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A Diwali Message from St. Maarten Guyanese Association

SINT MAARTEN/GUYANA - The St. Maarten Guyanese Association (SMGA) would like to wish all Hindus a Happy Diwali, especially those in the Diaspora who are spending this festival of lights away from our beautiful 'Land of Many Waters'.

This year, especially after the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irma just over a month ago, this observance should more poignant as we stop to reflect and be thankful for life and the fact that good will always overcome evil.

As an association, we call on our Hindu brothers and sisters to celebrate this day as you would have done before to signify the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.

Let us light those diyas and welcome this magical time as there is no better time than now to celebrate and embrace love, joy, and everything else that is good.

May those earthen lamps brighten your lives and make St. Maarten a better and stronger island. May your life be filled with infinite joy, wealth, and health. Happy Diwali to you!

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Winair to resume operations to five+ destinations as of October 23 and 31

SIMPSON BAY - Winair is pleased to announce that they will resume operations to the destinations: Curacao, Haiti, Dominica, Guadeloupe and San Juan.

Effective October 23rd Winair will resume the following flights with partner Air Antilles Monday, Wednesday and Saturday: Guadeloupe to Dominica, Dominica to St. Maarten, St. Maarten to San Juan, San Juan to St. Maarten, St. Maarten to Dominica, Dominica to Guadeloupe.

In addition effective October 31st Winair will resume following services on Tuesday. Curacao to Haiti, Haiti to St. Maarten, St. Maarten to Curacao, on Saturday: Curacao to St. Maarten, St. Maarten to Haiti, Haiti to Curacao.

Winair requests that you consult their online booking service or your favorite travel agency for flight times and bookings.

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#SXMSTRONG Call to Performers, Vendors and Cultural Groups to attend upcoming meetings

POND ISLAND - There is no time like the present for St Martin to stand in unity as we pay homage to the ones that lost their lives during the passing of Irma and we give thanks for all the lives spared, stated the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports said in a press statement on Monday.

As this St Martin Day Celebration is for the people, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport is hosting St. Martin Day celebrations under the theme “SXM Strong”.  

This is an open invitation for persons to take part in the month long celebrations, for the love of St. Martin, on the Road to St. Martin Day, including St. Martin Day itself.

  1. All persons or businesses who wish to sell products at St. Martin Day events are hereby invited to a meeting on Monday October 23rd 2017 at 6pm at the New Government Administration Building. Registration will take place thereafter. 
  1. All Bands, Choirs, Vocalists, Musicians, Dancers, Dance groups, Poets and Special entertainment acts who wish to contribute their performance for the love of St. Martin, to the St. Martin Day Activities are hereby invited to a meeting on Tuesday October 24th 2017 at 6pm at the New Government Administration Building. Registration will take place thereafter. 
  1. All cultural groups who wish to participate in the SXM STRONG Cultural parade on St. Martin Day 2017 are hereby invited to a meeting on Wednesday October 25th 2017 at 6pm at the New Government Administration Building. Registration will take place thereafter. 

If you require more information, please feel free to contact us at 520-1368 during the hours of 10am to 3pm or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Nature Foundation Records Return of Sint Maarten National Symbol: the Brown Pelican

COLE BAY - During one of its recent post-hurricane ecological assessments the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation recorded the reestablishment of breeding colonies of the National Symbol of Sint Maarten, the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis).

After the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Nature Foundation assessed the monitored breeding colonies for the Brown Pelican and found that some forty breeding pairs were absent: “A week after Hurricane Maria during one of our first assessments we were able to establish that we completely lost the Divi Little Bay Pelican Breeding site below Fort Amsterdam.

“We were very disappointed to note that the complete breeding site had been decimated, especially since we have been monitoring that area since 2010. Last week we returned to the site and to our surprise we found that the majority of breeding pairs had re-established themselves, with numerous nest being laid and eggs being brooded,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has been monitoring the Divi Little Bay Breeding Colony since 2010 as a part of its Pelican Monitoring Program.

The Brown Pelican is the National Symbol of Sint Maarten and is a key indicator species for the health of the marine environment: “After the storms we encountered numerous pelicans that sustained serious injury, many of which had their necks broken.

“We also lost about two-dozen nests at the site so you can imagine how happy we were to see that the colony re-established itself, with numerous nests already being brooded,” concluded Bervoets.

The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the breeding sites and will conduct its annual pelican

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Aviation conference will return to St. Maarten in 2018

SIMPSON BAY - The 3rd Caribbean Aviation Meetup conference will again be held on St. Maarten in June 12-14, 2018, provided that the appropriate conference facilities are available.

“In a time like this, it is important to show our loyalty to Princess Juliana International Airport and to the community of St. Maarten,” commented Cdr. Bud Slabbaert, Chairman and Coordinator of the Conference.

“After hurricane Irma, we received many inquiries from participants and speakers of this year’s event, expressing their sympathy and concern for St. Maarten.  They all like to return to the island for another Meetup in 2018 and are offering their support and cooperation. 

“Holding the conference in June will show the international airlift stakeholders, which include members of the aviation, tourism and investment industries that St. Maarten was able to successfully master the difficult challenges and is open for business.”  

The three-day 2018 Caribbean Aviation Meetup conference will feature 40 international expert speakers from The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Commonwealth of Dominica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Guadeloupe, Luxemburg, Malta, Puerto Rico, St. Barths, St. Maarten, Russia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Suriname, Turks & Caicos, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, USA, and US Virgin Islands.

The presentations will cover subjects from the use of helicopters and drones in the region to development of eco and luxury tourism, from aircraft registration and financing to airport operations, and many other topics related aviation and tourism.

The annual Caribbean Aviation Meetup differs from most other conferences, because it puts the emphasis on experience exchange, interaction and participation, rather than on listening to speakers' or company's achievements.

It is the perfect opportunity for face-to-face business discussions and comprehensive group opinion exchanges on sector-specific topics. The result is a proactive platform upon which successful networking can be built.

It provides impulses for new business developments and industry investments. It accommodates a new attitude towards positive development and impact of airlift.  (www.caribavia.com).

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Sarah Makes Passionate Plea to the Kingdom Government

PHILIPSBURG - In a rare move, Member of Parliament (MP), Chairlady Sarah Wescot-Williams, directed a personal and passionate letter to the Kingdom government, asking Prime Minister Rutte to consider separating the much anticipated reconstruction aid from the Netherlands from the conditions imposed by the Kingdom government.

These conditions have been spelled out in a letter from the Minister of Kingdom Relations, R. Plasterk on October 13th. It is just recently that the Chairlady asked the local government if aware of these conditions and to spell them out.

Minister Plasterk has now made clear that the Integrity Chamber and border control are firm conditions attached to Dutch hurricane aid. “My concern is that a standoff on these 2 issues jeopardizes the aid that should come to St. Maarten. Furthermore, other potential donor agencies and countries could look to the Netherlands for leadership, meaning they too could take on a wait-and-see attitude.”

In her letter, the Chairlady of Parliament points out again, the magnitude of the storm, the immediate assistance given, and our people’s own willingness to rebound and come back stronger. She expressed her grave concern for what the coming weeks will bring if not addressed head on and with conviction.

On a separate note, MP Wescot looks at the issues of integrity and border control (immigration). “Not matters we should turn way from, but surely neither, to make the aid to St. Maarten dependent on.”

The MP’s 3-page letter makes her request and proposal to the Kingdom government clear and to the point. Make the funds available as soon as possible and put the most stringent control mechanism in place. She concludes with the assurance that integrity and immigration will not be swept under the rug, but should reach the highest echelon in our political system, namely the parliament of St. Maarten.

This body should debate in all openness these 2 topics and the effects on the relationship between St. Maarten and the Netherlands/the Kingdom. “And finally, like I have stated in the past, this is a good time to review our immigration policies and laws.”

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Majority of Nature Foundation Marine Research Projects completely destroyed by Irma. Starts GoFundMe

COLE BAY - On the 6th of September powerful category 5+ hurricane ‘Irma’ did not spare the underwater world with her large waves and strong underwater motion and surge. Scientific in-water Marine Research conducted the Nature Foundation including the Coral Nursery, Conch and Seagrass Research and the Acoustic Receivers are totally damaged or completely lost.

The Coral Nursery was part of a three year RESCQ project (Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Coral Reef Quality) funded by the European Union Best 2.0 Program in order to restore Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (A.  cervicornis) coral reef zones by growing coral fragments in a nursery and transplanting corals at selected restoration sites.

Nine coral ladders were located at the dive site ‘The Bridge’ filled with coral fragments. Out of the 255 fragments growing in the nursery only two little fragments have been found back. The strong currents and surge probably pushed the coral ladders down or tore them apart, leaving them covered under sand and sediment. More than one year of intensive research efforts has been totally lost.

Recently the Nature Foundation started a juvenile Queen Conch growth experiment on native and invasive seagrass beds in order to determine nutrition differences for conch growth. The project was a collaboration with Ecological Professionals, Wageningen University and the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute and funded by Statia Terminals, NuStar Energy L.P. and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ).

Research structures, temperature and light loggers and tagged conch are destroyed and disappeared from the research locations at the Dry-dock and Barrel mooring in Simpson Bay.  Large amounts of mainly invasive seagrass and many juvenile conch have been stripped off, disappeared or killed due to the hurricane.

Eight acoustic receivers were located in St Maarten waters in order to detect the movement pattern of sharks. For this study the Nature Foundation was collaborating with leading scientist Dr. Erwin Winter from Wageningen Marine Research and the Save our Sharks project funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Since the hurricane no acoustic receiver or its structures have been found back so far and all receivers are definitely lost.

Although the Nature Foundation has escaped large-scale damage to their infrastructure with the Office, Marine Park Patrol Vessel and Warehouse receiving minimal damage, the Research Projects are non-existent since the passing of Irma.

The Foundation is looking into major funding options in order to rebuild the marine research set-ups and restart reef and marine monitoring efforts. Especially the Coral Nursery is very much needed, as corals on the reef have been damaged and destroyed by direct and indirect impacts of the massive hurricane. Topper’s Restaurant has generously opened a Go Fund Me page in order to help the Nature Foundation rebuild their Coral Nursery; www.gofundme.com/rebuild-st-maartens-coral-nursery

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Children Parade to Kick Off St. Martin Day Events. Also Soft Launch of #SXMSTRONG Campaign

POND ISLAND – Kids parading through the Philipsburg area in cultural wear will officially kick off the activities leading up to St. Martin Day 2017. The parade is a collaboration between the Cocaae Foundation and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and is scheduled for Saturday October 14th 2017.

The parade will start at 11 am at the Philipsburg Cultural and Community Center (back street) then on to Wilhelmina Street (Court House Alley), then turn onto Front Street and proceed up to Emmaplein where the parade will turn down the alley besides Diamond Casino, turn right onto the boardwalk until Walter Plantz square where the parade will then go back onto Front Street via Scheepbouw steeg,  proceed back up to the Court House, turn onto Hendrikstraat and head back to the Philipsburg Cultural Center via Cannegieter Street.

Once the parade is finished, kids can enjoy face painting and a bouncing castle for free from 1pm to 2pm at the Sister Borgia parking lot.  Organizers are encouraging parents to bring their kids and have fun as children can also join the parade and interact with the stilt walkers. Music will be provided by the Generation New Status STM band.

The parade forms part of the pre-St. Martin Day activities entitled “For the Love of St. Martin, Road to St. Martin Day festivities”. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport is organizing an array of events including cultural, youth oriented and sporting events leading up to St. Martin Day and wants to provide the people of St. Martin with opportunities to unify and celebrate life together.

For this year’s festivities, the Ministry is collaborating with various stakeholders, including French counterparts, to ensure a unified program and approach to St. Martin Day. An official calendar of events will be unveiled very shortly. The parade also serves as the soft launch of the #SXMSTRONG campaign under the slogan “Rebuilding our Nation”.

This campaign is a broad initiative organized by different community and social stakeholders and is powered by the government. The sentiment surrounding the powerful slogan is one of unity, resilience, empowerment and solidarity. The slogan and the underlying message reinforces the determination of the government of Sint Maarten to get the nation back on its feet and does justice to the rebuilding efforts that are underway.

Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport is encouraging citizens to tune into the media and social media in the upcoming days to be updated of all the upcoming exciting events leading up to St. Martin Day with the grand finale on St. Martin Day 2017.

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BANK GIVES USD$1.2 MILLION IN SUPPORT FOR OVER 600 REGIONAL PROJECTS

SINT MAARTEN/BARBADOS – Regional bank CIBC FirstCaribbean has seen an increase in its overall support for charitable causes across the English and Dutch Caribbean, according to its latest Social Annual Report.

The bank’s charitable arm, The First Caribbean ComTrust Foundation, recently released its Social Annual Report 2016 which revealed that it gave  over USD$1.2 million to support over 600 mainly community projects  in the 17 territories where the bank operates. This was over USD$200 000 more than the previous fiscal year.

The bank’s Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ComTrust Foundation Mr. Gary Brown said “reaching out into our communities and working with various organisations to improve the lives of the people of the region is what the foundation is all about.

Our Adopt –A-Cause programme which sees our employees identifying projects to support in their various communities and getting their colleagues to volunteer to take part has allowed us to connect with our communities in remarkable ways.”

The ComTrust Foundation, which was formed in 2003 shortly after the formation of CIBC FirstCaribbean through a merger of the Caribbean operations of Barclays Bank and CIBC, has committed to giving no less than USD$1 million annually in support of projects in the communities in which the bank operates. Over the past 14 years the bank has given around USD$20 million to various initiatives around the region.

It focuses on three main areas of giving, Youth and Education, Health and Wellness and the Community and the Environment. Under these headings the foundation has signed Memoranda of Understanding with the University of the West Indies, The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation, Healthy Caribbean Coalition and Ten Habitat.

The bank has also partnered with cancer care associations across the region for its flagship activity, Walk for the Cure, which has raised over USD1.5 million for cancer care, support, early detection and education over the past five years.

The bank, the largest single donor of undergraduate scholarships to the UWI, is set to shortly sign another three year MOU with the University which will see additional funding for some new initiatives.

Disaster relief has also been a major area which received significant support from the bank with United Caribbean Trust and Food for the Poor also receiving substantial funding.

The foundation along with the bank’s parent CIBC also committed a total of USD$550 000 toward disaster relief and rebuilding efforts in islands of the region impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria in September.

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UP MP Leonard to request urgent meeting of Parliament about SER

PHILIPSBURG — United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Tamara Leonard will request an urgent meeting of Parliament, with the Prime Minister and his advisors on the current impasse concerning the appointment of the board of the Social Economic Council (SER).

The MP stated that this is the second time she noticed media reports surfaced on the impasse with the board of the SER. Prior to the passing of hurricane Irma, on August 9th the Prime Minister stated that the SER board “had been in place now for maybe a week or two.”  At that time, he stated that there was mix up with the allotment of the seats but other than that the SER board had been in place.

“In a newspaper article that appeared in the media on October 10, 2017, the SER SG is urgently asking government to appoint its board members. The SER has been without a board since April 30. “It’s clear that the Prime Minister has been lying to the public. He says one thing which turns out to be far from the truth” What’s the hold up the Leonard asked. There are rumors going around in the community, that government plans to shut down the SER. Is this true? Another point that was brought to my attention, is that Government is trying to muzzle the institution due to its critical advice on government policy.

“The SER has always been critical of all governments. Even my own party received negative advice once when requested. “However, do we shut down an institution because we are not pleased with their advice?” Is this the direction the Prime Minister wants to take the country?  While we continued to be closely watched by Dutch, in the wake of the aftermath of hurricane Irma, an SG should not be calling on government to appoint the board.

“In accordance with article 3 paragraph 1 of the National Ordinance of the SER “council should consist of no more than nine members who shall be appointed by national decree on the nominated of the Minister of General Affairs. “Now the SER SG was placed in an awkward position because it’s not his responsibility” the responsibility lies with the Prime Minister in according to the law governing the SER.

“I must commend the SER staff for their resilience, despite being without a board for the past 6 months, the SG and his staff continue to report to work every weekday. This government led by the Prime Minister has no clue of what’s going on. While the staff has completed the urgent advice on the NHI draft law, which was requested by government it baffles me that this same government refuses to finalize the decree of the SER board members.

“This situation can no longer go unattended, the Prime Minister should come to Parliament and clear the air once and for all. At the moment, it seems like a once vibrant advisory body, is being punished. While the High Councils of State are the gatekeepers of Government, the SER issue seems to have gone unnoticed to those institutions. Let me remind the High Councils of State, today it’s the SER, tomorrow it could be your institution without a board. In his Constitution day address the Prime Minister asked for all hands-on deck, “give the stakeholders a chance to contribute to the rebuilding of our country” appoint the board and let the Chamber of Commerce, SHTA and the unions have their say and play their role this community,” UP MP Leonard said on Thursday.

The UP party said that the SER is recognized by the ILO, UN and the EU and has similar institutions in more than 80 countries worldwide. The MP reminded the Prime Minister that this matter also has the attention of the Dutch government in The Hague and it would behoove him to appoint the board ASAP.

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