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Approach independence for St. Martin “with confidence” Reiph tells USP

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Political and social activist Shujah Reiph has urged the United St. Maarten Party (USP) to approach independence for the territory “with confidence.”

Reiph was the guest speaker at the USP congress last Sunday at John Larmonie Center, where the party membership elected Pamela Gordon-Carty as the new political leader.

The theme of Reiph’s speech was “Independence – The way forward.” Reiph said that in his presentation to the full room of about 250 people, he pointed out that, “Ever since the signing of the Concordia treaty of 1648, for the past 373 years, European colonization has been present in St. Martin and it is time for colonialism to go.”

The USP, founded by Frans Richardson in 2013, declared at the congress that in the next parliamentary election it will campaign for the political independence of the southern part of St. Martin, a territory of the Netherlands.

“I congratulated USP for taking such a bold and brave stand on independence,” said Reiph. “I also pointed out that the USP is standing on the shoulders of those who pushed forward openly and widely the discussion some 30 years ago,” said Reiph.

“There was the call for independence by then leading politician Claude Wathey. That call was followed right away by many people discussing it publicly and in the media like never before. Then came the concrete record of that discussion as a foundation through the books The Independence Papers and The Republic of St. Martin,” said Reiph.

Reiph urged the new USP board and the membership “to approach this most important issue of independence with confidence; without doubting by the board and the rank and file that independence is the right choice; and knowing that only in an independent St. Martin republic can we see true democracy,” said Reiph.

Reiph said he highlighted the importance of education and economic development in his speech. As part of his conclusion, he quoted the following from The Republic of St. Martin by Joseph H. Lake Jr.: “The republic shall ensure economic wealth for its citizens by creating an economic atmosphere in which the private sector can freely grow and flourish in a democratic and free market setting.”

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Pamela Gordon-Carty elected new political leader of USP. Nicholas new board President

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Former Minister Pamela Gordon-Carty was elected as the new political leader of the United St. Maarten (US) party on Sunday, November 28, and immediately made it clear that the party, in or out of government, will not allow the people of St. Maarten to accept “crumbs in exchange” any longer.

Re-emphasizing that the US has always been and remain on the path to realizing independence for St. Maarten, the new leader said the people must come together and decide that they will no longer tolerate their children to suffer in a St. Maarten that has so much potential.

Gordon-Carty replaced former MP Frans Richardson as party leader at the party’s congress held at the John Larmonie Center and considers herself a person with clear vision on how St. Maarten should move into a challenging future.

“I am so moved by the confidence and trust you have placed in my person to assume leadership of the USP which already is embarking on reactivating and restructuring in order to analyze, assess and examine the challenges our people in St. Maarten is confronted with on a daily basis,” she said.

The new leader assured that the US is not going to promise a one-time fee, but a life of growth and “enhancement of your social life, financial stability, healthy lifestyle, long term employment and a balanced future. We have a plan, and we will execute it in or outside of government because all we need at this phase of the plan is the people,” she said.

Gordon-Carty is described as someone who recognizes that St. Maarten is at a stage where mincing of words will do it and its people no good. As such and in true form, she did not hold back on Sunday evening while delivering her remarks.  

“In slavery days they exchanged gold for sea shells. Today, one-time food vouchers are being exchanged for land and the right to employment, the right to fair trail, the right to a dignified existence. Our people have been abused, walked upon and given empty promises. We will lead and our people will no longer exchange their patrimony for sea shells,” she said.

She continued: “If we need to walk on thorns then we will do so because people were made to trample upon all obstacles to achieve freedom and independence, not on paper, but true independence. The walk will be long but together we will reach the promised destination. When I look at St. Maarten I see a lot that has to be done. I also see an abused people, I see injustice toward our people, I see instilled fear, I see great minds being neglected and put aside, I see neglected rights, I see manipulation, deprivation, I see victimization and I can also silently hear the loud cry of our youth.

“But what I can also see is the fear of the strength of the people coming together. I smell the fear of colonialists hoping that one day the people don’t realize that together they stand stronger and that the people don’t come to realize that their breakthrough lies in their own strength. I see a method to keep them distracted and hungry,” she said.

“With small steps we will once again have our people dominate in managerial functions, our people will be employed permanently and not for short term, they will be able to own their own house and be able to pay their mortgage, bills and enough leave over to live a dignified and happy life,” she added

The US leader further called on the people of St. Maarten to stop expecting others/outsiders to do for them since intentions are often not pure and extremely self-serving.

“Don’t expect the colonialists to hand out olive leafs; reality is sometimes its poison ivy. Don’t expect investors to consider you as the solution, in some cases they will slip you a sleeping pill expect you stay in slumbering mode while they take over our high positions, while they take over our beaches and assets, our identity, trample over our culture, manipulate the system to suit their agenda, in return they will take for themselves long term profitable money making patrimonies,” she said.

“I am now making this plea to our people to come together and be part of our numerous educational and informative campaigns in the different districts that will highlight our plan step by step. Let US move together towards success,” she concluded.

Party members also elected Cecil Nicholas as the new President of the board of US. He said the US, under the leadership of Frans Richardson, was founded with a vision and plan “and we hold steadfast to that vision to this day.” 

He reminded the gathering that Frans Richardson had the party operating based on his vision of strong leadership for an independent St. Maarten and it is because of his leadership that “we are strong and still moving forward today. We had disappointments along the way, but we never lost sight of our goals. Our bonds are stronger because of the challenges we faced and our resilience is a reflection of the people, because we are just that, a reflection of the people of St. Maarten,” Nicholas said.

“Though some may say we are not ready for independence, my answer to that is so let’s get ready for it because we can no longer afford to sit by and wait to be rescued. The personal cost and debt to the country is too great. I say let’s put leaders in place that have a plan to make us self-sustainable. Let’s make the tough decision at our own pace. Let’s empower our people and not restrict them. 

“Let’s safe guard our assets for future generations to come and not give them away to save the day. Let’s place emphasis on making decisions that put us in a better position tomorrow and not just today. Let’s take better care of our elderly and those living below the poverty line. Let’s create an environment where our people can strive by diversifying our economy so that if the World ever shuts down again we can at least feed ourselves without having to rely on the importation of basic foods Let us build an Independent St. Maarten because we can, period!”  

As he did in 2014, Nicholas dedicated his new tenure as President of the United St. Maarten Party to Richardson’s vision of an Independent St. Maarten. “And I commit once again to work with my board in the best interest of not only the members and supporters of USP but to the entire country, of St. Maarten. I reemphasize my commitment to upholding the core principle of the United St. Maarten party which is to elevate the nation’s people to operate at their highest levels,” he concluded.

USP Board New

New USP leader Pamela Gordon Carty (center) with incoming and outgoing party board members and former leader Frans Richardson (second from right).

 

 

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Say Yes to the Vaccine Booster Shot. Protect You and Your Family this Holiday Season

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Vaccination Management Team (VMT) of St. Maarten announces the roll out of the booster shot of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.  

The booster campaign will commence on Wednesday December 1st, 2021, between the hours of 8:30am -12:00pm and 1:30pm -3:30pm at Collective Prevention Services (CPS) located at the Vineyard Building in Philipsburg.

The Booster shot will help strengthen protection against severe disease in the population, especially amongst those who are at high- risk for COVID -19 complications.

The Booster will also help those amongst us who are already fully vaccinated with the primary two (2) dose series by increasing our protection against breakthrough infections.

Who Should get the Booster?

VMT highly recommends the following persons to receive the Booster six (6) months after completion of their primary series (i.e., six (6) months after their second dose):

  • Persons 60 years and older
  • Persons 18-59 years with underlying medical conditions or living in long-term care settings
  • Persons 18-59 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional settings such as health workers and front-line medical workers

The VMT is reminding persons to bring their vaccination card when coming for their booster dose.

If you have taken one of the other acceptable primary vaccine series such as Moderna, Astra Zeneca or Janssen, a Pfizer vaccine can be administered as the Booster vaccine six (6) months after the last vaccination in any of these primary series.

For persons in our community who have had the COVID-19 infection, the VMT is strongly encouraging persons to receive both doses. Encouraging completion of the vaccination series, despite the timing of your infection.

There are many persons in our population who received their second dose before June and are now eligible for the booster.  

There are many who are still unvaccinated or who are at highest risk of getting infected by and spreading COVID-19 in our community.

The CPS location at Vineyard Building is open to all unvaccinated persons and also for those interested in the booster shot.

VMT urges everyone to come out and get vaccinated before the holiday season, when we will be at high risk again!

Let’s stay ahead of the virus and keep St. Maarten safe. Say yes to the Booster, but most importantly, come get vaccinated!

For further information Contact CPS Hotline #914

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Chris: Discussion of TOT increase, and VAT addition unconscionable. Says businesses would never survive

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - According to Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel, any discussion about a raise in Turn-Over-Tax (Tot) combined with the implementation of a VAT (Value Added Tax) is unconscionable and does not realistically consider the private sector and consumers of St. Maarten. Implementation of either, he stressed, would also effect the public sector as the ripple effects will affect government’s bottom line negatively.

Emmanuel said government should instead finally tackle its waste and creatively develop ways to generate funds without further burdening the population. If the government is unable to think creatively, he said, the country is filled with educated creative thinkers, “host an economic forum and get your best together to find solutions,” he said.

The MP said he does not understand why looking at such things as gasoline excise taxes (which he has proposed) and/or increased tourism taxes are such taboo subjects. “Especially with new or increased tourism fees you get some people spreading gloom that the tourists will stop coming. Travellers the world over are very accustomed to tourism fees being increased and applied, especially now in the pandemic era. We boast of the high season yet we are afraid to actually do something to make the high season actually benefit the regular person. Instead, we talk about burdening them with destructive taxes,” Emmanuel said.

He said any discussion about increasing TOT shows disconnect with what is happening on the ground. Small businesses, he pointed out, have such small profit margins or are in such debt, many are staying in business out of pride or under less-than-ideal situations.

“Even if profit tax is reduced, what happens to the sole proprietor that doesn’t pay profit tax? An increase in TOT will bury them. A reduction in profit tax isn’t enough to balance what will be lost by an increase in TOT. The trouble with turnover tax is that you pay tax even if your company is losing money. It’s a terrible tax in a country where small and medium enterprises are the back bone and failure to go after the million-dollar tax dodgers seems to systematic and habitual,” the MP said.

Emmanuel said the talk of a VAT is again being whispered in the halls of government. As he has stated previously, the burden of the VAT falls disproportionately on the poor since the poor are likely to spend more of their income than the relatively well-to-do person.

“It has also been proven that revenue from value-added taxes are frequently lower than expected because they are difficult and costly to administer and collect. The fact that a VAT is also administered along every stage of the supply chain (it has to be calculated at every stage), means that again prices will raise beyond control,” Emmanuel said.

The disclosed that in due time he will present some revenue generating ideas once they are worked out but once again called for the staging of a serious economic summit/forum.

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Xtratight, SLS lab collaborate on testing for “Fyah Under Yuh Foot”. Testing on Thursday and Friday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - St. Maartens top event organizers Xtratight Entertainment is preparing to host its first event after a two-year absence while the country was dealing with COVID-19 pandemic and have collaborated with St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) to facilitate testing and establish a safe environment for its fans.

“Fyah Under Yuh Foot” will be held on December 4 at the Tropicana Ball Room. Known as a “big people party”, the event is one of Xtratight’s signature events, with the uber popular “Night of the Hit Makers” concert for Carnival also under its umbrella.

Director of Xtratight Bertaux “Mr. Rude” Fleming explained that “Keeping in line with the Covid-19 guidelines and our efforts to insure safety for all its patrons, Xtratight Entertainment has partnered with the national laboratory of St Maarten SLS for its Covid testing procedure. SLS is the only accredited lab on the island which means it’s the only lab that is recognized by international standards, this alone gives all reasons for us to collaborate with SLS besides being our own. We remain Pro Local,” he stressed.

The testing protocol for this event is straightforward and eliminates hassle: Tickets for Fyah Under Yuh Foot went on sale from Thursday November 18th, the price is $50,- and includes a free Antigen Test for all patrons. Limited tickets are available and NO tickets will be sold at the door. All visitors must present a negative antigen test to enter and only SLS antigen tests are accepted. Testing dates and times for persons attending Fyah Under Yuh Foot are Thursday December 2nd from 6pm - 9pm and Saturday December 4th from 12:30pm to 3pm, testing on both days will take place at SLS main office in Cayhill.

“We were never in a rush to come back online as most of our fans are part of the vulnerable group and safety always comes first with us. Based on the development and the decrease in numbers, not to mention the high demand for a big people party we have decided to host the event. As a fan-driven organization we always aim to please, so patrons can expect a night filled with fun and dancing straight through the night,” Fleming said.

With Heineken as a partner, the Djs for the night are Dj Blackboy, Mr. Rude and Dj Fabulous and doors open at 9:00PM. For more information contact: 543-9872, 522-9872 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Travel restrictions in effect for South Africa and new entry requirements for the Netherlands

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA), Omar Ottley hereby informs the public that effective Monday November 29th, travel restrictions from South Africa will go into effect and new entry requirements for the Netherlands to follow.

Minister Ottley announced that he sent a request to restrict flights and passengers arriving or traveling from South Africa within a 14-day period. This decision was based on the new COVID-19 variant which could show immune evasion and enhanced transmissibility.

The new variant has been causing a surge in cases in many countries including the Netherlands. “In discussions with Dutch representatives, I was informed that the major hospitalization increase in the Netherlands was due to this new variant,” said Minister Ottley, adding, “This information motivated me to alter the entry requirements for travelers from the Netherlands.”

As of Monday December 6th, 2021, fully vaccinated travelers from the Netherlands will be required to upload proof of a negative 48 hr PCR test before traveling to St. Maarten or a 24-hour antigen nasal swab test will also be accepted from vaccinated travelers only.

Unvaccinated travelers are required to submit a negative 48 hr PCR test before traveling to St. Maarten. At the moment our active cases, hospitalization and deaths in St. Maarten has decreased significantly and it is our duty to remain proactive and do our best to mitigate the spread of the Mu variant.

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Parliament elects new President of Parliament and 2nd Vice President of Parliament

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On, Friday November 26, 2021, during Public Meeting no. 03, the Parliament of Sint Maarten voted on and elected Member of Parliament, Mrs. Grisha S. Heyliger-Marten as the new President of Parliament. Mrs. Heyliger-Marten previously served as the 2nd Vice President of Parliament.

The office of the President of Parliament became vacant on November 4th, 2021 when Member of Parliament Mr. Rolando Brison by letter dated November 4, 2021, informed Parliament of his resignation as President of Parliament effective said date (IS/212/2021-2022).

With the election of MP Heyliger-Marten as the new President of Parliament, the office of the 2nd Vice President therefore became vacant.

Subsequently in this same meeting Parliament also voted on and elected Member of Parliament Mr. Sidharth M. Bijlani as the 2nd Vice President of Parliament.

With today’s appointments, Parliament handled in accordance with article 57, paragraph 1, of the Constitution which states: Parliament shall appoint a Chairperson and Vice Chairperson from among its members. Article 6 of the Rules of Order of Parliament stipulates that Parliament appoints the Chairperson and the Vice Chairpersons in the first public meeting to be held after the periodic resignation or dissolution.

Effective November 26, 2021, the Presidium comprises:

President of Parliament: Mrs. Grisha S. Heyliger-Marten

1st Vice President of Parliament: Mr. William V. Marlin

MP BIJLANI pe

2nd Vice President of Parliament: Mr. Sidharth M. Bijlani

 

 

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MP Buncamper proposes increase of TOT, decrease Profit Tax and scrap Income Tax for Seniors

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - During Thursday’s central committee independent Member of Parliament (MP), Claudius Buncamper addressed the Minister of Finance, Ardwell Irion regarding the country packages related to the ministry of finance, the MP said in a press release on Thursday.

MP Buncamper noted that the tax reform has been on hold for quite some time and is still not ready and may take years before it is ready for implementation. The country packages’ goal is to enhance the investment climate, which means making the tax system more favorable for conducting business, and less red tape for starting a business.

MP Buncamper proposed a 1% increase on the now 5% turn over tax (TOT) which will generate approximately 25 million guilders per year in additional income for government.

In order to enhance the investment climate, the MP recommends a reduction on profit tax from 34.5% to 15% while complying with our country packages and the discussions of tax holidays can be taken off the table. The deduction constitutes an annual loss of approximately 11 million guilders for government.

MP Buncamper went on to suggest a policy rule, until embedded in law, that pensioners be exempt from paying taxes on their pension as at January 2022. This excludes other earnings from business etc. This amounts to an annual loss of approximately 2 -3 million guilders for government.

“All in all, with an increase of 25 million guilder from the increase in turn over tax, and the loss of revenue of 11 million guilders from the reduction on the profit tax, and a loss of revenue of 2 to 3 million guilders from the exemption of taxes on senior citizens income, government will have, in a worst-case scenario, an overall surplus of approximately 11 million guilders annually. With additional income from profit tax, this amount will increase.

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Parking fine to increase to NAf 150 for ‘hot spots’

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The fine for parking violations has been increased for several “hot spots” around the country as part of a joint effort by the Prosecutor’s Office and the Police Force of St. Maarten KPSM to aid the better flow of traffic and increase road safety for the busy holiday and tourist seasons.

The fine for illegally parked vehicles has increased from NAf 50 to NAf 150. This increase is in place until 31 January 2022.

The increased fine will be applied to parking violations in the following areas: Philipsburg (in its totality), Pointe Blanche (in and around the area of Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities), A. Th. Illidge Road, Billy Folly Road, Simpson Bay (specifically the entertainment stretch along Welfare Road and Airport Road), Maho, and Beacon Hill Road.

KPSM will apply a zero-tolerance policy to parking restriction violators, whether they are visitors or residents.

The Prosecutor’s Office and KPSM advise all road users to be cognizant of traffic rules and to adhere to the rules and regulations. Traffic safety is paramount for everyone’s well-being in the community.

The unhindered flow of traffic is connected to a better quality of life with everyone able to execute their tasks and errands in an efficient manner.

The economy is also served when traffic rules are adhered to; visitors have a more pleasant experience and this bodes well for the destination’s image. Resorts, hotels, and other accommodations are urged to inform their guests about parking restrictions and fines to help them avoid additional costs.

Parking and other fines can be paid at the Prosecutor’s Office (by debit card only), at the Police Station, the Receiver’s Office, or via the bank. Proof of fine payment must be submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office.

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Emmanuel to Irion: Will Doran be accountable for Alegria penalties?

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Monday asked Finance Minister Ardwell Irion if he will make an example of Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran and hold him accountable over his mishandling of the Alegria affair that will now cost the taxpayer approximately Naf 500,000.

Emmanuel used Irion’s own words to remind him of his statement earlier this year that Ministers should “be made examples of” and be held accountable for their actions. On May 5, 2021, Minister Irion said: “At some point we do need to make examples of Ministers for their actions. I have seen some actions within the last few years that were made and things and processes that should have been done better or done properly and the fact that you could just get away, I believe if you follow that path, it will just continue to happen. So, I believe just like our fellow citizens who are also accountable for their actions, at some point in time we should be holding ministers accountable for their former actions also.”

Minister Doran failed to comply with the judgment of the Court of First Instance on September 4, 2020. As a result, Country St. Maarten is forced to pay 480,000 Netherlands Antillean guilders (US $267,000) in penalties.

Country St. Maarten was ordered to execute the settlement agreement with Alegria Real Estate NV within 48 hours of service of the judgment for the granting of an area of 13,525 square metres of water rights in long lease. The bailiff handed over the verdict on Wednesday, September 9. The government then had two days to accommodate Alegria. Due to negligence on the minister’s part, the sanction came into force on September 12, 2020, imposing a penalty payment of NAf. 10,000 on the government for each subsequent day.

“So if the media reports are true, the question is will the Finance Minister and the Council of Ministers, hold the Minister of VROMI personally liable for his in-action that will apparently cost the government and tax-payer money? Why should the tax payer be the one to be burdened to pay-off the Minister’s mistake?” MP Emmanuel asked, adding that the country cannot afford to pay benefits to civil servants but the Minister is casually making financial errors.

“The Minister of Finance was very bold and assertive when the opportunity arose to point fingers at former Ministers. He has the opportunity now to act just as assertively and do something about this gross mismanagement of government finances if reports are factual. Even more damning is Minister Doran would have chosen not to pay after receiving reminders. He doesn’t even have to wait for the Minister to be “former”, do something now,” Emmanuel said.

He added that the matter is made worse, again, by the complete blackout of information from the government. He said the silence from government again “puts its arrogance on full display” as if they are not accountable to anyone. “This has become the norm for this scandal plagued government,” he said.

MP Emmanuel also reminded that the Prime Minister also echoed Minister Irion’s statement when she said: “As ministers you have taken an oath and you are basically responsible for decisions made. If you did not follow the proper process or the official process and it’s not properly substantiated, you can be personally held liable. If this is proven to be [that proper procedures were not followed] in such a case, then the Council of Ministers will decide whether to follow up on it.”

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