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Dismantling underway at the airport of electrical and plumbing on level 2 of terminal building

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - General Contractor of the Airport Terminal Reconstruction Project, Ballast Nedam International Projects, has jumped started with the Mechanical and Architectural dismantling process at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA), early January.

The dismantling works include mechanical, electrical, and plumbing on level 2 of the facility, which initially served as the former corporate offices.

As this comes after the damages to the Terminal following the aftermath of the catastrophic hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017, it is noteworthy to also announce that the Airport Terminal Reconstruction Project is on schedule for completion in 2023.

airport contract works started

 

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MP Arrindell expresses concerns regarding the deplorable road conditions

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - In recent weeks there has been much publicity on social media, and throughout the communities regarding the deplorable road conditions on the island, independent Member of Parliament (MP) Akeem Arrindell said on Tuesday in a press statement.

“After careful review of the Budget 2022, I observed that reservations were not made, thus not budgeted for repairs/resurfacing of existing hard surfaced roads on the island and several other major existing problems. Due to my concerns thereof, I have voiced my concern to the Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure, the Honorable Egbert J. Doran, for clarification on the following matters:

“The ongoing Front Street repairs work started late last year, and cost were incurred. My concern is whether the repair costs were budgeted for that year 2021 or will these go in 2022 budget and what the plans are for the leftover used pavers/bricks that are still in good condition.

“The Sidewalk Hard Resurfacing Project (public roads) was also mentioned as to whether or not, other areas of interest were earmarked for upgrades.

“Road repairs that are urgently required especially along our main public roads and intersections, such as Welfare Road, Union Road, Link 1, Dutch Quarter, Airport Road and Maho (along Driftwood Bar), Divi Little Bay Road etc. are of major concern. I fully support the belief that road repairs/resurfacing must be included and that certain funds requested, such as those allotted for the ‘Ring Road’ should be redirected for such repair works, with emphasis, prior to any commencement of work/repairs to be done, that the root cause of continuous damage will be conducted, as the same repairs seem to be required in most cases every few months.

“As an elected representative and the voice of the people of St Maarten I must voice this concern as Safety and well-being of all our people must always be first and foremost. Potholes take a serious toll on suspension, oil pans, and tires of vehicles as well for our 2 wheeled motorists becomes a very dangerous situation and obstacle course.

“There is also a serious drainage problem and flooding in certain areas after heavy rainfalls. Due to this problem the drainage project in Sucker Garden was brought about to ease the flow of water into the Rolandus Kanaal. Other areas and Beacon Hill with a much more developed surrounding, also suffers the same faith, without having easy access to direct the stagnant flow of water into a Kanaal, drainage system or Pond. In this regard I have asked the minister for more information on the project(s) in the areas of concern for flooding.

“Other concerns put forward are the repair and replacement of guard rails where cost vs longevity and durability were weighed in. The same applied for the Street Light Placement, which I consider a great initiative of the minister, as this is much needed. I however have gone a bit further, with much attention for Solar Street Lighting, as it is effective cost cutting measure and has already been initiated and successful in many areas on the Northern half of the island.

“The minister’s attention was also asked for the Market Place located behind the courthouse and future plans, the clean-up and removal of dead foliage/trees along public roads, Round-a bouts, Front-and Back Street, and the repair of the round-a-bout in Cole Bay all dating back to hurricane Irma in 2017, that have all gradually become an eye sore.

“As a last note, we have in recent days/weeks seen through social media, celebrities that have visited our beautiful island and stopped at some of our popular landmarks such as the “Harold Jack Lookout.” I believe that the endeavors of the previous minister of VROMI, Mr. C. Emmanuel, should be realized and continued and emphasis placed on beautification and accessibility to the area of the flag, by placing proper steps, and an access ramp for the disabled as well. It is my hope that both ministries (TEATT/VROMI), will find ways to have a few beautiful cultural looking vendor stalls placed on location (by government) for which simple services such as souvenirs, drinks, snacks, commodities can be provided for any visitors to the area. The vendors should also be culturally dressed on a daily basis,” MP Akeem Arrindell concludes in his Tuesday press statement.

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Parts of 10 districts lose electricity due to a faulty circuit Monday night

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – A number of districts lost electricity on Monday night. By 11.17pm on Monday, NV GEBE said that all areas were back on the electrical grid.

NV GEBE stated that they developed issues with their high-tension system on Monday evening and technicians commenced working on a damaged feeder cable after identifying and isolating the faulty circuit.

The following districts that lost electricity were Mary’s Fancy, South Reward, Saunders, Madame Estate, parts of the Illidge Road, parts of Middle Region, parts of Sucker Garden, Mt Willem Hill, Dutch Quarter, Belvedere, and parts of Oyster Pond.

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Minister of Justice Tours Ministry and Introduces Course Coordinator

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Monday, January 17th, 2022, the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson toured the agencies of the Ministry accompanied by the newly instated Course Coordinator, Ms. Miralda Martina and support staff. Since taking office, Minister Richardson took note of the grievances of many frustrated staff members who expressed that they lacked the completion of courses relevant to their function. Moreover, Hurricane Irma destroyed the Ministry’s Justice Academy, where the personnel of the Ministry of Justice underwent certification courses.

During the month of June in 2021, with the assistance of S.O.A.B, a vacancy ad for a Course Coordinator was published on various media platforms to spark the interest of potential candidates. At least eight (8) persons between Sint Maarten and Curaçao gave a reaction to this vacancy. A selection committee was established in August 2021, and an interview process was underway. In October of 2021, Ms. Martina emerged as the strongest and most suitable candidate to take on the role and responsibility of the Course Coordinator for the Ministry of Justice in Sint Maarten.

The Course Coordinator falls directly under the Minister of Justice and is accountable to the Minister. She is responsible for the overall educational programs for the law enforcement personnel; takes care of both the organization and content of the training courses in consultation with the Minister and department heads and is also responsible for internal and external communication.

More specifically, the Course Coordinator coordinates the development, planning and implementation of educational programs for all law enforcement personnel. She has a role in shaping the training and development policy and the implementation of this policy. Ms. Martina has the task of organizing and setting up the training program and ensuring that the training program meets the needs and requirements of the Ministry of Justice as well as the needs of the law enforcement personnel. Quality assurance is of great importance to further encourage employees of the Ministry of Justice to commit themselves to their own development.

With such a profile outlined, Ms. Martina has more than thirty years of experience in the educational field and more than 15 years as educational specialist and support. She specialized in the vocational sector and has created curriculums for educational institutions such as VSBO and SBO in Curaçao, VMBO and ROC in the Netherlands and for course institutions such as Opleidingsinstituut Rechtshandhaving & Veiligheidszorg of Curaçao, ORV (including all Justice organizations). Additionally, Ms. Martina also has knowledge and experience in developing competencies for short and long-term courses from SBO level 1 until 4, Associate Degree 5 and Bachelor’s Degree 6.

Minister Richardson stated, “The establishment of the Law Enforcement Institute of St. Maarten is one of my priorities for our Justice chain. As such, it is one that remains on my vision board so that we will see it through step by step. With the introduction of our dynamic Course Coordinator Miralda Martina to the Ministry, I look forward to the development of the much-needed courses as well as the working relationships that will be forged in order to take into account the needs and requirements of the Ministry.”

The Law Enforcement Institute of St. Maarten will be part of the Ministry of Justice and situated where the former Soremar car dealership once stood and operated. The Ministry of Justice stands for a justice system that exemplifies fairness, integrity, law and order and enables a safe and more progressive St. Maarten. The Ministry of Justice seeks to have professional personnel at all levels of the ministry and strives to invest in their professional and personal development. In order to realize this goal, the Law Enforcement Institute will coordinate the development, planning and implementation of educational programs for all law enforcement personnel and provide (accredited) training programs, training curriculum as well as training materials.

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New Mural ‘The Sweet Spot’ Unveiled in Philipsburg

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Association of Psychologists and Allied Professionals (APAP) St. Maarten, the Port St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies, and students of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) are proud to present to you a new mural in Philipsburg called ‘The Sweet Spot,’” APAP said on Monday in a press statement.

“This mural aims to make you pay attention to making (your) mental health a priority. The mural is at the Boardwalk Captain Hodge Warf.

“Here on Sint Maarten, mental health has been taboo for a long time. Mental health has been an unspoken private affair, with many people suffering silently. After recovering from the hurricanes in 2017, it became apparent that mental health deserved more attention.

“The Association encourages this development by providing interviews, presentations, articles, and radio shows. Worldwide mental health is getting more attention, significantly since the pandemic added stress to everyone’s life.

“Specifically, the loss of loved ones, changes in your daily routine, increased economic hardship, and more difficulties to connect in real life made people struggle with unprecedented stress, impacting their mental health.

“Mental health is a dynamic that comes from genetics and the things we experience throughout our lives. That is good and bad news. It means we are vulnerable to things that happen to us. Everyone can get out of balance at a specific moment in their life.

“On the other hand, it is also sensitive to support, protection, and healing: things we can take action on. This requires becoming aware of our mental health needs and meeting those needs. So have that talk with people around you!

“Taking care of your mental health can be done on many levels. Today, you can think about what helps you to destress. For example, feel connected by asking a friend or a neighbor how they are doing or giving a smile or compliment.

“Tomorrow, we can change policies needed to make professionals more accessible for persons who need extra support. Perhaps the next step is collaborating with other professionals on the Caribbean islands to gather information on what contributes to mental health!

“But first, we need to prioritize mental health, and that starts with ourselves, you, and others by talking about it. This year APAP has celebrated its fifth anniversary: their first lustrum. The Association was established in 2016 to bring together practicing psychologists to support each other in the quality development of their field.

“Next to that, the focus was on promoting the field and serving the social and professional interests of psychologists and related professions on St. Maarten. After these five years, the Association is not done with it yet.

“Actually, in a sense, you could say they just got started. There is more than enough work to do since the practice of psychology can contribute significantly to persons individually, but also on an organizational level or society. It remains a challenge to accomplish this. Even though mental health is more on the agenda, it does not always get the attention or support needed.

“And that is why ‘Making Mental Health a Priority’ is how APAP SXM would like to celebrate their lustrum with you! This message has been translated into a beautiful mural in our capital of Sint Maarten. We call this the sweet spot, where you can take a moment to have a thought and a conversation about the different things you need to prioritize your (and others!) mental health.

“Finding your sweet spot, your optimal zone of well-being. We want to invite everyone to sit down and talk about how we all (individually or as a group) can make mental health a priority on Sint Maarten. We are thankful for the support of the Port St. Maarten Group of Companies for permitting the use of their wall and the AUC students for designing and making the mural.

“A special thank you goes to Chimdi Onuoha, the artist who developed the design based on input from members of APAP SXM. We could not have done this without you! Just like making mental health a priority, it requires connectedness and collaboration.

“So please take a seat at the sweet spot at Captain Hodge Warf, take a look at the mural, share your thoughts with someone you know or just met on the spot. Take that selfie, share it on social media with #mentalhealthpriority and #APAPSXM, and put it in the spotlight. Help us make mental health a priority on the island since we all need it,” the APAP concludes in its statement released on Monday.

APAP mural ins1

 

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Another scooter accident recorded

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) – The Police Force of Sint Maarten (KPSM) said on Monday afternoon that an accident involving a scooter and a vehicle occurred on the A.J.C. Brouwers road close to the Harold Jack lookout point.

According to the preliminary investigation, the rider of a T-Max scooter coming from the direction of Cole Bay lost control and fell, slid, and slammed into a car coming from the opposite direction.

The scooter driver suffered injuries to his face, and otherwise did not have any life-threatening injuries. The male driver was transported to the Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for further treatment.

The investigation into the accident continues. (KPSM)

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MPC receives upgraded Flow internet

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The students and teachers of the Milton Peters College (MPC) are now better equipped for online learning thanks to an upgraded internet connection from leading telecoms provider, Flow.

With the school’s recent decision to move to online learning, the upgraded speed is a welcome enhancement. Following the upgrade, streamed classes are possible with minimal disruption; allowing learning to continue as close to ‘normal’ as possible, while also protecting the health of students and teachers

Previously the school already enjoyed the highest business package available on Flow Fibre internet. Considering the size of the student population the school management and its IT team needed to re-evaluate the connectivity needs of the island’s largest school campus.

They concluded that an upgraded connection was needed after the onset of the pandemic and with the increasing use of digital tools in instruction. To meet this need they engaged the Flow team to design an upgraded, customized package achieving the enhanced connectivity experienced by students and teachers today.

“It’s important to keep our young people connected to their virtual classrooms by providing the critical pathways to their online classes,” said Rauf Engels, Acting Country Manager, Flow Dutch Caribbean.

“Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic we have focused our efforts on optimizing our networks to keep our communities and economies going. Education is a vital part of that so we also developed a policy based on which we can offer schools support with the reliable connectivity they need to keep education going. Especially under these challenging circumstances our support specifically to education is important to us. Based on the size of the student population we’ve defined support packages for schools interested in connecting to Flow internet.” Engels continued.

Managing Director of MPC, Jacqueline Horsford-Duggins stated that the first move to virtual teaching in 2020 had been a difficult transition for the staff, students, and their families. “Creating the same structure and engagement in a virtual classroom was difficult but our teaching team has learned and grown a lot since then. With this upgrade we can equip our teachers and students with the best tools for success.” she said.

Flow’s focus on supporting education also carries through to supporting families as they return to online learning. To this end, the company has temporarily waived the installation fees on Flow home internet service. This allows families to connect the household for online learning and working, removing the standard installation fee, which reflects a savings of up to $287 per household. The free installation offer will continue throughout the month of January 2022. Further information on Flow internet is available at www.discoverflow.co.

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President of WITU urges School Boards to honor December pact

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - President of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) Stuart Johnson in an e-mail to all school boards over the weekend reminded the parties to honor last month’s pact brokered at the University of St. Martin (USM), Johnson said in a media statement on Sunday. 

“I sent an e-mail correspondence to all school boards requesting our agreement be upheld,” Johnson’s missive said about the joint December 13th, 2021 pact among the school boards and WITU.

Johnson is concerned that the government has scheduled a meeting for early next week with the school boards while sidestepping two WITU correspondences seeking a meeting with the education ministry and finance ministry.

“I took note of the apparent scheduling of a meeting on January 18th, 2022 by the Honorable Minister of Education drs. R. Samuel through the respective department within the ministry of ECYS. The WITU is still awaiting formal word from the Honorable Minister of Education in regards to our two written requests for a meeting. I stand behind my word and promise, that we will not have an audience unless you, as school boards are also present,” Johnson’s email to the Boards counseled. 

“It is on this note, I trust the agreement made in our meeting of December 13, 2021, at the University of St. Martin will be honored in the best interest of all. May we all find solace in this quote, “No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That's the only way to keep the roads clear,” the WITU president’s email said.

In an e-mail response of unity with Johnson to her colleague school boards, drs. Peggy Ann Dros-Richardson Chairlady of the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) promised WITU her body’s solidarity stating, “The NIPA stands by its commitment to honor our agreement made during the meeting referenced by you, between parties. We eagerly await the meeting with Minister to discuss the cost-cutting measures and the strain on the executing of quality education. As such, we will not attend the meeting of January 18. We await a response from the Minister.” 

“WITU is calling on all school boards to uphold the agreement as there are some serious challenges which need to be addressed within the education system of St. Maarten and the mutual interest of all must be respected,” Johnson reminded.

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MP Buncamper: Our Budget, Our reality

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - When 2022 was brought in with many fireworks and festive activities all around the island suspended Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius Buncamper wondered if this would be the year of recovery or if this would be another year of drama for the country.

Buncamper in a media statement on Sunday said: “Will we allow our future to determine our present decisions and actions, or must our present time take precedence at the expense of our future? Based on our experience it would seem as though we as a country are incapable of creating a situation in which we do not suffer at present while actively enhancing the prospective future.

“I believe some good news thus far for the Caribbean islands was the departure of State Secretary Raymond Knops whose own party told him there was no place for him in the new government moving forward. The reasons will as usual remain a secret or very vague, but at least we are in a better place than we were yesterday. We will not miss you sir.

“But when we look at the way forward for our country, we need to deal with some very serious matters at hand and one such matter is the budget of 2022. We must decide on what’s best today to reach tomorrow, without allowing today to become unlivable.

"Some of the serious issues that need to be considered are (1) the issues of inflation on the island, (2) the ability of the country to repay the so-called bullet loans granted and lastly (the recovery of the economy with the additional variants of the covid virus.

“When we look at the unnecessary damage the 12.5% cuts have done to the last of the middle class, it’s clear that based on the new governing accord of the Netherlands they aren’t finished punishing the people of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Unless they finally decide that equality means all of us in the kingdom will be treated equally, and not just when it’s convenient, we are still far from home. The constitutional courts showed its uselessness as their verdict was not a verdict but more a yes, they are allowed to do these things in a time of need. What was missing is how you are allowed to do things in a time of need and the excuse that there was no data is just mind boggling.

“There remains a serious need to assist the Caribbean countries to ensure that the countries do not fall into total poverty. Instead they should create a better economy resulting in minimum wages that are livable, while the inflation is hampering much of such, I would have hoped that a serious look would have been given to the agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries aspect in our country. We have lots of ideas and even capacity but no capital to truly enhance this sector and those types of loans seem to be lost if at all being offered. Instead, we are offered more loans to build roads and enhance our infrastructure etc. We cannot eat asphalt or concrete, but we surely can eat vegetables, fruits, chickens, goats and fish.

“Our budget must be based on our realities and not on a set of country packages that cannot sustainthis country moving forward. Consensus laws are something of the past and that must be made clear moving forward. It is time to create a new beginning for the country and to stop stating that the country is so corrupted but then again that has been their political mantra to keep destroying the people of this country. I hope this practice will stop moving forward but the proof will be in the pudding. Once you are brave to speak out and challenge them you will be taken out judicially and/or financially. The most corruptive aspect in a country is when justice goes unchecked. Let no one fool you into believing that justice is integer, but that is for another article.

“The country needs to find ways to increase its income while not burdening the population, but also collect the outstanding taxes of those that aren’t paying it yet flaunt their money in our faces.

"St. Maarten has opened its doors to accommodate the tourism industry, especially by allowing many ships to dock here and even have crews and passengers (including those infected with covid) to be transferred to the aircrafts that took them back home during the pandemic.

“Many countries have increased or created a new tax for tourists of say US$ 10,- to US$15,- to handle the environment (climate change) and the pandemic (to make the country safe). It is an income we do not have now but one which we could be able to collect.

“Another income is the aspect of water and fuel sales to the cruise industry where not enough is being done to ensure the country can get a much better return on investment.

“I believe the government should look into building the various needed spaces such as the justice wing, the new parliament building and parking for the center of town, the high council buildings, the tourism authority and all other necessary buildings for the government to move away from renting following the concept of rent to own. This can be done through entities like the APS who can fund these ventures once the risk analysis is done and the government meets its rental obligations.

“Secondly, considering the low returns on international investments the government must instruct their government owned companies that loans from 3rd parties must meet the criteria of trying to borrow from the local institutional lenders like APS and SZV prior to going to local banks and/or international borrowers. Asset protection must be done locally in these trying times.

“The added value of border protection and our serious issues with undocumented persons on the island that make full use of the country’s infrastructure, social system and health system cannot go unchecked this year and must be placed on the priority list instead of data protection and only bringing more RST here to continue the hunt for locals to be destroyed. Why isn’t the additional 13 million euro allocated to actual border protection instead of going after more politicians. If we cannot realize the real program them, we have a bigger problem than balancing our budget.

“The country’s quest for a new anthem, new educational system, PR to enhance the country’s name abroad, getting the airport to a category 1 airport, our economic diversification, our changes needed to the charter to ensure our autonomy is properly defined and we aren’t recolonized, our recovery through the World Bank and the long duration for completion of those projects, our justice system and its unfair practices, our way forward with Covid in the world of today, our government owned companies becoming viable are just a few of the important things that also need our attention, but we need to agree on what comes first; the chicken or the egg. Serious choices need to be made in 2022 as the reset button will not be able to be pushed again.

“Lockdowns are only destructive to any economy and any society and maybe just maybe we should build up the immune system of our people better by doing things that will make that possible like for example exercising and eating healthier and being more active. We must actively make this possible and not wish for this to happen. I say we as the government cannot do this alone.

“Lastly, I strongly believe that the motion of MP George Pantophlet for debt cancellation should be one of our new discussion points with the new Dutch government based on the equality aspect of the new governing agreement of the Netherlands. We need to find a way while we implement the much-needed reforms that we can start off on a fresh foot and not remain buckled down with debts that we cannot afford to pay, nor should it have been part of our new country status to begin with.

“The hopefully former norm that the Netherlands, mostly through BZK, makes the funds available to make Mutual arrangements or Consensus Kingdom Laws, as is presently once again the case with regards to the (Data Protection law) the country packages must be based on the professed Equality to truly become something of the past.

“Recently while being in the Netherlands at an expo, Professor emeritus Gert Oostindie a well-respected professor in the Netherlands in the field of colonial and post-colonial history, minced no words when he stated that Consensus laws are only made to Recolonize the former islands, now countries!

“When I take a look back at the past 2 years and with all I stated above, I can only advise the country “Carpe Diem”; Seize the day and do not worry about the future. You will not reach tomorrow if you die today!”

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Airport CEO Mingo is concerned about disruptive union action on Saturday

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - PJIAE CEO, Mr. Brian Mingo, says the scheduled industrial action by the Windward Islands Civil Servant Union (WICSU/PSU) had a negative effect on the Airport’s operations on Saturday January 15, 2022. This also comes during the peak hours and can have serious financial implications for Princess Juliana International Airport.

“The recovering business we have restored up to now is being threatened due to these actions. A planned “No Show” by Air Traffic Controllers (ATS) on the Airport’s busiest day, could also have safety implications for our airport,” said Mr. Mingo in a statement issued early Saturday morning.

At the heart of this development is a letter received from the WICSU/PSU on Friday evening informing PJIAE management of a planned union members meeting on Saturday January 15, 2022. The union’s actions were pertaining to an ongoing remuneration demand for increases owed to its members since 2018 - 2020, with an ultimatum of January 14th, 2022.

“We are preparing what we believe to be a suitable package that the Airport can afford at this time. We have requested more time from the union so that the package can be presented in its completed form on Monday, January 17, 2022, however, the union has not agreed and has taken what we believe is ill-advised and damaging action,” Mr. Mingo briefed.

The Airport CEO said that precautionary measures were taken during the late hours on Friday night and early Saturday morning to minimize the impact of the union’s and the ATS personnel’s actions. At the same time, stakeholders and airline partners were being informed of possible disruptions in service at PJIA on Saturday.

The Government of Sint Maarten and the PJIAE Supervisory Board of Directors (SBOD) were also urgently notified about the ongoing developments, which could negatively impact the airport and the island in general.

“I am appealing to everyone to remain calm and allow the process of negotiations to take place so that we can come to a mutual agreement on a settlement that is in the best interest of everyone. Disruptive actions at this time, on our busiest day have inconvenienced thousands of passengers. It sends a negative message to those out there looking at how we are recovering from Hurricane Irma and the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to continue to work together, to rebuild and recover our business fully”,” concluded the Airport Chief.

The Princess Juliana International Airport initially announced a scheduled closure at 6:00pm to preserve safety due to the limited staff, and later extended it to 9:00pm after obtaining staff reinforcement.

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