PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - State Secretary Raymond Knops of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations is demanding that outgoing Sint Maarten's departing Prime Minister William Marlin resign. As long as Marlin is the Prime Minister of the island, the Dutch government can not make money available to start repairing the devastation Hurricane Irma left on the island in September, he said, according to NU.nl.

"This is a major measure that we are not taking lightly, but it is necessary", Knops said on Friday following a meeting with the Council of Ministers - the council where all the countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands are represented. 

Early this month Sint Maarten's parliament declared no confidence against the island's government and Marlin himself due to his actions before, during and after Hurricane Irma. By not stepping down, Marlin is violating a basic rule of constitutional law, which states that a Prime Minister should leave when there is no trust in him, Knops said. 

The Netherlands is prepared to donate millions of euros for reconstruction on Sint Maarten, but did stipulate conditions. These include letting the Netherlands take over border controls on the island and setting up an integrity chamber to make sure that money from the aid fund is spent responsibly. Sint Maarten's government must first agree to these conditions, before the Netherlands will provide this aid.

Marlin refused to accept the conditions, which resulted in the motion of no confidence against him and all but one of his ministers. A new election on the island was set to happen in January, but as a last move Marlin postponed it. This made it unclear for the Dutch government which island government it's making agreements with. 

According to Knops, Marlin is not taking the usual steps for dismissal. "This violates the basic constitutional rule that a minister who no longer has the confidence of parliament leaves", Knops said. 

The Dutch government recently announced that it will set aside 550 million euros for the reconstruction of Sint Maarten, provided the island accepts the conditions. A further 67 million euros is set aside for reconstruction on the islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius, which was also affected by Hurricane Irma but not as devastatingly as Sint Maarten. 

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - “I have not heard it myself, but it caused some persons to get quite upset, so I can only imagine the ranting that took place during the weekly Tuesday night program on 95.9 FM (SOS radio) on November 21st. This particular program is the mouthpiece for a political party, so its biased content should be taken with a grain of salt.
However, that does not mean that slander and bluffs should go unchallenged.
Our honorable Minister of VROMI allegedly was livid about my questions regarding the salvaging operations in the Simpsonbay Lagoon and on that particular program on 95.9 FM was fencing about a letter he had in his possession regarding the salvaging operations.
He alluded to this letter and me, as if there was something sinister about my questioning of the lagoon cleanup in general.
A couple of comments:
  1. The Minister should at least try to act his role as minister. In that role he is accountable to Parliament.
  2. The Minister should stop the bluffing game and provide whatever document he claims is so damaging.
  3. No intimidation or slander will stop me from doing what I have to do and that is call on Ministers of Government to give account for their actions or inactions.
  4. We will get to the bottom of the reasons why such an urgent part of the recovery efforts, namely cleaning up the Simpsonbay lagoon, was mired in long delays and frustration.
  5. And finally, I hereby share what I believe is the disputed letter by MMC Marine Management & Consulting, which was also directed to Parliament and which I questioned. If the Minister has any other letter, then he should publish it and stop bluffing.
 

GREAT BAY, St. Maarten – St. Maarten is among Caribbean overseas countries and territories attending the 11th EDF (European Development Fund) Caribbean OCTs (Overseas Countries and Territories) Regional meeting and workshop, this week. The OCTs are 25 countries and territories, which have special links with Denmark, France, the Netherlands or the United Kingdom. The meeting is presided over by a representative of St. Maarten, who has been selected Regional Authorizing Officer, and takes place in Bonaire on November 23 and 24.

Earlier discussions between the OCTs and the European Commission concluded to concentrate the allocation of funds towards sustainable energy and marine biodiversity. This with the objective of building resilience to withstand the effects of climate change and to ensure sustainable economic development in Caribbean OCTs.

The Bonaire meeting comes in the wake of significant progress being made with the 11th EDF Caribbean Regional Programme. The goal of this week’s meeting is to partially complete the programming process and to agree on a draft Action Document.

As a result of the damages and losses sustained with the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the meeting is additionally expected to address the possible redirecting of a portion of the funds of the 11th EDF toward a resilience component. The funds would be redirected from the 40 million euros, previously earmarked for sustainable energy and marine biodiversity solely.

The main challenges facing Caribbean OCTs include increased vulnerability and risk to natural disasters, unstable energy consumption patterns, food security, poorly planned coastal development and weak governance capacity. These in turn lead to challenges to effectively manage marine biodiversity as a tool for climate change revision and mitigation.

Caribbean OCTs depend on the tropical climate for tourism, agriculture and fisheries. Creating island communities that are more competitive and resilient is thus essential for their survival with a healthy eco system considered key to this resilience.

The small size of OCTs and their relative isolation directly affects the price of commodities and goods, waste and waste water management as well as transportation within the region.

PORT ST. MAARTEN - Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT), Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure Management (Ministry VROMI), SXM Airport, Taxi Association DSTA, St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB), and Port St. Maarten, took a bus tour recently around the country along the route that taxis and tour busses will be taking passengers when the first commercial cruise ship calls start early December.

The objective of the bus tour was to see the country through the eyes of the visitor while driving along the designated routes. The tour allowed key stakeholders to evaluate and assess the current state of affairs along the identified tourism corridor and take additional measures where the clean-up of the destination is concerned in preparation for cruise ship destination calls.

An action list has been compiled of things that still need to be done.  Cruise lines continue to send to the island assessment teams to review destination recovery efforts in preparation for cruise ship calls, and therefore, it is extremely important for clean-up/beautification efforts to continue full speed ahead.

Part of the assessment action list includes the following: cleaning of beaches with a refined finish; refined finish of temporary garbage depots in Cole Bay and at Kim Sha Beach area; removal of boats/containers on Great Bay Beach; beach promenade street lights to be repaired; clean-up of popular beaches; placement of temporary restrooms at popular beaches. 

“There are a number of critical things that still need to be done as the clock ticks down to December cruise ship calls, a less than two weeks away.  We cannot wait until the last couple of days before the vessels arrive to randomly remove debris, decorate, prune and polish up. 

“We are appealing to the general public to assist with the clean-up around your area.  We call on businesses to do the same.  During the tour we noticed some debris still in front of some business establishments, and have observed some unsightly areas along the airport strip. 

“Clean-up should be done in a timely manner and done correctly thereby ensuring the cruise industry that we are open and ready.  This is a crucial period in the cruise sector history of the country, and all hands are needed on deck to make sure we are ready for the first and subsequent cruise ship calls,” Port St. Maarten Management said on Thursday.

Port St. Maarten is working closely with Ministry TEATT, the STB, the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry to get the message out to the business community about being ready for the upcoming cruise ship calls.

The bus tour also included Mico Cascais, a 30 year veteran of the Cruise Industry both in Ship Board Management and Corporate Management. Mico is currently the Principal of Mico Cascais, Inc. a company focused on reshaping the story and experiences cruise guests will enjoy when sailing in the Caribbean.

The first cruise passenger experience will be one of discovery for the guests to return on another cruise to the destination in the future, and therefore, it is extremely important that the destination showcases itself in a manner that will shape future calls for the remainder of 2017 and going into 2018 and beyond.

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - Social & Health Insurances SZV had to close its doors to the public today (Thursday November 23rd) due to an unforeseen incident where SZV staff and security were physically attacked by a visiting customer. For privacy and legal reasons, it is not customary for SZV to disclose the details of incidents to the media or public but we see it important at this time to inform that these actions are never tolerated. All incidents where security has been breached are followed by an official police report and when required pursued further by legal action.

It is our duty to serve the community, adhering to the laws of the social and health insurances of which we manage. We aim to do so by offering the best possible service to each customer, at all times. Violence of any form towards or staff or endangering our staff and visitors is never condoned.

Legal action will be pursued in relation to the events of today and for this reason and to maintain the privacy of our staff we will not issue any more details as to not interfere with the ongoing proceedings.

The offices of SZV will re-open again on Friday November 24th during regular business hours; 7:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The Chief of Police Carl John and the Commander of the VKS Antonio Rogers met on Wednesday November 22nd for talks regarding the safety of the community of Sint Maarten and the working cooperation between both entities. The VKS has been working under the supervision of the police department for quite a number of years with positive results.
 
Both the Chief of police and the commander of the VKS are doing their utmost to improve this working cooperation. The main topic of discussion was the upcoming tourist and Christmas season where the decision was taken that KPSM, the VKS and the officers of the National Police Force of the Netherlands will jointly provide safety and security to the business community and the community at large during this season as together we focus on getting the economy back on track.
The commander of the VKS promised to support this effort with no less than 10 VKS- members on a daily basis. The police chief gladly accepted this offer.
 
During the meeting the Police chief stated that he is very proud of the local police officers who have been working prior, during and in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria and continue to do so up to today to guarantee the safety and security of the community.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - In a collaborated effort, the Ministry of VROMI and the Steelcrushers BV have embarked on a project to have all the zinc, car wrecks and other metals removed from the island in the very near future. The company has brought in various pieces of machinery, including a huge grabber, to be able to start clearing up the zinc depot beside the Little League stadium. The huge car wreck depot from the former Bakker recycling and the items presently stored on the landfill will also be removed.

Seeing the amount of damaged cars on the island, the Ministry of VROMI expects many more wrecks to be collected over the next few months. Reconstruction on buildings will also cause a great deal of metal debris to be accumulated. This public private partnership will work out well for all concerned.

The cost for government lies in the transporting of the scrap metal to the docks in Point Blanche with the trucks the Government received from the Netherlands for the cleanup program which is still ongoing at present.

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – The House of Parliament will sit in an urgent plenary public meeting on Thursday, November 23, 2017.
The urgent plenary public meeting will be held on Thursday, November 23, 2017 at 10.00 hrs in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.
The agenda point is:
Appointment of a new first and second Vice Chairperson of Parliament
(This meeting was requested by MP P.F.M. Geerlings, MP C.E. Brownbill and MP S.M. Bijlani)

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. 

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

The parliamentary session will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 120, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, the audio via the Internet www.sxmparliament.org and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten.

PHILIPSBURG, St. MaartenOn Wednesday November 22nd, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, began the distribution of the larger school and office supplies to the public and subsidized schools and organizations. The supplies distributed was part of the requested supplies by the schoolboards after the assessments were done post Hurricane Irma. The supplies were sent via the Karel Doorman through the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science in the Netherlands. The supplies are to assist in the recovery and bouncing back of the schools. Schoolboard representatives and other representatives of subsidized organizations related to Culture, Youth and Sport, namely SECDA, Philipsburg Jubilee Library, National Sports Institute, Youth Council and the Monument Council were invited to a small press conference for the handing over of HP laptops, which are to aid in the loss of desktops during the storm. The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Silveria Jacobs, informed the schoolboard representatives of the vision behind receiving the supplies. “We are moving towards a technological world and we need to start digitalizing our documents and archive database. The use of laptops in the offices will assist in creating digital files and allow easier storage of information in the event of a natural disaster, as well as allow remote use of the laptop, wherever situated. The workers at the New Government Building were able to resume work more efficiently with the help of laptops and desktops; we were only in need of electricity to power up the devices and internet access to access other resources and archived files. The schoolboards also received cleaning materials as well as classroom materials such as filing cabinets, pens, lined paper, glue sticks and much more items that will aid in assisting teachers.”

After the passing of Hurricane Irma, many of the public schools sustained medium to major damages, in particular the top floors of the buildings. Many of the air-condition units are non-functional, therefore, the Indian Merchants Association (IMA) saw it necessary and vital to donate 157 Lasko standing fans to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and by extension the Division Public Education. The presentation of the standing fans was made to Minister Jacobs and head of Division Public Education Mrs. Glenderlin Holiday. Minister Jacobs expressed her gratitude to the IMA representatives for the donation to the schools and expressed her wishes to have more businesses and communities adopt a school as part of the Education on the Move campaign. The fans will be distributed on Thursday, November 23rd, to the public schools.

Mr. Rafel Skeete, a local baseball hero, and member of the Piper Davis Group, a baseball group based in the United States, which travelled to St. Maarten and hosted a baseball camp, supplied through the Department of Sport, donated relief goods which will be distributed to specifically single mothers or fathers of student athletes. The intention is to touch base with various sporting organizations to determine the need within the membership. Once the information has been ascertained, a date and time will be forthcoming for distribution.

The remainder of the school and office supplies, which are being housed at the L.B. Scot Sports Auditorium, will be distributed on Thursday, November 23rd and Friday, November 24th. All schoolboard representatives have been made aware of all the requirements and time slots for the pick-up of the supplies.

Minister Jacobs thanks all stakeholders, and specifically, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science in the Netherlands, the Piper Davis Group, the Indian Merchants Association and all other critical organizations who have aided the Ministry and by extension the students and teachers of St. Maarten with supplies and emergency goods, which has and will continue to help in the reconstruction of our educational system on St. Maarten. There are a number of additional groups and organizations, which have pledged their support. As the aid becomes available, the Ministry will make the information forthcoming to the public.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - While attending the International Donor's Conference in New York, coordinated by the United Nations Development Program, Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman had the distinct pleasure to meet and converse with former US President Bill Clinton, during a lunch hosted by the chairman of CARICOM for heads of states and heads of government.
Clinton expressed his heartfelt sympathy to the people of St. Maarten for the damage they suffered with the passing of the Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
Clinton was a speaker at the two days CARICOM-UN pledging conference held in New York on November 21st.

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