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Over 200 partake in Oasis 96.3 Valentine’s Contest

SINT MAARTEN (MADAME ESTATE) - February 14th was a Happy day for three winners that entered the Valentine’s Contest on Oasis 96.3, Elektra said on Friday. 

“Love is in the Air “n Groovin with Elektra.

“Over 200 entrees for the Valentines contest registered online for the annual contest through their website www.Oasis963.fm

“First Prize was won by Loraine Brooks. She will travel to Bonaire on Winair and enjoy a romantic weekend stay for two at Bamboo Bali Bonaire. Bamboo Bali Bonaire is an intimate family operated boutique hotel onBonairein a tropical, romantic setting with a personal touch. Luxurious jacuzzi's and natural salt water pool available the cottages are perfect for couples looking for something unique on Bonaire.

“Second prize was a couple’s massage mini facials mani and pedicures from the Body Spa won by Mia Libier.

“Third Prize was a gold doubled hearted pendant courtesy of Zhaveri Luxury, winner Natasha Gordon.

“Mercedes “Elektra” van der Waals-Wyatt was happy to see that her fans were so enthusiastic about the annual contest and also thanked her devoted sponsors for their continued support.

“Tune in to Groovin with Elektra weekdays on Oasis 96.3 from 7am to 10am.”

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TOPPER'S RHUM WINS 1ST PLACE IN USA TODAY’S BEST CARIBBEAN RUM DISTILLERY CONTEST

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) – If there is one thing the Caribbean is known for as much as its beaches, is its rum. The spirit was first distilled on the islands during the 17th century when sugar plantation owners discovered molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process, which could be fermented into alcohol. Caribbean rum producers have spent centuries since perfecting the process of distillation, aging and blending. Many of the world's best rums come from the Caribbean.

USA Today has awarded St. Maarten’s Topper's Rhum Distillery 1st place in the 10 Best Caribbean Rum Distillery contest. This prestigious competition is amongst some of the most famous rum brands in the world such as Bacardi, Brugal, Angostura, Cruzan, Mount Gay, Appleton Estate and Barbancourt.

USA TODAY’s 10Best.com, provides travelers with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content around the world. At its core is a team of well-traveled and well-educated experts who in their fields are known for their discriminating tastes.

Topper’s Rhum, a truly locally made product, is a world-class, multi-award winning, premium rhum that is handmade, bottled, and packaged with precision right here in Cole Bay, St. Maarten. Topper’s Rhum only uses all-natural premium ingredients and no preservatives. They are committed to producing the world’s best tasting rhum and flavored rhum spirits, using the highest standards of quality. They are re-inventing rhum by continually innovating and delivering unique products to their customers worldwide.

Topper’s Rhum is very environmentally conscientious and well known for their signature reusable swing-top bottles. This official St. Maarten rhum is the only international multiple award-winning spirit distilled and exported from St. Maarten. They currently export to 7 countries and 23 states in the USA and are the official rhum of the Dutch Army. Their products are also sold online throughout the world. Topper’s Rhum has already won 24 international medals awarded by the most prominent rum tasting contests in the world.

Through their tours and their continuing expansion overseas, they are notably promoting St. Maarten internationally.  Topper’s Rhum Distillery is one of the top unique places to visit on St. Maarten, according to the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau.

Come by and visit their newly installed and soon to be world famous Rhum Tap which offers 12 specialty flavors, ready for sampling or enjoy one of their hands-on tours. A guide will take you through the 6,000 sq. ft. distillery where you will learn the history of rum making and you’ll get a behind the scenes look at how they ferment, distill, age, blend and bottle. At the tasting bar you can try some of their 50 unique flavors that are in development and enjoy unlimited samples of all their artisanal products as well as their delicious rhum cake. Visit their boutique where you can purchase unique St. Maarten gifts and of course plenty of rhum including limited edition flavors that are only available at the distillery.

Topper’s Rhum distillery is open for free rhum tastings and shopping from 9:00am – 4:00pm Monday – Friday and from 9:00am – 12:00pm on Saturdays. Tours are available for $20 at 10:00am and 4:00pm, Monday – Saturday.  Sundays are available by appointment only. Call 721-520-0008 for an appointment or book it online at www.toppersrhumtours.com.

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The St Maarten Heineken Regatta Village to officially open on Monday February 25th

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The St Maarten Heineken Regatta will set sail on February 28th – March 3rd and is hosting a kickoff party with the grand opening of the Regatta Village this coming Monday February 25th at 6pm.

Organizers are excited to show what people can expect during the week of the Regatta. Visitors can stroll along the many booths and vendors displaying their products, enjoy delicious food from a variety of food vendors, check out the Art and Eco Park, all while enjoying an ice-cold Heineken.

Remo and the Barbwire Band will be performing from 6pm – 8pm, the popular local band will get everyone dancing as they will be performing crowd favorites and a selection of their new songs from their upcoming CD release.

The Grand Opening of the Regatta Village will get everyone in the mood for the 39th St Maarten Heineken Regatta. The Regatta Village will be opening Monday Feb 25th at 6pm.

The remainder of the week is filled with registration for the sailors, a delicious food court open for lunch and dinner, daily prize giving and live music. For those staying in the Simpson Bay area we recommend taking the shuttle across from the Sint Maarten Yacht Club!

Tuesday February 26 to Wednesday February 27 is sailor’s registration. The Village will be open to the public from 10am onwards and is a great place to enjoy lunch, shop for souvenirs and official Regatta Gear and listen to Regatta Radio broadcasted by Island 92. Both afternoons end with live music from 6pm – 8pm.

Thursday through Sunday racing takes place on our beautiful seas, for those that can’t be out on the water, you can still feel like you are part of it at the Regatta Village, where live racing action is being broadcasted. The village opens every day at 10 am for shopping, lunch and happy hour.

Join the sailors as they come off the water and listen to their exciting stories, and enjoy the tunes of local musicians from 4pm – 6pm as the sunsets. Daily prize giving for the racers starts at 6pm, Followed by nightly parties on the main stage.

A wonderful variety of food vendors will be open for business until the early hours and are ready to serve a wide variety of food; healthy treats, pizza, ribs, johnny cakes, sushi and much more. 4 nights of fabulous concerts can be enjoyed Thursday – Sunday with headliners such as the What the Funk band, Alison Hinds, Third World, Fatman Scoop, Shermanology and the Jacksons!

Tickets for the concerts are for sale now at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club, Island 92, Shipwreck Shops, UTS, French West Indies Café and ILTT. For more information check out www.heinekenregatta.com

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

39 years strong and it just keeps getting better. Four days of world-class racing with some of the world's most seasoned sailors, from more than 35 countries, sailing Maxis, Monohulls and Performance Multihulls to holiday-makers on chartered Bareboats and live-aboard families cruising the Caribbean. Crystal clear waters and cooling northeasts trade winds give the pristine conditions for spectacular racing just off the coast of St. Maarten. And with Heineken as title sponsor, the racing days blend seamlessly into four nights of exceptional parties. This event is your bucket list must-do! Come and enjoy life in the Caribbean, come for some Serious Fun from February 28 - March 3, 2019!

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Community stakeholder consultations on General Health Insurance

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Minister of VSA Emil Lee announced on Wednesday that the Ministry of Public Health and Social Development, in collaboration with PAHO representatives will be engaging in community stakeholder consultations on the topic of General Health Insurance (GHI) for Sint Maarten. 

The legislation is currently at the Council of Advice. With the support of PAHO, the Ministry of VSA is preparing to educate various community stakeholders on what GHI will mean for them and how the legislation will affect the health care system on Sint Maarten. 

Lee stated: “We expect that advice to be completed by the Council of Advice in March in which that case we then need to respond to it and then it goes to Governor and begins its legislative track…”

“The General Health Insurance legislation we have, I believe it is transformational. If you look around the world, it has been battleground legislation. It has been something that is contentious within the community, the have’s and have’s not. The people who have access and the people who don’t. The people who think they take care of themselves, the people who have other illnesses. There is a very personal discussion in terms of how we finance health care and we believe that we have come with a very good legislative piece in terms of how to address that.” – Emil Lee, Minister of VSA

Minister Lee elaborated with a true story scenario of how the current health care system fails the average resident and outlined the alternatives which are in fact not to the benefit of the resident or Government. An example of challenges faced with current health care system:
A married couple where both parents are working. The man is doing a great job and gets a promotion, this promotion means that financially he would be just over the SZV wage limit. 

As he is the breadwinner, all of his children fall under his SZV insurance as dependents. Because of his raise, the entire family excluding the wife who has her own insurance via SZV have to now find private insurance. 

The problem now becomes that one child has a chronic illness that is seen as a preexisting condition and private insurance companies would either not cover this, or put a lifetime limit on the coverage, which can quickly run out as a result of chronic illness.

Undesirable alternatives to solve the problem:

  • The father can deny the promotion and remain under the ZV limit and then remain insured, which lots of people choose do.
  • The parents can get divorced and the mother gain custody of the kids and then her insurance would cover the kids.
  • Come to government for assistance thereby government paying for the child’s chronic treatment – government thereby pushing the boundaries to do the right thing.

“Something is fundamentally wrong with our system when we have these types of stories. If you are a sole proprietor, you also have a challenge in accessing health insurance. We have too many issues; we need to come with a unified system where everyone pays for their fair share and everyone can have access to health insurance. 

“I believe the legislation makes the system more efficient, more effective, and more equitable and I believe also financially sustainable. In the long-run as we look at our health care costs, it is in every country a high expense in the budget and I believe, again, that with GHI we have a system that is financially sustainable, but it does require some changes in the community. But unfortunately, we have some people, they say they want the change but they don’t want the change to affect them directly.” – Emil Lee, Minister of VSA

The team of PAHO will consist of two groups, coming to Sint Maarten in March and April. Some of the representatives are Dr. James Fitzgerald – Director of Health Systems & Services Dr. Erica Wheeler – Representative of Sint Maarten and Regional Director for the Dutch Caribbean and Dr. Stanly Lalta – Public Health Economist. Dr. Lalta brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience. 

He has been very instrumental in getting GHI to where it is now, and he has years of experience helping other countries do the same. The team of PAHO are third party experts on this topic. 

“We are not unique in the world; in fact, we are the last to join in a form of Universal Health Insurance in the Kingdom. We have the benefit of learning from the others of what they did right and what they did wrong and again we are bringing in health professionals to help explain this to our stakeholders within the community.” 

Persons who are interested in hosting or having a community or group stakeholder consultation with the Ministry of VSA and the PAHO representatives can contact the Department of Public Health via e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“What is Universal Health Insurance? In a nutshell: in our governing program – one of the objectives is to ensure that everyone has access to quality health care close to home. While we are working on transforming our health care system with the new hospital, our referrals system that’s being revised completely, looking at our prescription drug program, looking at the relationship between SZV and the care providers. All of these are things that are happening parallel, but we also need to look at how to finance our health care system and who has access to our healthcare system. – how does that actually work… I would like to give a big thanks to PAHO for assisting us.” Emil Lee, Minister of VSA

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Nature Foundation Plants Mangroves in Mullet Pond

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Nature Foundation St Maarten outplanted mangroves in Mullet Pond with the help of students from Milton Peters College and Jorakhae Freediving School last Friday. The entire day the students and volunteers worked intensively to enhance St Maarten’s environment and to assist nature in recovering from Hurricane Irma. 

The mangroves in Mullet Pond experienced and additional impact due to the large amount of boats illegally tied to their roots during the hurricane, hence restoring the mangroves was much needed at this location.  The Nature Foundation advocates for a large scale mangroves restoration in Mullet Pond and Simpson Bay in order to restore and enhance St Maarten’s wetlands, as they are much needed for the island’s survival and protection. 

“About 200 red mangroves were planted at the denuded mangroves forests in the conservation zone at Mullet Pond, which was definitely desired since about 50% of our mangroves did not recover yet since Hurricane Irma. We have been growing mangrove seeds behind our warehouse for over five months. Last week the juvenile mangroves were ready to be out planted, hopefully one day these little mangroves will be as large as the mangroves used to be in Mullet Pond before Irma” stated Nature Foundation’s Project Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.

Wetlands are vital for human survival and the world’s most productive environment, wetlands are protecting coastlines as they reduce storm wave power and protect us against extreme droughts and flooding’s. Wetlands and their mangroves are a habitat for many wildlife species, marine life species and birds call it home or rest in wetlands during migrations, besides mangroves improve water quality due to filtration of the water.

Mullet pond is listed and protected as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Treaty. Mullet Pond is the last intact mangrove forest within the Simpson Bay Lagoon, 70% of all mangroves in the Simpson Bay lagoon are located in Mullet Pond. Simpson Bay has lost large parts of their mangrove forests due to development and worldwide we already lost about 2/3 of our wetlands. Mangrove restoration is much required, especially on St Maarten, in order to protect us and our coast from storms and flooding.

The mangroves were funded by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance as part of their environmental emergency support to the Nature Foundation after the 2017 Hurricanes. The Mullet Bay Towers graciously allowed access to their property in order to facilitate the planting.

nature mangrove

nature mangrove planting

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Sarah: UD Saddened by arrest. Innocent until proven guilty

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The leadership and members of the United Democrats Party (UD) are deeply saddened by the arrest of our leader MP Theodore Heyliger on February 19, 2019, Member and President of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said in a statement on Tuesday. 

“It goes without saying that the arrest is a major blow to the UD and we consider this a dark day, not only for the party, but especially for Theo’s wife and children and St. Maarten in general. Grisha, the boys and his extended family are in our constant thoughts and prayers.

“It is an ordeal we wish no one, but the impact of Theo’s arrest will be felt far and near. In Parliament, we of the UD, will have to ensure that the people’s interest will continue to be center stage, despite this serious setback we are facing.

“We will carefully follow the developments surrounding MP Heyliger’s arrest and we will uphold the mantra of innocent until proven guilty.  We must, also for the benefit of our country, have faith in the justice system and we can only hope that fair justice will prevail, regardless of prejudices, real or perceived.

“St. Maarten is at crossroads in so many respects and the arrest of MP Heyliger is surely not helpful in this regard. It is still very early in the process and we implore everyone to not be hasty in jumping to conclusions. 

“As more details and information become available, the UD will inform its membership and the St. Maarten people in general about the course the party is taking,” MP Wescot Williams said on Tuesday.

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Port St. Maarten files notice of Complaint to the Court of First Instance

PORT ST. MAARTEN – On Friday, February 15, 2019, Port Sint Maarten filed a notice of complaint to the Gemeenschappelijk Hof van Justitie against the Public Prosecutor’s refusal to prosecute the American dredging company Devcon. 

The Port’s request for such prosecution concerns the Emerald investigation, in which Devcon turned out to presumably have secretly and illegally raised invoices to a total amount of more than US$ 3 mln. 

The invoices refer to dredging activities in the Port during the years 2012-2016. The Port wishes to reclaim these amounts of money, as they were paid without any legal basis which the Port found out recently. 

As a victim of a possible crime, the Port has the right to request for prosecution and to formally complain against the refusal of such prosecution.

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NA Board: Straight Forward with NA. Party Congress set for March 17

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - The Board of the National Alliance (NA) is pleased to announce that it will be hosting its annual general membership meeting commonly referred to as the Party Congress this year. This meeting according to the constitution of the party must be held at the latest in the month of June of every year. “We are all excited to announce that it will be held on Sunday, March 17th, 2019 at the Belair Community Center from 4.00pm until 7.00pm.

“During this Party Congress board members will be elected for a period of two years. The leader and the deputy leader, who are also members of the board, were elected for a period of two years during a Special General Membership Meeting that was held in December of 2017. 

“Therefore, their positions will not be up for election during this Congress. Our members will also have the opportunity to question the direction of the party and to make recommendations for the further growth of this organization to take this country to the next level.  

“A great American president once said; "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Therefore, we believe that our theme “Building our nation, it starts with me” is very fitting for this occasion, says the leader of the NA Ms. Silveria Jacobs. 

“Each resident must be prepared to contribute towards the further development of this nation and more so since the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 of this island nation which caused many of us still to be roofless and jobless.

“We are hereby inviting all our members to join us as we come together at this 16th Annual Party Congress of the National Alliance on Sunday, March 17th, 2019 at the BelAir Community Center in Cay Hill from 4.00pm to 7.00pm,” the NA Board said on Monday in a statement.

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Happy Bookers Celebrating 10 Years

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Ten years ago, an ad appeared in the Daily Herald and the Happy Bookers Book Club was founded and started in February 2009, the Happy Bookers stated in a press release on Monday. 

“The Happy Bookers comprise of members both male and females from both sides of the island at varying ages and stages in their lives. New parents, young professionals, retirees and expats. They meet every second Wednesday of the month.

“In celebration of their 10th Anniversary the ‘Bookers’ will be hosting a Fundraising breakfast on February 23rdat the Philipsburg Jubilee Library in Philipsburg. The cost isor NAFLS 18, USD 10 or Euro 10 for a tasty Caribbean breakfast consisting of Johnny cakes, saltfish, eggs, fruit and the best bush tea. 

“The proceeds from the breakfast willgo towards lending a helping hand to the libraries on both sides of the island, The Philipsburg Jubilee Library and the Le Médiatèque, these were both destroyed by Irma in 2017. 

“We will be purchasing and donating much needed books for both Libraries, so that school children and teens can use the mini libraries while waiting on the return of the main libraries. 

“On Saturday February 9th, the ‘Bookers’ presented to the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunseta donation of reading books. The donation was made towards the Little Free Library which is located on the Waterfront in Marigot. 

“A donation of reading books was also made to the St. Maarten Yacht Club in Simpson Bay, for their lending library.For more information on ‘The Happy Bookers’ or the fundraising breakfast please contact1-721-520-1899 or 011-590-690-55 54 60.”

SUNSET DONATION

Book donation to The Little Free Library.

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Airport Chief Mingo: Future of PJIAE and its 270 workers in the hands of ALL Stakeholders

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - Chief Executive Officer (PJIAE). Mr. Brian Mingo, says the immediate and combined effort of all Stakeholders and interested parties is urgently needed to pull St. Maarten’s premier port of entry, the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAE) out of its poor financial state so that the facility can lead a booming recovery of the island.

For the second consecutive month, PJIAE is finding itself having to juggle cash and says it is being forced to meet liquidity challenges head-on.

Now with the end of the February month fast approaching, the recently appointed CEO is building a financial recovery strategy that he says will require buy-in from all Stakeholders so that PJIAE can lead the way in a new wave of restoration construction on St. Maarten.

“We will continue to experience cash shortfalls unless we take action now. St. Maarten is still reporting just over 60% recovery of its hospitality inventory consisting of the main hotels, restaurants, property rentals etc,” said Mr. Mingo.

He said investors cautiously adopted a “Wait & See” attitude as they wait for the economy to pick up again, and most will not expose their capital until they see some strong activity, in areas of the economy such as our airport.

“PJIAE stands ready to be the catalyst for these investors to give them the confidence they need to invest in St. Maarten again. Once the Airport is up and running and the Airlines will further step up their schedules to the island once again, we can really say “we’re really back in business”,” said the CEO. 

Mr. Mingo says Management and staff at PJIAE have done an amazing job with very little resources and are once again utilizing one-third of the Airport Terminal Building, much to the appreciation of travelling passengers. Mr. Mingo notes however, that these passengers are under the misapprehension that the Airport reconstruction is actually under way and get frustrated and angry at the lack of progress.

“What people do not realize that the main reconstruction phase has not started yet,” said Mr. Mingo.

“We have spent millions of dollars cleaning up, making the environment safe, making  the facility useable and as comfortable for passengers as much as possible and we have also spent a massive $14Million securing the roof alone,” explained the PJIAE chief.

“What we need immediately is a $15 Million bridge loan that has been allocated by the Netherlands, so that we can meet our immediate liquidity needs and support the cash shortfall, and then a final decision on financing to that. The works can then begin on the reconstruction plans within three weeks and start of construction by July this year.

“If all goes as planned and urgent action is taken now, we will be celebrating the re-opening of our reconstructed airport terminal by Christmas 2020,” said Mr. Mingo.

Mr. Mingo will send a report to the Supervisory Board PJIAE this week, outlining his plans and will promote the urgency for the much needed airport financing.

One source of funding Mr. Mingo is ready to accept, with government and board approval, is a $100 Million soft loan for the World Bank (WB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Mr. Mingo says government has been most supportive of the Airport’s struggles up to now, recognizing particular support and interest from the Prime Minister, Hon. Mrs. Leona Romeo-Marlin, Minister of Finance, Hon. Mr. Perry Geerlings and Ministers of TEATT, with his Ministry’s responsibility for PJIAE, Hon. Mr. Stuart Johnson.

“I thank government for their input and help so far, but it is not our government alone, the Netherlands, Parliament, the Shareholder Representative, the Supervisory and Management Boards and the personnel. We also need to come together, to be on the same page, to remain focussed and head in the same direction to fuel the growth of St. Maarten through our no#1 port of entry,” said Mr. Mingo.

Mr. Mingo says anything other than the signing of agreements to put the airport back on a sound financial footing should be viewed as “unnecessary noise and distractions” that serve no good purpose, except to hold back development and further risk the future our airport and the livelihoods of the 270 employees, the families they support and the host of businesses and operations that all depend on the airport operations for their living.

Mr. Mingo is hopeful he can take the comprehensive recovery plan and his message to government himself along with the support of his Supervisory Board and is ready to secure funding for the airport without further delay.

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