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Minister of Justice and KPSM congratulate Keenan Benjamin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Relief on Gas prices to go into effect on Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

Minister VSA Omar Ottley

Acting Minister of TEATT Hon. Omar Ottley

Minister of Justice Anna Richardson

Minister of Justice Hon. Anna Richardson

Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion

Minister of Finance Hon. Ardwell Irion

 

 

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Soccer associations ‘R.I.S.C Takers’ and ‘Street Kings’ visit the Point Blanche Prison

SINT MAARTEN (POINT BLANCHE) - On Wednesday, June 15th, two soccer associations, the ‘R.I.S.C Takers’ and ‘Street Kings’ visited the Point Blanche prison to play demonstration matches with the inmates. The ‘R.I.S.C Takers’ is a local soccer association that promotes participation in soccer of all levels and ages on the island. The Street Kings association is a Dutch soccer association consisting of professional soccer players with the goal to similarly promote and encourage participation in the sport of soccer around the world.

The Street Kings, led by Edward van Gils, arrived on the island on Tuesday, June 14th, and have been touring schools on both sides of the islands. Included in their tour was a visit to the detention facilities. The Street Kings have toured many prisons in the Netherlands and around Europe, with the primary goal to motivate the inmates to turn their life around through stimulating discussions with the inmates and physical engagement through soccer.

The initiative was organized in collaboration with the prison management team, led by the prison director Mr. Steven Carty, and the soccer associations. The goal with this initiative was to provide inmates the opportunity to engage in fun, sporting activities, as sport has a positive effect on the physical well-being and mental health of inmates in general. It allows inmates to process their emotions in a healthy way and can positively affect the prison living environment as it may influence the inmates’ overall behavior.

The participation of the inmates in the matches with the professional soccer players was extensive. The matches were played with great enthusiasm and sportsmanship from both the inmates and the Street Kings. Other inmates and staff spectated and positively motivated the players during the matches.
The matches were described as fun, challenging and safe, whereby the inmates got the opportunity to bond with their fellow inmates and play as a team against the Street Kings.

After the matches, the Street Kings also got the opportunity to sit with the Inmate Association, represented by three inmates, to share their views on the event. The Inmate Association expressed their appreciation for the management team for organizing such an event, and for the Street Kings and the R.I.S.C Takers for taking the time to visit them. The Inmate Association recognizes the efforts the management team has been taking to improve the living environment within the detention facility such as improvements made to the gym, the airspaces, the educational courses and more. The Street Kings ended the discussion with some words of encouragement.

The prison director, Mr. Steven Carty, stated that: “As a sport enthusiast myself, I hoped such an event could be a great way to positively engage with and facilitate social and emotional development amongst the inmates. Sport-based activities are an innovative way to excite the inmates and promote positive participation. I look forward to continuing to organize such events, for example in the field of basketball, table tennis and more, as this one was well received and plays an important role in the rehabilitation of the inmates.”

Gevangenis Point Blanche Sint Maarten Foto TIM VAN DIJK

 

 

 

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MP Arrindell seeking information on Surveillance Cameras

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Member of Parliament (MP) Akeem Arrindell is seeking information from the Minister of Justice regarding the Surveillance Camera System that has been installed, according to a Wednesday press release from the MP.

MP Arrindell has formally requested information about the Security Surveillance Camera's placed at nearly every intersection around the island. “I am curious to know the success rate of this system especially with the recent robbery over past weekend where an innocent life was lost,” MP Arrindell queried.

“I am curious to know how many crimes or road incidents have these Camera Systems helped solve thus far? Is there a monitoring department staffed around the clock watching these cameras? How many staff per shift that actually do monitoring of these cameras, or are the Cameras only checked when there is a request? Are all Cameras fully operational?

“Is there a maintenance program on these cameras to ensure no downtime or as little downtime as possible? In Ministers personal opinion do you believe sufficient Cameras are placed around island? Safety of our citizens is of utmost importance, and all must be done within ministries power to ensure such,” MP Akeem Arrindell concludes in his press statement.

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Minister of Public Health Ottley presents NCD MAP to Stakeholders

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (Ministry VSA) has finalized a new 10-year strategic plan for chronic diseases.

It is called the Multisectoral Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD MAP) 2021-2030. The NCD MAP was presented to the Ministries of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports, the Ministry of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Finance by the Minister of VSA Hon. Omar Ottley.

NCDs are chronic conditions that are caused by a combination of lifestyle, biological and environmental factors. They are the biggest cause of ill-health and death in the world.

In Sint Maarten, around a quarter of the population suffer from a chronic condition including high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, cancer, stroke, and heart attack. Mental health related issues are also a prevalent but hidden condition.

The vision of the NCD MAP is a vibrant Sint Maarten society where health and wellbeing are the way of life for all people to achieve their fullest potential in a stigma-free, equitable and supportive community.

The mission of the strategic plan is to create and promote a supportive environment that enables and empowers people to make healthier choices that will prevent and reduce NCDs and their risk factors by 2030. This can only be achieved by multisectoral action and collaboration between the various ministries.

The four NCD MAP strategic action areas are 1. Strengthen health systems for surveillance, research, monitoring and evaluation on NCD prevalence and risk factors; 2. Establish governance and coordination mechanisms for multisectoral involvement, decision-making and implementation of the NCD MAP; 3. Reduce NCD risk factors by creating awareness, promoting healthy lifestyles and addressing determinants of health; 4. Provide quality, people-centered, integrated and comprehensive services for the effective management of NCDs, including self-management.

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SHTA’s new Public / Private “Save the Summer” Expedia Campaign

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA) will launch an Expedia campaign in conjunction with the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau (STB). An expedited agreement was signed by acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunication and Transport (TEATT) Omar Ottley and the SHTA. The SHTA in its turn held a multi-sector private sector fundraiser.

A campaign agreement was officially signed on Thursday June 9th by Minister Omar Ottley in the presence of Executive Board member Ricardo Perez of the SHTA, Director May-ling Chun and Section Head Marketing Department Gianira Arrindell of STB. In the meanwhile, SHTA and partner organizations kicked off a multi-sector fundraiser to match government investment.

The public-private Expedia cooperation builds on a successful previous campaign from earlier this year dating back to 2017. Some of these campaigns resulting in increased revenues of 31% via Expedia, the largest tourism platform in the world, partnering in this public-private cooperation. The overall investment of government and the private sector paid off five times in extra room tax revenue.

Expedia’s recent Q1 report shows that there is worldwide tourism demand now the pandemic seems to have loosened its grip on global travel, with special interest in city and beach destinations. SHTA recently suggested to make more use of the opportunities of this timeframe by increasing marketing efforts and allocating government funds accordingly.

Minister Omar Ottley, understanding the urgency to make the 2022 St. Maarten summer meet demand and to provide income to the tourism dependent economy and preserving jobs in the process, pledged $25,000 partnership to a renewed Expedia cooperation campaign in conjunction with the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau (STB).

Within all sectors, the call to action under SHTA’s traditional adage “Tourism is Everybody’s Business” raised well over double government’s investment within 24 hours– this while many businesses on island still have not seen their business volumes reach back to their previously achieved levels. In total 67 companies heeded the call and pledged funds for this public-private island wide partnership, of whom a full list is published on SHTA.com/Expedia. All sectors responded e.g. associations, Banks, Hotels of all sizes, retailers, wholesalers, government owned entities.  In other words, a true island wide private public collaborative effort.  Businesses can still support this cause by sending their pledges to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

After multiple successful campaigns, SHTA has no doubt that this campaign will show immediate results and thanks the involved businesses thank acting Minister of TEATT Omar Ottley for swift assistance in creating the new Expedia campaign .

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Minister Ottley discusses plans for the execution of activities for a mental health project

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Mr. Omar Ottley, welcomed World Bank representatives Ana Holt, Johanne Angers, Marcelo Bortman, and Alyssa Khan to his office to discuss the delegation’s trip. The group is currently here on a travel they refer to as “a mission”.  The aim of this trip is to gain perspective and insight about St. Maarten’s situation as it concerns mental health and to have discussions about moving the project along with relevant parties. This is the first mission trip for the group regarding the project.  

Spokeswoman for the group during the courtesy visit to the Minister’s office, Ms. Holt, remarked that after meeting with the policy team from Public Health and mental health focal point for the ministry, manager of the project at the NRPB, and visiting various foundations on the island, the group received a better understanding of the issues the island is facing as they pertain to mental health and substance abuse. The Minister remarked, “mental health issues are indeed rampant on the island, but also substance abuse is becoming a great concern, particularly amongst our youth.” On behalf of the delegation Ms. Holt stated “after speaking with personnel of the foundations that we visited and policy makers of the Department of Public Health that I must concur with [the Minister’s] sentiments.   

On the mission the delegation visited the Mental Health Foundation, the Ujima Foundation, Turning Point, White and Yellow Cross Centre, (both the Hope Estate and St. John’s Estate locations). The group said that they were impressed and inspired by the commitment and dedication of staff, both from the foundations they visited as well as the staff from the government.

Ms. Holt reminded the policy team working on health reforms and legislative updates, “sometimes we do so much, and we still might not think it enough because we are looking forward to the long path we still must travel. We must remember to reflect and look behind as well from where we came”. 

At the end of the courtesy visit the delegation again pledged their support and commitment to the project before posing for a picture and bidding salutations shortly after. The group looks forward to returning to the island later in the year to embark on their second mission in regard to the project.

Minister of VSA Omar Ottley expressed his profound gratitude to the delegation. “This is truly a chance for St. Maarten to strengthen our mental health awareness and increase access to mental health care. Amongst the list of technical and financial assistance we would also like to request legislative assistance to help adjust the current laws so that we can intervene at an earlier stage, without infringing on human rights,” Ottley said.

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MP Wescot-Williams: “We left it up to them who created it in the first place“

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - A majority of opposition factions left it up to the coalition to solve the mess it created around carnival, Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said in a press statement on Thursday evening.

“We have become accustomed to a little bacchanal every carnival season, and I was relieved that except for a few glitches here and there, we had not done too badly after a 2-year hiatus,” the

MP commented on a hastily convened meeting, which she decided not to attend.

Recalling the budget handling, MP Wescot added that we cannot forget that the first salvo was fired when a part of the coalition made a so-called insignificant amendment to the budget 2022 and placed the “carnival subsidy” under the Tourism Department.

“Be that as it may, Carnival took place, but as it now appears, ‘all was not well’ “.

We received a request from the Carnival foundation for an urgent public meeting to discuss pending issues etc.    

“Choosing to request a public meeting in itself was interesting as the format of meetings with third parties is usually determined by the chair of parliament. “

But luckily for the foundation their request for a public meeting was honored and scheduled for June 9th, the meeting was to start at 11 am and was part of an agenda of 4 points.

MP Wescot, “There was talk about a public meeting being desirous in order to table a motion.”

But what happened instead?

After the starting time of the meeting, we were informed of the “moving” of this agenda point to a closed door central committee meeting of parliament .

“The public meeting did continue with 2 of the 4 agenda point, so members of parliament did have the opportunity to question this sudden “move”, only to be told that the move was requested by some MPs and that the chair had obliged.”

Further queried about this, the chair admitted that this was not motivated by the members who requested such.

In my view, rather than placate the situation, that explanation given by the Chairlady raised a fundamental issue.

“Can members of parliament request a meeting duly scheduled by the chair on request of a third party, in this case, the carnival foundation, to be postponed, canceled or whatever have you, without putting their proposition forward in the very meeting itself for the parliament to decide?

Parliament is not the playground of the governing factions!”

“What became the sudden secrecy that the president of parliament had overlooked or was unaware of when she scheduled a public meeting on this point?”

I was not impressed in the least by the spin some coalition MPs attempted to give this debacle and I refuse to be part of this game that is clearly going on in coalition circles, regardless to how they turn or twist it, MP Wescot categorically stated.

“With all that is before us as a country, this is what takes center stage?”

“If, as can be presumed from words by the Prime Minister, carnival is to be put on bid (whatever that means), why can’t this be openly debated and defended by those who are proponents of such?

Why, after all these years, are we still talking about an MOU or management agreement with the SCDF, clearly outlining the responsibilities of both parties, without any action?

How can we hold organizations responsible without an agreement?

It is my view that the government relishes in holding out to the very end about subsidizing carnival or even about having carnival.

I will have to wait for these answers in a public meeting, because I and several other colleagues refused to give any credence to this obvious NA/UPP debacle and stayed away from their hastily convened   “closed door CC” on June 9th, MP Wescot concluded.

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Ministry of Finance and Islandpreneur partner to Accelerate Growth

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - In the past five (5) years, St. Maarten has seen unprecedented challenges. From the devastation of Hurricane Irma to the ongoing pandemic, the community has seen severe socioeconomic challenges. As a learning organization, the Ministry of Finance strives to develop its staff and community through education in areas of finance and innovation as it is critical to economic resilience and development, both personally and for the nation.

For this reason, the Ministry has helped to steer a variety of programs such as the Enterprise Support Project, which among other things provides loans and grants to micro, small, and medium sized enterprises (MSME’s) to stimulate capital investments in this core group of our society. The Ministry also sees the importance of capacity building and has worked to implement free courses through Coursera with other stakeholders such as the St. Maarten Development Foundation. In addition, the Ministry has also been actively involved in programs with Qredits, a micro-finance institution which in addition to business loans provides training.

The Ministry recognizes development programs that strive to improve the business community through innovative means while providing the wider community with opportunities to enhance their skills in an ever-changing world. Programs which focus on equitable ways to create wealth, strengthen relationships regionally and internationally as a means to increase trade balances, and overall provide tools for economic mobility contribute to lasting stability and progress. For this reason, it is one of the official partners of Islandpreneur.

“The collaboration of the Ministry of Finance with Islandpreneur represents creating new supply avenues for local entrepreneurs to tap into. Opening the resource pool will provide greater earning capabilities for people wanting to broaden their reach in a strategic and cost-effective manner. When having access to pertinent guidance from organizations such as Islandpreneur at the ground floor, persons will see their professional reach stretch past previous limitations; build skills which will directly impact trajectory; and network with others in their field, both here and abroad. The Ministry is elated to incorporate the Islandpreneur in the development of the people of Sint Maarten.” Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion stated.

Islandpreneur is a brand of accelerator programs, events, and projects designed to scale impact on small island developing states (SIDS) through innovation, finance, and entrepreneurship. The brainchild of Dr. Ife Badejo, president of Foundation INFOBIZZ and Founder of Produce Wealth Revolution Agency, Islandpreneur is designed to assist island-based entrepreneurs to have global impact. This is done through experiential and immersive learning, providing access to quality resources, and boosting entrepreneurial activity.

Islandpreneur Live is the signature event that brings together global leaders and experts together to provide island-based entrepreneurs and creators with strategies and tools to accelerate growth.

Launched in 2020, Islandpreneur Live has attracted co-founder of Priceline.com, Jeff Hoffman; international online business coach, Leslie Samuel; and venture capitalist turned youtuber with 3 million subscribers, Evan Carmichael. Experts from Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten, Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange, Microsoft, and Meta (formerly Facebook) have also shared their expertise at Islandpreneur Live. This year Islandpreneur Live 2022, scheduled for June 27 - July 1, comprises in-person masterclasses (June 27 -29), an awards ceremony (June 30), and virtual summit (July 1) and is done in partnership with the Ministry of Finance, Centrale Bank van Curaçao en Sint Maarten, Port of St. Maarten Group of Companies, Motorworld, and TelEm N.V.

To register for masterclasses or learn more about Islandpreneur Live, go to https://linktr.ee/islandpreneur, stay connected on the Facebook Page, https://fb.com/iamislandpreneur or whatsapp +1-721-520-0033.

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