Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago - The Association of Caribbean States (ACS) convened the 18th Intersessional Preparatory Meeting for the 21st Ordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Council on 17th November 2015 at the Hilton Hotel, Port of Spain, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The Honourable Dennis Moses, Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of the Host Country, addressed representatives of the Member and Associate Member Countries of the ACS.

Minister Moses highlighted the dedication of the Secretariat and Secretary General Múnera for the significant contributions to the work of the Association. He further referred to the upcoming First Symposium of the Caribbean Sea Commission which will provide the opportunity for discussions on pertinent issues such as the invasion of the sargassum seaweed and the lionfish and other forms of coastal deterioration in the Caribbean.

Also contributing to the panel of speakers delivering introductory remarks were Mr. Madelain Fils-Aime, Chief of Staff of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Haiti in his capacity as Chairman of the Ministerial Council followed by H.E. Alfonso Múnera, Secretary General of the ACS. Mr Fils-Aime mentioned that this meeting presented an opportune moment to analyse the work in the various fields undertaken by the ACS.

Secretary General Múnera thanked the Chair and acknowledged the work of Haiti in the Association. He mentioned that after eight years, the ACS had not hosted a Summit and Haiti launched the process of revitalisation of the ACS in 2013, with this being the central theme of the Fifth Summit. He further praised the Government of Mexico who hosted the Sixth ACS Summit in that country in honour of the twentieth anniversary of the organisation. He mentioned that coming out of this meeting, Mexico sponsored four important projects which redound to the benefit of the ACS membership. Secretary General Múnera also disclosed that the Seventh Summit of the ACS will be held in Cuba in February 2016.

One of the principal objectives outlined for the meeting included an examination of one of the cooperation projects approved by the VI Summit of Heads of State and/or Government of the ACS which was held in Merida, Mexico in 2014. With respect to this, Mr. Efraín Limones García, Director of the Project on the Caribbean, National Institute of Statistics and Geography (MFA México), informed on advances made in the following project: Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management, which is being coordinated in conjunction with the Directorate of Disaster Risk Reduction. He stated that the project had advanced significantly with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) core stations that will be delivered to ACS Caribbean countries in the region. GNSS is a satellite system that is used to pinpoint the geographic location of a user's receiver anywhere in the world. This system will be used to reduce the geospatial infrastructural gap in the Caribbean and will tie the Caribbean to the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF). The GGRF is a generic term describing the framework which allows users to precisely determine and express locations on the Earth, as well as to quantify changes of the Earth in space and time and determine positions at a high level of precision.

During the meeting’s proceedings, discussions were held surrounding the upcoming Symposium on the Caribbean Sea titled “Challenges, Dialogue and Cooperation towards the Sustainability of the Caribbean Sea” which will take place from November 23rd to 24th, 2015 in Port of Spain. In this regard, the Secretariat updated the Meeting on the status of the preparations for this Symposium.

The 18th Intersessional Preparatory Meeting of the Ministerial Council concluded following preparations for the 20th Ordinary Meeting of the ACS Ministerial Council which will take place in Haiti in January, 2016. Delegates also discussed the upcoming elections to select a new Secretary General as well as Directors to the ACS Secretariat. Secretary General Alfonso Múnera will complete his tenure in April 2016.

H.E. Alfonso Múnera, Secretary General of the ACS reinforced the words of his counterparts by stating that the ACS is a tool that can produce real movement and meeting in the Greater Caribbean. He disclosed that despite challenges faced by the ACS, this organisation continues to move forward in fulfilling its role in the Greater Caribbean.

The Meeting welcomed participation from sixteen Member Countries and 1 Associate Member Country as well as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of American States (OAS).

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - On Friday November 13, 2015, the Minister of Public Health Social Development and Labour Mr. Rafael Boasman and the interim director of SZV (Social and Health Insurances) Mr. Glen Carty signed a cooperation protocol strengthening the collaboration between the two entities.

The SZV designated by Government as the social security administration agency, is responsible for the implementation of the social- and health insurances, among which the sickness insurance as well as the AOV and AWW.

SZV also has an important advisory role to the Minister with respect to policy frameworks and national laws and regulations related to social and health insurances, while the main responsibility of the Minister of Health, is to provide an accessible, affordable and quality health care system.

During the last weeks many discussions have taken place on the further improvement and structuring of the mutual cooperation between the Minister of Health and SZV. This culminated in the adoption and signing of a protocol of cooperation between both organizations.

The protocol lays down the general principles for the cooperation, as well as the arrangements relating to the regular consultations and exchange of information between the Minister and the Director of SZV for the purpose of carrying out their duties.

In practical terms, this means that they meet at least once every quarter, alternately at the offices at the Minister and of SZV.

Both the Minister and the SZV will within short appoint a coordinating contact person from their respective organizations, who will function as a point of contact for the implementation of what has been agreed upon in this protocol.

The Cabinet of the Minister runs the secretariat and will be mainly responsible for the agenda, reporting and timely dispatch of documents to the contact persons.

Important topics during the consultation, among other are the implementation of the social and health insurances, the exchange of statistical data, the budget and joint internal and external communication efforts.

In the short term, a joint communication plan will be executed by which society at large will be informed of the consequences of the recent increase in AOV-age from 60 to 62 years.

Another priority is to establish a joint format to which the Minister and SZV will exchange and synchronize their statistics from SZV.

These statistics are very important to determine what the current situation is in St. Maarten, e.g. in terms of the number of people being insured and employed.

These statistics will also be used as input for studies and research, e.g. for a feasibility study on possible unemployment benefits in Sint Maarten.

In Photo: From left to right (standing): Len Dijkstra, Legal Advisor Cabinet Minister VSA, Joy Arnell, Acting Secretary-General VSA and Dymphne Bossers, Head Legal Affairs SZV; Sitting from left to right: Rafael Boasman, Minister VSA, and Glen Carty, Acting Director SZV.

 

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - United People's (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Tamara Leonard has sent a letter to Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs requesting on "thorough and a step-by-step explanation of the process of screening and other procedures related to Princess Juliana International Airport Managing Director Regina Labega.

Leonard urged the Prime Minister to provide the requested information "as soon as possible or at the latest within one week of the date of this letter." The letter was booked with Parliament for forwarding to the Prime Minister on Monday.

In her letter, Leonard asked for "a thorough explanation of the procedures and facts" related to the case.

"There has been much talk and speculation in the community about this matter and I believe it is high time the entire procedure, from its inception to date, be explained in detail for a better understanding and awareness," Leonard said.

She wants to be informed of, among the other details, whether or not the screening of the Managing Director was stipulated by law. If yes, which laws and what was the procedure followed. If no, why and on whose authority was the screening carried out.

"Also, outline in the explanation why the certificate that must be issued by the Prime Minister to Ms. Labega as a person of confidence was reportedly withheld and on what grounds, if such is indeed true," she wrote.

The MP also wants to also know the role of the airport’s boards (both of the Holding Company and Operating Company) in the screening process and subsequent handling of the position of the Managing director.

She cautioned the Prime Minister in rhe letter that she requires a thorough and step-by-step explanation of the process regarding Labega and "not only answer to the specific questions posed in this correspondence."

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The island of St. Maarten is now receiving the help of International terrorism experts in their bid to investigate the recent effort of three Syrians to penetrate our borders with the use of false passports.

CNN reported on Wednesday afternoon that five Syrian were also intercepted in Mexico with false passports and that they are suspected to have been trying to get to the United States through the Mexican border. They entered Central America through Honduras.

The Ministry of Justice of St. Maarten only confirmed that the three suspected Syrians were stopped at the Princess Juliana International Airport by Immigration personnel and that they were being held while an investigation was on-going.

Our efforts to get further information on the progress of this investigation and if outside help has been requested was only rewarded with a confirmation that the investigation is still ongoing.

The CNN report Wednesday confirmed that in fact, help is being sent to the island but by whom was not indicated.

Based on the development in France last Friday and developments on Tuesday evening, security concerns have been heightened within the St. Maarten community and the short report aired on CNN has provided some comfort that our local resources are now being assisted.

It is known that the political establishment are currently busy with the process of a governmental transition which we have learnt is scheduled for Thursday and perhaps may be a bit overwhelmed as far as reporting to this community on this important development for the island and its people.

No other information is known on the process of the investigation so far locally, however CNN with their wide resources is said to be looking further into this developing story.

At this time it is not clear if an investigation has been done to determine the local contacts of the Syrians and or if any house searches have been conducted in an effort to pre-empt any possible plot.

It is believed that the Syrians traveled from Central America to the Dominican Republic then to Haiti and on to St. Maarten where according to the Ministry of Justice, they tried to enter St. Maarten with the use of Greek passports with as destination Europe.

This journey is an expensive venture and one that would not be associated with normal refugee activities and as such is a clear indication that their travels were financed.

It should also be noted that ISIS, the group that is currently responsible for the terrorist mayhem, is the richest terrorist organization in the world.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The Inspectorate of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (Inspectorate) has noted that often the labels on food and food products including (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) beverages are tampered with. The tampering can take place:

  1. By erasing either the manufacture date and/or the expiry date on the product label;
  2. By changing the accompanied manifest documents of the products, or
  3. By erasing the product code on the product or the label itself (called decoding).

The practice of decoding starts when one deliberately removes the so-called lot codes from the label in order to make the product untraceable. For example, a typical lot number looks like this: L2220CM000 04020173. This means, that this particular product was produced on the 20th day in 2012 by the production plant with registration number 04020173. The lot code makes it very easy for the authorities to trace a product when a problem arises with the product. However, once products are decoded, it is almost impossible to trace the product.

As a result, the Inspectorate is stepping up inspections. Meanwhile the public is advised to be alert and follow these guidelines to keep you and your family safe:  

 

  • Carefully examine all food product packaging. Be aware of the normal appearance of food containers. Always compare the product are buying with the products on the shelves.
  • Compare a suspect container with others on the shelf.
  • Check for any sign of tampering of packaging. Make sure the product you choose to buy has an expiration date and a lot code on it.
  • Do not purchase products if the package is open, torn, or damaged. This includes products on the shelf, in the refrigerator or freezer sections.
  • Do not buy products that do not have a label nor an unusual looking label.
  • Check the "sell-by" or expiry date printed on some products, and only buy items within that period.

The Inspectorate hereby states that according to our laws, it is prohibited to import, sell and/or export food products without taking into considerations the labeling requirements as laid down in the National decree on Food Labeling (AB 2013, GT no. 194).

The Decree states that all pre-packaged foods and food products, including (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) beverages must have information, instructions and warnings on the production batch that comprises the following:

-       The product name;

-       Ingredients list;

-       The net quantity of the product;

-       The minimum best-before date or expiry date;

-       The nutritional value and highlighted information on allergens;

-       Instructions for use;

-       Alcoholic strength by volume (if applicable);

-       Origin, manufacturer, packer or seller information;

The information must be provided at least in English and Dutch.

The Inspectorate encourages the public to be alert and report any case of suspected tampering to the Inspectorate.

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