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SMCP LEADER SMITH: A REPORT CARD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

PHILIPSBURG – Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Wycliffe Smith said on Wednesday in a statement, “At the end of every school year, students are evaluated and promoted or not promoted based on their performance during the year. Conversely, at the end of a parliamentary year, Members of Parliament (Ed MPs) are not evaluated yet they continue in parliament without anyone questioning their achievements, their performance or their competency to function as a parliamentarian.

“I have observed that in several countries around the world, political and interest groups are developing report cards for parliamentarians. The idea behind the report card is to provide the public, especially the voters, with information about the performance of a parliamentarian so that at the next election, voters can make an informed decision about who is best suited to represent them in parliament, based on their performance during the past years.

“I sincerely hope that MP Ardwell Iron’s proposal to report on how Members of Parliament voted during a parliamentary year will be included in the 2016-2017 Parliamentary Report. If included, it will give the public additional information as to how our MPs are functioning.

“SMCP is developing a parliamentarian report card that will comprise the following benchmarks: attendance, participation, representation, supervision, legislation and interaction. These six benchmarks are derived from the job description of a parliamentarian that, according to our constitution, consists of three main functions: representation (art. 44), legislation (art. 82, 85, 86) and supervision (art. 62, 63, 64).

“Since the people (voters) placed their trust in a parliamentarian by electing him/her to office, it goes without saying that they should know how their parliamentarian is functioning. Therefore, let us look at these benchmarks and explain briefly what each one entails.

“Attendance at meetings is the most obvious and objective benchmark. It includes the attendance at the plenary sessions of parliament and at the meetings of the central committee. All MPs are required to attend these two meetings. In addition, we will also include the attendance at the permanent and ad hoc committees, which is a requirement for the members of these committees but is voluntary for the other parliamentarians.

“It seems as if parliamentarians do not realize that the greater part of their work occurs in the small or standing committees. These committees are therefore the backbone of parliament. In a press conference given the first week of January 2017, President of Parliament, MP Sarah Wescot-Williams, told the press “the work of Parliament is being slowed down due to the lack of activity by the parliamentary committees”. In other words, she is saying that these committees are not functioning.

“Parliamentary Committees do the groundwork for the Central Committee. They research and investigate issues and laws then make recommendations to the Central Committee, which in turn will eventually, approve these recommendations and send them to the plenary session of parliament. In addition, most of the oversight work by parliament ought to be done in the standing committees.

“There is where the chair and members review the policies and the decisions of a minister or the government as well as investigate reports, complaints and problems related to a ministry or the government. Further, there is where questions directed to a minister or the government ought to be formulated and the answers reviewed for depth, thoroughness and accuracy.

“Sadly, previous Annual Parliamentary Reports and observations during the current parliamentary year show that the standing committees hardly ever meet. During 2016-2017, twelve standing committees were installed but as far as we know, only two of these committees actually held meetings, namely the Ad Hoc Integrity Committee and the Petitions Committee. The remaining committees have remained dormant throughout the parliamentary year.

“We would also like to point out a serious flaw in the selection of the chairpersons of the various standing committees. Members of the coalition chair all twelve standing committees. No wonder that the supervisory function of parliament is seriously compromised. One does not expect a coalition member in parliament to readily scrutinize and criticize the policies, decisions and performance of his/her coalition partner in the government.

“For example, with all the problems surrounding the Ministry of Justice, the Chairman of the Committee of Justice, MP Frans Richardson, never felt the need to call a meeting of this Committee. Further, with all the problems associated with the dump, the Chairman of the Committee of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure, MP drs. Rodolphe Samuel, never called a meeting. The same goes for all the other standing committees.

“Under the topic of attendance, I would like to mention here that it is unacceptable that mature, honorable Members of Parliament still have to be chided by the President of Parliament for being absent at meetings without due notice. With today’s plethora of technology – and mind you our MPs receive a smartphone at the beginning of their term of office – it is inexcusable that an MP still does not care to inform the President in a timely manner of his/her absence.

“So, with regard to attendance, an MP’s report card will summarize his/her absence or presence, with or without notice at all meetings. But the attendance score related to the standing committees will weigh much heavier than the attendance at the other parliamentary meetings.  In the following article, we will elucidate the other five benchmarks of the MP Report Card,” Wycliffe Smith, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party said on Wednesday.

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Teen Queen visits MLK 

DUTCH QUARTER – The Miss Telcell Carnival Teen Queen Shakainah Arrindell-Pompier visited the Group 7 students of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School on Wednesday morning.

The young and energetic Queen gave the students a motivational talk and encouraged them to pursue their life goals. 

“Do not let your current circumstances define you such a being in a single parent family or not knowing right now what you want to study. Your still young and there are endless opportunities for you to grab once you remain focused,” said Ms. Arrindell-Pompier.

The students were able to ask her questions about her reign, her community projects, her school career and her family life being able to balance it all as the reigning teen queen. 

“It’s time we inspire our students with our local icons and our Teen Queen is the perfect role model for them,” Stuart Johnson School Manager of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School said.  “I am extremely proud of our Teen Queen and have no doubt she will excel at the upcoming pageants she has aboard with the support of our country,” Johnson added. 

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School is a public education school located in the district of Dutch Quarter. 

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Police to Execute Illegal Parking Controls in Philipsburg

PHILIPSBURG - The Sint Maarten Police Force wish to inform the public that the Police will conduct traffic controls in Philipsburg. These controls will consist of all types of traffic violations and mainly illegal parking in all areas of town.

Illegal parking will not be tolerated and this information is as a warning to all drivers to avoid getting a fine or your vehicle being towed and to avoid any unnecessary inconvenience. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Load shedding to continue for the remainder of the week. Smaller unit develops mechanical problem

PHILIPSBURG - NV GEBE wishes to advise their valued customers that due to continuing issues with several engines at the production plant load shedding will continue throughout the week, the utility company stated in a press release on Tuesday evening. 

The company announced that two of the larger units are still out of service while a smaller unit developed a mechanical problem.

“The mechanics, technicians and engineers at the power plant has been working continuously to remedy all issues surrounding the units.  It was also stated that the parts for one of the larger engines is scheduled to arrive on the island this week, once the part arrives the engineers will safely install, test the engine and put the unit back into normal operation,” the NV GEBE press release states. 

“From the other two engines, we expect to have one in operation by tomorrow morning (Ed Wednesday) with 6.5 MW available.  With three units, out of service the need to shed load is important. 

“Load shedding is done island wide as a controlled option to respond to unplanned events to protect the electricity power system from a total blackout. 

“While we generally use the word blackout loosely to mean “no lights” in our local area, an island wide blackout has much more serious consequences, which can occur when there is too much demand and too little supply, bringing the power system into an imbalance which can trip the power system in its entirety.

“NV GEBE apologizes for the inconvenience caused and ensure the community of St. Maarten that our company is doing everything possible to have all issues remedied,” NV GEBE concludes.

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Brother stabs the other one. One man in police custody

DUTCH QUARTER - On Sunday, August 13th, a patrol was directed to Dutch Quarter for a dispute between a man and a woman. The brother of the man was trying to mediate between parties which turned physical.

The situation got out of hand at which time one of the brothers took a knife and stabbed the other.

The victim needed medical attention and was brought to the Police Headquarters where he was given First Aid by the Paramedics.  The suspect M.M.L. was arrested on the scene and brought to the police station for further investigation and remains in police custody. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Prime Minister Marlin Message at the Opening of the Basic Legal Course

PHILIPSBURG – Prime Minister William Marlin delivered the following message on Monday at the opening of the ‘Basic Legal Course.’

“Our governing program for 2016-2020 is entitled, “Stability for Prosperity”. It is anchored on five strategic objectives, all of which can only be achieved by upgrading our government apparatus.  We are not even one year into this governing period yet and we can see that various initiatives that are geared towards a profound transformation of our society are already taking shape.

“One of those initiatives is why we are gathered here today. Nobody knows the challenges that this coalition government faces better than the civil servants who do their utmost day in, day out, to give professional support to government. Civil servants are the guarantors of continuity in government, and without such continuity we cannot really speak of stability.

“It is therefore logical that in pursuing our vision of a strong, proud, healthy and resilient nation, we should equip our civil servants, particularly those who are tasked with giving the required advice on government policy, with the necessary tools to enable them continue discharging their duties as efficiently and as professionally as possible.

“This is the reason this project was initiated. The Basic Law Course which started this morning will address the fundamentals of our governmental operations and provide participants with the necessary legal education and training that will ensure that they can continue to improve their performance in every aspect of their professional duties and offer the highest level of quality service to our citizens, partners and international counterparts.

“I am, therefore, very happy to note that over 100 persons have already registered for this Course. This is a clear indication of their commitment to professional and personal development that will surely result in an improved service-based sector. I know that many more would have liked to register for this Basic Legal Course, but unfortunately we cannot shut down government to allow every civil servant to participate in the course.

“The large number of participants is the reason why the Course has been organized into three classes per module instead of one. The program will last a total of five weeks of intensive training which will end in November with graduation set for December.

“By then, as you all know, the Law School, the brainchild of Minister of Finance, Mr. Richard Gibson, would have gotten off the ground. Minister Gibson founded and led one of the most successful law firms on the island and also served as minister of constitutional affairs in the now defunct Netherlands Antilles. He is very passionate about helping St. Maarteners enter into the legal field and hopefully the credits obtained in this Basic Legal Course can be acceptable in the new Law School for those of you who may be interested in taking this to a higher level.

“As a young and growing nation that will be just seven years old in a couple of months, it is imperative for our future development to have our own cadre of lawyers and legal professionals and a civil service corps that has a functional knowledge of how our system of government works. In fact, one of the core responsibilities of the Ministry of General Affairs which I head is the preparation, publication and management of the laws and regulations of the country, as well as giving legal advice.

“It is a well-known fact that the vast majority of our laws are initiated and drafted by the executive branch of government for passage by Parliament. This requires that those who prepare these laws and those who give advice on them are well-versed in the legal processes and procedures and have the necessary skills to do their jobs in a way that would reflect the strengths of our young country.

“Another important responsibility of the Ministry of General Affairs is ensuring an effective, efficient, trustworthy and client-friendly service to the governmental organization, business sector, citizens and other private sector organizations that make up the community of Sint Maarten, in addition to taking care of external communication pertaining to government policy in general.

“Initiatives like this Basic Legal Course are therefore necessary to maintain the required level of professionalism and transparency in the public sector that are indispensable for good governance.

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family,” said Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary General. I consider our civil servants as members of a tightly-knit family that knows the value of knowledge and values the use of the power that comes with it in a judicious, fair, and equitable manner. I am convinced that government is doing the right thing with this kind of initiative because no other investment yields better dividends than an investment in knowledge that is put to good use.

“I hope and expect that participants in this Basic Legal Course will put the knowledge they acquire to the best use possible thereby contributing to the transformation of the Civil Service corps into the vector of change that will benefit the people of our beloved island.

“I am proud of the excellent work done in organizing this course by the Project Team led by the Secretary General of the Ministry of General Affairs, Mr. Hensley Plantijn, ably assisted by Jennifer Fer, Head of the Legal Affairs and Legislation Department, drs. Bas van den Bosch, sector head of Legal Affairs, and Tytania Archangel also of the Legal Affairs Department.

“Congratulations to all participants for taking this very important step and success with the course.  I thank you.”

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USM Welcomes New Students to its campus. Continues to prepare for Pre-USM start August 21

POND ISLAND - The University of St. Martin (USM), started preparing for its students this semester since last week. The University held its Orientation Day for the new degree students on Friday, August 11, 2017.

The entire staff, some faculty, and various student organizations/ clubs of USM, described as a close-knit family, welcomed and addressed the new students. Marketing and Admissions Specialist, Ms. Shobhan Giterson stated, it is imperative that our students kicks-off their semester on a smooth path, the more informed students are in the beginning of their studies the more successful they tend to be throughout the rest of their semester.

President of the university, Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, espoused the importance of self-realizing one’s potential and being critical. Mrs. Genève Phillip-Durham, the Dean of the university, spoke of the “exceptional value” of USM’s support system, the student handbook, registration, and what it takes to be on the Academic Dean’s List.

USM alumnus and guest speaker Mr. Dwight Williams encouraged the new students. Having initially struggled with his GPA at USM, he learned humility and focus through gaining an Associate’s Degree from the school. Driven to this day, he is a husband, father, CFO, part-owner of SXM Cross Fit, and currently completing an MBA, among many other “hats” he wears. He connected with the students and mention no matter how hard the struggle keeps striving and never give up.

The new students participated in interactive group activities around the university and shared a lunch together. President Kiran Manglani introduced the Student Government Association; Events Manager Woodley-Hazel, the coordination of USM committees and conferences; Alumna Christela Pierre, the Student Ambassadors club; and Kharl Oliver, the USM News Crew.

The team continues to prepare as for the welcoming Pre-USM and GED students who will be starting their programs as of next week Monday, August 21, 2017. Applications for Pre-USM program are welcome. The New student orientation for the Pre-USM program will kick off on Friday, August 18, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

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DP: PARENTS' TIME IS WORTH THE SACRIFICE

PHILIPSBURG - The Democratic Party (DP) would like to extend a warm welcome home to those who spent the summer abroad and extends best wishes to all students, teachers, staff of learning institutions island-wide, and surely to parents too, for the new academic year, the DP Board and Leader Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams said in a press release on Sunday. 

“We believe that parents play an important, perhaps the most important role in this equation. We do so with genuine appreciation and respect for all that parents must sacrifice and do to ensure their children's success, sometimes working two, even three jobs to pay school fees, books, uniforms and more; not to mention after-school care and activity costs, which increase if the child engages in some sport or form of art (sports gear, musical instruments etc.).

“Of the expressions of God’s steadfast and abiding love here on earth, that of a parent is surely one of them.   From it we learn that sacrifices and investments made for all those who come behind us is the very definition of civilization.  

“Good teachers confess to faithfully picking up where the parents leave off, child after child, day after day. Yet in conversations held in confidence, we hear them say that they work even better with students whose parents take the time to give them individual and personal assistance.  Why?  They say they know for sure that those students will always have an extra push and those parents keep a keen eye on their child's progress or their challenges. 

“Even 30 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time spent by a parent with their youth on homework or any other activity, not only strengthens the bond, but is critical to their development and an ‘unspoken’ agreement in "co-labor" that the youth will uphold.  

“It may be that they resist at first, believing that you will not continue, or they prefer to command their own space. Persevere!  That sacrifice of time in full and undivided attention (no phone calls, work, to, newspapers or interruptions allowed) is vitally important for them because it ‘says’ they are more important than anything else you could, would, or ‘should’ be doing – even for their benefit.   Without this kind of attention, few youth, even good students are motivated to reach their full potential.

“The message is that those 30 minutes ‘say’ more and have greater impact than a stream of lectures directed at them.  Our complete time and attention with them feed a need of intimacy and nurturing that did not disappear after infancy.  It demonstrates ‘love’ in a primal way that cannot be conveyed simply by what we do ‘for’ them.

“So, what is an ultra-busy parent to do?  Begin considering all that you have done and will continue to do and prioritize this one more: make, find or rewind 30 minutes at least four times a week and spend it with child or children. At the end of the day, just as consistent attention to one’s homework in academics is the only way to get the best outcome and results, so it is in parenting as well.  With this resolve by our parents, not only will students excel, but teachers will be able to "run with the ball" and students will follow. Best wishes to all for a safe, successful and productive school year,” concludes the DP Party back to school message issued on Sunday.

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WEATHER WATCH: Models forecast possible weather development near Leeward Islands next weekend

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN – “Activity is beginning to increase over the eastern Atlantic and western Africa as a couple of tropical disturbances have the potential to congeal into one system and develop next week as it pushes westward,” Crown Weather reported over the weekend.

“Satellite imagery indicates that there is one tropical disturbance from 20-30 West Longitude with a second tropical disturbance located right along the west coast of Africa near 15 West Longitude. Right now, neither tropical disturbance is particularly well organized and immediate development is unlikely,” Crown Weather adds.

Weather watchers report that the model guidance long-term forecasts vary with respect to the development of the weather system, however, one model has it becoming a hurricane that would impact the northern Leeward Islands around Friday/Saturday, August 18/19.  Another weather model has another weather system in the vicinity of the Leeward Islands around August 22 as a tropical storm.  

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NV GEBE Load Shedding due to Generator Turbo Charger Failure

CAY BAY – NV GEBE load shedding continued on Saturday as reported by residents along the Billy Folly road. NV GEBE stated in a press release on Friday that two of its largest production units are out of service.   

“One engine developed a failure on its turbo charger which resulted in the unit being pulled off line while the other is undergoing a major overall.  Due to this we were faced with several challenges and had to resort to load shedding. 

“Load shedding started on Tuesday and continued periodically throughout the week.  It should be noted that load shedding may continue throughout the weekend depending on the island wide load,” the NV GEBE press release concluded. 

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