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PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Twenty-two years before the Proclamation of Emancipation on St. Maarten, the Catholic church was established on this half of the island with Fr. Arnold ten Brink as the first parish priest. He laid the cornerstone for the present St. Martin of Tours Parish church on Frontstreet and with that began what would turn out to be a profound transformation of the island.

For the last 175 years, the Catholic church has had a very significant impact on our lives, not only in the spiritual realm, but also in the educational and social fields. No wonder the church grew by leaps and bounds. The parish took its ministry directly to where the people lived, in the districts of Colebay (where after 35 years, the church was gutted by fire in 1872 and never rebuilt again), Simpson Bay, and Reward. On May 30, 1952 the church on Frontstreet was built, costing 132, 659 Dutch guilders. Imagine what that amount would represent in today’s currency! I understand that the aim now is to build a church in Belvedere, a goal I am confident the parish would accomplish by the grace of God.

But wherever the church was established, a school soon followed. Who, among my generation, does not remember the nuns? Six of them were sent to St. Maarten from Holland, arriving here at 8:00am on May 30th, 1890 via St. Kitts. By Monday June 2nd, 1890, St. Joseph School opened its doors as the first Catholic school on the island! That was only three days after the arrival of the nuns. Sister Regina was its first principal.

Since then, Catholic education has been second to none on the island. Not only did St. Joseph school admit Catholic students, but also non-Catholics as well who reportedly came from more well-to-do families and hence fell in the section of paying pupils. With a total enrolment of 132 students – 62 in the kindergarten, 56 in two other classes and 14 in the paying section – St. Joseph was no doubt the largest school on St. Maarten.

It is amazing that the same issues that confronted the nuns at the time are still being discussed today, more than a century later. They included discipline and most remarkably, the language of instruction. History shows that four of the six nuns had to learn English quickly from some St. Maarten ladies in order to teach in English and improve the performance of their students! The more things change, the more they seem to remain the same!IMG 839

Three years after its establishment, the school received 400 Dutch guilders as government grant. This was increased by 50% the following year. Today, government subsidizes all the six Catholic primary schools and one secondary school on the island. This is the kind of public-private partnership that has contributed to the development of St. Maarten in all areas.

As we join the Catholic community in celebrating 175 years of continuous existence on this half of the island, we must remember that Catholic means “universal” and that one of the basic beliefs of all Catholics is the inherent goodness of all God’s creations. In other words, that God created everything to be good and perfect, but it is we who mess things up through our disobedience or refusal to live by His commandments, the greatest of which is to love one another as He loves us.

That love must be manifested in our deeds, not just in our words. As Pope Francis once said: “The secret of Christian living is love.” “Love,” he also said, “is the measure of faith.”

The Catholic Church has shown tremendous faith in St. Maarten over the past 175 years.

Therefore, on behalf of the government and people of St. Maarten, I wish to hereby congratulate the entire Catholic community on this historic celebration. May the grace of God continue to abide by all of us.

God bless the Catholic church. God bless St. Maarten.

Hon. William Marlin,

Prime Minister of St. Maarten.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten -On Monday Labour Day was celebrated on St. Maarten with an official ceremony at the Divi Little Bay Beach Hotel in the Great Bay Room.

This year, persons who contributed significantly to Labour on the island were recognized and three persons were officially honored. The honorees were Julian Lynch, Curtis Vanterpool and the late Anadeen Serbony Matthew.

The Parliament of St. Maarten was represented at Monday's ceremony by the President of Parliament the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams whilst the Council of Ministers was represented by the Minister of Labour the Honorable Emil Lee.

The Governor was represented by the Deputy Governor his Excellency Reynold Groeneveldt. It should be also noted that there were many other officials at Monday's Labour Day event.

Below is the full text of the speech given by the Honorable Minister Emil Lee on Monday morning.IMG 647

As Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, I would like to congratulate all workers on this special day. We are gathered here today as a demonstration of appreciation and support for the workers.

In reality, in leaving my position as an entrepreneur to become a Minister, I have also recently joined the ranks of the employees by becoming a worker in the Government apparatus, working for the people.

Today we take time to recognize the special contribution from a few stalwarts. On days like today, it is also an opportunity to stop and reflect on where we are today.  

In recognizing the progress that has been made in the field of labour over the years, we need to acknowledge that the creation of meaningful, stable and sustainable employment can only be achieved in partnership. This partnership between business, labour and government must be a partnership built on trust, honest dialogue, and compromise. The labour tripartite is functioning well and is the absolute vehicle for this partnership.

The tripartite is working diligently albeit a bit slowly on coming to a consensus on the proposed changes to the civil code which will address the abuse of the short term labor contracts. I have full confidence that the tripartite will arrive at a win-win-win agreement.

We have labour unions that see themselves as integral partners in creating sustainable, secure and rewarding jobs. The unions recognize the undeniable link between the level of education and job security. The union leaders have not only recognized this link but are actively participating in offering training programs that will increase job security and more importantly provide upward mobility in terms of earnings and career advancement.

But As we take stock in the St Maarten of today, we also need to recognize that we are in an economy that is demonstrating minimal growth. There is a need to create higher paying jobs. Youth unemployment is unacceptably high. A highly bureaucratic path to compliance has had a negative impact on compliance in general.  

The connection between job security, and upward mobility are inextricably tied to the health of our economy and by default the health of our tourism industry. Our tourism economy is clearly not performing optimally. Unstable government has translated into multiple changes in leadership which have had a devastating impact on our tourism promotional efforts.

The good news is that Minister Arrindell is finally seeing to it that the Tourism Authority is being put into place with funding for promotional activities. Again the formula of cooperation and partnership between government and the private sector is a clear formula for stability and economic growth.

Improving compliance is very important goal for the Ministry. We are working closely with SZV and other strategic partners to improve compliance. Once employees saw we were there to educate and enforce...with a cooperative attitude, the staff began to speak to compliance officers about other issues... Street hawkers came to complain.

Improved Compliance is good for everyone. This increased compliance will translate into benefits for everyone. Every job occupied by an undocumented worker is a lost opportunity for local employment. Improved compliance will get these jobs into the system creating employment opportunities for our unemployed.

Undocumented workers are often willing to accept lower wages, thereby putting downward pressure on salaries and illegal employment practices, thereby putting downward pressure on employment salaries and benefits.

For businesses, this will result in a level playing field. Competing against businesses with illegal workers with different cost structure hurts businesses that are compliant. How can one business compete against another business that doesn't pay taxes.

For workers, this will result in increased opportunities for employment and better quality employment. For government, this will translate into increased revenues. Improved capacity to manage the labor market. So, we will continue with our gentle but steady effort to improve compliance.

It is both an honor and a pleasure to be here today to share this holiday and commemoration.

The only formula for success is through win-win-win partnerships. If labor, "wins" and business and government loses. We all lose. If business wins and labor and government loses, we all lose. If government wins, and business and labor loses, we all lose.

For this reason, the tripartite has my full support as the correct body to develop a healthy and sustainable environment for all parties to prosper. On Labor Day, I thank the unions and businesses for being vibrant and valued partners.

Minister Emil Lee.


Remarks By

H.E. Governor Eugene B. Holiday

on the occasion of King day Celebrations

Westin, Dawn Beach

April 26, 2016

Esteemed Guests,

Good evening,

And a very warm welcome to you to this King’s Day celebration in honor of the birthday of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander. My wife Marie-Louise and I are pleased to see you and celebrate with you this evening. We do so in the spirit of this evening’s theme: Care Makes a Difference. I shall therefore in the next few moments share some thoughts with you on why care makes a world of difference.

Friedrich Von Hugel, an Austrian Roman Catholic Layman provided an excellent answer to that question with his statement: “Caring is the greatest thing, caring matters most”. Caring matters most because of the role it plays as the foundation of our interactions with others. That is within our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces and our wider society. Caring is, in essence, the glue that holds our world’s web of people together. Care brings out the best in you and me. The more we care, the more devoted we will be to attaining our aspirations as individuals and as a society for a more perfect nation. A more stable nation build on the principles of democracy anchored through:

  1. the education of our children;
  2. the elimination of poverty and hunger;
  3. the eradication of violence against and abuse of children and women;
  4. the protection of the health of our people and environment; and
  5. a strong and sustainable economy for all.

Esteemed Guests,

To care makes a world of difference

In lives, in our society in so many ways

It is rewarding, liberating, uplifting and empowering

Today, tomorrow and always

Hence our continued pursuit of a more just and sustainable society as articulated in the preamble to our Constitution, requires that we – you and I – must continue to nourish our level of care for each other and our nation.If our community is denied the nourishment it needs it will fail to flourish. A plant with insufficient water will wither and so will the spirit of our nation without our care.

Esteemed guests,

Imagine what our society would be like without the dedicated and caring services of so many professionals and volunteers – such as, teachers, nurses, doctors, clergy, policemen, social workers, volunteers, environmentalists and others – who, in so many different ways, work to improve the quality of our lives. The care of these persons, or “We, the people”, is the oil that fuels our efforts and country’s progress. It is with the knowledge of and appreciation for their valued service to our community that we can look to the future with hope for the further growth of our country. And at the same time use their example to call on others for the necessary expansion of our circle of care. For to optimize our nations potential it is imperative that every one of us demonstrate how much we care for each other and for our community.

Esteemed Guests,

It is therefore with gratitude that we shall in a few moments stand still to highlight the contributions and achievements of a few of our brothers and sisters who, because they CARED AND MADE A DIFFERENCE, have been singled out to receive Royal Decorations. This for their prolonged outstanding service to our community. The four (4) persons are - Reverend Etton Lloyd Brissett and Dr. Pieter Jan Offringa who have each been decorated as Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau as well as Mrs. Shelly-Ann Alphonso and Mrs. Veronica Margareth Benjamin-Oliver who have each been decorated as member in the Order of Oranje Nassau. A review of the contributions of these persons to the Sint Maarten community reveals a common thread, that of caring to make a difference in the lives of others. They have made their mark in the Sint Maarten community in a variety of areas such as: ministering to the spiritual and Christian development of generations of Sint Maarteners, doctoring to the needs of our children, providing a home and care for underprivileged and abandoned children and enhancement of awareness to help prevent and/or respond to breast cancer. This brief summary does not do justice to the level of giving, devotion, community involvement and care demonstrated by these people towards making a real difference in the lives of so many in our country over a prolonged number of years. Their committed involvement in service to our country for a significant part of their lives through their care for the spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing of others is a necessary building block for a stronger, more resilient and sustainable Sint Maarten community. And as such serves as an example for all of us to become more involved, and care to make a difference in our community.  

I therefore extend my appreciation to each of the 2016 recipients of Royal Decorations for their exemplary service to our community. It is an honor and special distinction to be awarded a Royal Decoration and I thus, in closing, convey my congratulations to each of the 2016 recipients individually and to their family and friends.

Thus as we continue the tradition of celebrating King’s Day with an emphasis on Care Makes A Difference, I wish you an enjoyable evening.

Thank you,

God Bless you, and

God Bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.

'Workplace stress: It’s time to lift the burden' - Statement by Director-General Guy Ryder on the occasion of World Day for Safety and Health at Work 28 April 2016

This World Day for Safety and Health  focuses on the toll taken on the health and wellbeing of workers worldwide by stress in their working environment.

Target 8 of Goal 8  of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  calls for “safe and secure working environments for all workers” - securing safe workplaces extends beyond the protection of workers’ physical safety to their mental and psychological wellbeing.

Work-related stress affects workers in all professions in developed and developing countries alike. It can gravely harm not only workers’ health but also, and all too often, the wellbeing of their families.

Globalization and technological change have transformed work and employment patterns in ways that sometimes contribute to work-related stress. High unemployment levels, particularly in the absence of adequate social protection measures can also have undesirable consequences for the mental health of workers.

Enterprises are not spared and they face the consequences of work-related stress on their overall performance with increased absenteeism, presenteeism and staff turnover, and difficult labour relations.

More data and analysis is needed to fully quantify the financial costs of workplace stress but it is already abundantly clear that the burden is considerable. A recent study cited in the ILO report, Workplace stress: a collective challenge , issued for this day, indicates that more than 40 million people are affected by work-related stress within the EU and that the estimated cost of work-related depression is €617 billion a year.

While much still needs to be done to reduce stress at work, we can say that in recent years there have been welcome developments in understanding the issue.  Awareness has increased and in most countries policymakers, social partners and professional networks are becoming more involved in the design of legislation, policy, strategies and tools for the assessment and management of work-related stress.

It is clear that the protection of workers’ mental health must focus on preventive strategies. Assessing and managing psychosocial risks at their origin will help craft the collective and individual measures needed to improve the quality of working life for women and men.

The ILO is committed to work with governments, workers and employers and their organizations around the globe to design and implement effective national, regional and enterprise level policies to prevent and minimise work-related stress.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - Today the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) joins the world in recognizing and celebrating Earth Day.

Here at the CTO our core purpose is to lead sustainable tourism as we strive to make the Caribbean the leading sustainable tourism destination in the world.  The tourism sector and the environment are inextricably linked and environmentally responsible tourism is paramount to the sector’s sustainability and overall success.  

Tourism must be stewarded and balanced so that the benefits for the environment, the communities it serves, its employees and the economy, outweigh the costs.

Two years ago, we joined the rest of the environmentally-conscious world in lobbying for a new international climate change agreement backed by supportive and where necessary, punitive national initiatives that encourage more responsible environmentally friendly behaviour.

At the recently concluded Conference of Parties 21 *(COP21) the Caribbean’s position was clear and we at the Caribbean Tourism Organization endorsed the call for “1.5 to stay alive”. We were thrilled with the news that an agreement had been reached.

Today, at a ceremony at the United Nations, President Barack Obama of the United States and President Xi Jinping of China will be the first to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, the first day the United Nations accord will be open for government signatures.

This new agreement offers hope.  As many of CTO’s members are Small Island Developing States (SIDS), we remain optimistic that the tremendous strides made in Paris will help to ensure that this issue continues to occupy a prominent position on the global agenda. 

This year’s Earth Day theme ‘Trees for the Earth’ contributes to three main positives for a better world:

  • The mitigation of climate change and pollution,
  • Protection of biodiversity
  • Supporting community and livelihoods

The Caribbean Tourism Organization pledges to pursue additional creative solutions to the many issues that face us, to benefit our citizens and visitors for generations to come. We hope that you will join us in our pledge and be part of the commitment to be socially and environmentally responsible.

Happy Earth Day!

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - “Give Thanks”! It is an expression you have probably heard uttered from the mouths of various men and women who wear dread locks on this island and follow the mystic livity of Rasta—the pursuit of wisdom: the quest to appreciate and venerate life in order to live in a truthful, upful, beautiful way overflowing with goodness towards everything and everyone.

To me “Give Thanks” are the first words that ought to come out of the mouth of a human who acknowledges that he or she is not a God or a Goddess who stands above the world. Such a person is genuinely reverent to all of life and the ultimate Life Giver and appreciates that they are but part of existence.

Good morning, “Give Thanks”. Now bear in mind that I did not begin this address by stating “I give thanks to the world or I give thanks specifically to you”. I simply said, “Give Thanks”.

As the mystic strand of Rastafari intimates it is the Word (born of and simultaneously birthing Power and Sound), that hails the “I” and “You” and “They” into being. So by saying “Give Thanks” I acknowledge the Word (and Power and Sound) explicitly, and subsequently yet simultaneously, you—you the teachers, you the Catholic school board, you the invited political dignitaries and work shop leaders, and, last but not least, you the trees and the dogs and the rest of extra human life and matter that are also here today. And let me just add rather provocatively, that Rastafari is but a repetition with a difference of Catholic universality that in its turn repeats other older religious traditions seeking to remind the world of the higher law of Justice and the non-coercive ethic of Love. Give Thanks.

Whenever we speak, relate, and experience each other, there are always 3 sets of forces and a Force that is beyond any force and being thus not a force or being involved. Permit me to explain. There is I (who is giving the keynote) speaking to you (the public) about them (students and parents, etc, neglecting often the extra human). And we do so enveloped and infused by God, one of the most beautiful names for Love; it is this absence presence, this Cosmic Attractor and Creator that brings all of life into communication and ideally communion. Any talk or execution of education in Catholic schools, with newfangled methods or philosophies of learning that is not based in this existential realization, which does not start with “Giving Thanks” and being faithful to a life of “Giving Thanks” turns out to be nothing more or less than methodolatry; the idolization of a method.

I have entitled this keynote Catholic Education as a Giving Thanks. I will not be presenting you with a method today. Nor will I be discussing the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) that I know you are currently being trained in. My contribution is more modest. I will be seeking to remind you of the importance of reconnecting to the liberating strand of Caribbean Catholicism that is premised upon Giving Thanks. In this living tradition born of the struggles of courageous men and women belonging to all strata of Caribbean societies, an ethic and habit of combining a Love supreme with the pursuit of Justice for those yet to be redeemed holds through in the concrete work done to alleviate spiritual, intellectual, social, economic, and ecological poverty. To repeat, A Love supreme is a Love which undoes the power of power in love relationships, and Justice is a Law which undoes the partialities and violence inscribed in enshrined laws.

This keynote is dedicated to Father Cornelius Charles, who rebuilt and shepherds the Mary of the Star Catholic church in Grand Case on the Northern side of this island. Throughout his years of service on St. Martin, he has nurtured this liberating strand of Caribbean Catholicism. I am of the opinion that reconnecting to this living heritage, infusing it in whatever teaching method or management protocol you choose, should guide your efforts as teachers and managers. Consider this address a remix of what Father Charles has been doing and saying for years.

My talk is divided into 3 parts. I will begin by presenting you with my view of St. Martin society. I will then go on to further assay this view as it relates to the field of education. Third, as everything is related to everything else, directly but mostly indirectly, I will usher an invitation for you to flesh out the wider societal and existential implications. And, think about what this could mean for your practice as educators and managers.

We often use terms without fully explaining what we mean by them. I stated that I would begin by conveying my view of St. Martin society. Now society is not reducible to a government or nation-state. Therefore in this speech I write St. Martin society and not Sint Maarten or Saint Martin society. Society is also not the same thing as culture or ethnicity. These concepts—cultures, ethnicities, government, nation-states, and of course society—are however related. There will always be many cultures and ethnic groups in any nation-state that governmental apparatuses presuppose they have to manage. I understand any society, and thus also St. Martin, as a series of questions that emerge out of the ongoing historically and contextually specific harmonies and disharmonies (violence, downpression, and dehumanization, if you prefer that sort of language) between forever changing and forever emerging cultures and ethnic groups whereby governments also play a role. The people engaged with those questions—the concrete individuals in variedly related associations and institutions—are the members of the society. Here is my take as recorded in the essay I published two years ago, entitled “Notes on the Making of Nation within the Kingdom”

1) The Question of Purpose: like all other countries in the overdeveloped North Atlantic, Sint Maarten is riddled with anger and anxiety. It has to do with the loss of purpose. This generation will be the first since the end of World War II who will not have it as good as or better than their parents. They need a new purpose and value system.

2) The Multicultural Question: the enormous diversity asks of us, in thinking about creating a new purpose, to also address the question of how to deal with difference.

3) The Question of the Sacred: we need to ask ourselves again, what is of ultimate concern. Once we know this, we can translate it into a collective purpose

As these are to me the relevant questions on both sides of the island, and the conversations and confrontations aren’t fully reducible to the existing administrative borders, it is best to speak about St. Martin society. In addition, and this is a somewhat tricky aside, due to social media, some of the persons who continuously make and are made by St. Martin society and consider themselves part of it don’t reside on the island. So the 3 recurring questions I outlined above, which in my interpretation are de facto St. Martin society, are simultaneously sub-national, national, outer national, and transnational.

Now solutions to these questions are sought in the social institutions, the various civil associations, social movements, political societies, and other interest groups. I will be focusing on catholic schools.

Persons who work as teachers or managers are acutely aware that nowadays many pupils do not believe that education leads to economic uplift. That was yesterday’s myth which was considered true because social advancement did occasionally happen. Back then a few sons and daughters of the tillers of the soil, and those of the hucksters and gardeners, did become a school teacher and a bank teller.

In this global recession that also affects us here on St. Martin, there are too few Reginald F Lewis’s of those children of hucksters who became school teachers. In the eyes of these and many other youngsters, education is not viewed as the most effective tool to get more rich and famous. For them the Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Lil Wayne, and fictional figures like Jamal Malik of slum dog millionaire, and the jeremiads of their parents and other grown-ups that work doesn’t pay prove this. And when they still acquiesce to yesterday’s myth, their choices of study are those professions that will at least get them the Lexus and employment in an air-conditioned environment. Methods designed to stimulate students to do better, and be more involved with their studies, rarely address this worship of Mammon; or what I have termed in an essay published in 2010, the religion of the urban cool.

Though the dominant educational systems and theories sought, and today still seek to conceal the matter, sociality and spiritual self-realization are relegated to a peripheral status in the learning chain. These two latter affairs, which are intricately related to the human condition—after all we are social beings and when dread knocks on our door are individually seeking to understand the why and what of our existence—are implicitly appraised as mere means to the end of living large and being in charge of others. Everything and everyone is thingified in the hegemony of instrumental rationality (nothing and no one is held sacred—as everything and everyone can be a means). Reading, Writing, Arithmetic are privileged while subjects such as social studies, religion, the arts, history, and sports are viewed as mere fluff (unless someone successfully argues how they can generate lots of revenue).

Since the old game, so to speak, has lost much of its appeal, we need to come up with a new purpose and value system. In doing so we will also need to address and seriously interrogate the lure of instrumental rationality. I would be the last to deny the benefits that this mode of rationality has brought about: electricity, running water, cars, vaccines, computers, space travel, in short, the autonomy and rise of science and technology wrenched from ineffective magic and dogma. Yet our addiction to instrumental rationality has also led to unprecedented destruction of the nonhuman world and human life. Teachers in catholic schools cannot go on unwittingly promoting this gospel of means to an end rationality where value is reduced to an afterthought. To remedy this we will have to render life sacred again; human life, animal life, inanimate life, and the Life Giver—Love which is God which is Love. The subject religion venerating the Life Giver, science and mathematics in combination with the arts investigating and engaging inanimate and animal life, ethics and social studies enculturating and honoring human life in a way that historical wrongs are not perpetuated—would be in dissociable and of equal importance for they would all homage life. And therein student, teacher, manager would be transformed and become transformative forces positively affecting and infecting others.

I trust you understand that in my utopian dream sacralization and creating a new purpose go hand in hand. Education cannot then be solely a means, but must just as importantly be a reminder. In this scheme of things, the school ought to be a place of remembrance and reverence. And therein one memory stands out. The time worn memory which is repeated in these words:

God said; Let us make man in our own image and likeness. If he is in the likeness of God, and rules the whole earth, and has been granted authority over everything on earth from God, who is his buyer, tell me? Who is his seller? To God alone belongs this power; rather, not even to God himself. For his gracious gifts, it says, are irrevocable. God would not therefore reduce the human race to slavery, since he himself, when we had been enslaved to sin, spontaneously recalled us to freedom. But if God does not enslave what is free, who is he that sets his own power above God's?

These words of the Catholic Bishop, Gregory of Nyssa, who lived from 335-393, could have come out of the mouth of the first dominated man and woman in the Caribbean (the Native Americans African captives and Asians who were bamboozled or the Irish indentured) who converted to Catholicism in a time when the high officials in the church denied the humanity of darker skinned peoples subjugated by western powers. And it is this that brings us to the multicultural question. To me this question can only be resolved if in social institutions such as catholic schools an ethic is practiced whereby students and teachers and managers can recognize this same cry repeated with a difference among persons who practice other faiths and profess other ideologies. Then all will ideally be able to hear in these words of the Baptist preacher Martin Luther King Jr. a repetition of Gregory of Nyssa rebuttal to the wicked of his day, all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be - this is the interrelated structure of reality

Then the absence presence that brings all of life into communication, God will truly be recognized, leading to communion. The transformation within the catholic schools will then pour out to rest of St. Martin. Cultural practices and religious edicts, economic logics, and political strategizing, will then be appraised in terms of whether or not they are true to that memory by Giving Thanks.

Give thanks.


Captain Hodge Warf Philipsburg, Sint Maarten Friday, January 8, 2016


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening.

Marie-Louise and I are pleased to welcome and host you for this New Year’s Reception. Moreover we wish to acknowledge and extend a special welcome to the members of Parliament of Aruba and Curacao who are here with us this evening. To all present we hope that the evening will be an enjoyable one; one that will form part of your 2016 memorable moments. Tonight, as we gather here, we wish everyone present and across our sweet Sint Maarten land best wishes for the year ahead. May our country’s new year, in keeping with our motto on our national court of arms, be one of “Semper progrediens”[1] for all.

It is in the spirit of our motto that I shall drawing from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., center my message on the topic: Bending our Arc towards Progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many of us have spent the end of the old year and start of the New Year reflecting on the events and experiences of the past year that have influenced and shaped our lives. I have heard a variety of persons from a cross section of our community express their reflections. Some have done so privately and several others have done so publicly. While these reflections differ in elements and substance there seems to be a common thread that nationally experiences fell short of expectations. This expectations gap is in large part because experiences in the past year have been:

a.    dominated by intense debates in regard to regulating integrity;

b.    impacted by serious concerns in regards to violent crime, including the shooting and loss of police officer Benjamin in the line of duty; and

c.    overshadowed by intense political differences and constitutional questions.

Recognition of this expectations gap is important, but even more important is: what do we do with it going forward? Will we use our expectations gap as a ground to complain and blame each other or will we use it to take purposeful action to pursue our motto to always progress? I encourage you to and trust that we will take purposeful action. That is action to bend the arc of our experiences towards our expectations for the further progress for our people. This is what we have always done and what we must continue to do in light of the challenges we face today. Challenges ranging from social-economic concerns – such as the quality of life of the elderly, the level of youth unemployment and the level of crime – to governance issues – such as financial constraints, political discord and constitutional differences. These are all issues that, if left unchecked will threaten our nation’s continued progress.

These observations in regard to our collective challenges and experiences, brings the following inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to mind, and I quote:

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, ..…; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."


Placed against our reality I am sure that you would agree that Dr. King’s reflections on the correlation between progress, justice and effort are useful for our own considerations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In our context it is fair to say that, while we have our challenges, we are fortunate to live in a comparatively peaceful and prosperous Sint Maarten; a condition we cannot and should take for granted.I say this because too often there is a tendency by some not to recognize the progress we have achieved. I also say this because in highlighting our challenges and the urgency to address them, we sometimes fail to appreciate and celebrate the dedicated efforts and contributions of those – such as police officers, teachers, nurses and social workers – who day in and day out work on the frontline to make our nation’s progress possible. And in the case of officer Gamali Benjamin even giving his life for our progress. Efforts and sacrifices which should serve as the building blocks for purposeful action going forward.

Going forward there is, considering the expectations gap due to the challenges we face, good reason to take heed of the words of Dr. King that progress is not automatic or inevitable. And that there is work to be done if we are to continue to realize progress for all. Going forward you and I are therefore obligated to be unrelenting and committed in promoting a more just society anchored on the real potential of an educated, healthy, employed and devoted-to-country population.

The promotion of a more just society with improved opportunities and privileges based on the pillars of education, health care, employment, and devotion-to-country:

  1. calls for us to reexamine and invest in the educational preparation of our people;
  2. calls for us to continue to invest in the quality and access to health care for all;
  3. calls for us to invest in improved employment and economic opportunities for our people; and
  4. calls for us to strengthen our and to instill in our youth the values of mutual respect and appreciation for our nation’s cause.

The collective power of the interaction of these four pillars of a just society has the potential to bend the arc of our experiences towards further progress. This because of their collective impact on greater and equal opportunity for all and thus on the creation of social harmony, on decreasing crime, on increasing economic growth and on fostering unity.

Ladies and Gentlemen

To do so we must remind ourselves that achieving our national motto of always progressing cannot be achieved by one or two individuals. We must instead stand devoted and shoulder-to-shoulder.

It is in that spirit that I as your Governor hereby offer my shoulder and call on all to join me to use this year to dedicate our actions to the further building of the pillars of education, health care, employment and devotion-to-country for a more just Sint Maarten.

For it is only through such united and purposeful action that we can continue to bend our arc towards further progress and maintain Sint Maarten as a beacon of hope and opportunity for generations to come.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with that challenge and depending on us to tirelessly put our shoulders under the tasks ahead that I close, and hereby also on behalf of Marie-Louise, wish you and your family a year of peace, health, happiness and continued progress.

Thank you, God bless you, and May God bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast. 

GREAT BAY, St. Maarten – A week into the New Year, we believe that by now you are well adjusted to the novelty of 2016 which very quickly can become commonplace, familiar and routine.

Therefore you must keep your hopes and dreams alive, stick to your new year resolutions and depend on God to take you through the uncertain months that lie ahead.

It is common for Christmas messages to the people to be filled with best wishes and God fearing rhetoric. The new year messages on the other hand leave God out and only deal with promises and plans for the 2016.

The Sint Maarten Christian Party believes that if we end 2015 with God we should also begin the New Year by including God in our plans and efforts to build and better our country. For this reason the SMCP is inviting everybody to attend the Annual National Day of Prayer at the Clem Labega Square.

This is a time when the entire nation i.e. Government, the Christian Community and all the inhabitants of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin are invited to come together to give God thanks for bringing us through the past year. During this time of prayer, we also seek God for His blessings, guidance, mercy, protection, strength, and wisdom for our government and for the people of this nation.

St. Maarten is faced with many challenges such as the increase in violent crimes, the precarious financial situation and the upcoming elections in September. We don’t have all the answers but God does. That’s why the SMCP will be attending the National Day of Prayer on Sunday, January 10th. We are inviting everyone to join us as we pray together for our nation.

The motto of the Sint Maarten Christian Party is “Serving the People for a Change”. The SMCP intends to serve the people and the country not only through government but also through community service. We are starting this Saturday by joining the Sint Maarten Regatta to help clean up the Kimsha Beach.

We believe that through service we can make a difference and consequently help to make our island a better place for this - and future generations.

In the weeks ahead the SMCP will be presenting its ideas and plans as to how to improve the quality of life on Sint Maarten.

On behalf of the Board, the SMCP-Team, our members and supporters, the SMCP hereby wishes you and your family a blessed, bright, happy, healthy, joyful, peaceful, prosperous and successful New Year!

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Having said farewell to 2015 COCI opens the year with well wishes to one and all. Given COCI’s role in the business community of St. Maarten an assessment of its undertakings in 2015 is required to determine the success of the COCI direction followed through 2015.

In 2015 931 new companies registered at COCI, yet this number in no form signifies the economic development in St. Maarten. New registrations were countered by 458 company closures in 2015, all siting financial difficulties as the reason for the closure. A proper economic development demands that we question all initiatives and decisions that resulted in closures to understand the demographics of our business community. So we question:

-Are we ill prepared as entrepreneurs for the woes of our business environment?

-Are we not fully knowledgeable about our market and its needs prior to entry?

-Are the difficulties faced due to a different direction taken by financial institutions to which the business sector needs to adapt to maintain business operations, but fails to do so timely?

-Are we faced with labor resource issues, rigid or too flexible laws, or a protected labor force that knows how to (mis)use the system, resulting in an expensive labor force with poor productivity?

-Is it the absence of a supportive environment that affects proper economic development? Or

-Are we the people of the country simply to blame for our lack of growth because of our attitude, our lack of pride or appreciation for this paradise we are permitted to call home?

Surely a combination of positive answers to the questions have shaped our business environment over the last years and have made doing business in St. Maarten challenging. We assess, accept the reality, re-group, reformulate our goals and do it once again yet better prepared, structured and with combined resources, for this is what development is and requires.

Economic development requires a number of ingredients to be mixed together thoroughly, timely and in the right amounts. Enhancing our tourism product, supported by well trained and friendly staff, a safe and secure environment are just some of the easy attainable ingredients. Although easily attainable many of these ingredients are often lost due to a self-centered business approach. Yes, we must strive to improve how we do business, but we must also realize that this effort falls within a greater picture and must enhance the overall product that we as a country offer. So in our attitude and approach we must change and grow ensuring that our approach is friendly and welcoming and serves as the departure for efficiency. A labor force that takes pride in serving the consumer, that focusses on a combine effort with use of every ones best attributes will propel our economy. Employers appreciating and respecting their employees guarantees a forceful labor force. One sector within our economy cannot drive economic development on its own, the combined effort of all sectors is required.

The Government and its apparatus have a crucial role to play. A structured approach to development through the execution of a multi annual development plan should be the objective of our government, regardless of its composition. The civil core must aide in enhancement of public service and must realize that long lines and multiple lines are an inefficient approach and costly with a direct negative impact on revenues. A high level of customer service is required through all sectors both private and public all supported by utilities provisioning second to none.

COCI has been criticized for its lack of flamboyance in the press, for being too silent and on a negative trajectory. COCI however is of the opinion that its flamboyance attained through 2015 will shine through its enhanced service and products. The focus on education, betterment of employment conditions, development of new services and enhancing the quality of our services is the reason why flamboyance in the media had to be replaced by inward assessment, analysis and development of our abilities. COCI was so able to improve its customer service and launch new services bringing greater convenience to the consumer. Whilst there is much work still to be done, COCI believes that its part in the due economic development of St. Maarten had to start from within. COCI is thankful to all its members who have through the year worked in close collaboration with COCI to achieve goals and/or set the basis for future development. 2016 will be marked by a focus on economic development, whilst COCI will continue to better itself. No one entity can realize proper economic development in St. Maarten however together we can all turn the tide and bring a brighter future.

COCI presents its report card for 2015.

Formulated goals 2015 Achieved goals in 2015
Accessibility to COCI

-Greater access by E-mail through the launch of: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a 24 hour service

-Toll free access to COCI launched

-Access to COCI through its web- and face book page

- Launch of Complaints division- Complaints policy and procedure

Enhancement of COCI services

-Training of Staff

-Introduction new data management system

-Reorganization of COCI work processes for faster and better service

-Launch of COCI 24 a 24 hour service

-Launch of COCI 2 U COCI goes to the customer enhancing convenience

-Launch of GET COCI permitting a drop off and pick up service offering in Simpson Bay at the Government Public Service Center for the convenience of the business over the hill

-Launch of COCI Curbside a curbside service offered in December only.

-Digitization of COCI files

Promote safety and security in St. Maarten

Promote year-round tourism

-Collaboration with the Government and stake holders on the CCTV project

-COCI providing signage on barricades in Philipsburg explaining the use of barricades

-Collaboration with the Justice Ministry for the launch of a Caribbean tourism aimed product

Enhance compliance by business with laws and regulations in the business sector -Collaboration with the Ministry of TEATT and the Tax office understanding the non-compliance all divisions face for the design of mechanisms to achieve compliance on a larger scale
Promote Better Business

-Launch of the Business Center to permit entrepreneurs access to resources at an affordable price

-Issuance of the COCI newsletter

- Small business competition- aimed at aiding young entrepreneurs to realize business concepts


-Approved Donations Policy and procedure

-Approved Rules of Order

The COCI family wishes one and all a prosperous 2016.

The President.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - It’s a new year!   Many of us have made new year’s resolutions, new dreams and hope that everything will be even better in 2016.

We are blessed that we live on a paradise island with great weather and friendly people but like everywhere else in the world we all have our personal challenges we face on a micro level and when we put everything on a macro level we see that everyone and everything that happens to our island affects us directly or indirectly.

We have a new government that has the tasks of bringing forth electoral reform by appointing a committee of experts and they will have to formalise a plan by March to address “ship jumping” which seems to be the main issue that has our country in this unsustainable governing situation of the last 5 years. The consequences have followed as we now have been made aware that our country is in a financial crisis and we have to try to amend this in 2016.

I would love to encourage everyone that has the capabiltiy, ability or an idea to send in your suggestions to our Government to help on this task. We as people and citizens we RIGHTS but we also have a responsibility to our community . If there is a way we can help each other on this quest to bring forth a sustainable governement in order for our island to develop then we should contribute to the developing process which we hopefully can all share for many generations to come.

Crime is of grave concern and to our people and citizens of our island. We have seen many persons become victims of terrible crimes and we have lost loved ones, and grieved the deaths of many persons that made up part a this community aswell. History was also made as one of our Police officers namely Mr. Gamali Benjamin was also gunned down in the line of duty. I also experienced the patience and professionalism of Officer Gemali Benjamin . It truly indicates that the times are changing where crimes are concerned. We all would like to live in a safe environment and we also have to protect our main source of our economy which is our tourism product.

Crime on our island should be a priority and again we should all work together to see how we can help each other in combating crime. Through neighbourhood watches, reporting things we see that are out of the ordinary to the authorities , surveillance systems in our businessess these are just some suggestions on how we can start working and try to be more proactive against crime.

Of coarse it is easy to suggest things but we would have to find ways to make them work effectively as that means we need to work together on all levels with Government, public , private sector and our police force.

This is a reality we all face together so we should tackle it together in 2016.

Education and awareness of peoples rights in our country is something also a priority. People have to know what their fundamental rights are. Many of our rights are to be found in our constitution. But with our rights also comes duties. So we too as citizens have to take our innative and see what your rights are as citizend and people of St. Maarten, like this you empower yourself but you empower others aswell. So I encourage you to get a copy of the constitution and read up on what your rights are.

Our duty as an elelctorate is also holding our government and elected officials accountable for the governance practices and also more transparency should be available to the general public of St. Maarten. We have already start to see things coming to light by newly appointed Ministers who also have a very hard task of bringing continunity and good governance practices to our citizens. There is a change on the rise St. Maarten and change will be needed as we develop as a country.

As we find ourselves on an election year a year of democraticially changing of government, you will be faced with promises, you will be confronted with politicians including myself asking for your support, you will be faced with serious issues that are affecting our island and it’s developing process.

As an electorate you must ask the critical questions to the politicians.

It is your right to shop around for the right persons that you believe will represent you and the citizens of the island of St. Maarten. A person that is critical, one that is responsible in performing duties, be willing to shape a country and it’s interests, a person that is humble in approach to the people of this community. I can continue on and on but it is your right to be informed and get informed and do your checks and balalcnes if needed for the people you wish have represent you in government. St. Maarten use your right to VOTE. You have the mandate for change!

I would also like to wish everyone the best for 2016 and many moments of laughter and love and happiness in our island. We cannot deny the basic need of feeling fullfilled and being able to support ourselves and our families to be able to have a good quality of life on our island of St. Maarten. Everybody should have a fair chance to be able to do this. Minimun wages need to be looked at to match the cost of living in St. Maarten and also the pension of our elderly who have paid their dews to help shape St. Maarten to what it is today which sometimes we forget that these elelcerly people also need proper pensions to be able to cope with the cost of living in St. Maarten. Everybody should have to right to be insured for good health care on our island.

HOPE is a word that can be filled in and interpreted in many ways. We have chosen Helping Our People Excel for the same reason you can choose Have only positive expectations for 2016.

As we start this year think positive, act positive use words that are positive and hopefully we will have a more positive St. Maarten country within our Kingdom. With HOPE everything is possible.

It takes a whole community to bring unity and HOPE!

HOPE President Mercedes “Elektra” van der Waals Wyatt and HOPE BOARD.

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