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Soualiga Newsday Top Stories (3601)

NV GEBE to Introduce New Toll Free Number 1 844 GEBE 213

PONDFILL - NV GEBE, the Water and Electricity Company, today announced that the company will release a toll free number, 1 844 GEBE 213, in the week of July 28.  "This marks an important milestone in improving communication and service to our customers” shared Romelio Maduro, Chief Operation Officer and President of the Board of Directors at NV GEBE.

"At NV GEBE we make every attempt to respond to clients' needs in a timely manner. With these improvements being made to address our telephone issues, we can now focus on making sure that the clients' needs are met." says Maduro.

All calls made to this number 1 844 GEBE 213 will be free for clients using mobile or land lines on any local phone service network.  By adding this number NV GEBE will improve their customer service and response time towards their clients.  This line will be available for emergency calls only.  President of the Managing Board of NV GEBE also stated the following: "Once clients call in with their emergency, one of our operators will take the information, process it accordingly through a technician in order to efficiently address the customer needs and concerns.” 

NV GEBE concluded that getting a toll free number is an important step in an ongoing commitment to enhance NV GEBE’s customer service to its clients. The number is presently in the testing stage and will be ready for use by early this week. (Contributed by NV GEBE) 

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Firefighter: It’s not something you do; it’s something you are

SIMPSON BAY, Sint Maarten - As the curtain came down Friday on Firemen’s Week 2014, it became necessary to look back at the 19 years of Rescue and Fire-Fighting (R&FF) at the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM.

“We haven’t had any major incident,” recalls Manilo Penijn, manager of the R&FF Department.

Knock on wood. Penijn has served in the department from its very inception and only remembers “small cases with no fatalities.”

Shortly after it was established though, the Department had to assist the St. Maarten fire station during Hurricane Luis in 1995. Talk of a baptism of fire, literally. Since then, SXM firemen have had to respond to the Prime Distributors fire and a DC-3 aircraft, which used to bring bread from Puerto Rico, among several others. The latter, according to another 19-year veteran of the department, Mauricio A. Webster, came in once with its “wheels on fire.”

“Minor” as these incidents may seem – (most cases that the R&FF Department at SXM have had to deal with have been medical emergencies, averaging about 15 per month, according to Penijn) – the fact still remains that the firemen are not just folding their arms every day, waiting for something to happen.

“People think we’re in the business of waiting for a fire, but it’s quite the opposite: we try to prevent fires and rescue lives,” said Webster, who added that the Firemen’s Week served to “raise awareness and show a little bit of what we do.”

Deputy Manager of the department, Damian Cooks, a former US Military officer with extensive experience in aircraft firefighting, said he would rate the practical and operational preparedness of his men at 95%.

“We are ready for anything,” he said. “We have only about another 5% we have to work on.”

Firefighting is obviously not for the faint-hearted. In fact, as a popular pinup legend states: “Firefighter: It’s not something you do; it’s something you are.” Physical and mental fitness are basic requirements, while firemen must be willing to adapt to a rapidly changing world, both in terms of the physical structures, technology and the expectations of the communities they serve.

Training

“Firefighting can be taxing on your body,” noted Webster. “The training in itself is very hard because we always train for the worst-case scenarios.”

Comparing the training he received at the beginning of his career to now, Webster said, “back then, we were really trained and prepared only for aircraft firefighting. But there have been changes in structure and in aircrafts as well. Right now, though, we’re being trained for both aircraft firefighting and what you would call ‘normal’ firefighting.”

Penijn put it this way: “I’ve been here from the very start and I know where we were then and where we are today. The training at the time was more like a crash course. Today, the foundation of the department is very, very strong, where it concerns training. The initial course was a Dutch system. The new guys come back from the US with more information and education. The change to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has meant that everybody in the department has the same basic foundation. I would say now, we’re better prepared than before.”

For Cooks, “in firefighting, you never get rusty because every aspect of the training is used on the job.”

Female Firefighters

According to Webster, one of the major changes in the department concerns the age of the personnel.

“A lot of younger people are coming in and the older guys are leaving and moving on. We have a new, young breed now. It’s always good to know that we can attract young people who want to join the service,” he said.

The department now has a staff of 28.

“We’re trying to get to 32,” revealed Penijn, or an average of 10 persons per shift. He said the youngest fireman is 19, while the oldest is about 54, but “the majority are in their 30s.”

“The younger, the more the body can take. Ideally, we want them between 18 and 21,” Penijn said.

All the firefighters at SXM’s R&FF Department are men. Cooks considers this an anomaly in today’s world in which he said women are climbing all kinds of ladders – the corporate ladder, and the firefighting ladder as well. Cooks who has done both military and volunteer firefighting when he was in the United States said in his experience, women make very fine firefighters as well.

“I’m very surprised at the fact that we don’t have female firefighters yet in the department,” he said, adding: “one of my goals is to get at least two or three. They will give the men more competition and keep them on their toes. You know, there is nothing like women to make men more competitive.” His laughter was contagious.

Indeed, the management of the department is focused on recruiting female firefighters. The process of filling the four available vacancies will start shortly, according to Penijn, who said women have also applied for these positions. “We’re going to look over the applications and call those who make the cut for interviews soon,” he said.

New Facility

The brand new facility to house the department that will be constructed soon will have provisions for female firefighters that were lacking in the previous fire station, Penijn said.

Cooks, his deputy, sees the new facility and the consistent training of the personnel as a moral booster.

“Based on the drawings I have seen for the new fire station, the airport management is doing a wonderful job in upgrading our facility. This, and the training of the staff, has lifted the moral of the guys a lot,” he said. “Our equipment is state of the art, and though we have a lot of work in terms of physical training, we’re getting there.”

“Management has been good to us with regards to what we need to perform our duties and our safety,” Webster said. “We’ve just got new suits. A new building is coming. They make sure we get what we need to get the job done.”

He was quick to point out, however, that “firefighting is a very expensive business.” To outfit a firefighter, from the helmet to the shoes, would cost a minimum of about US$6,000 and up. This, of course, does not include other costs like the fire engines and other equipment and training.

“Since we’ve turned to the American ranking, training will take another two years to complete,” said Penijn. “It is not cheap. We have to do aircraft firefighting training on a yearly basis in accordance with ICAO requirements. If we get our local firefighting instructors certified, we will save costs because we won’t have to send staff overseas for training all the time.”

Recognition

While the trio of Penijn, Cooks and Webster agree that the working conditions and training of the firefighters have improved a lot, Webster noted that “as far as recognition is concerned, the community can do more.”

“If you go to some of the restaurants,” he said, “they’ll give you half price if they know you’re a fireman, but we don’t get that in many other places. In other parts of the world, they really honor their firemen. I know the community supports us in other ways, but the respect and consideration of the job we do can still be better.”

Looking forward, however, Penijn, sees an even brighter future for the department.

“I’d like to see the department in the next five years be recognized as a full-fledged fire department,” he said, “supporting the local economy and government.”
 “I’d like to see that we become self-sustained when it comes to major incidents. Right now, if there’s a major incident, the local fire department takes over command because they are in charge of disaster management. We (R&FF) are an initial response team. I’d really like to see that in the next five years that we can handle all emergencies by ourselves.”

This will require, according to Penijn, “more manpower, more resources, and that we enter an agreement with the local fire department.”

This is not to say there’s anything wrong with the working relationship with the local fire department. To the contrary, “the level of cooperation with them is really good,” said Cooks. “And we intend to keep it that way and improve on it.”

After all, as Webster put it: “safety is everyone’s business.” (Contributed by Fabian A. Badejo for SXM Airport)

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Study Financing, USM, Monroe discuss educational opportunities

POND ISLAND, Sint Maarten - The Division Study Financing, the University of St. Martin, and Monroe College held a meeting recently to discuss strengthening the relationship between Monroe and the University of St. Martin that would benefit St. Maarten students.

The agreement will provide quality education to the St. Maarten population.

Present at the meeting were Francio Guadeloupe Dean of Academics the University of St. Martin, Director of Admissions Gersom Lopez from Monroe College, Calvin B. Mardemborough, Senior Study Financing Policy Advisor, Study Financing Division, Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports, and Robert Budike, Financial Manager, the University of St. Martin.

Director of Admissions Lopez stated that Monroe College, a committed partner, comes to the table as a fully accredited institution via the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Through this accreditation students are guaranteed an international recognized degree.

Monroe representative Lopez also stated that St. Maarten and the USM fit into the target nations/target audience of Monroe College, who has students from regions such as Asian tigers and emerging trade giants in the region such as South Korea, China, India, Japan, the Gulf states, and the UK.

Guadeloupe said that this market that Monroe has is beneficial in many ways to St. Maarten/St. Martin students, who will be exposed to an international environment and young professionals hailing from the four corners of the globe. He said that Monroe recognizes the equally phenomenal growth of the hospitality and service sector which could be coupled with their S.T.E.M. affiliated programs and focus on technology and computer engineering/information systems. Technology has its counterpart in enhancing techniques of service and customer satisfaction tied to a human face. It is here in terms of the hospitality and business sector that Monroe is beneficial to St. Maarten/St. Martin’s needs.

Within short, the both institutions will produce a joint brochure, listing the courses the USM offers in Business and Hospitality that are transferable to Monroe College and a representative from Monroe College will come to St. Maarten to jointly promote at the high schools.

An agreement is that students on the island who do the first two (2) year associate with USM, they can continue onwards to do one (1) year and 4 months at Monroe and gain their BA degree. Those who do the pre-USM can thus obtain their BA in 4,4 years. Admission to USM program will be accompanied with a partial letter of admittance to Monroe College. Two conditions will have to be met, and that is that the student graduates from the USM and he/she has a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.50.

In the near future, Monroe College will offer individuals on St. Maarten with ample work experience on a BA to possibility of enrollment in an executive MA hospitality program or adult learners in an online BA(for those on an A.A. level).                                                                              Also discussed was the Monroe “College for a week” program that had been previously done in collaboration with the St. Maarten government, which allowed St. Maarten high school students to experience College life while spending a week at Monroe.

Since signing of the MOU with Monroe College in June 2011, St. Maarten students including those who transferred with credits from the USM have made our country proud by graduating among the best in their class.

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Ministry VSA holds record with fewest complaints registered with the Ombudsman

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The Ministry of Public Health Social Development & Labor (VSA) holds the record of having the fewest complaints filed/registered with the Ombudsman in 2013.

An improved screening procedure of complaints filed with the Ombudsman resulted in less complaints registered and investigated. A total of sixty two (62) new complaints were registered in the year 2013 and only three of those complaints were against the Ministry VSA. 

In 2011 15 complaints were filed against the ministry. Though the number of complaints filed with the Ombudsman was proportionally less than the complaints filed in previous year, the Bureau handled more citizens in need of information.

The Statistics complaints per ministry in % are as follows: Ministry of General Affairs (GA) 16.13%, Ministry of Finance 17.74%, Ministry of Justice 19.35%, Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports 9.68%, Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Public Transportation and Telecommunication (TEZVT) 14.62%, Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) 14.62%, Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) 4.84%.

Minister de Weever stated: “I am proud of my ministry and the work that every civil servant in it has done to improve the overall service to the people we help. We have all grown so much in three and a half years and I want us to all stay on this course and continue to improve the lives of the people we assist every day.”

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Government officials attend memorial service for Flight MH-17 victims

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – On Thursday Government officials, Members of Parliament, representatives of the Dutch Government in Philipsburg and many others attended the memorial church service for the crash victims of Malaysian Airways Flight MH-17 at the Anglican Church.  The service was conducted by Reverend Terrence Rawlins. 

The condolence registers at the Government Administration Building and at the Public Service Center in Simpson Bay Village will close on Friday, July 25 at 5.00pm.  The registers along with the one at the Philipsburg Office of the Representative of the Netherlands will be sent to the Dutch Government.  The online condolence register will remain open and can be accessed by going to Facebook and typing St. Maarten Condolence Page for the Victims of Flight MH17.

 

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POLICE ARRESTS THREE FOR FIRE-ARM POSSESSION, ONE SUSPECT WANTED IN FRONT STREET ARMED ROBBERY

CUPECOY/MULLET BAY, Sint Maarten - On Tuesday July 22nd at approximately 09.30 p.m., during a routine patrol on Rhine Road a police patrol saw a gold colored Hyundai Accent with license plate M-5768 driving in the direction of Mullet Bay.

The officers noticed that there were three occupants in the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle and the passenger next to driver became quite suspicious when the saw the patrol by pulling down the sunshades in the vehicle when the patrol drove by, in order to conceal their identity.

Immediately the patrol followed the vehicle in order the control the vehicle and the occupants. After the vehicle was stopped the officers smelled the strong scent of marihuana coming from inside the car. 

The three occupants and the vehicle were searched, however no drugs were found on the suspects.  During the search of the vehicle a 9 mm pistol was found in a handbag under the drivers’ seat.

In connection with this all three suspects with initials B.A.W. (32), S.A.E (20) and V.H. (20) were arrested on the spot for illegal fire-arm possession. The suspects were all taken to the Philipsburg Police Station and handed over to the Detective Department who will continue this investigation.

At the police station the investigating officers received information that a warrant for the arrest of the suspect S.A.E. was issued in connection with the ongoing daylight armed robbery of “Dazzeling Gem” on Front Street. (Contributed by the Police Force of Sint Maarten)

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NIA students & teachers receive intensive training abroad

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - Several members of the National Institute for Arts (NIA), including teachers and students,are currently in the United States of America receiving rigorous instructions in the fields of dance and performance art.

The students, Ray-Angel Boasman, Jeremiah David, Zoe van Zadelhoff, Dashaun Prince, Lian Borje, Jay Mills, Jeanille Gibs and  Mervin Leblanc are in New York with the Art Saves Lives Foundation and were amongst those chosen to travel to receive lessons at prestigious dance institutions in that state. In addition to their classes, students are also able to take in the city’s sights and broaden their knowledge about dance and also the world.

“At NIA we are committed to giving our students every opportunity to see dance and the performance arts as more than just a hobby, as a true vehicle for self-development and means through which to see the world. We were extremely pleased when our students enrolled in Art Saves Lives Summer Intensive 2014 and very pleased when so many of them were chosen to have this experience with such a wonderful organization in New York,” Clara Reyes, co-director of NIA, said.

NIA teacher, Clifford Henry is also in US, though further west in Seattle, Washington, attending the Summer Dance Institute for Teachers (SDIT) at the Creative Dance Center. At the end of his stay, he will receive his teacher’s certificate from this esteemed institute. Last year, NIA teachers Rudolph Davis and Naomi Adriana were also able to travel for training to this program, courtesy of a scholarship from NIA. Co-directors Reyes and Arlene Halley are also certified by the same school.

We would like to stress here our commitment to the professional development of our teachers in order to maintain NIA’s high standard of artistic excellence. Whatever our teachers learn benefits our students and allows them to develop to their highest potentials. The benefit of this course is not only limited to the teacher in question, but the entire community will be impacted by the dissemination of their acquired knowledge through their community based teaching,” Halley said.

Reyes and Halley said that NIA was busy fostering relationships with other regional and international dance and performing arts institutions including Head Made Factory on French St. Martin, ArtEZ in Arnhem and other renowned institutes in Amsterdam, and Edna Manley College for Visual and Performing Arts, in Jamaica.

“For us what is most important is that our students and teachers understand how very much we want them to excel and also do their best in both dance and beyond. Again, the arts is a medium through which lives can be explored and transformed and we always want them to remember this as they move through each new encounter and experience,” the co-directors said. 

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“25 girls Complete Successful Oualichi Girls Summer Soccer Camp”

CAY HILL, Sint Maarten - During a three day program held from the 17th until 19th of July twenty-five girls, varying in experience level, got introduced to the world of soccer. The camp was a combination of soccer training and fun activities with the children playing football in the morning, switching to fun afternoon activities which were made possible by the Butterfly Farm, Aqua Mania Adventures and Tri sports.

During the finals on Saturday of the camp two girls got rewarded the Coaches award and the Most Valuable Player award. The awards were in the form of two Fifa Coca Cola balls of the 2014 World Cup donated by B&C Beverages.

Indira Richardson received the coach award for her discipline, sportsmanship and team spirit and Emese Wurth received the Most Valuable Player award for exhibiting great talent on the field. All kids received certificates from Coach Hannah O’Brien and Coach Meredith Aird who travelled from Connecticut to conduct the trainings. 

The Oualichi Women’s Soccer Association also partnered with the fit camp of the Minsitry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs by organising a small soccer tournament at the field for the approximately 50 kids of both camps.  Minister the Honorabble Cornelius de Weever also took time out of his busy schedule to attend the final tournament.

This specific Girls camp was unique in that it focused solely on young females with the organisation and trainings given only by women.  The camp was also made free in order to make it possible for all kids of different backgrounds to participate.

The Oualichi Women’s Soccer Association would like to thank all who volunteered and assisted in making this camp possible, specifically the sponors Gebe NV, Island Gems Charity Foundation, Medicosmetics, Domino’s and Powerade for donating to the organisation of the camp. The Oualichi Women’s Soccer Association invites all to stay updated with future activities by following the facebook page: Oualichi Women’s Soccer Team or the website: www.oualichisoccer.com

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President Arrindell receives Annual Report from Social Health Insurance Fund

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – President of Parliament Hon. Gracita Arrindell on Monday received a copy of the 2013 Annual Report from the Social Health Insurance Fund (SZV).

The annual report will provide Members of Parliament an insight into the operations of the SZV for 2013. 

The report includes a director’s summary, general information, financial report, a control declaration, and a financial status report up until 31st December, 2013.  

Representing SZV was Reginald Willemsberg, Deputy Director SZV, Chief Financial Officer SZV, and Ruth Boyrard-Brewster, Corporate Secretary/Policy Advisor.

Also present was Minister of Public Health Hon. Cornelius de Weever.

“It is very important that MPs have an overview of various entities with respect to their functioning etc.  The SZV is a very important organization for the community of Sint Maarten.  The annual report has already been sent electronically to all MPs,” President of Parliament Hon. Gracita Arrindell said on Monday.

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Police arrests four during investigation

SUCKER GARDEN, Sint Maarten - On Monday July 21st at approximately 03.30 a.m. police patrol was sent to Pendant cactus drive in Sucker garden to investigate a break in at an apartment building on the road. 

In the immediate area the police saw a man that fit the description of the suspect in this case. This man was questioned by police and he admitted to have committed the act. The suspect with the initials A.R. (29) was arrested on the spot and he was to taken to the location where the break-in was reported. There the investigating officers located the apartment where the suspect had broken into.

During the investigation the officers felt the strong scent of marihuana coming from another apartment. When one of the officers looked into that apartment, a man was seen standing in the bedroom with a gun in his hand. Immediately this man was asked to come outside, which he did.

He denied having a gun in his possession and refused the officers to search his room. However his home was searched by police after receiving a search warrant. During the search a loaded 9 mm GLOCK pistol was found under the mattress of his bed.

The weapon was confiscated by the Forensic Department for further investigation. These two brothers’ initials R.A. (25) and S.J.A. (27) were arrested in connection with the possession of a fire-arm.

While the arrest was taking place the officers saw a white Hyundai Accent driving on to the premises at very high speed. The driver drove this car into two of the officers causing them to have to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by the car.

The driver of the car and brother of the two other suspects with initials J.J.A. (40) was also arrested in this case after threatening the lives of the officers and that of their families. All suspects remain in custody for further investigation. (Contributed by the Police Force of Sint Maarten)

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