Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (1658)

SCDF confused over Johnson’s statement

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) on Wednesday said it did not know what to make of the statement by Minister of TEATT Stuart Johnson as most of his statement flies in the face of the law and creates the impression of wrong-doing by the foundation. SCDF also says the Minister’s statement also creates the impression that government funds Carnival in its entirety. “Both are far from the truth,” the foundation said.

The foundation said it respects the right of the Minister to share his opinions about Carnival, but it must clarify any impression created by the Minister regarding SCDF and financials. Moreover, the SCDF said the Minister could have met with the foundation prior to his press statement if he genuinely wanted to start working with the SCDF on preparing for Carnival. “We question the forces behind such a sudden statement,” the SCDF said.

The foundation explained that it receives an incidental subsidy of NAf 350,000 from government. To obtain this subsidy, the foundation and every other foundation that gets an incidental subsidy on St. Maarten, has to comply with the requirements outlined in the subsidy ordinance (in the law). It requires the SCDF to present a budget, financials signed off by a certified public accountant (CPA), and a plan of action for the requested funds.

Additionally, foundations getting an incidental subsidy have until March 1 of the year following for which the subsidy was received to submit its financials. The SCDF has submitted all of its 2018 documents to government, including certified financials, as it has done for the past decade. “If we had not done so, government would not be granting us any subsidy. Had government granted us subsidy without those documents, government would be acting against the law and this has not been the case,” President of the SCDF Alston Lourens explained.

Lourens also pointed out that while the Minister made specific mention about SCDF requesting subsidy with an increase for Carnival 2020, the Minister should be reminded that the early request for subsidy as well as any increase SCDF is seeking came at the behest of the head of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau. Also, by the same subsidy ordinance, SCDF can request incidental subsidy anytime up to two months before the start of Carnival.

“So again, the foundation is not only acting within the law, but being prudent and doing so early to facilitate any discussions that must be had with government,” Lourens said, adding that a request for an increase in subsidy was also submitted for Carnival 50 and previous years. “People forget that the subsidy once stood at NAf 500,000 before being cut by government for reasons still unknown to the foundation. That increase came when the current Minister of TEATT was President of the SCDF and the increase was granted by then Minister Franklin Meyers. So to create the impression like it’s something new is totally disingenuous,” Lourens said. “We are so confident about our compliance when requesting subsidy, that we challenge any Minister, past or present, to dispute the fact that we have always complied with the law.”

Regarding an economic impact study for Carnival, Lourens questioned who conducts economic impact studies for any major economic influencer on St. Maarten. “Isn’t this government’s task? Government has produced several publications in which it clearly outlines how Carnival impacts the economy. These types of reports for the country should be commissioned and executed by government or government should contract an independent entity to do such. The Minister need only ask the STAT or Economic Affairs Department for guidance on this, both fall directly under him,” Lourens said.

He continued: “It also doesn’t take much for anyone to see and feel the economic impact Carnival had on St. Maarten for Carnival 2019. Compare the hotel occupancy now, to just two weeks ago. Call any hotel. Call the real estate agencies about their AirBnB properties. Compare the car rental agencies, supermarkets ect. Government’s economic surveys point out annually that Carnival creates significant economic activity for the country at a time when the slow season is just starting. The information is there. The Minister need only ask his own Ministry. Imagine, after 50 years of Carnival, the SCDF still has to prove the economic impact of St. Maarten’s largest and longest festival?”

Lourens said the SCDF will continue to comply with the law in all instances and will cooperate with government as it has been doing all along. However, Lourens stressed, government should be reminded that its subsidy makes up less than a third of Carnival’s total budget. The rest is funded by the foundation activities and contributions from the private sector.

“It has been quite easy for us to show how government’s portion is spent. The impression is created that government funds Carnival in its entirety. As we have shown before with facts and figures, St. Maarten Carnival is the least government-funded Carnival in the entire Caribbean region. The Minister with statements such as ‘people must know how the money is spent’ creates the impression that government funds Carnival totally and that SCDF never shows how money is spent,” Lourens said.

“Both are untruths. As pointed out before, if government didn’t know, government would not be granting subsidy. To put government’s subsidy into perspective, the Naf 350,000 is equaled to what SCDF pays for sound and security services alone. That’s to show how little that amount of money is in the bigger scope of a festival that carries a budget more than quadrupled that amount. Carnival is funded on the efforts of its volunteers and good graces and generosity of its corporate partners,” Lourens said.

As for the Minister’s statements on Calypso, booths and so on, Lourens said those are operational responsibilities of the SCDF which has been explained on numerous times publicly. He said the SCDF has its operational policies and keeps stakeholders up to date with these policies via several meetings which are publicized. “Again if the Minister wanted information about any issue that falls under the purview of the SCDF, not government, we are a simple email or phone call away,” Lourens said.

“We want to be very clear about the following. We have had multiple meetings with this Minister and Tourist Bureau since May of 2018. We have worked together on Uber Soca Cruise, we have presented a draft plan for marketing Carnival moving forward, we have even suffered early financial setbacks due to the fact that the Minister announced a Carnival pass giveaway without SCDF’s permission or that of the promoters, blunting early revenue by two months. We have records of all meetings, all decisions and all special requests from government that is not part of the subsidy ordinance. We therefor view the Minister’s press statement as disingenuous at best and maliciously influenced by outside forces at its worst.”


More cases of childhood diabetes, total has doubled in 30 years

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of children diagnosed with diabetes in the Netherlands has doubled over the past 30 years, according to research by paediatrician Angelien Spaans-Hummelink.

‘The research stemmed from a feeling we had that more children were being diagnosed with diabetes,’ she told local broadcaster RTV Noord. There are some 6,000 children with type 1 diabetes in the Netherlands, and 500 to 550 new cases are identified every year.

Spaans-Hummelink said there is no direct reason about why the number has gone up but says she suspects there is a link with other auto-immune diseases. ‘We know that children with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have another auto-immune disease such as an over or under-active thyroid or a gluten allergy,’ she said.



International and Caribbean Cast for Latest HAMAFilms Antigua Production, Deep Blue

SINT MAARTEN/ANTIGUA - Antigua and Barbuda’s burgeoning film industry is getting a major boost this week, as the nation’s most celebrated film production company, HAMAFilms, begins production of its fifth motion picture, Deep Blue.

The film, which tells the tale of an environmentalist and an architect who are in love and war over a development project, is the most important subject undertaken by the prolific filmmaking duo, Howard and Mitzi Allen.

“This particular story is near and dear to our hearts, because it’s a story that resonates with people all over world and right here at home. It’s about the marine environment says the film’s director, Howard Allen.

“We’ve seen this, with steps we’ve taken as a nation to outlaw the use of single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam containers and community efforts to clean up our beaches. The film’s message aligns beautifully with the fight to ensure our environment is safe and healthy for future generations.”

The film, which has an ambitious 25-day production schedule, will include under-water photography and involve stunt work. It will feature a roster of international talent from Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Britain, the United States, and Canada.

The film stars Jamaican-Canadian Actor, Peter Williams, who is fresh off the festival circuit, where he’s been busy promoting his most recent role in the bio-pic, Hero: Inspired By The Extraordinary Life And Times of Ulric Cross. Some of his other notable credits include: Catwoman (Warner Bros.), The Chronicles of Riddick (Universal), The Skin (HAMAFilms Antigua) and the sci-fi classic Stargate SG-1.

The film also co-stars Canadian Gemini-Award winning, Actress, Kim Huffman. Her first leading TV role was opposite a young Ewan MacGregor in Dennis Potter's highly acclaimed British mini-series Lipstick on Your Collar, followed by over 100 episodes and film roles.

Supporting actors include: British Actor, Tom Pritchard, the Crown, (Netflix); Antiguan-British Actress, Julie Hewlett, Turks and Caicos (BBC), The Sweetest Mango (HAMAFilms) and Born Kickin (BBC); Rhoma Spencer, Da Kink in My Hair (Global TV).

Musical performances will include, Causion, Antigua and Barbuda’s reggae ambassador. And the movie’s soundtrack will be produced by Grammy winner Maurice Gregory of Third World and will include vocals from other Antiguan artist.

Despite their previous credits, The Skin, The Sweetest Mango, No Seed, Diablesse and Paradise View, the husband and wife team say it’s still an uphill battle to raise financing to tell stories that are reflective of our Caribbean experience. In fact, this project has been in development for five years.

“While things are better today than when we were breaking new ground with our first feature 20 years ago, indigenous filmmaking is still being made on a shoe-string budget in the Caribbean. Because we’re still lacking things like co-production deals, tax credits and the necessary infrastructure,” says Mr. Allen.

“It’s happening slowly, but regionally, we have to recognize that filmmaking, creativity and the arts, in general, drive economic growth.”

The film will be shot in various locations across the island, through-out the month of May.

“Production of this film wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Ministry for Tourism. In fact, every one of the films we’ve made, they’ve been there to support says Mitzi Allen, the film’s Executive Producer. Allen says the Tourism Authority and their partners put together a package for their cast and crew that has brought tremendous value to the production. “I’d like to thank our partners, Bryson’s Shipping and Insurance the local agents for Nagico, West Jet, Ocean Point Hotel Resort and Spa, Town House Mega Store, Sugar Ridge Resort and Frank B. Armstrong and patrons Sir George Ryan and Lady Ryan and Makeda Mikael and Antigua Motors. Their support is key to the development of an industry.”

Deep Blue wraps shooting May 30th and is slated for release next spring.

Follow the Deep Blue film production journey at HAMAFilms Antigua on Facebook or at

PLAY Kimberly Huffman

Kimberly Huffman

PLAY Ryan Singh

Ryan Singh







Breast cancer treatment takes its toll on survivors’ health – study

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nearly all women who undergo treatment breast cancer are left with lingering health problems such as fatigue or difficulty concentrating, a survey has found.

Pins and needles were another common after-effect of cancer treatment, according to the research carried out by the national cancer centre IKNL and research institution NIVEL.

Researchers interviewed 404 women who had operations for primary breast cancer between 2012 and 2016 about their health in the five years since they were diagnosed.

Overall 93% reported problems with their health after treatment, most commonly from chemotherapy. Previous research by IKNL and the Dutch federation of cancer patients’ organisations concluded that there was not enough post-operative care for the 800,000 cancer survivors in the Netherlands.

The latest study said that better awareness of the problems that cancer patients experience would enable oncologists to devise better post-treatment plans. ‘The balance has to be struck between the risk of the disease returning and the chance of later health complications.’



Days of cash are numbered, one in five Dutch believe

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The end of cash is in sight, according to a growing number of Dutch people. A fifth of those surveyed by the national bank say they expect to switch entirely to electronic payments in the next five years.

Nearly half of respondents still believe they will use cash in 2024, but less frequently than presently. Nearly three-quarters (73%) say electronic payment is becoming the norm, while 14% expect fewer shops to accept cash payments in future.

Nine in 10 people overall said they still carried cash or coins in their wallets, but 26% of young people relied exclusively on their bank card. Despite falling out of favour, banknotes were seen as more trustworthy than in previous surveys.

Almost twice as many people (63%) gave the current euro notes a ‘trust score’ of 8 out of 10 or higher than in 2005, when the proportion was 32%. De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) carried out the survey of 1,000 people about their attitudes to different types of money.



Taxpayers are funding expensive drug development, report says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government invests tens of millions of euros every year in small biotech companies which are developing the expensive medicines ministers are trying to make cheaper, according to a new report.

The government places no conditions on its loans and grants to biotech and pharma start-ups about the eventual prices they will charge for their drugs, the report, by multinational research groups Somo and Wemos said.

‘Pharmaceutical companies argue that the reason their drugs are so expensive is because research and development is expensive, but this is simply not true,’ said Somo researcher Esther de Haan.

‘Much of the cost of research and development is borne by unconditional public investment. Because of this, the government loses its chance to influence drug pricing.’

In addition to funding fundamental research conducted by universities, national and regional governments also invest heavily in start-up and spin-off biotech companies – companies founded by researchers wanting to commercially develop promising scientific findings.

Large private investors usually move in later, when the medicine looks more promising and the risk to investors is therefore lower, the report points out. ‘These private investors then make a huge profit by selling their shares at a high price to other companies in the pharmaceutical industry,’ the report said.

The researchers look at several case studies including Acerta’s development of Calquence, a cancer drug currently on sale in the US for $15,000 a month. The drug was developed with the help of both Dutch national and regional government funding.

Health minister Bruno Bruins told the Volkskrant that the researchers ‘had a point’ and that he would discuss the findings with the economic affairs ministry, which runs most of the investment funds.

‘We should not be paying big prices for drugs which were partly developed with taxpayers’ money,’ the minister said.


Bruins has criticised the pharmaceutical industry following two high profile cases involving soaring drug prices. In January, Bruins reacted angrily to a decision by Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis to put up the price of a drug to treat a rare form of cancer fivefold, describing it as ‘outrageous‘.

And in November, Amsterdam’s AMC teaching hospital was given the green light to make its own version of a licenced drug to treat a rare metabolic disorder. The hospital began making its own version of the drug after manufacturer Leadiant ramped up the price by around 500% to €200,000 per patient per year.

The Dutch healthcare institute Zorginstituut Nederland has also said insurers should stop paying for expensive drugs if pharmaceutical companies continue to refuse to say how they arrive at the price.



Dutch court won’t send back British drugs trafficker, citing prison conditions

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch judges have refused to extradite a British drugs smuggler to the UK because of their concerns about the state of a British jail.

The man, who had been living in Spain, was the subject of a European arrest warrant issued in Liverpool in 2017 on charges of trafficking heroin and cocaine and was picked up in the Netherlands.

The court in Amsterdam said in its ruling it would suspend the extradition pending further information about the prison in Liverpool, which, according to a 2017 report, had some of the ‘most disturbing conditions’ ever seen by prison inspectors.

This, the court said, led to its decision to suspend the extradition because there is a ‘real risk’ the man would be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment if returned to the UK.

The British prisons ministry said in a statement to the court: ‘We do not accept that conditions anywhere in our prisons amount to inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 ECHR.’

In addition, the statement said that major improvements had been made to conditions at the prison, and two others cited in the report in Bedford and Birmingham. In 2017, a Dutch court has refused to extradite eight suspects facing drugs charges in Belgium to the Belgian authorities, saying it needed more information about prison conditions there.

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture said a month before the case was heard that conditions in Belgium’s prisons were the worst it had seen in Europe, particularly in terms of overcrowding.



It’s Europe Day – so how does the Netherlands measure up?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Europe Day is marked on May 9 each year – the anniversary of the day in 1950 when the creation of a European coal and steel community, the forerunner to the European Union, was first proposed.

The community’s founding members – the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg – agreed to pool their coal and steel resources and create a common market for them by lifting import and export duties.

The idea was partly economic but also partly political and would, the founders hoped, head off the risk of war in the future. Today, the EU encompasses 28 states – with later arrival Britain poised to withdraw.

So, 69 years on, how does the Netherlands stand up to the other 27? National statistics agency CBS has published a ranking of 21 key figures.

Here’s a selection:


The Netherlands is the best-connected EU country, with 98% of the population having an internet connection and nine in 10 of the under 75s use the internet daily. The EU average is 89%. The Dutch, Swedes and Danes are also the most likely people in Europe to have a mobile phone.

The under 25s

Seven in 10 Dutch young adults still live at home, compared with 8 in 10 in Europe as a whole. Girls are less likely to live with their parents – 34% have moved out by the time they hit 25, but in Finland the figure is 67%.


The official Dutch unemployment rate is now well below 4% but in 2017 it was 4.9%, well below the EU average of 7.6%.


In no other EU country do so many home owners have mortgages on their properties. In fact, in the rest of the EU the figure is around half that of the Netherlands.

Organic farming

In 2017, just 3% of Dutch agricultural land was dedicated to organic farming, around half the EU average. Austria and Estonia top the list, with 23% and 20% respectively. In addition, just 2% of the Dutch dairy herd is organic, again half the EU average, although there has been an 83% increase in the past 10 years.


Some 17% of the Dutch population risk exclusion and poverty compared with an EU-wide risk of 20%. Just 3% of the Dutch are considered to be facing ‘acute financial limitations’.


The Netherlands follows Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland and Belgium as one of EU countries with the smallest income gap. The 20% richest people in the Netherlands earn four times the amount of the 20% poorest, the CBS says. The income gap is greatest in Spain, Lithuania and Bulgaria.


Compared with other EU countries, the Dutch are not that big on cars. At the beginning of 2017, there were over eight million cars registered in the Netherlands, but at 481 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, the Netherlands is below the EU average of 505. Luxemburg tops the ranking with 662.


In 2017, the Dutch spend an average of €830 on a holiday, just below the EU average of €857. The Swedes and Danes were the biggest spenders.



Vets alerted after debilitating dog disease traced to Dutch breeder

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An incurable disease in dogs that was thought to have been eradicated in western Europe has been found in a number of animals from a Dutch breeder.

The food standards agency NVWA has written to all vets advising them to watch out for Brucella canis. The bacterial infection can be transmitted to humans as Brucellosis or “Malta fever” but is more commonly contracted from infected meat or milk.

The illness is not fatal and can be treated with antibiotics, but severely affects dogs’ well-being, particularly if it is diagnosed late. Symptoms are back and neck pain, infertility and difficulty excreting.

Infected animals are usually put down. A dog belonging to a Dutch breeder that originally came from Russia was diagnosed with the disease after developing back pain, the NVWA said.

Investigations showed Brucella canis was also present in the dog’s offspring, the first time the disease has been transmitted in the Netherlands in recent years. Brucellosis in humans has similar symptoms to a heavy fever and can become chronic if left untreated but is rarely fatal.

In 1909, when it was more common, the mortality rate was estimated at around 2%. The disease was once endemic in Malta and other Mediterranean regions but was largely eradicated in Europe through pasteurisation and better food hygiene.



Saint Lucian Artists Create Online Auction to Save Imperiled Caribbean Birds

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN - Between May 3 and May 12, 2019 the public can bid on gorgeous art online and the funds raised will protect some of the most critically endangered species in the Caribbean. Three Saint Lucia artists, Chris Cox, Donna Grandin and Daniel Jean-Baptiste, wanted to help these amazing birds and decided to raise funds to support the recovery of the region’s highly endangered endemic birds, by donating their work for an online auction.

BirdsCaribbean Executive Director, Lisa Sorenson, stated, “Art lovers and bird lovers alike can place their bids on one or all of the paintings. It’s simple! The deadline is Sunday, May 12 at 5 PM EDT. The auction site is at Place your bid today and support our marvelous Caribbean birds and the places where they live and thrive.”

Chris Cox, who works for the United Nations Environment Program, began the effort by donating his painting of a pair of Dominica’s magnificent Imperial Parrots in their mountainous home. They are the island’s national bird, also called the Sisserou. The oil painting on canvas is entitled Imperials of Waitukabuli – Imperial Parrots.

Cox was joined by batik artist Daniel Jean-Baptiste, who paints on silk. His glowing painting Mango Delight is hand painted with Sumi hair brushes, and evokes a feeling of joy and movement. Jean-Baptiste’s paintings are in the private art collections of celebrities such as singer Paul Simon, U.S. President Bill Clinton and others.

Donna Grandin also responded to Cox’s call to help raise funds for the birds. Her acrylic painting Pondlife with Snowy Egrets is an enchanting work that would add grace and colour to any home.

Birds have always inspired art. Caribbean birds, with their diversity, color and character, have always fueled the creativity of artists in the region. Our brilliant parrots and elegant egrets are a part of the Caribbean psyche but many Caribbean birds are in trouble. The 172 endemic species found nowhere else in the world are at greatest risk. Commercial development and the clearing of habitats are major threats. So are hunting, poaching and pollution. Drought and destructive storms produced by our changing climate are also threats.

“100% of the funds raised from the auction will go towards work to conserve endangered Caribbean birds,” added Sorenson. “If you are not able to bid on a painting, donations are also welcome and will help us achieve our conservation goals.”

Snowy Egret

Donna Grandin’s painting Pondlife with Snowy Egrets.

Imperial Parrots

The oil painting Imperials of Waitukabuli – Imperial Parrots by Chris Cox.




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