Island Opinions

Island Opinions (736)

ST. PETERS, St. Maarten – “On behalf of the residents of St. Peters/Marigot Hill, our heartfelt condolences goes out to the family, especially the wife and daughter Edward “Beck” Jones.
 
“We have lost one of our local heroes in the St. Peters/Marigot Hill area.  Jones was a man of respect, discipline and integrity for the game of baseball, but he was also a family man and a community-minded person.  He was a role model for all youngsters in Sint Maarten.
 
“As a co-founder of the St. Peters Community Council, we had the opportunity to recognize Jones as one of our local heroes in the district of St. Peters and Sint Maarten in general.
 
“We need to get back to basics and start recognizing and inviting our retirees who have served in Government in the different Ministries when we have events or activities.  We must never forget the contributions that civil servants make by providing government services to the people.
 
“We can’t treat them as a forgotten group since they have given their heart and soul in making the department what they are today.  They have made their decades of contributions in building the civil service corps of Sint Maarten.
 
“Jones was a former civil servant of Public Works in which he served for many years.  The late Jones was a decent man that would be dearly missed.  He always had a word of advice and would share some of his wisdom with the people of Sint Maarten. His service is on Thursday at the Good News Baptist Church in St. Peters.
 
  Viewing is from 1.00pm to 2.00pm and the service starts thereafter. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - After drinking my Bushtea to deal with the stomach ache I have been suffering from reading on how Dutch politicians and Dutch media depict St. Maarten in the light of the IPKO meetings; It's time I speak my mind. I am addressing this to those Dutch people who look down on us. If the shoe fits wear it. To God be the glory as this is the honest truth.

You have no right to insult my people.

You have no right to disrespect the people who reside on my island.

You have no right to tell lies under the pretense of just telling it like it is.

If you feel the need to express your opinions, about the wrongs in my society, then please learn to do so in a decent way. Otherwise just hold your peace.

Now let me speak my piece.

Do not call women, precious creations of the Almighty, who due to poverty and other terrible circumstances have to feed their children by working in a house with red doors, prostitutes! Shame on you. You should know better. Call these Caribbean women what you call women in Amsterdam who do the same work. You call those women, especially the Dutch ones, commercial sex workers. Call my Dominicano and Colombiano sisters by the same name.

While we are at it, do not depict my island as one big whorehouse with supposedly on average more sex workers than in Amsterdam. I don't know where you learn your statistics, but you should take such matters into account as the fact that St. Maarten population in relation to our sex workers is not 40.000, but is actually augmented by the more than two million tourists that visit our island every year. Many of these tourists visit these dens. So you should compare that figure with its equivalent in relation to Amsterdam. Then things suddenly look different, and you cannot make such a blatant statement that we have more commercial sex workers than in your big city. Also, while doing your statistics in the proper way, make sure you look at our population build up. We have lots of young immigrant men who migrate here without a family. We have past experiences on this island and many other Caribbean societies, of harassment of young girls by young immigrants and single locals, which makes the existence of brothels a necessary evil. And this not to condone it, but to be truthful that need to regulate it and reeducate men without deceiving ourselves that in the near future we can get rid of it.

Now if you study our economy seriously, and I do so for I am a businesswoman and politician, I think that you Dutch politicians and journalists will sing a different tune about the irregular migrants on our island. Yes the proper term is irregular migrants, or even more proper undocumented workers. Not illegal migrants. No one on God's planet can be illegal! Our economy is such that in our high season certain sectors depend on this irregular workforce. Raids and clamping down on these men and women, will not solve the matter. What we need to do is while making sure our own have jobs, regulate that these undocumented workers come in when needed and leave with the expectation to return. We need a specific tax measures for them and businesses that hire then in the high season. Our undocumented workers would then be seasonal laborers from our sister islands. There will then be less need for them to fall prey to human smugglers, or make children on this island; we could create legislation that penalizes season laborers who do so, and, at the same, time create a system that awards good workers who prove their worth with residence rights. While we work on these future policies, we need to take care of the children of the undocumented born on our island; for their sake and for the sake of safeguarding our tourist economy from rampant crime and other unsocial behaviors.

So no I do not see why you want to bring in 50 detectives from Your country to save us. Before we agree to you bringing in your cops, let us put our ablest local policemen in positions they deserve as detectives and chefs. Let our local law enforcers if necessary do trainings in the Netherlands, or our sister island, to improve their performance. Let us build our middle class first, before making yours richer. Let our local young men and women who protect us, because they love the island and care for us, be able to own their own homes and earn a decent living. If you so care about us support us in terms of programs to recruit more our own. It is not unreasonable request, and what is more, you would be acting in character. Afterall, your policy when it comes to development assistance all over the developing world is to promote locals. So why not here on St. Maarten? Or is it that you think so low of us?

Now let me end this, by saying that I hope that the sitting government officials who attended IPKO will also speak out against the way my country, our sweet St. Maarten, is spoken about by certain Dutch politicians and journalists.

I hope also that in all their efforts to curb the unemployment of youths and give school drop outs a second chance, the sitting government will also invest in making sure that those of us who have made it to middle class status and own a little business keep progressing. What good will it profit these youngsters to look up and dream when who they see up there does not resemble them, and those that do are being systematically kept down! What subliminal message are you sending them?

But anyway let me make myself a new cup of Bushtea.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - “I took the liberty to read Prime Minister Marlin’s New Year’s address and needless to say, I am delighted that he has finally left the BBQ gambling pit and only now realizing what is going on in Sint Maarten yet missing what has really happened in his absence.

“Prime Minister Marlin stated that he wants to open a help desk for the elderly, but little does he know or was not informed by Minister Lee, that former Minister De Weever already opened one.  In addition it also included the physically challenged.

“Secondly, he mentioned the Employment Fund which he still needs to figure out, but he should review the Employability Through Training Program which was started and executed by Minister De Weever and then mainstreamed into the regular work of labour and social affairs.

“Young and unemployed people need to be registered, assessed, upgraded, matched with an appropriate participating business and trained before being employed short-term and hopefully when that person applies themselves on the job they can be hired permanently.

“Financial and medical assistance has and can be provided to them during this period to assist them.  The laws are already there and the process is also in place so I doubt that in less than nine months anything will be done except making empty promises again.

“Prime Minister Marlin claims that his Employment Fund will address the nagging unemployment issue which he assured has increased.  I am kindly asking the good Prime Minister to check his facts because during my tenure unemployment actually decreased and it is documented even in the census report.

“Instead of just being critical, it is more important to be honest and acknowledge what has been done.  Even the media is critical at times and they too need to question what politicians are saying.  After all, they printed the stories of the opening of the Boasman helpdesk for the elderly and physically challenged, Employability Through Training along with the unemployment figures.

“We should all constantly be looking for ways to improve, educate and become more efficient and objective instead of gambling with Sint Maarten’s future.”

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Should the Prime Minister of St. Maarten have his way with the proposal or his “notes/ instruction” to his newly established Electoral Reform Committee, as reported in the news media (Thursday, December 31, 2015) St. Maarten would undoubtedly be on the road to autocracy/ dictatorship.

The Prime Minister, the community atlarge and myself share the same sentiments and acknowledge the existence of the chronic “ship-jumping” problem on St. Maarten which has contributed to the demise of democratic elected Government four (4) times in five (5) years. This issue I have addressed and readdressed over the past 2 years and to this end have formulated and wrote a Draft- Election Amendment Legislation to correct the problem. Said document has been published for everyone to read, has been presented before the Central Committee of the Parliament of St. Maarten, to which the members of Parliament have expressed their concerns through questions and I wait to be re-scheduled before Parliament and respond to their concerns and questions.

While the Honorable Prime Minister and I agree on the fundamental problems of “ship-jumping”, I disagree with him on what is a sustainable solution. His solution, I am afraid raises both constitutional and practical issues.

The Prime Minister, in his proposal, stated that “political parties have a hefty representation throughout the election process due to the electoral laws. However, once results are announced on election night, in essence, 15 independent MPs are created as each have the power to form a Government.” This is not altogether true. The reality is that once results are announced on election night, the Governor appoints an informateur or informatures who research(es) the possible coalition options in forming a government. The informateur presides over talks with possible coalition partners leading to a government program/ governing accord and a coalition agreement. Once the informateur has found a potentially successful coalition, he/she goes back to the Governor, who appoints a formateur, who presides over the talks about the ministerial positions that are to be held between the parties that have already established a governing accord. Once the details are finalized, the formateur (in most cases) is ready to accept a formal invitation by the Governor to become Prime Minister, a process that is effectively used by countries throughout the world that have a parliamentary system of government, (including the Netherlands (and other Kingdom partners), and one that does not “in essence” view the Members of Parliament – Elect as “independent MPs” and/ or gives “each of them the power to form a government.” Be it said, it is my belief that the Prime Minster has been through this exercise before, as recent as less than a month ago, and would be quite familiar with the electoral process “once results are announced on election night”.

With that said, the crux of the Prime Minister’s proposal is “to empower only parties to negotiate to form Government” not individual Members of Parliament (MPs) who have broken away from their parties” while allowing “break away” MPs to maintain “all rights and privileges” as a parliamentarian, except the ability to form a government” and only “if no combination of parties with seats can form a majority in Parliament, then Article 59 of the Constitution will “kick in” to dissolve Parliament and call snap elections.” In this way the PM contends ship-jumping can become a thing of the past.

With all respect due to the Prime Minister and his Election Reform ideas they are conceptually weak and can only serve to make “ship-jumping” now permissible by law. Specifically, as for the notion of ship-jumpers not having the ability to form a government, this resolves nothing as they can still amass significant political power as is the case today. With respect, if sufficient of members of parliament, in numbers, decide to ship-jump, this could make it very difficult for parties to negotiate a sound majority government. Thus making the Island still open to unnecessary frequent demise of government.  

Overall, the Prime Minister’s Electoral Reform ideas/ proposals negates the democratic principle of “one man/woman, one vote”, where every vote should be weighted equally and the constitutionality of Parliament to be represented in proportion to the election results, as articulated in Article 47.1 of the Constitution and further expounded upon in the Explanatory notes of the Constitution (page 34, §4). Affirming, “The proportional representation system is distinguished by the fact that the number of seats won is determined on the basis of the division of the total number of votes cast in the entire country by the number of available seats in Parliament. In other words, a party that wins 10% of the votes in the election will also hold 10% of the seat.”And substantiated by Article 98 (1) (2) of the Election Ordinance; (1)For the purpose of filling the seats assigned to each list (party), the candidates on the list (party) that won a number of votes equal to or in excess of the list quota are elected. (2) If fewer candidates on a list than the number of seats assigned to that list have won a number of votes equal to or in excess of the list quota, the candidates are ordered according to the number of votes that they have won, starting with the candidates who won the highest number of votes. The seats are assigned in order of the highest candidates on the list who has not yet been elected.” In layman terms, if apolitical party wins 10% of the votes it is to be represented in Parliament with 10% of the seats and if fewer candidates on the party list receive the list quota, the seats are assigned (which means they are not elected) in order of the highest vote candidate on the list. The PMs Electoral Reform ideas/proposals simply does not assure the constitutionality of proportional representation, which will undoubtedly avert the practice of “ship-jumping”.

My proposal/ Draft-Election Ordinance on the other hand, assures the conformity of proportional representation by amending the Election Ordinance (AB20, GT no. 10) Articles 95, 96 and 98 relating to Determination of the Election Results. It declares that members of Parliament, who have not received the quota list votes and who find themselves in contention with their elected party and who no longer wish to be part of the party shall surrender their assigned parliamentary seat back to the elected party and resign from parliament. The elected party will then re-assign the seat to the next party candidate in the ranking order of highest votes.

Critics have alluded that the aforementioned order will preclude parliamentarian from voting their “conscience”, referencing to Article 61.3 in the Constitution which states “the members (of Parliament) shall not be bound by a mandate or instructions when casting their votes.” I challenge anyone to highlight the part of the order and/or any part of the Draft – Election Ordinance that infringes on parliamentarians Constitutional rights not to be bounded by a mandate or instructions when casting their vote, or “voting their conscience.”

Other proposed changes by the Prime Minister are the “elimination of gathering outside of polling stations on election day, “political paraphernalia to be removed from the country 48 hours before Election Day” and voters will not be allowed to wear any political paraphernalia or party T-shirt into the polling stations” all supposedly in the name of “free and fair elections. Respectfully, what do the aforementioned PM’s suggestions realistically have to do with the “ship-jumping” issue at hand, however, do reflect elements of autocracy/ dictatorship.

In memory St. Maarten has never had an issue with “free and fair elections”. To eliminate/ stop the (peaceful) gathering outside of the polling station, in accordance with election rules), denies the people of St. Maarten their constitutional right to assemble; to have political paraphernalia removed from the country 48 hours before election day sensors information and denies the electorate to be inform, and; to restrict the wearing of any political paraphernalia or party T-shirts into the polling station contains freedom of expression. What’s next, we ask.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God." - Colossians 3:16

 

The group at a small New Year's eve dinner party which I attended lamented the disappearance of basic manners among many young people. A simple a thing as saying thank you for a gift at a Christmas party is no longer in vogue. Furthermore, it appears as though the recipient takes the gesture of giving a gift for granted and fails to appreciate the generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness which emanates within the giver.

 

Where did we go wrong? Probably a combination of children who are having children, parents who have missed out on insisting on discipline at home, peer pressure and a failure of parts of the school system and curricula to play a supporting role.

 

An article by Kevin Eikenberry, entitled The Power of Gratitude, states "science tells us that an 'attitude of gratitude' is a good health choice. Being more grateful more often makes us happier and more optimistic...the universal law of attraction says that we will attract into our life the things we think about and focus on."

 

He continues that gratitude also adds to the bottom line - in very real ways and the best news about gratitude is that it requires little time and no money. He concludes by giving five reasons why gratitude improves your productivity and results: Gratitude attracts what we want; Gratitude improves relationships; Gratitude reduces negativity; Gratitude improves problem solving skills; and Gratitude helps us learn. 

 

Let me therefore start 2016 by expressing gratitude to the readers of this column and for taking the time to respond. Responses to "Lighten up the Darkness", which brought wishes of success, peace, love and happiness for 2016 were particularly gratifying and I repeat them here:

 

(1) London - "Interesting and thoughtful responses. Although many people are loving and giving, so many people think only of themselves. The winner of The Apprentice UK 2015 said that his ambition was 'to get the world and everything in it' (or something like this). No doubt he didn't mean it literally and was trying to reassure Lord Sugar (UK business magnate) that he will work hard on his business, but what a thought to have in one's head" - yes, remember to achieve success in business as there is no substitute for sales and hard work!

 

(2) Trinidad and Tobago - "We ought not forget that conflict can bring with it many positives. Our aim should not be to eradicate or mitigate conflict but to resolve it to the benefit of all" - how true, thanks for this!

 

(3) Barbados - "Timothy 6:10 tells us - For the love of money is the root of all evil...men will disregard all other principles to genuine love in order to generate wealth through unhealthy means therefore we'll continue to have the challenges you have discussed. We can help to change the selfish attitude of man by starting in the primary schools; parents accompanying their children to Sunday School, seeing our neighbours as truly our brothers, avoid reaching beyond the unreachable material things, and most of all following the commandments that all the laws of Moses hang on" - this will lead to the reduction of the wealth divide!

 

(4) Trinidad and Tobago - "Great materials to internalize again. I like the points about solving problems and the primary roles of government and the private sector. And of course the real meaning of our holidays this season. Christmas time is now used to make more money...with items selling at higher and lower prices (Boxing Day) at stores...indulging in more spirits etc." - we all have to get in problem solving mode and not let our egos get in the way!

 

(5) Barbados - "I rather like your sermon on the Christmas message. My preference at this juncture of my spiritual development and the social/economic state in which Barbados finds itself is "fear not for behold...." I think that there is a lot of fear in this country exhibited in anger of some youth, anxiety in some of the older generations, and hopelessness. The feeling that nothing can be done. So this year's favourite lesson is not to fear but that each one does what his God has put in his heart to do. You say Love. I say compassion. We will survive as we have done in the past. But we have to do it together." - As the Dalai Lama XIV has said "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive."

 

(6) Guyana - "Thank you for your acknowledgement of my sentiments on your last piece. I do hope that our Leaders in the Caribbean have a 'Saul moment' in 2016 on our road to 'Damascus'." - This leadership conversion is long overdue!

 

(7) St. Lucia - "Season's greetings and thanks for all the magnificent columns and information you produced and shared in 2015. I hope 2016 will be a very productive year for all of us, especially farmers and all actors who are involved in the improvement and development of the agricultural value chain in the Caribbean region." - Sustained agricultural success is vital for survival!

 

As the Daily Word counsels, let our hearts open wide as we mentally embrace all the people and situations in our lives. Let us be grateful for the blessings of wisdom, compassion, clarity, love, joy and friendship.

 

May The Power of the P's - Public-Private Partnership - Profit, People and Planet (the triple bottom line) guide the thoughts of our leaders throughout 2016 and beyond.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - My Fellow Citizens, St. Maarten needs a fresh start.

Since we have obtained our status as a country within the Dutch Kingdom on October 10, 2010 some very turbulent years have been experienced. Within a five year span, we have endured five different governments with no improvement of performance from any of them.

While campaigning for the achievement of this new country status, the leaders of the country promised the people of St. Maarten that the quality of life would be much better than what they were experiencing in the former Netherlands Antilles. However, to date all indications are that the only persons who have benefited from this new country status are the politicians who were elected to office and those who were appointed as ministers. The salaries of these politicians are the highest within the region and higher than many other countries out of this region.

It is fair to say that as a young democracy, St. Maarten can claim the title for the most changes of government within a five year period in the Guinness book of records. Besides all this, the whole debacle around the vote of no confidence and the national decree to dissolve the parliament has made us the laughing stock of the Caribbean Region. It is unheard of that a government receives a vote of no confidence and turns around to issue a national decree sending home the very same parliamentarians who appointed them as ministers. There are many who are screaming for changes within our constitution and it is my opinion that we must elect mature members to parliament, members who will put country above self. During the radio program People Voice a caller stated “our constitution was made for adults and not for children’’. This is a clear indication once again that those elected members since St. Maarten became a country within the Dutch Kingdom, never took their oaths to work on improving the quality of the lives of the people seriously. Instead, their focus has been on themselves, their inner circle and that of their families.

Through the course of that five year period, the best attendance record they can present is the collection of their salaries at the end of each month; from which none of them have ever reported absent. It is therefore very important for you as citizens of this country to take time out to review their attendance records for the year 2015; which should be available to you in January 2016. Secondly, you should make it your business to also review their contribution in parliament, whether it is in the form of presenting motions or proposals that would have improved the quality of your life. Taking just these two factors into consideration, most of them would not be re-elected to the parliament of St. Maarten in the next election slated for September 26, 2016 as their contribution amounted to zero. Our emphasis should not be on the next election but on the next generation, our future leaders and all the citizens of this young nation.

We are a very resilient people and as such we cannot and will not give up hope for this New Year 2016. With the same speed that the national decree was signed to change the snap election that was slated for February 9, 2016 and changed to September 26, 2016, we expect the commercial rates that NV GEBE is charging our school boards to change to residential rates. How can education be a top priority on any government agenda while they are preventing school boards from being able to provide our children with state of the art computer centers and our parents from being able to get a reduction in the school fees based on the savings to be derived from the difference in the rates? Isn’t it about time for NV GEBE to invest in solar panels in order to be better able to assist the schools in getting a reduction of their monthly utility consumption; and thus generating another form of saving which can be used as an investment for the betterment of our education system?

Isn’t it time that the government together with the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation invest in the land acquired Over the Bank next to the Vineyard Building to build low income houses for rent and for sale to our teachers, nurses, policemen and other young professionals? If we can finance a security contract in the amount of 2.2 million dollars at the harbour without it going on bid; and if our port can acquire a loan in the amount of 10 million dollars from the Social Security Insurance (SZV) to settle an out of court claim without receiving anything in exchange, then we should be able to build low income houses for rent and for sale to our residents thereby reducing the cost of living. This will also lead to the creation of the much needed jobs within the construction industry. It is a known fact that 40% of one’s salary either goes into your rent or your mortgage which is much higher than most rentals within the region.

St. Maarten needs a fresh start. The amendments to the labour laws pertaining to the abuse of the short term contracts have been stuck between the parliament and the higher councils over the last four years with no interest from parliament to finalize those changes that would be beneficial to the ordinary citizens of this country. In December of 2013 a motion was unanimously passed in parliament for the government to conduct a study on the minimum wages. Up to this date, neither parliament nor the government have seen it fit to conduct or follow up on this study as they would not benefit in any way from the outcome of this study. The bottom line is that we must come up with a living wage that is beneficial to the ordinary people as the cost of living is constantly rising.

The OSPP has proposed a loan guarantee program that would allow our young people the opportunity to start their own business. Small business is the back bone of every economy and it creates many jobs. Even though the country was plagued by the ship jumpers over the last five years, none of the governments saw it fit to address electoral reforms. The Marcel Gumbs cabinet needed it to motivate their decree to dissolve parliament and call snap election; the Marlin Cabinet needed it as a reason to motivate the extension of the election to a later date. It is clear to see that things would have continued as business as usual if not for these recent developments to dissolve the parliament.    

     This new year 2016 is an election year and we must make the playing field more level for all the political parties; the electoral council has its’ role to play but there must be some more far reaching changes within our electoral laws and as the OSPP we will be submitting some changes that we have envisioned for the betterment of St. Maarten elections. We hope that the government and the parliament would consider those proposals and not ignore them as they have done with many others submitted before.

     There is no doubt that St. Maarten needs a fresh start to make good on the many promises that were made during the campaign for the status that we are enjoying today.

We need to focus on more social programs within our communities; we must activate and fund all the community councils to implement social, sports and cultural programs within our communities. The 13 million guilders to be spent on the expansion of the prison would have been better spent on preventative programs as opposed to building more prison cells to incarcerate our people. The expansion of our medical center is a must as we are spending millions of guilders referring our patients to other countries. There have been enough studies done on this issue and we don’t need more. What we need is action. We boast about over one million cruise passengers calling on St. Maarten on a yearly basis but yet we don’t have a program in place to convert a percentage of these cruise passengers to hotels guests that would stay at least four to five days.

       The OSPP is up to challenge and we will continue to submit our proposals and questions to the parliament and to the government now and after you send us to parliament on September 26, 2016. Our goal is to make St. Maarten a better place for all of us to live happily, residents and tourists alike.

     On behalf of the OSPP family and my family we want to wish you a very healthy and prosperous New Year 2016. May the good Lord continue to bless this young nation St. Maarten as better days are ahead for all those who trust and believe in him.          

   

Lenny F. Priest

Leader of the OSPP

January 1, 2016

MARIGOT, St. Martin -

Let us pray for our men
And our women
In uniform...
Pray God protect them
As their duties they perform
our policemen
Our police women
Protect them from harm
As they take to the Streets
Whether they drive a car
Or ride on a motorcycle
Or even a bicycle
On their feet
On the beat
Lord watch over them
And touch our hearts
So we can be more kind
And appreciative of them
Lately the police being
Getting a lot of bad rap
Because of bad apples in the pack
That Infiltrated the network
Given bad name to police work
And also a string of bad luck
The death of officer Benji
Then an officer losing his limb
Now officer Boasman
Hanging on a limb
We need our officers Alive
If we're going to survive
So pray that God keep them
Safe and always protected
And for Twenty sixteen
Let us give wee officers
Lot ah Love,
And plenty esteem
If you love the police honk
Your horn
Copyrights 2016
Raymond Helligar
Aka Big Ray
 
TODAY THE SECOND DAY IN THE YEAR  JAN 02
DRIVE WITH YOUR HEAD LIGHTS ON
IN SUPPORT OF  OFFICER  BOASMAN
VICTIM OF A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT

THANK U

 

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Dear editor

Allow me to share the following proposal to improve the quality of the services we receive here in Sint Maarten.
 
When we are too late with our payment private companies (such as commercial banks, Cable companies) fine us with late payment fees or they are quick to reposses the home or car we financed through  them. Public companies (such as TELEM, GEBE)  fine us with late payment fees or they are quick to cut our phone or electricity service. 
But when we are in long lines to pay our bills in time no quick customer service, no seniors line and no discount because we had to wait too long in the line. 
When TELEM/TELCEL/UTS is not providing the quality of service and giving us all kind of appologies like "all circuits are busy", "this person cannot be reached at the moment", or when GEBE is interrupting the electricity or water supply for whatever reason, no fine for these public entities or discount for us the consumers to compensate us for a failing service.
I think it is about time that we demand a policy to fine all service providers be it privately owned or government owned entities and compensating each consumer who is not getting a correct and timely service. 
 
I decided to pay my Telem and GEBE bills today and not to wait till month end or the beginning of the month deadline.
 
At TELEM at Pondfill the seniors window and all other cashiers windows were closed.  Only the Top Up window was open, so only one teller was working. That was on 11.30 am. Even though all signs were indicating that the window was only for Top up or pre-paid cards handling I still went in this line, waiting my turn not for a top up but to pay my internet and landline bill.  At 12.00 noon I left the TELEM building. If the seniors line was open I could have been attended much quicker.
 
Arriving at the GEBE office in Philipsburg i could not enter and had to wait with more people outside because there were too much customers inside. I reflected upon the sign I saw before entering the building (see inconvenience notice) wondering which service they were upgrading: the waiting lines?
When I was allowed to enter I asked the security who was the last senior for the seniors line. Politely he informed me that there is no seniors line today. All customers have to go in the only line there is. Some of the seniors complained to me, and asked me what We. Can do about this treatment.
 I asked the security to call the supervisor for me. He instructed me to go ouside all around the building and ask the receptionist for the supervisor.  I went to the back office where a very polite receptionist went to look for a supervisor. 
While awaiting the return of the receptionist the security officer informed me that they had to hear a lot of complaining the whole morning already because of the long line. The receptionist came back with a message from the Commercial Manager apologizing that she was on lunch and explaining that workers were sick today and that is why there was only one line and no seniors line service. 
I went back took these pictures to record this situation, as this is not the first time this year that I met this situation and decided to complain on behalf of the seniors and all other consumers who had to endure this lousy sevice. 
Just as the company can claim SZV the loss of working days for workers that do not show up at work for whatever sickness, we as consumers also should be compensated for the loss of time or loss of continúed quality service and lack of customer care. 
Which entity is there to protect our rights as consumers ? Let us resolve this issue in 2016 for once and for all.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Congratulation is in place for the Marlin Cabinet now that it is complete and to the two newly elected members to parliament.

It is without a doubt that their work is cut out for them, both the government and the parliament of St. Maarten. Since after the election they were screaming about how things were not being done for the people of St. Maarten by the Marcel Gumbs cabinet and today they have a chance to show how it should be done.

It is going to be a very interesting nine months period before the election takes place on September 26, 2016. Let’s hope that this government doesn’t make the same mistake by focusing only on electoral reform like the Gumbs cabinet did with the integrity chamber.

One of the good things about governments are that they are about continuation and therefore whenever one government leaves office the other one comes in and continue in the same path, make some changes and perhaps you may be able to take credit for that issue. But another interested thing is that in most cases the documents for any ongoing project or decision that was taken must be left behind to substantiate it for future reference.

This brings us to a very interesting case. In the 2014/2015 government period we had a very interesting arrangement that took place at the Harbour Group of Companies. A security contract was signed for 2.2 million dollars without going out on bid. This was almost 100% increase over the price that the harbour was paying that same company Checkmate for the same services. The opposition at that time in parliament was the National Alliance and the Democratic Party of St. Maarten. Many questions were posed and documentation was requested. However, the Gumbs cabinet refused to provide the opposition members in parliament with that information, claiming that it would be a breach of national security to provide that information.

Today the wheels have turned. The National Alliance, the United St. Maarten Party, the Democratic Party together with the independents are now in government. They have access to all the documentation as well as the CEO and the Supervisory Board of the harbour at their disposal. When will they reveal to the public their findings on this contractual arrangement between the Harbour Group of Companies and Check Mate Securities? Does the arrangement change now because members supporting the government were part of that contractual arrangement at that time? Is the Marlin Cabinet together with the members of eight in parliament in agreement that good cooperate procedures were followed in granting that contract in the tune of 2.2 million dollars? Can the government make the questions available that they had posed to the Gumbs Cabinet and never received the answers? Can the answers to those questions that were posed by the NA and DP and the documents be provided to the general public? Would this be the end of the Marlin cabinet if those questions posed by them be answered now? Can the documentation be provided to the public for scrutiny and if so would this cause the government to fall? Do this government and the members supporting the government consider it important to supply this information to the general public? Is this all about a hand shake that now we are in government, so it doesn’t matter anymore about the 2.2 million dollars contract or any other matter that we questioned when we were in opposition?

It is going to be very interested how the government will respond to these questions and if they are willing to provide the general public with the information that they requested at that time. Or is it going to be business as usual, today for me and tomorrow for you. In other words if we encounter any decisions that you took while you were in government even if they were illegal acts; and even if they cost the tax payers a huge amount of money we are not going to make it public with the understanding that if there is a change of government we will not hang out your dirty laundry. Is this the understanding with just a hand shake amongst the outgoing and incoming government?

The OSPP has forwarded a letter to the Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Marlin and copied to the parliament of St. Maarten questioning the government and the parliament on this matter. It would be heartbreaking if they don’t investigate this matter and supply the general public with the information. Failure to do so would give the general public the tool to put all the politicians in the same boat. Meaning that all the politicians scream when they are on the outside but once they get in they are just about the same or even worst. But we tend to differ. The OSPP is a sharp shooter. We say what we mean and mean what we say.

Our track record is there to prove, election was in 2014 and we continue to question the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet and provide them and the parliament with positive proposals. Unfortunately, neither the government or members of parliament consider those proposals as they were not coming from them.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Once upon a time I decided to take a trip home to be with my family in St. Maarten for Xmas since that was the right thing to do. Christmas celebration is not complete when family is left out.

I traveled all the way from China on a 12 hours flight to AMS, then spent another 14 hours waiting at the airport in order to board another 8 hours flight to “home supposedly sweet home” St. Maarten.

I got to St. Maarten and in a couple hours the “sweetness” of home started to set in. First of all, I landed and as usual none of the “four” the trolleys for bag carriage at the airport were available. I decided to enjoy this Christmas and not allow anything spoil my good mood or Christmas spirit.

As usual a member of my family picked me up from the airport and I quickly fine-tuned my very intolerant to nonsense self to enable me adapt to the very “diabetic sweetness of home”

As soon as I arrived home, I was informed by my family that there were interesting events lined up for Christmas season and one of them was happening right away at the Harbor in Point Blanche, I decided to quickly drive down to the Harbor with my family to get me in the Christmas mood since I was coming from Asia where Christmas wasn’t generally celebrated by everybody. I drove down to the Harbor, parked in the parking lot and started to walk towards the entrance when a lady beckoned on us and told us that people were asked to turn back because they are not wearing a yellow wristband which is required before entry. Isn’t the wristband available at the entrance of the Harbor I asked astonished, no she said, you have to drive to Tell Cell parking lot, then you will receive the wristband. I started to laugh. Home sweet home indeed I thought! There is really no place like home. How can you host a Christmas event inviting the entire island and the wristband for the event which is a requirement for all guests is in another location? I was done! I was ready to go home. But my family really wanted us to have fun together since I was rarely ever home for Christmas due to the nature of my job.

We drove down to Tell Cell parking lot and at this point I was fuming. I started to think about all that was wrong with SXM.   When will SXM become a normal country? Buses and cars stop in the middle of the road to pick up and drop off passengers. They do it so casually and some stop right before a bus stop and even in roundabouts. Some stop to hold conversations thereby causing traffic congestion and if you ask them to move their cars, they say exercise patience but they are not patient enough to park their cars properly before holding a conversation on the street! Do we have Traffic Police on this beautiful Island I thought? When is this madness going to stop? The instability of the government I guess is affecting everyone and everything. The best part is, this same set of individuals are quick to adjust to the rules and regulation of the French Side when they visit. Is it safe to deduce from the above that the French side is the place to behave when it comes to obeying traffic laws and the Dutch is the place to misbehave? Is that why the lawlessness on the Dutch side is higher than the French side of St. Maarten ?

I got to Tell Cell parking lot after the unnecessary traffic caused by buses stopping in the middle of the road and there was the yellow wristband but guess what, only one security guard was giving it out! As expected, there was a queue and at this point I was over Christmas already! The island chased away whatever Christmas spirit I had left in me. I was disappointed all over again. But for my family, I stayed on the queue and while waiting I saw a second security guard sitting down and eating so I decided to ask why only one security guard was responsible for handing out hand bands in an event of this magnitude and in the most awkward location and she said “yes there are two of us doing it but I am eating now, that’s why only he doing it” I wondered why only two people will be responsible for handing out hand bands in a public event on an Island where thousands of people live. I waited for my turn, picked up the hand band or masking tape (as my neighbor’s daughter called it) and drove back to the Harbor for the event.

Yes a lot was happening at the Harbor but they all looked disconnected from each other. It didn’t look like one big event. I wasn’t feeling anything but just passing away time. There was a queue for everything and the fun was long gone out of the event because of the whole drama surrounding it. After waiting on a queue for a long time, I finally got to buy food and eat and the customer service was as disappointing as expected.

I stayed a while because of my family but even they got tired and we had to leave. The bouncing castle for the kids was so full  of unsupervised kids that some ladies in the Red Cross T-shirt had to just ask all the kids to leave the bouncing castle. We left there exhausted and out of the Christmas mood.

St. Maarten is a beautiful country/Island no doubt but so many things are happening that are not right. Will this ever stop? We claim to do tourism but yet customer service does not exist in Maarten especially to the locals. I think all employees are trained in St. Maarten to have two personalities, one for the tourist and the other for the locals. The tourist get the smiles and the locals get the slaps.

We need to stop this nonchalant attitude towards one another. How can a so called friendly island be so unfriendly to its own people? Let us respect one and other because without the people of St. Maarten there will be no Tourist.

Cecil Scott

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