PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - What past do St. Martiners (Sint Maarteners & Saint Martinoise) long for, when they talk about the good old days? St. Martiners have been described as those Born Here and those Born to be Here.
This nonethnic and non-racial definition, brilliantly introduced by the honourable governor of the island, Drs. Eugene Holiday, is meant to be both accommodating and normative. St Martiners are those who put the island first. They are patriots, persons who love the island. Dr. Louis Jeffry who can trace back his ancestry to the time of slavery, and Father Charles, the island’s revered Catholic priest, who was born on Saint Lucia, equally qualify.
I found this definition rather inclusive until I spoke to my long-time friend, Ruford Serrant, who I dare say was one of the first St. Martiners I got to know. Ruford was born on Dominica but having arrived on the island at a young age, he knows the island inside out. He is one of those Born to be Here St. Martiners. I fell in love with the island due to persons like him. For Ruford St. Martiners were simply those persons Who Are Here.
Among all of those Who Are Here, you will encounter many who are not deeply patriotic, in other words, those who are not necessarily in love with the island. They may be here on St. Martin as a means to escape poverty and earn a decent living, a step towards career advance, a rite de passage after graduating, an internship, a flight from an oppressive family, or as a way to get rich quick. In addition, Ruford continued there were those who were Born Here—locals—who simply feel that the powers that be have abandoned them, and they actually did not want to be Here. Knowing my position, he reasoned that the mission of education was to find a way of making all those Who Are Here—who are fed up— acquire a sense that they were Born to be Here.
I took his advice earnestly, and recognized that one had to start listening with a charitable ear to the cries of dissatisfaction of those Who Are Here. When they state their anger in terms of “long ago things were better when locals were in charge” or “where I come from we do it better” or “this is such a corrupt country”, it is quite unhelpful to answer them by calling them a “xenophobic racist” or telling them “you too ungrateful, go back to your own country”. Engagement with them about the past they are referring to clarified matters for them and for me, and made me better able to hear and recognize their cries as a plea for more decency.
Here is what I learnt:
The past and the former country the dissatisfied here on St. Martin refer to is not something that ever was. It is a country to come and a past in the making. I will limit my examples to the St. Martiners from the Netherlands and the St. Martiners referred to as locals. Locals who speak about the good old days, are surely not referring to the days when those with a lighter skin tone would refer to their darker skinned brothers and sisters as niggas. They are not talking about the days when the latter group could not reside in Simpson Bay. They are not talking about the days when those with money and political power and a proper surname, regardless of the colour of their skin, had to be called mister and miss
even when one knew that they were cheating and oppressing you (the poor white and black locals). They are referring to the dream and the work they did to create a society where all locals enjoyed the benefit of upward mobility, showed respect towards each other, and displayed solidarity regardless of name, skin, or size of pocketbook and they sense that this dream is being impeded by the indecency and greed of the powerful today.
Similarly, when St. Martiners from the Netherlands rave about the enlightened nature of their place of birth, they are not talking about the country that after World War 2 engaged in the murdering of 150.000 Indonesians who simply wanted their independence, nor are they referring to the terrible fact that of the 140.000 Jews residing in the Netherlands, 107.000 were deported to Nazi Germany (the Netherlands ranks highest percentage wise with regard to the extermination of Jews during the war). And they were not talking about the country that bore the blight of being a slave trader and slave maker; or the discrimination of Catholics up until the 1950s, or their former country’s wilful participation in a global socioeconomic system that is strangling the vast majority of humankind. I understood that what they are referring to is their hope to live in a country that lived up to the creed of equality, liberty, and fraternity.
These examples can be multiplied by talking about the Indian-St. Martiners, the American St. Martiners, etc. Time and again I found that the past and the country they are referring to actually never existed. It is a thing of the future. Among all those Who Are Here, there is a longing to inhabit a future where respect, solidarity, liberty, equality, and fraternity is concretized by having upward mobility as the norm; this is what binds us; our common pursuit; yet regrettable we often forget it.
To get there, to get to this Promised Land where everyone is valid and feels validated, we will all have to plant the seeds for this future. In conversations with Ruford and several of the signatories of this piece, the USM has come up with a ritual enactment that will make us remember what binds us. It is based upon a St. Martin that the old folks know. One where there was an abundance of fruit trees on the hill tops that allowed everyone some nutrition; trees that were fairly sturdy against wind storms. In the ideal past they were part of the commons: the property of all, and thus cared for by all. St. Martiners of various social classes met each other and exchanged while picking fruit. It was our public sphere. I can remember as a little boy following Ruford up the hills where we enjoyed mangoes and tamarind with boys and girls from other neighbourhoods. And I am sure many of you who have been on the island for some time have similar experiences. To be together and to hear each other, we have to leave our comfort zones.
Coming October the Student Government Association (SGA) of the USM, chaired by Ms. Kiran Manglani, will do hikes throughout the island and replant the fruit trees on our many hills. The American University of the Caribbean (AUC) has also committed. We will need the help of experts in hiking, persons who know about planting, and business and individuals who are willing to donate seeds—of mango, tamarind, knepa, cashew, and other fruit trees. The coming weeks and months, SGA representatives will be contacting you—and you can contact us—to make this a reality. The SGA, board, management, staff of the USM, and the list of distinguished signatories, pledge to do weekly hikes for 12 months caring for these seedlings as their commitment to remember what we share in common.
On these hikes and care for our common habitat, the island, St. Martiners of all walks of life will have the opportunity to dialogue about that which matters most to them in a respectful manner, and establish friendships and create partnerships for the betterment of all. Join us and let us converse truthfully with each other while we plant the seeds of our past in the making. A public meeting and a press conference will be organized after the carnival period to further concretize this collective effort with you.
Authored by Dr. Francio Guadeloupe – President of the University of St. Martin Lorraine Talmi – President of the SHTA Kiran Manglani – President of the USM Student Government Association
Cosignatories Tamara Leonard – Member of Parliament Leona Marlin – Romeo – Member of Parliament Dr. Cornelius DeWeever – Member of Parliament Maurice Lake – Member of Parliament Silveria Jacobs – Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Oldine Bryson-Pantophlet – Chairwoman or Social Economic Council Mercedes Wyatt Wycliffe Smith Jordie Halman – Researcher The University of Amsterdam Micheal Benjamin – Integrated Health and Rehab
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - During the recent budget deliberations in Parliament the query on how a higher tax compliance would be ensured was answered by the Minister of Finance along the lines that prompter action would be undertaken after one issued warrant of payment to the tax payer. This response seemed to satisfy the Member of Parliament who posted the question. This response however suggests that higher tax compliance will be sought from those tax payers who are already in the system and paying taxes.
These taxpayers are too often confronted with bogus assessments on supposed late payments, simply because the receiver and the tax department do not have a synchronized system permitting the latter to instantaneously view the payments made by the receiver. Almost on a monthly basis tax payers are forced to issue payment receipts, issued by the receiver, to the tax department in protest of a baseless warrant for payment (due to supposed non-payment or late payment) issued by the tax department. If this protest (sending a proof of payment from their own system back) is not filed the promised new actions may not be prevented.
Yes, at times the tax payer may not have paid enough and receives a warrant for additional payment. In such cases immediate real action to collect may be expected sooner, well soon after all legal remedies have been exhausted.
Yet this promise of prompter action alone will not translate in enhanced tax compliance in the country. For it is not only those who are registered and paying taxes that are supposed to bring about a higher compliance. Is it not a fact that currently a small portion of society is carrying a far larger portion of not registered, non tax paying entities? Enhanced tax compliance should coincide with the promise to broaden the tax payer base and to ensure that those who are operating outside of the system are introduced to the obligations others have fulfilled for years.
To highlight a few examples of entities that should be brought in to broaden the tax payer base:
1] There are so many entities who enjoy a tax holiday without expiry date. The tax holiday was intended to permit a viable start-up to these businesses. Being in business for years now may be a reason to assume that the tax holiday may now be withdrawn and these businesses may now be included in the group of tax payers.
2] Businesses, not registered or licensed, are offering products and services, generating revenues outside the system and having no contribution obligation as they are not known. The fact that these businesses are undermining our secure business environment is one consequence, that they are permitted to engage in unfair competition practices is another.
3] Some individuals, who should be part of the tax payer group, simply abuse the dual tax system between Dutch and French St. Maarten and ultimately do not contribute in any jurisdiction. These individuals declare at our tax department that they are declaring and paying on the French side and on the French side they declare to have a foreign income and are paying in a foreign territory. The Tax department on the Dutch side seems to be satisfied with that declaration and undertakes nothing to verify with the French counterpart on this declaration and payment. So many prominent and outstanding citizens, misuse this dual tax system, generate an income and pay no one.
4] Then there are the villa rentals conducted, through which revenues are generated in the Island, yet it remains unclear if this income is taxed in any jurisdiction.
Is this not a tax compliance issue as well even if it can easily be qualified as tax evasion? Yet no one deals with these forms of tax evasion (permitted or not), and of course that is simply because these evaders are not known. The promised actions above can only help to enhance the tax compliance of the known tax payer who did not file or pay correctly when prosecuted for tax evasion. The real tax evaders look on, comment and criticize those “caught” for improper tax compliance.
The need for more revenues by the country should have placed a focus on this segment of society as well, instead of a continued focus only on those known and within easy reach. Enhancement of tax compliance is therefore much more and should be much more than the promised action against the known tax payers. Enhancement of tax compliance should include all those businesses in operation under the radar and all those citizens who peddle between Dutch and French side. A simple declaration that you are declaring elsewhere should not be sufficient, this declaration should at least be supported by a copy of that foreign declaration filed. That is a start and not a costly one at that. We can only hope that tax compliance from all will be sought and not just from a few.
ST. PETERS, St. Maarten – The buzz words in the streets today is that the NA lead government is following in the same footsteps of the previous UP lead government.
This time around they are doing everything within their power to destroy one of the last business fabrics that is owned 100% by locals, the operators of school busses.
This NA government is fully aware that by putting the transportation of school children out on bid that many of the bus owners would not be able to participate in the bid. I can remember many years ago that this same party that is leading the government today was a party for the people, by the people and with the people.
In those days a Dutch technical assistance could never head a government department to the contrary, a local had to be the head and the technical assistant part of the supporting staff. There were talks about public/private partnership to assist local land owners who didn’t have the knowledge to develop their land to enter an agreement with the government to acquire that type of assistance. But all those great ideas and initiatives have been thrown out the windows and instead replaced with draconian proposals to destroy our own people in the name of good governance or to generate savings when it suits them.
The OSPP has taken note of the fact that our Honorable Minister of Education, Ms. Silveria Jacobs has suspended the bidding process for the outsourcing of the school bus transportation. We commend her for that decision, nevertheless we still expect this bidding process to be totally withdrawn and that common sense would once again prevail.
The One St. Maarten People Party is proposing to assist our existing local school bus operators by firstly providing them with a contract for four years. Secondly, that these same school bus operators must adhere to all the requirements set forth in the terms of reference that was issued for the bidding process for the new school year 2016 -2017. By providing the school bus operators with a four year contract they can use it as a means of security to acquire the necessary financing to upgrade their busses to meet those requirements that were outlined in the terms of reference. Let us preserve the few local entrepreneurs that are still benefiting from this billion dollar economy of St. Maarten. Perhaps it is time for this government to encourage more locals to go into business by establishing a loan guarantee program and not destroy the few local entrepreneurs that still exist.
And if the Minister of Education truly wants to make those critical investments in education with the funds that she was projecting from the savings by putting the school bus transportation on bid, the OSPP is proposing that she table a proposal in the meeting of the Council of Ministers to have NV GEBE change the commercial rates that it is charging all the school boards to residential rates.
In that same proposal she must state that all the government owned companies must adopt various schools to install solar panels to commence during this year summer school vacation. Most of the school boards are paying approximately 26,000.00 guilders a month to NV GEBE for electricity and water.
Between these two proposals the schools would save in excess of ten thousand guilders a month in utility cost, an annual projected savings of over 120,000.00 guilders per school board. Honorable Minister of Education, Ms. Jacobs these savings would certainly be a great help to those critical investment plans you have.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Over the past year the University of the Virgin Islands has embarked on a journey to broadcast and highlight their mission against sexual misconduct.
After the surfacing of many rumors regarding inappropriate relationships between student and faculty it was felt that UVI had to take a stance against sexual misconduct.
The mission statement was clear and loud. “Not at UVI.” However, despite the catchy slogan sexual misconduct still occurs at UVI between both faculty and students
Over and throughout the last week an apparent sexual misconduct claim surfaced throughout UVI and has been the discussion of many. One student in particular has accused another of blackmailing her for sexual favors.
This student was said to have taken sexually explicit digital photographs of the victim and used them as collateral to extort her for sexual favors. This media house has since then learned the identity of the accused as a Mr. Duane Thompson, a student hailing from the twin island of St. Kitts and Nevis. In the past Thompson has been a candidate/performer in the V.I Idol competition.
Upon further investigation this media house also learned that the origin of the victim whom sources have indicated hails from North Carolina and holds a “Freshman” status at the University.
To encounter such a Quid pro Quo exploit during her first year at UVI is unfortunate and as a media house we extend our sympathies on the matter. No student should be faced with sexual misconduct in any University particularly not one which has taken a firm stance against the matter.
UVI’s message is clear. “Say no to sexual misconduct. Not at UVI.” However, looming questions still linger. Why is it that the accused young man, in spite of implicating evidence and testimony from the victim, still walks and predates UVI’s corridors? What will President Hall do to remedy this crime and ensure peace of mind for the victim? Will UVI still reward the accused a degree regardless of his blatant misconduct?
These questions are critical and this media house waits in anticipation to learn the outcome. Recently, UVI has appointed a new director of its housing operations: Ms. Jennifer Palmer Crawford, the Dean of students herself; Ms. Verna Rivers is also newly appointed.
It should be the pertinent responsibility of these members of faculty along with President David Hall to combat this situation and remedy it swiftly. After all, the message against sexual misconduct is one that has been ringing loudly in both student and faculty ears, the crime is abusive and real and the institution is best suited holding firm to their message. “Not at UVI.”
1] Primary aviation legislation;
2] Specific operating regulations;
3] State civil aviation system and safety oversight functions;
4] Technical personnel qualification and training;
5] Technical guidance, tools and the provision of safety critical information;
6] Licensing, certification, authorization, and approval obligations;
7] Surveillance obligations; and
8] resolution of safety concerns.
The Netherlands Antilles enjoyed the category I status as being part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but that all changed in 2010 when Curacao and St. Maarten attained separate status within the Kingdom. The Curacao Civil Aviation Authority needed to undergo an inspection, and the deficiencies found resulted in a downgrade in 2012 to a category II status. This downgrade affected St. Maarten as well, due to the fact that the country’s the (PJ) aircraft registry prefix. Even though this downgrade does not affect flights in operation, it does mean that no new flights/service can be undertaken by airlines from St. Maarten to the US and its territories. It is therefore of essence that a category I status is regained, since our economic development is contingent hereon. In this context we must realize that this young country having assumed the Civil Aviation Authority for the first time after the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles, by far did not have the developed framework in place as was the case in Curacao. Yet with the limited means available the start-up of this entity commenced. The St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority is functional today, yet not much attention is given to this entity. As a tourism destination and tourism being the main pillar of our economy one would think that the Government would take this matter on as a priority. The safety of our aviation industry is at stake here, yet we must fear that budget cuts may result in this matter not promptly being addressed. It is a known fact that many new authorities assumed since 10-10-10 placed a real burden on the country as many institutions were not present in the country before, the human resources and expertise often yet to be acquired. Yes we all know that Curacao did not keep its promises to help set up the many new institutions country St. Maarten would require, and may still not have transferred our share of the moneys out of the division of the Netherlands Antilles Estate, but if we follow the words of the Minister of Finance we can forget that our share will be released any time soon. So with a strapped budget, cuts left and right, healthcare requiring urgent attention, one can only assume that budget cuts will also affect the quest of the Civil Aviation Authority to regain a category I status. The hiring and training of staff may not be possible, the acquisition of equipment required may be delayed, the much needed regulations, which must undergo legal screening by Legal affairs, may follow a slow process as this division neither has the manpower nor the aviation expertise to truly execute a prompt screening. So how will this category I status be regained, if the importance hereof is not understood or simply mitigated? Yes we need to tighten our belt, but we also need to ensure that we are a safe destination for incoming and outgoing aircrafts, as we depend on this means of transportation for our entire socio-economic growth. The tourism industry- the aviation industry- brings us the much needed revenues, and these revenues will not grow if we are unable to meet aviation safety standards. If expansion of airlift to US territories is deemed part of our further development as a destination, then we need to get our priorities straight. So maybe it is time to set the politics aside. Budget cuts, should go hand in hand with the clearing of a polluted Government payroll, and hiring should be done in areas most needed. Maybe those still on the Government payroll who have not worked for the administration in years and are generating income through other jobs as well, should be taken off that payroll. In the interest of the country those who are needed and are willing to work should be hired. If a clean-up is undertaken this Government would be surprised at the amount of revenues it would have to hire qualified, young St. Maarteners who are hungry to contribute towards their country. Yet this clean-up should not be expected in an election year. Considering all the afore the question remains: “are the budget cuts undertaken the right ones, in the right areas, without creating additional liabilities?” For if these cuts are the sole basis for the Government to operate on a balanced budget, areas requiring urgent attention and staffing will be left unattended. Whilst balancing a budget on paper the reality will be that fragmented budget cuts will harm us in the long run, and will prevent economic growth.Category I will remain a desired status by the Civil Aviation Authority to be attained.
 Curacao Chronicle December 2014. http://curacaochronicle.com/politics/sint-maarten-approves-aviation-regulations-curacao-none-yet/
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten -
Dear Minister Meyers:
The residents of Downstreet are becoming very concerned with the situation we currently face. Imagine we are living in 2016 and at this time in our history we are forced to walk the street in utter darkness . Every citizen on this island listened carefully to the budget debate, and we are now wondering why your government is treating the residents of Lower Backstreet in this manner. There must be a good reason why the entire town has street lights except in this area where we reside. WE have heard about the shotgun budget that has just passed in your parliament however , we the residents of downtown are wondering if this part of town was part of Minister Gibson’s budget cuts. If that is the case then we find it very unfair since the rest of Philipsburg has not been affected.
Imagine for a minute no lights on Frontstreet. How would you as Minister of Vromi react? I can assure you that a phone call from the Indian merchants association or the SHTA would have had the entire VROMI in overdrive trying to restore the lights as soon as possible.
Now minister we the residents of Downstreet are not as not as powerful as the Indian Merchants Association nor SHTA, but as voters we demand equal treatment. Our safety is at stake and this matter must be addressed immediately.
As the minister of Vromi we urge you to find a solution. You are invited to take a drive through Philiipsburg tonight and witness the utter darkness that we must endure in 2016. Our road is a mess, with potholes and now no lights. The situation is ideal for criminals to hide out and not be seen. Are we to wait until someone gets killed or maimed
We as residents are appealing to you to find some money in your budget to get our street lights back on.
The Downstreet Residents..
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten -
I want to know
How could someone
Sell their vote
Then end up the next
I want te know
I want te know
How they could have
Soo many vote Buyers
And no one can find
I want te know
How come tis the
The buyer they put in
But no body Accusing
How come ?
Ah Want te know
Because yeh can't
Have a buyer without
Sorry te make ah sale
Yeh need ah buyer
And ah seller
Cauz a buyer without a seller
Is like ah bread without flour
So tell me why yeh putting
The buyer in the cellar
And no body Arresting
Please tell me how come
I will like te know
Why the biggest vote catcher
Ain't he the vote buyer
And why the seller
Ain't going in the cellar
Cauz if vote buying
Is a crime wha happen
Te vote selling
Unless them politicians
And tis only they who buying
BUT te ain't no body selling
Please tell me
For ah want te know
People selling their souls
And still going to haven
But for vote buying
You go straight TE hell
He who buy ends up in the cell
While the others are free to sell
What's the difference nobody
Don't ask don't tell
Otherwise u go flying te hell
On nothing but a peanut shell
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - I would like to make public, that when I got involved in the discussions about finding a suitable location on Dutch St Maarten for a Water Treatment Facility, the country was already facing the end of an extended period and deadline placed by the EU Funding agency. I was informed that St Maarten had requested and received an extension and that extension was nearing its end.
It is shameful and embarrassing when for personal and political reasons government would ignore positive developments for shortsighted and ignorant ambitions.
Claret M M Connor
MARIGOT, St. Martin -
We laid them stone bricks
And we pour your concrete
To build the foundation...
Of this here nation
We Da generation
Of sal pickers
We the well diggers
Your foundation and bricklayers
And we your co-labourors
We your pot washers
We your bartenders
And your cook helpers
Spicing up your delicious
So for your guest you could show off
While we work we asses off
To build your economy
Now you just simply
Forget about we
And take we out the
Censors and off your Registry
Now that you can import
From other areas
You leave we here to suffer
Hoping that dementia
Will eat we memory
So you can thief we pension money
But thank God for we children
That we sent to school
And who your can't fool
And now, contrary
Te we, they can read
And understand your treaty
So no longer can you
Hide Knowledge from we
like a set ah durty crooks
Cauzen now we chilren could read
And they writing their own books
So now we can relate to them we stories
And rewrite we own History
But most of all collect we money
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The good name of St. Maarten once again has been dragged through the mud with the arrest of one of the members of parliament who is supporting the existing government.
Most elected officials and others who were not elected but have bought votes are scared stiff and are hoping that nobody would come forward with proof that they paid for their votes.
No one could have expected an arrest for vote buying after a previous attempt to charge another politician was thrown out of the court. It still comes as a total surprise that this arrest is about voting buying.
Everybody knows that vote buying has been going on in St. Maarten from the days of the late Dr. Claude Wathey and others who were part of his team. In the 1990 I remember many candidates on the Democratic Party list having a book and they were issuing bonds to people to pick up building material and equipment from many hardware stores for votes.
The opposition didn’t have that luxury as they were not in office, therefore they could not match the red machine in those days. The ironic thing was that those suppliers were being paid from the government coffers. Today it has moved from the government coffers to the coffers of the business community. And if that is not enough corruption has become the order of the day to buy votes from those funds. The Vorst Estate was purchased for Nafls 8,100,000.00 while all the appraisal reports are for much less is a clear example of corruption at the highest level. Somebody was paid off and handsomely at best.
The extension of the Checkmate Security contract is another one such corrupt deal with many persons including politicians having been paid off. All those reckless decisions are hurting the ordinary citizens while the elected officials are enjoying their high salaries and collecting big times on their corrupt deals. Those deals are what need to be investigated.
Over the years all the political parties and many politicians from the established political parties have been buying votes. In many cases they have been paying from $ 300.00 to $500.00 or even more for those votes. The phone has become the instrument to prove to those who are paying for the votes. Seven months later many of those voters are walking around with the pictures that they took of their vote. They use this to let those elected officials know that they voted for them in the event they are requesting some service from the government or the politician who they voted for.
Now is just as good as any time for us to purge the entire parliament of St. Maarten and hope that those coming in would really work in the interest of the people. Today the Crime Funds should be used to establish a Reward for those person or persons who still have proof that they were paid to vote.
It is guaranteed that many of those voters who still have the proof in their phones would provide that proof for a fee of U.S. $ 500.00. Those voters that provided that proof must be granted immunity from prosecution this time around.
But a stern warning should be issued for the next election that the vote buyers and the sellers would be prosecuted if caught. It is now or never.
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