civil Servants based on the Law that is found in Chapter X of the Landsverordening Materieel Ambtenarenrecht,” the Unions press release concludes.

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USM, TelEm & PWR Celebrate Women in Politics on March 8th

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On March 8, 2021, six (6) influential women in the political arena, representing the Dutch and French side of the island will be keynote speakers in the 2021 event: ‘Oualichi Politics’.  Oualichi is one of the indigenous names given to pre-Columbian St.Martin meaning “strong women”. These women of the island have done exceptionally well in their contribution to politics but to St.Maarten/ St.Martin’s culture for years.

In what is expected to be a historical event of 2021, these dynamic women will share publicly their journeys and vision for an equitable, sustainable, and democratic society. The public is invited to learn more about them, how they overcame challenges and how they are shaping a better future for the island.

The six (6) speakers are the Honorable Silveria Jacobs (Prime Minister and former Minister of Education),  Lysanne Charles (Caribbean MP candidate for Tweede Kamer, Bij1), Melissa Gumbs (MP and co-founder of PFP), Jorien Wuite (Caribbean MP candidate for Tweede Kamer, D66), Valerie Demaseau (First Vice President of the Collectivité de Saint-Martin) and Gwendolien E. Mossel (The Bureau Ombudsman).

Speakers will engage with the general public and commentators representing the community such as Ms. Makhicia Brooks, managing director of the St. Maarten Development Fund. Commentators will kick-start the live Q&A.  Oualichi Politics will be hosted by Ife Badejo, founder of Produce Wealth Revolution (PWR) Agency.

TelEm Group’s Residential Manager Marketing & Sales, Mrs. Julie Zambrini-Judd, says the company is honored to be providing the digital platform and bandwidth required to host such an impressive and influential group of women on St. Maarten, and she is encouraging maximum attendance at the March 8th, event.

“Undoubtedly, we can expect some stimulating and thought-provoking conversation, not only about politics on our island, but also about St. Maarten culture and where it’s heading. Having worked with the PWR Agency and Ms. Ife Badejo in the past, we look forward to another successful event that we are once again proud to be a part of,” said Mrs. Zambrini.

Oualichi Politics is a collaborative effort of the University of St.Martin (USM), TelEm N.V. and the PWR Agency, in celebration of International Women’s Day. It will be aired live on March 8 on Facebook platforms of the collaborative partners. For more information or inquiries, kindly email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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Chris: World Bank’s audacity a result of weak local leadership

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel has said the World Bank’s audacity to interfere in corporate personnel matters at the Princess Juliana International Airport is a clear result of weak leadership by the current government and that State Secretary Raymond Knops is getting more comfortable in using language of control towards the government and people of St. Maarten.

MP Emmanuel pointed out that Knops uses every opportunity to remind the government of St. Maarten of the conditions for the release of funding. He said despite the broad language of cooperation used in the country packages and COHO legislation, the State Secretary always return to the language of control when he feels he isn’t get his way or things are not progressing how he wants. “He threatens funding or reminds you of the conditions. And this has to be laid at the feet of this government who supports these agreements,” Emmanuel said.

The MP stressed that government’s casual approach to everything, including what is happening at PJIA, has left the door wide open for entities such as the World Bank to walk through and interfere where they should not. “The World Bank and others are taking advantage of a void created by this government and its failure to respond timely and address adequately the issues facing this country. You cannot classify it any other way,” the MP said.

“The World Bank is now doing damage control after being taken to task about the fact that they have no authority or say over personnel matters at PJIA. Today the government finds it necessary to comment on the letter after it had been leaked. This is weak leadership that hopes issues will just up and disappear,” he added.

In the meantime, the MP continued, State Secretary Knops seems to be in quite a rush to impose supervision over St. Maarten though reforms and getting more and more confident in telling St. Maarten exactly what he thinks. Emmanuel pointed to Knops statements that he is “not happy with the way St. Maarten manages its airport” and stating that the Justice Ministry “lacks decisive leadership.”

“These are his words. First of all, the fact that he can say that the airport is not managed well is very ironic considering it is his CEO in place and his CEO failing dramatically. You cannot stay thousands of miles away in The Hague and try to micromanage the airport through a CEO who believes his position is guaranteed because of the Dutch, a Dutch appointed CFO and complicit Supervisory Board of PJIAE,” MP Emmanuel said.

“Our airport was once managed by us. By people we were proud of. People like Eugene Holiday, Regina Labega and Michel Hyman. Not people who look down their noses at us. Airport employees were always so proud of that institution. Today what do they have? Intolerant behavior from a CEO who obviously does not respect them, no money, no indication of when they will be getting their money, and consultants who are getting paid millions per year. The airport is being fleeced. So if Mr. Knops doesn’t like the way the airport is being managed, he and the World Bank need to step back and let us do the job.”

The MP added that the State Secretary and BZK complains about illegal persons on St. Maarten and the burden they have on the system, but received the border control duties they demanded in 2017 and to date can’t report on what they achieved with this control. “Then they announce proudly in the Dutch media that they are feeding the people of St. Maarten else we would starve come April. This was followed by an announcement by St. Maarten’s Minister of Finance that about 80% of the people in the food program are unregistered.

“The Dutch constantly downplay their failures and elevate perceived failures of St. Maarten. But again this comes back to the local government of St. Maarten who has let Knops, the World Bank, the CFT and others simply make comments without offering a rebuttal in defense of St. Maarten. Silence is acceptance,” the MP said.

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CPS addresses several questions about the Covid-19 vaccine program in its Thursday evening panel discussion

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Covid-19 vaccines are expected to arrive on St. Maarten soon. The objective is to create herd immunity, which requires 70% of the population to be vaccinated, before the upcoming hurricane season.

Organizing a campaign on this scale with very demanding safety, efficiency, and logistical requirements is a huge operation. The Vaccination Task Force has been working day and night for the past couple of months to make sure everything is up to par when the vaccines arrive.

On Wednesday, concrete plans were shared with the public via an SMS (Short Message Service) blast with a link to the government vaccination information page, and it was also further explained in the panel discussion on Thursday evening.

From the many incoming questions, it was clear that there was a high demand for information.

The Honorable Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor (Ministry VSA) Richard J.J. Panneflek, officially opened and closed the panel discussion, and the host for the evening was Roylyka Roache from the Department of Communication (DCOMM).

The guests consisted of Eva Lista-de Weever, Epidemiologist, and head of Ministry of VSA Collective Prevention Services (CPS); Bregje Boetekees, Manager of Operations of the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF); Dr. Anand Raghosing, a resident general practitioner; and Dr. A.J. Duits, Medical Immunologist and Director of the Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation.

After the opening remarks by the Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor, the livestream started with a small presentation given by Eva Lista-de Weever and Dr. Duits. Dr. Duits explained how vaccines work, how they are developed, but also shared some of the first results of the effect of the vaccine in Israel.

He also brought forward hard scientific data about the rarity of extreme side effects and safety to address those concerns amongst the population. After this segment, Eva Lista-de Weever took over and informed about the rollout strategy regarding location, priority groups, procedure, and registration.

The public was clearly well prepared and sent in 25 questions in advance via an email address that was promoted several days earlier. Dr. Duits, being a specialist when it comes to immunology and vaccines started off and answered the first questions.

Dr. Duits went into detail explaining how the mRNA vaccine is not able to change your DNA and explained what ingredients are part of the vaccine.

Bregje Boetekees provided much-needed nuance to several media articles that are circulating. One being from Norway where was claimed that several elderly people passed away after receiving the vaccine, while in fact there was no actual link found between these deaths and the vaccine.

In an elderly home with seniors of very high age, with a very fragile health status, the passing away of persons is unfortunately not uncommon. However, in this article, these deaths were linked to the vaccine, while the number of people passing away wasn’t any higher than normal.

Boetekees then continued to mention that for the elderly people living at the White & Yellow Cross, who are very fragile, each case will be personally reviewed to see if the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks of getting infected with Covid-19.

Dr. Raghosing replied to many questions from the livestream audience to the specific medical situations of people and comforted many by explaining that there are actually very few absolute contra-indications.

The more practical questions were answered by Eva Lista-de Weever with respect to how to register, how many doses will we receive, how is it stored, when will it commence, etc.

There were almost 400 livestream viewers, and many were active in the comment section with a total of 343 comments. While the event was planned to end at 8.00 PM, the livestream viewers kept posting good questions, so it was decided to keep on going until well after 8:30 PM. A total of 24 questions from the live comments were answered. One of these questions was: how many in this panel would take the vaccine. All panelists including the honorable minister replied positively to this question and ensured the public that they will lead by example and take the vaccine.

Thirty-five minutes overtime, the comment section fell still, and all questions were answered. Roylyka Roache thanked the audience for their questions, and the guests for their valuable information, and said to the public that in case they forgot to answer a question, they can always send them in after to the following email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you missed the event Thursday evening, it will still be available via the Government Facebook Page, and it will be replayed on Cable TV Channel 115 on Friday at 10.30 AM and again at 6.30 PM.

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