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Despite less traffic, some 500 people still died on the roads last year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – There were far fewer accidents on the Dutch roads last year, but the number of accident victims did not decline by as many as forecast, according to traffic researchers.

Police and insurance company figures suggest there were nearly 80,700 accidents last year, a decline of 20% on 2019, as commuting in particular declined due to the coronavirus measures. Nevertheless, the number of accident victims only fell by 11% to 19,000 and 513 people died – a decline of just 43 on the average in previous years, police say.

‘The number of accident victims has not gone down at the same rate as the number of accidents,’ police spokesman Paul Broer told the AD. Working from home and the lockdowns led to fewer cars on the roads but more cyclists and pedestrians – and they were out and about at different times than usual.

This, Boer said, may have contributed to the minor changes in the number of traffic accident victims, particularly in built-up areas. Two-thirds of accident victims were cyclists, pedestrians and moped users and a quarter were aged 12 to 24.

In particular, empty roads may have encouraged more motorists to drive too fast, increasing the risk of serious accidents, he said.

If the coronavirus pandemic leads to a permanent shift in road use patterns, local authorities must take action to widen cycle lanes and reduce traffic density in urban areas to protect the most vulnerable road users, Broer told broadcaster NOS.

(DutchNews)

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SZV urges compliance - businesses have to pay premiums or make contact

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Social and health Insurance provider SZV has seen a drop of some NAf 4 million per month in premiums since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. This constitutes a significant loss for the solidarity fund that is built on a “pay-as-you-go” system that pays for the health care costs of all insured clients.

In spite of the drop in premiums, SZV is so far keeping pace with the needs of its clients. The decline in overseas medical referrals due to the pandemic has also helped as well as the availability of more treatments and specialists locally.

SZV has also seen the deregistration of some 4,000 jobs since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to December 2020. What is alarming, is that this number of people is not reflected in applications for income support offered by government via Sint Maarten Development Fund (SMDF).

SZV Director Glen Carty said it is not clear if employers have deregistered employees to avoid paying the premiums and still have employees on staff but paying them in cash. “This would mean there are a lot of people in the grey economy and both SZV and government are losing revenues that are vital for the country and its residents,” said Carty. The other possibility could be that these “former” employees could have left the island. Data sharing between governmental and semi-governmental institutions is of vital importance to confirm or dispel these assumptions. This data sharing is being worked upon.

Everyone must pay their part of their premiums even in these tough pandemic times. “Even though the economy is bad, we all have obligations. Paying premiums is not only the right thing to do as an employer, it is also a legal responsibility to the country,” Carty said.

Business owners are cautioned against withholding premiums from employees but not paying these to SZV. Managing directors of companies are reminded that they are personally liable for unpaid premiums and taxes of their companies.

Employees can verify that they are registered by SZV and by which company, by logging into the MySZV portal on www.szv.sx. “Through the portal, you can see if you are registered or not. If you are not registered, you lose access to health care for yourself and your dependents and accident coverage. If your premiums are deducted and you are not registered as having a valid insurance, contact us for help,” said Carty.

SZV urges all businesses on Sint Maarten to keep their social and health insurance premiums up to date along with their employees’ registry with SZV. For those businesses experiencing revenue problems, SZV encourages these to make an appointment to discuss payment arrangements with SZV as soon as possible.

Business owners should not labour under the assumption that SZV will write off any of their unpaid premiums. Carty explained that SZV will continue to send out payment reminders to businesses and urge them to pay their bills.

“More often now we are encountering or hearing about businesses with issues regarding their banking card machines. We can assume that this could mean the sales and related cash are not being registered. This implies the proper revenue is not recorded. Keep accurate administration. Keep your administration up to date and file everything. Businesses must make their payments. Work with us, we are here to work with you,” said Carty. This is preferable to SZV executing liens and auctions for unpaid premiums.

It is also doubly important to have all administration in order as SZV’s Audit Team St. Maarten (ATS) will be very active in the coming weeks. The team will execute normal business audits and audits of businesses that have received support via the Sint Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP).

Unannounced visits

As a way to combat premium dodgers, unannounced visits to restaurants and other businesses will take place. The goal is to see if services are rendered for cash only, and to verify how many staff members are working at a particular establishment. This in order to cross reference with the company’s employee registration.

These inspection reports will give SZV a handle on what may be happening with revenue and whether employees are properly registered with SZV.

Government compliance

Government is working on improving its compliance with the payment of its premiums to SZV. Just as the private sector, government also has to become fully compliant with SZV. Finance Minister Ardwell Irion announced last week that government is seeking a structured solution for the approximately NAf 100 million owed to SZV. The deadline for government to service to its backlog was March 31, 2021. SZV has agreed to give government three more weeks to put forward a serious solution or coverage of civil servants and social medical assistance (PP-card holders) will be withdrawn.

Businesses paying their taxes have an impact of government serving its debts to SZV. Carty said if businesses don’t pay their taxes, government does not get needed revenue and cannot service its own bills. “Then, we have a cycle,” he added.

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S.U.R investigating several armed robberies over the Easter weekend

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Police patrols and members of the Special Unit Robberies (S.U.R.) were kept busy over the Easter weekend investigating several armed robberies that had taken place on the island.

Armed Supermarket robbery

The police patrol was directed to a supermarket on the crossing Long wall road and Front Street on Thursday afternoon April 1st, 2021 around 4:00pm for an armed robbery in progress.

On the scene the officers spoke to the victims and several witnesses. According to the information gathered, two young, masked men armed with a handgun, threatened the employee, and took money from the cash register. The suspects fled the scene on foot with an undisclosed amount of money in the direction of the Great Bay Beach. This investigation into this robbery is still ongoing.

Machete wielding men attempt to steal scooter

Later that evening around 8.00 pm on April 1st, 2021, Central Dispatch directed several patrols to the Ebenezer area where a man had caught two boys in the act of stealing a scooter out of his yard.

When he questioned the two young men about what they were doing, one of them pulled out a machete and threatened him with the weapon. Under the threat of the machete, the suspects attempted to take away the scooter in the presence of the owner.

Both suspects with the initials S.L.W. and M.M.S. were apprehended by the patrols who arrived at the scene. Both suspects were transported to the Phillipsburg police station where they are being held for questioning.

ATM customer robbed of cash and scooter at gun point

The special Unit Robbery is also investigating a robbery that took place on early Tuesday morning April 6th, 2021, approximately 3.00 am on the Airport road.

According to the preliminary investigation, it appeared that the victim was approached by two young dressed in dark clothing on a scooter, after he came out of the ATM machine on the airport road.

The suspects were both armed with a firearm robbed the victim at gunpoint of his money and his scooter. After robbing the victim, the suspects fled on the scooters in an unknown direction. This investigation into this robbery is also still ongoing.

Anyone with information with about this or any of armed robberies that have taken place over the last weeks, should contact SUR detectives via + 1 721 542 2222 ext. 203, 204 or 205, the anonymous tip line 9300, send a private message via Facebook Page: Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten or website www.policesxm.sx. (KPSM)

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MP Emmanuel: Govt. allowing events, mass gathering is reckless

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Monday said that government’s continued lack of controls for mass gatherings and events is alarming, reckless and irresponsible. “We are gambling with people’s lives,” he said.

The MP said the images and videos circulating of various events on the island over the past weekend depict “shockingly reckless behavior” and called on the Minter of TEATT and Justice to finally put their words to action. “We cannot be complacent because we are rolling out vaccines. We should be pushing vigilance and controlling what’s happening, not allowing these events,” the MP said.

The MP said every day new flyers for mass gathering events are popping up via social media and there is this perception that the party goes on without care of what is still happening with the pandemic. In the meantime, he said, government continues to issue notices warning that it intends to be strict and enforce measures if events and/or establishments are not in accordance to the regular COVID protocols.

“We can’t be serious,” the MP said. “We put out these warning notices and then there are no actions taken. The images and videos of what is happening on St. Maarten during this pandemic are irresponsible,” the MP said. “We still have cases here. We still live in a region with cases and new, more infectious and deadly variants. We see what is happening on Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire. What are we doing? For the love of St. Maarten can we be consistent about something, anything?”

MP Emmanuel said that despite the thorough and commendable efforts of the Carnival Foundation to introduce very strict protocols, he was in agreement to cancel that event as well as the Regatta. “It had nothing to do with those two organizations, it was government. The decision at that time was reckless and what is being allowed now, again by government, is just as reckless if not even more so.

“We cancelled our two largest events that actually had protocols in place, but allow these various mass gatherings with apparently little to no protocols in place. We have to get serious in this country with people’s lives,” the MP said.

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Police must become more diverse, regional police chiefs say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Within five years’ time, at least 35% of the new police officers in the central urban part of the Netherlands should have a ‘non-western’ ethnic background, two regional police chiefs have told the NRC.

The target is part of an action plan to make the national force, currently numbering some 65,000 officers, ‘more diverse and inclusive’, Martin Sitalsing and Gery Veldhuis have told the paper in an interview.

Sitalsing and Veldhuis have been charged with implementing the plan ‘Policing for everyone’ which, they say, must lead to a drastic change in the make-up of the national force.

Recent incidents in which individual officers have been involved in racist incidents within their own circles have ‘helped to propel the police into action,’ Sitalising said.

Some 17,000 police officers will be appointed over the next five years and this is ‘the opportunity to invest in diversity and a new culture to bring about real change,’ he said.

The previous target was to ensure 25% of new officers had a minority background, a percentage with none of the 25 regional forces comes near to meeting. Survey after survey confirms racism does exist in NL.

In particular, the forces in the Randstad – which includes the big four cities – needs improvement. ‘In some neighbourhoods, 60% of the population has ethnic minority roots, in Kanaleneilanden [Utrecht] is it 80%.

And we are well away from that as a police force,’ Sitalsing told the NRC. A more diverse police force, he said, is important to be able to continue to operate as it now does, particularly in building community links.

‘The local beat officer is a bit of a cultural icon and can go everywhere,’ he said. ‘But that is coming under pressure in some neighborhoods.’

(DutchNews)

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CARIBBEAN AIRLINES LAUNCHES “YOUR SPACE” SEATING PRODUCT

SINT MAARTEN/TRINIDAD - Caribbean Airlines now offers customers the opportunity for double comfort with its latest on-board product “Your Space”, which gives passengers travelling in the economy cabin*, the option to pay for the seat next to them, or the entire row.    

“Your Space” seat prices start from as low as USD 20 depending on the route.  

Caribbean Airlines Chief Commercial Officer, Yannis Gounaris states: “With our new Your Space product, we have created a better offering for our economy passengers. Now, at affordable rates, they can opt to enjoy greater peace of mind, more privacy or extra space to work or relax. Families also have the opportunity to secure an entire row should they need to. At Caribbean Airlines we are happy to offer our customers this choice when they fly with us.”   

“Your Space” is available to economy passengers traveling on Caribbean Airlines services (excluding domestic flights between Trinidad and Tobago); and can be purchased between 72 hours and up to 03 hours prior to the scheduled departure time.  

*Terms and conditions of reserving “Your Space” may be reviewed at

https://caribbean-airlines.com/#/manage-reservations/caribbean-your-space

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Continuation Central Committee meeting of Parliament with the shareholder representative of P.J.I.A.

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The House of Parliament will sit in a Central Committee meeting on April 1, 2021.

The Central Committee meeting which was adjourned on March 5, 2021 will be reconvened on Thursday at 10.00 hrs. at the House of Parliament. The Minister of Finance will be in attendance.

The agenda points are:

  1. Update on the reconstruction project at the airport terminal and the operational projections for 2021
  2. Structural composition of the company’s hierarchy and the reasons for the various supervisory boards, and the protection of assets of the country by removing the assets presently at PJIAE and place them correctly at PJIAH (IS/230/2020-2021 dated December 7, 2020)

This meeting was requested by MP C.A. Buncamper, MP G.S. Heyliger-Marten, MP R. Brison, MP A.E. Arrindell, MP C.T. Emmanuel.

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is only allowing persons with an appointment to enter the Parliament building.

The parliamentary sessions will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, www.pearlfmradio.sx and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Central Committee meeting of Parliament concerning the financial status of NV G.E.B.E.

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The House of Parliament will sit in a Central Committee meeting on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

The Committee meeting is scheduled for 11.00 hrs. at the House of Parliament. The Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment, and Infrastructure will be in attendance.

The agenda point is:

The (financial) status of NV G.E.B.E. (IS/1135/2019-2020 dated August 18, 2020 and IS/ 169/2020-2021 dated November 16, 2020)

This meeting was requested by MP S.A. Wescot-Williams, MP M.D. Gumbs, MP C.A. Buncamper and MP G.S. Heyliger-Marten.

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is only allowing persons with an appointment to enter the Parliament building.

The parliamentary sessions will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, www.pearlfmradio.sx and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Justice Committee of Parliament to meet with the Minister of Justice regarding Immigration on Wednesday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Justice Committee of Parliament will meet on March 31, 2021.

The Committee meeting, which was adjourned on March 3, will be reconvened on Wednesday at 15.00 hrs. at the House of Parliament. The Minister of Justice will be in attendance.

The agenda points are:

  1. Discussion with the Minister of Justice regarding Immigration:
    - Immigration Border and Protection
    - Border Protection Project
    - Protocol
    - Residence Permit Guidelines (IS/448/2020-2021 dated February 25, 2021)
  2. Update on the status of the prison

-Update on guard capacity

-Update on the maximum amount of inmates allowed by law (IS/403/2020-2021 dated February 15, 2021)

This agenda point was requested by MP O.E.C. Ottley.

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is only allowing persons with an appointment to enter the Parliament building.

The parliamentary sessions will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, www.pearlfmradio.sx and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Police seeks public’s assistance with several armed robberies cases targeting jewelry stores

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Police Force of Sint Maarten (KPSM) is seeking the public’s assistance to apprehend the armed robbers who have been targeting the jewelry stores in Philipsburg.

On Monday morning, March 20, 2021, around 11.45 am, Central Dispatch received several calls concerning an armed robbery taking place at a jewelry store on Front Street. According to the victims two men brandishing firearms entered the Jewelry stores and robbed them at gunpoint of cash and jewelry.

The suspects who were dressed in gray and white clothing had their face covered with surgical masks. After robbing the business both suspects were spotted fleeing on foot through the ally next to the Methodist Church towards Back Street.

Several patrols conducted a search in the vicinity of Philipsburg for the alleged suspects, but they were not located. Central Dispatch was later informed that the two suspected robbers were seen fleeing on two scooters in the direction of Dutch Quarter.

Anyone with information about this or any of the armed robberies that have taken place over the last weeks, should contact SUR detectives via + 1 721 542 2222 ext. 203, 204 or 205, the anonymous tip line 9300, send a private message via Facebook Page: Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten or website www.policesxm.sx. (KPSM)

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