PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - One should work in the best interest of the Country when the opportunity presents itself to serve. I served as Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) as well as Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (Ministry VROMI) for the United People’s (UP) Party led coalition for the governing period December 2014 to November 2015.
During that short period, I had the opportunity to work on a number of very important initiatives. Here are just a few I would like to share with you.
National Economic Summit - The National Development Plan of St. Maarten is built upon four pillars of sustainable development; namely: culture, environment and infrastructure, social and human development, and the economy. While no pillar is more vital than the other, the economy, as a pillar, is essential to realizing the greater mission of the National Development Plan and St. Maarten’s development as a country.
Economic planning is not a quickly executed task; while the process of shaping a national economic vision is not an easy one. This process requires foresight, inclusion and a keen understanding of the needs of all partners. The respective government departments within Ministry TEATT took the first steps by drafting a National Economic Framework.
A National Economic Summit was held to allow stakeholders to have an input and assist in building from the ground up a national economic framework. A number of things were identified such as public-private partnerships; communication; improvement of the local workforce; public sector activities; data collection; Tax reform; Economic diversification; Ship and Aircraft registry just to mention a few.
Since the successful National Economic Summit of May 22 and the follow-up session of June 12, the Ministry has been actively expounding upon the National Economic Framework via the creation of strategic economic workgroups. These workgroups cover a range of thematic sectors, from telecommunication to marine, tourism to agriculture and environment to financial services.
This process is a very inclusive one and we believe it would have reaped great benefits and better relationships with our private sector partners. It was our intention to deliver at the end 2015 a National Economic Plan that outlines a shared vision for St. Maarten’s sustainable growth.
The development of Tourism is a collaborative undertaking between the Government of St. Maarten and stakeholders in the tourism industry. The combined expertise and resources would have been utilized to develop and design a comprehensive development plan, which will serve as the foundation for the creation of a facilitating environment for tourism development. The incorporation of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority Foundation (STA), in anticipation of the Tourism Authority to be established in an independent/autonomous public/administrative entity / “zelfstandig Bestuur Orgaan” (ZBO) was an undertaking aimed to create that conducive environment for tourism development, which was continued during my tenure.
Social Housing - With respect to promoting social housing, I worked with the St. Maarten General Pension Fund (APS) to develop affordable homes on a parcel of land in Cay Hill (formerly the Vorst property) for civil servants. The minimum number of homes envisioned was estimated at 45.
Chamber of Commerce and Government Economic Development Project - In order to promote the public interest of commerce and industry, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Government worked diligently to develop an “Economic Service Center” for Philipsburg aimed at overall economic development. A parcel of land was identified for the location on which the center and other supporting business activities would be established.
Technological development and services - I was in the process to further expand services within our telecommunications sector. As global telecommunications develop, new services are being added known as VAS (Value Added Services). These services would provide improved access to information and information services, which offers a higher value experience to consumers of telecommunication services.
A strong economy is the foundation for all other factors that we want to achieve as a country. Our economy is the life line that supports and maintains our very existence.
We cannot just grow our economy; we have to develop our economy. We must expand and increase the main elements of our economy.
Within the industries of our tourism driven economy we must continue to develop our infrastructure. This is the reason why a new medical center is vital as it ensures that the main drivers “the people” of this country are taken care of right here on St. Maarten.
We have to also develop our ports of entry, in order to sustain our volatile.
We must develop our people, without the people expressing the proper spirit of what St Maarten is truly about will be like a ship adrift, a lost and visionless people.
We need to introduce programs aimed at building knowledge and awareness of the industry that our livelihoods depend on.
Furthermore, our neighborhoods must reflect the true meaning of community, we must build facilities that our children use for their development and further self-enhancement.
Our senior citizens should able to recreate in the neighborhoods that they have lived all of their lives.
This can be achieved by expanding on or building user friendly community centers and/or recreational centers in every neighborhood.
Our educational system must be in balance to deal with the moving technological trends so that we can become an intelligent society. This can be achieved by designing and implementing school curricula to include technology as a learning enabler.
I believe in the St Maarten of our forefathers where neighborhoods help raised the children.
I believe in the St Maarten of today where that spirit still exist in persons who remain steadfast in their belief that St Maarten is still the greatest place on earth.
And I believe in the St Maarten to come.
I believe and love St Maarten and its people and that is why I have placed myself at your service, for a better and brighter St Maarten. My focus and vision have always been for the people of St Maarten.
I believe in my candidacy. However, it is only with your mandate I can help shape St Maarten. I therefore ask you that on September 26, that when you go out and vote, that you vote for leadership qualities, competence, dedication and commitment. Vote for Claret Connor, your #8 candidate on the UP party slate.
May God bless you and may God bless our beloved St Maarten.
Claret Connor, former Minister TEATT / VROMI
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The SMCU delivered a resolution to the Prime Minister dated August 24, 2016 requesting the reopening of the application for the CEO position of Telem. We also requested for him to appoint the required new members on the board of directors.
The reason that there is a need for the new board members is because the articles of incorporation indicates that the board must consist of a maximum seven or a minimum five members, whereas currently there are three members on the board.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Dear Leaders and Candidates of the Political Parties contesting Election 2016.
DECLARATION ON ERADICATION OF POVERTY IN ST MAARTEN
In other words to survive here in this part of the Kingdom, all households need at least 2200 USD a month!
In other words for the 75% of the households living in poverty, their human right to an adequate standard of living has not been realized by the government of the former Netherlands Antilles, neither by the government of Sint Maarten, neither has their right been guaranteed by the Kingdom government
We the undersigned hereby declare,
That on behalf of the ...(name and abbreviation of the party) …. :
By signing this declaration our political party agrees
On behalf of ...(name and abbreviation of the party)
Chairman of the board Secretary of the board
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - “Over the last couple of weeks, the hot topic has been the Pearl of China project”, stated Member of Parliament Frankie Meyers. “On one hand we have two Ministers outlining all what they expect from this project and on the other hand you have a large group of concerned citizens and long time visitors to the island wanting answers to relevant questions pertaining this project.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - On Saturday September 17th about 80 persons showed up on Belair Beach for a peaceful demonstration that was held against the groundbreaking of the Pearl Of China development Project.
Organizers Francine de Polo and Mercedes van der Waals-Wyatt indicated that the protest was about the manner in which government made the announcement to the people, being through a town-hall meeting on September 1st by the Minister of Finance Richard Gibson. This announcement was met with great surprise and amazement seeing that the ground breaking would take place exactly 17 days after this announcement.
The concerns of the organizers and the accumulated demonstrations were made known through many discussions held under a tent on the beach. Some of the concerns were: The lack of transparency about the project; The traffic congestion for that area; The needed studies for environment and social impact were not made available and the Draft Development Plan for Little Bay has still not been finalized to the final Development Plan.
Besides expressed concerns there were many questions like: Will the wetlands and the Little Bay pond be protected and preserved? What kind of sustainable jobs will be made available for the people of St. Maarten and will St Maarteners also have top managerial positions? Will the project obstruct the view of the residents living on the hill behind the project? What kind of effects of fumes and noise pollution will this project produce? Etc.
Emotions ran high at times of some of the demonstrators yet they remained very peaceful. Demonstrators walked around placards, of which one stated: ”We are not afraid of the Chinese, we are afraid of our own Politicians”. At one Point the demonstrators began singing the St. Martin Song as the Chinese delegation and the officials arrived at the ground breaking site. One of the protesters, Mr. Sjaoel Richardson, had with him a printout of an online petition against the project that over 850 persons signed and said that different actions and activities will continue until answers are given to the people of St. Maarten.
Protest leader Francine de Polo’s concern was mainly the secretive manner in which government rushed this project even though they had knowledge of this project months ago. “There is no transparency and there are too many unanswered questions concerning the best interest of the people of St. Maarten”, she said. Transparency and the handling of the project procedures are also a concern to her. The manner in which she got to see a document at VROMI and was told she was not able to receive a copy but could only take pictures, did not sit well with her. When she researched online the Government website, nothing was found with regards to the project. If I should object to this project more information and clarity is needed trying to understand how they go about this procedure and why the rush on this project?
The second protest leader Van der Waals Wyatt was also concerned about the protection of the St. Maarten workers that allegedly will be hired to execute the promised 400 jobs and what provisions have been put in place by Government to protect them in case the project would be hit by a natural disaster. Van der Waals-Wyatt further indicated that there was only a small delegation of invited guest to the groundbreaking and thought that was very strange and was wondering if Parliament, Tourism and environmental specialists were fully aware of this development project, since it was a project brought forward by Ministers and a project of this magnitude will have a big impact on St. Maarten’s development on all fronts.
The Chinese delegation invited the demonstrators to come and listen to what they had to say about the Pearl of China Project. The highlight of the demonstration was when Mercedes van der Waals-Wyatt , Francine de Polo and Mr. Sjaoel Richardson were given the chance to voice their concerns and questions to the head Chinese businessman of the Pearl of China project. Though the language was a barrier the interpreter was there to translate their concerns and questions. After the short meeting on the ground breaking site, the organisers received a card to able to contact the development Pearl of China representatives directly and the organizers agreed that they would be seeking a more formal meeting with them.
“It is indeed a miracle to see how a Chinese business man from the other side of the world took time to listen to the concerns and questions of the demonstrators of St. Maarten and our own government ignores the conecrns of its own St. Maarten people, environmental activists/foundations, and tourism associations”, the organizers said.
The general public will be kept abreast of the next action or activities that will be done with regards to receiving transparency from our government officials on this Pearl of China Project and answers to the questions and concerns of all stakeholders.
By Rebecca Theodore
UNITED NATIONS – Oceans are warming. Glacial and alpine ice are melting. Human thinking is shrouded by dust clouds. Heat waves magnify the effects. Floods are trailed by disease clusters and a mosquito borne infection is the new existential threat to the UN sustainable development goals.
Undoubtedly, the rapid rise of the Zika virus is turning into a full-on global health crisis.
Whereas, the United Nations sustainable development goals is heralded as the most intricate social progression in UN history, as one where every country benefits from continual, wide-ranging and sustainable economic growth and progress and the obliteration of poverty, hunger and disease, the ascension of the Zika virus upon the scene lament a different tale.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there could be up to 4 million cases of the Zika virus and that high global emissions coupled with fast population growth, the number of people exposed to the Zika virus could double to as many as 8 billion or 9 billion by the late of the century.
Moreover, the Center for Disease Control (CDC’s) deputy director, Dr. Anne Schuchat explains that in the continental US, there have been people reportedly infected with the virus including 69 pregnant women.
But it is in the northeast of Brazil, where 135 million people have no running water, access to sewage systems, and where garbage collection is non existent that much attention must be diverted.
Here is witnessed a dramatic rise in the spread of the Zika virus, convoyed by an unparalleled rise in the number of children born with unusually small heads recognized as microcephaly. World Health Organization (WHO) have also linked the Zika virus to Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults and other severe fetal brain abnormalities. Further reports indicate that Zika infections are rising into the hundreds of thousands, with hundreds of affected babies, stirring a heated debate on abortion, and planned parenthood funding and increasing the risk of poverty and illness among women.
All the same, the Zika virus has placed the lives of mothers, fetuses and new born at risk in countries where maternal, prenatal and infant health are neglected and underfunded. New information confirms that the US Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico unveils 1,500 new cases of Zika each week. This means that other Caribbean islands stand prone to a widespread transmission of the Zika virus as Caribbean states are cemented by severe limited health care and deteriorating health care systems. Bared in tropical heat that is favorable to the breeding of the mosquito that allegedly produces the virus, more cases of the virus are expected to rise in the Caribbean.
Viewing the vulnerability of the vilified poor’s economic and medical malaise to the Zika virus, it is evident that the mission of the UN sustainable development goals does not afford much reassurance to backward societies at this stage. It would even be good to agree with experts and blame the massive wave of urbanization, Malthusian population growth and international travel as a main reason for the outbreak of the Zika virus. Maybe biodiversity and climate change could also be interjected as another possible variable, but the blatant disregard of social organizations, abortion rights, the gutting of social programs and the upholding of capitalistic hegemony in health care disputes in the United States must also be taken into consideration.
And while all this is taking place social inequality widens.
The blatant rejection of $2 billion to confront the Zika crisis by a US Republican controlled Congress proves that Zika reflects a new racial, class and geographical status based inequality. “Republicans are more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying a Confederate flag, than protecting women and babies from this awful virus.” It also opens the discussion for serious enquiries on the advancement of humanity’s health and progress by leading corporate groups and organizations in the United States, and mirrors the weakness of the United Nations sustainable development goals in fighting contagious diseases in the world at large.
Altogether, the Ziska virus amplifies the problem of the maligned poor’s inaccessibility to health care, and an existential threat to the UN sustainable development goals.
How then can the United Nations succumb to 17 sustainable development goals as a lifeline to poverty and disease while the basic needs of humanity are derailed by a ruling elite and corporate oligarchy that only seek social answers on marketable profit?
Why is there no money to protect mothers, the extreme poor and infants and others from the tragic dangers of the Zika virus when the Sustainable Development Solutions Network estimated that $2-3 trillion a year was available to deliver the needs of the Sustainable development goals?
Simply put, the failure of the United Nations to retort to this public health crisis and the UN’s inability to develop a vaccine to prevent the Zika virus, while at the same time pumping billions into nuclear armaments and scientific and technological discoveries, shows that the Zika virus is an illness entrenched in poverty and social inequality.
It is clear that if the UN must seek to eliminate the circumstances of poverty and suppression through its sustainable development goals, then there must be a halting to the habit of organizing health care and treating epidemics along class and racial lines. The UN must now seek to provide a guideline for pharmaceutical companies to follow in the manufacture and sale of vaccines for contagious diseases. The way in which pharmaceutical companies govern the right to bargain prices in developing a vaccine for the Zika virus further speculate that the disease could be one of capitalistic glory where the stakes are very high.
Consequently, if the United Nations sustainable development goals is to navigate the course of global change to an unprejudiced and justifiable future for all humanity and achieve its 2030 outcome, then although the Marxist dictum of capitalism is worn out in sociological reasoning; the blemishing impact of market forces still replicate the unhealthy supremacy of the capitalist system where health care is concerned. Individual freedom and equality to health care do not echo the same tune to that of the poor and the underprivileged as it does to that of the capitalist because the settings of the marginalized poor are linked to disease and injustice that are rife with peril.
The capitalistic notion on which the sustainable goals are founded is leading to discrimination and unequal concentration of wealth and power especially where health care is concern. Therefore, the UN must pursue a more resolute approach in reorganizing its Sustainable Development goals foundations on a socialist framework to satisfy social wants and not corporate profits.
(Rebecca Theodore is a syndicated op-ed columnist based in Washington DC. She writes on the platform of national security, politics and human rights. Follow her on twitter @rebethd)
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - “Destroying the lives of our young people by sending them to prison, in some cases for decades, over petty crimes while we give a pat on the wrist to those in authority and with financial means who abuse their positions and commit worst crimes must not be allowed to continue.
People who are not from this island but who live in certain areas of the island and occasionally grease the palms of greedy parliamentarians are allowed to go scot free for shameful and wicked acts while our own people are being herded up in their own country for much less. This needs to stop immediately.
We can’t keep ignoring the elephant in the room because that elephant keeps growing bigger.”
These sentiments were expressed by leader of the OSPP Lenny Priest, who noted that almost every day there is a different article in the local media about another local young man or woman getting sentenced and transported to prison yet there are persons in society who have been convicted but for whom somehow space cannot be found at the prison.
“I am tired of reading in the media and hearing through the media of all these young people who are sent to jail for five, ten and more years for crimes they committed while reading and hearing in the same media about so called “respectable” persons going free for much worst. Where is the justice for our people in our country? When did being a poor black St. Martener become a crime in St. Maarten? Racism is alive and well in St. Maarten as is class justice and in a Caribbean island, it is worse than a shame that our government officials allow this shameful treatment of our people to continue,” Lenny Priest said in a media statement issued yesterday.
The OSPP leader noted that he is by no means advocating that crime by any person or groups of persons should be tolerated or go unpunished, but highlighted a perceived discrepancy in the way court sentences are meted out to different persons in society.
“If you have a toddler and you fall asleep without providing any food for this child and this child can’t wake you up when he or she is hungry, that toddler will eventually start foraging for herself/himself and find something to eat to ease his hunger. Because he is a toddler that food is likely to come from the garbage or that child breaks stuff and make a mess to make a sandwich. Now in a situation like this who is to blame that child or the parent who didn’t provide for that child? The same principles apply in this scenario with our young men becoming desperate and committing petty crimes because those we have designated as responsible refuse to live up to their responsibility.
“The lives of these young people are being destroyed and we the people of St. Maarten are almost as guilty as those perpetrating this atrocity on our young people because we have allowed the perpetrators free reign instead of demanding a fair shake for our children. I told the Parliamentarians in March that we the people of St. Maarten were mad as hell and that the people of St. Maarten would not take it anymore. The holiday is over.
We are still mad as hell because enough is enough. We will no longer tolerate being treated as second class citizens in our own country. Government is by the people, of the people and for the people and its past time that elected officials grow up and stop playing with our lives,” Priest concluded.
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - I read with interest statements from UP Party MP Franklin Meyers that St. Maarten’s citizens have not benefited from the political changes since 10-10-10 and this statement raised my eyebrows.
The people did not benefit because every proposal that was submitted by the OSPP to help the people-- make them business owners in their country, help them become home owners, put our young people to work, etc. got ignored or thrown out by the various governments and MP’s that have ran the country for the past six years.
MP Meyers have been part of these governments so I cannot understand why now it is a shock for him to discover that the people have not benefited and realize that it’s time to treat this as serious business.
Where has the MP been that he did not notice during the time he has been a member of Parliament that the people are not better off? Where have all these elected officials who are again making promises been over the past parliamentary year while the people of St. Maarten have been crying out for help?
It is of course commendable that MP Meyers have realized that this behavior cannot continue although his reasoning for arriving at that conclusion seems as self-serving. The MP is apparently worried that if Parliament continues with this business as usual mentality he and other elected officials may become targets.
Note: The MP did not say we should do more to help the people or get serious about the people’s business because that is what they have entrusted us to do. The MP said MP’s run the risks of becoming targets apparently because of the level of public dissatisfaction so now because of this he proposes taking the people business seriously.
As far back as 2013 I wrote to the then Chair of Parliament Gracita Arrindell proposing the introduction of a loan guarantee fund that would in essence negate the problem of our young people being unable to start a business to help themselves because they can’t get a bank loan because of a lack of collateral.
As the name suggests the government would basically act the guarantor under that program for an aspiring entrepreneur who can’t fulfil his dream not because of a lack of knowledge but because he can’t guarantee that loan.
The proposal was not even discussed in Parliament let alone implemented. So how serious are these people about helping our people? And how can the people not be frustrated and disillusioned? They have every reason to be.
On February 10 2015 I wrote to President of Parliament Dr. Lloyd Richardson noting that there has been a lot of talk about unemployment amongst our young people and that as a nation we should all be concerned especially with many of our young people getting involved in crime. In that letter the OSPP proposed to establish the van Hugh Law to be named after our former Minister of Social Welfare Health and Labor, van Hugh Cornelius de Weever and adapted from the Lei di Bion.
My letter went as far as to explain that “This law as it is written will exempt the employer from paying part of the payroll taxes if he employs a young person between the ages of 18-30 years. There are many other conditions attached to this law for the employer and the employee. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel . This law can be amended to fit our needs here in St. Maarten to put our young people to work.”
Nothing was done about this, the proposal never even made it to the floor of Parliament. So how serious can these elected officials be about offering representation to the people of St. Maarten? On February 28th 2016 I wrote again to Parliament, this time with MP Sarah Wescott-Williams as the chair of Parliament, suggesting proposals to bring relief to the people.
In those motions we addressed issues such as the establishment of a general pension plan for all workers; the establishing of a local sports lottery to generate funds to develop sports (this would make it possible for teams and individuals representing St. Maarten in a sporting activity to receive the much needed financial assistance); putting an end to taxing old age pensions.
None of these were even considered as solutions because it’s a “them against us” situation: My party didn’t propose it so I am not going to support it. How long can we continue with this attitude? People need to realize that they are running a country and their decisions impact for the better or worse the lives of all who live here. Our MP’s need to stop play acting at being MP’s and actually do the job they were elected to do.
Lenny F. Priest
Leader of the OSPP
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten -
Subject: Violation ofthe Articles of incorporation of Telem Group companies
Your Excellency, By the resolution dated August 24, 2016 which was hand delivered to your person we have drawn your attention to the fact that during the last five years serious violations have been taking place with regards to the proper compliance of the Articles of Incorporation of various companies belonging to the Telem Group. ·In this letter we are including a legal opinion by the lawyer and former notary Elco Rosario, a well-known and respected expert on our corporate laws who concluded that a serious investigation into the neglect by not only the legal representatives of said company but also the members ofthe Board of Supervisory Directors whose task it is to represent and protect the interest of the ultimate beneficiaries of these companies, namely the people of Sint Maarten.
While referring to said opinion of Mr. Rosario, a copy of which is hereby attached, we would also like to quote the following paragraph from said opinion: "In case the Shareholder of Holding indeed decides to initiate a profound investigation into said possibly prolonged illegal situation at the Board of Holding it might also be a good thing to do for said Shareholder (Country Sint Maarten) to find out the reason why its Supervisory Board has been permitting said illegal situation to drag on for such a long time and thereby apparently serious neglecting its important task implied in its name."
We have addressed our mentioned resolution to you, Excellency, in your capacity of Prime Minister and as such the legal representative and spokesperson of the people of Sint Maarten and therefore have taken Mr. Rosario's conclusion and directed it to you in the form of a formal request to you in mentioned capacity, obviously expecting from you, considering the vital importance of this issue, to immediately take the initiative to embark on the "profound investigation" into said referred to "serious violations". P. 0. Box 217 Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles To our surprise, however we noticed in your reaction that you decide to categorically ignore our request and instead publicly accused us of involving with politicizing the issue we have addressed you about.
As said issue is of great importance for the people of Sint Maarten we hereby would like to reiterate our request to you to embark on a thorough investigation regarding the alleged serious violation ofthe Articles of Incorporation of various companies belonging to the Telem Group. Hoping that, now you are dealing with the "political" issue of procedures regarding the appointment of the Directors of the Telem Group (which we are reading about in the local media),we hope that now we can also receive your reaction to the very grave and as important legal issue ofthe alleged mismanagement of the management structure of said Group as we have pointed that out to you.
The SMCU (President) Ludson Evers
Sherman Serastis President General Secretary
Cc: Council of Ministers
Parliament of St Maarten
Corporate governance counsel
Board of directors
National detective P. 0. Box 217 Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - It is ironic that MP de Weever, who had just finished his own parliamentary year-end presentation with a call for unity, could not allow the Chairlady of Parliament (DP faction) to make her year-end presentation uninterrupted.
It should however surprise no-one. This has been the "style" of this MP from day one, disrespectful and rude, especially towards the female chairperson of Parliament.
Is it really that MP de Weever does not know better? Hard to imagine for someone who had just moments before his interruption of the Chair boasted of his accomplishments as an MP.
Even the most unaccomplished MP must know that the closing of Parliament is not a regular public meeting of Parliament.
Do only faction leaders speak in a public meeting of Parliament? NO
Do members of parliament speak without a speakers' list in a regular meeting of Parliament? NO
A regular meeting of Parliament is furthermore conducted in 2 rounds. Neither is this the first closing of Parliament for MP de Weever.
But what the same MP also knows is that is takes much more than an interruption by him to detract the Chairlady or make her lose her composure.
Democratic Party of St. Maarten
(The Original and Only)
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