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MP Pantophlet: “There is no better time than now to end abuse of the short-term contract”

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The abuse of the short-term contract/labor agreement better known as the 6-month contract has been disputed for years and National Alliance Member of Parliament, George Pantophlet in his role as legislator, is ready to tackle this head on with the support of the coalition.

“In May of 2011, the initiators of the Draft amendment, the National Alliance supported by the United St Maarten People's party, embarked upon a mission to address this very serious matter. After many deliberations, the final draft of the National Ordinance amending the Civil Code and other National Ordinances has been finalized. I must insert here that there are changes made to the initiative law by former Ministers of labor that do not reflect that of the initiators but for expediency, these will be dealt with in the not too distant future. What is vital is that instead of 36 months, the term has been shortened to 24 months. I am a firm believer that if the abuse of this law by some employers who practice sending home persons whose contracts have expired for 3 months and then reemploying them in the same function is properly regulated and enforced, the economy of St. Maarten will flourish. This is why I have been consistently and vehemently pursuing the completion of this law.” MP Pantophlet explained.

Other changes in the draft legislation include matters such as those relating to maternity and paternity leave, pregnancy and childbirth, night work and standing work of a pregnant employee, transfer of an enterprise, equal treatment, provision of electronic pay slip, pension plan and saving plan and many more. However, MP Pantophlet’s focus for now is the short-term labor agreement. “Job security is key.

“The continuous issuing of short-term labor agreements for jobs that are of a permanent nature prevents persons from securing loans, threatens their ability to pay their rental agreement and other related responsibilities which was discussed on numerous occasions.

“Their very existence is at stake. There are establishments, companies, or businesses that are season-related or projects that have a time frame wherein they have to be completed. It will require the hiring of additional staff on a temporary contract for the duration of the season or project.

“The modus operandi has been that persons are employed for years with the same company on a rotation basis being sent home for 3 months and as mentioned before rehired while the job is permanent. This is abuse and counterproductive and does not help the economy which is the people. I intend to do my utmost with the assistance of all (in the public and private sector) to eradicate the abuse of the short-term contract.” MP Pantophlet further elaborated.

“Some might be asking why now since many businesses are closed and persons are unemployed. My response is, there is no better time than now. I close with this quote by Minister of Public Health Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley; "The pandemic has shown us that labor protection is not just a popular political phrase, rather a dire necessity for the workers who contribute to our economy. It is especially for that reason that labor protection is one of my priorities for the labor force of St. Maarten” MP Pantophlet concluded.

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Minister Ottley: The Drive to 85%, SXM race to normalcy

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA), Omar Ottley is elated to announce the launch of the Island-wide vaccination awareness campaign “The Drive to 85%, SXM race to normalcy”.

The objective of the campaign is to encourage at least 85% of the community to go out and get vaccinated, in efforts to achieve herd immunity.

Many persons have been enquiring about activities that are possible economic boosters, such as music festivals and carnival, however such events can only be considered if we achieve an 85% vaccination rate.

The campaign will consist of a series with local entertainers and video producers, who will focus on the many issues that we face daily due to COVID-19.

The series will inform the public on what we must do to achieve some sense of normalcy.

Minister Ottley is encouraging the community, to go out and get vaccinated. Persons can register for the vaccine through our online portal or by visiting select locations to pick up a registration form.  

Registration forms are located at the government administration building, all doctor’s offices, at CPS and pharmacies.

The community help desks in Dutch Quarter and Cole Bay, along with the vaccination locations at CPS and Belair are also accommodating persons who would like to register to take the vaccine.

Persons are free to walk-in or visit any of the pop-up locations to receive the vaccine.

If we work together, we can achieve great things. Encourage, educate and assist your family members, friends or colleagues on the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Minister of VSA Ottley reiterates, This is our race to normalcy, join me.

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A NIGHT OF CALYPSO ON MAY 8 OF POWERFUL FEMALE CALYPSONIANS

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - This Saturday, May 8, the National Institute of Arts (NIA) will be having a very special Blackbox Series # 9 honoring Carnival and featuring our very own powerful female Calypsonians, the NIA said on Wednesday in a media statement.

Gracing the stage will be Empress Zee, Lady Tiffany, and Ebony Empress. In true Blackbox fashion these local icons will not only engage in performance but also in meaningful dialogue about their Calypso journeys and their experiences thus far.

The performance will be hosted by Fernando Clark. Join us for an eventful night of culture and conversation. Tickets go on sale at 6:30 pm. John Larmonie Center, Longwall Road #20.

Masks required and Covid-19 rules enforced. The performance starts at 8 pm sharp!! Limited seating. See you there!"

Ebony Empress

Ebony Empress

Lady Tiffany

Lady Tiffany

 

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Over 180 attend Rotary Prevent & Manage Diabetes Walkathon

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Disease prevention and treatment takes on many forms, from supporting studies to helping immunize people, to improving drinking water, and the sanitation infrastructure.

The world relies on Rotary to tackle these global challenges, and to set an example for others to follow. In light of one of Rotary’s six Areas of Focus” Disease Prevention and Treatment”, the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten Mid Isle in collaboration with the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset and the Interact Club of St. Dominic High School hosted their first ever “Prevent & Manage Diabetes Walkathon on April 24th.

Approximately 185 persons attended the walkathon, and the tickets included a healthy breakfast after the walk. Members of the Diabetes Foundation St. Maarten (DFS) were also present, to share some valuable information on Pre-Diabetes, and participants were handed a sheet to be completed to check for signs of Pre-Diabetes.

The Rotary Club of Sint Maarten-Mid Isle, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise and the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to all Rotarians, Interactors and friends of Rotary for their kind contributions towards this initiative by; purchasing tickets, making donations, sponsoring items, and lending a helping hand.

Special thanks to Print & Sign Express, Arena Base Cafe, Kam’s, Prime, KFC and Tony’s Air conditioning & Refrigeration Services.

All proceeds collected from the walkathon will go towards the Diabetes Foundation St. Maarten (DFS).

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CPS & Belair Community Center extended opening hours for Vaccine Walk-ins postponed

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Vaccination Management Team (VMT) would like to inform the community that due to unforeseen circumstances, the extension of the opening hours outside office work hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at both vaccination administering locations, the Collective Prevention Service office in Philipsburg, and the Belair Community Center, is postponed until further notice.

The VMT hopes to offer the public the opportunity for a vaccine walk-in outside working hours as soon as possible, but for now, both vaccination locations invite all Sint Maarten residents who have not yet registered to go to the Belair Community Center between the hours of 9.00 AM and 3.00 PM and at CPS between 8.30 AM and 4.00 PM for on-site registration and vaccination on the same day.

The VMT would like to emphasize that to prove eligibility for a walk-in vaccination, the person needs to show one of the following documents (not all of them).

  • Rental agreement of Dutch side in the name of the person;
  • Payslip of Dutch side company in the name of the person;
  • A Sint Maarten ID card, Sint Maarten driver’s license or a Dutch passport;
  • A non-Dutch passport with the latest immigration entry stamp dating back six months or longer, showing that the person is here six months consecutively six months;
  • Proof of registration from the Census Department;
  • SZV Card;
  • A copy of a residence and/or work permit;
  • Proof of residency application.

Sint Maarten Protected Together.

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St. Vincent Support Group receives 60 tons of goods for Vincentians

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Over the past couple of weeks the St. Vincent Support Group's (SVSG) efforts led by Clarence Derby, Natasha Wright Derby, and Augustus Thomas, have met and exceeded all expectations by receiving approximately 60 tons of items including water, food, medical supplies etc. for the people of St. Vincent who have been suffering from the fallout of the La Soufriere Volcano.

The assistance has been coming from so many citizens and organizations in the community, said the SVSG, and they would like to thank everyone too numerous to mention right now for their support. 

The SVSG is also full of praise to radio personality Billy D at SOS Radio who has done a tremendous job in helping to raise funds for the volcano victims as well as the Tradewinds Cruise Club.
 
“Getting these items to Saint Vincent created a major challenge but soon was solved. The owner Mike McKenzie of the big red boat, a boat with a capacity of over 35 tons have made the boat available to us without charge to transport these items.

“With the only obligation that we supply the fuel. As is evident in the photos attached, the boat has already made its first voyage to Saint Vincent as a result of a huge contribution by the Tradewinds Vacation Club who paid for the fuel.

“The good news is that thanks to Sol, CEO Mr. Robert James, the boat is able to make a second voyage for the relief effort,” according to a media statement from the SVSG.

The Big Red Boat was scheduled to leave Saint Vincent on the morning of May 2nd and is expected to be back in St. Maarten on Tuesday May 4th with the mission for the Big Red Boat to depart with another load of relief items for Saint Vincent next weekend.

The group in its effort to continue its disaster relief drive to collect items for St. Vincent, said they have two drop off points: • WIFOL Building Walter Nisbeth Road and • The St. Maarten Festival Village.

Both locations have been accessible as of Saturday April 17 from 10am to 7pm daily. This drive is in collaboration with National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) St. Vincent. This drive is also supported by the Adventist development Relief Agency (ADRA), Dutch side Fire fighters Association, WIFOL, and the Caribbean Unity Foundation, the Trade Winds Cruise Club, K1 Brittannia Foundation, and Alicia Stay Foundation.

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There will be boxes at all major supermarkets where nonperishable items can be dropped off. The following is a list of relief items that is needed:

  • Bottled Water
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Cereal
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Hand Sanitizers
  • Feminine supplies
  • Bath towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Masks
  • Blankets
  • Sheets
  • Pillows
  • Baby wipes
  • Baby formula
  • Baby clothing
  • Diapers (babies and adults)
  • Canned Foods
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Rice
  • Children snacks
  • Batteries
  • Pain Killers
  • Adult clothing
  • Shoes slippers
  • Rubber Boots
  • Socks

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Prime Minister Jacobs encourages SMTF graduates to remain lifelong learners

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Sint Maarten Training Foundation (SMTF) hosted their final certificate ceremony for 200 plus students participating in the course of Public Health and Hospitality on Thursday, April 29, 2021.

These courses were started after Hurricane Irma and were the first component of the Emergency Income Support and Training Project EISTP; one of the Trust Fund projects under implementation at the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) offering training to unemployed persons. Over the period of just over three years some 2000 students have made use of this opportunity and received certification and pins for courses in public health and hospitality.

In the presence of the Board, management, and staff of the SMTF, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs addressed the graduates, as the keynote speaker. In relaying her message under the theme: 'Employer's Expectations of new Recruits”, Prime Minister Jacobs highlighted three points for graduates to keep in mind:

  1. Prepare for the new function while taking into consideration the expectations of your employer.
  2. Go beyond the expectations of the employer and ensure you are always at your best - your attitude determines your success.
  3. Never stop looking for opportunities to keep on learning and improving.

Prime Minister Jacobs told the graduates, “We are now 4-years post-Hurricane Irma and are still facing recovery challenges, a challenge made even more significant by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these challenges make your accomplishment so significant because as St. Maarten continues to change and grow, the needs within our economy for your skills also grow.”

“These opportunities are incredibly essential to St. Maarten’s long-term sustainable plan. So, I thank all the graduates here this evening and all the graduates who have successfully completed these courses. You have aided in our aim to build a strong labor market. Each individual who is able to build their skills creates a stronger labor market. A strong labor market can help us narrow economic disparities and start to heal the damage inflicted by past economic difficulties and natural disasters,” she continued.

SMTF Program Director Sergio Walsarie Wolff also congratulated the graduates and spoke about transitioning. He told them, “I am incredibly proud of all of you, who picked yourselves up and have shown up to come to class, week after week. And now, that you are transitioning back into the work field, you are armed with a valuable certificate and invaluable knowledge passed on by your SMTF teachers.”

During the ceremony, several SMTF Students expressed words of thanks to the Management and staff of SMTF as well as encouragement to their fellow students. “I am grateful to God for having closed this chapter with success, I am grateful for Professor Early and the translator Luz, for their patience and dedication. Also, I am grateful for all the office staff, who facilitated every question, and to the Government of St. Maarten who opened the doors to these new experiences in such a difficult time. Finally, I am grateful to all my classmates, may luck accompany you in your future endeavors," said F. van Heyningen, one of the student speakers.

Prime Minister Jacobs congratulated the Class of 2021, and all students receiving accredited certificates and pins in the past years. “On behalf of the Government of St. Maarten, I wish you success in your future endeavors whichever path you may take, as long as you become lifelong learners," concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

Prime Minister Jacobs addressing the graduates

Prime Minister Jacobs addressing the graduates.

 

 

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Tzu Chi donates food packages to 129 Pond Island families

SINT MAARTEN (CUL DE SAC) - The St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation continued its benevolent efforts to help put food on the table of families affected by the COVID-19 crisis by donating food packages to 129 families earlier this month.

A total of 22 volunteers took time out to assist in the distribution drive. For many of them it was the first time experiencing a food package relief drive with the foundation. Families had to register in advance to receive the food package relief A total of 135 had registered and 129 showed up to collect their packages on the day of the event.

Having to battle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is extra difficult for some families as the homes of many are still in a state of disrepair almost four years after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on the island causing widespread destruction and devastation in September 2017.

While recipients were waiting on their food packages, they were offered water and snacks by volunteers, who also took time out to share information on how Tzu Chi started by founder Master Cheng Yen, whose charity work began with a group of 30 housewives who set aside NT 0.50 cents (equivalent to US $0.02 cents) of their grocery money each day to help needy families.

Master Cheng Yen’s dedication and continued commitment over the years has transformed Tzu Chi into one of the largest non-governmental organizations in the world. Tzu Chi has built many hospitals and schools worldwide and has helped hundreds of thousands around the world. It has over 10 million members in 129 countries.

One of her philosophies is that giving is not the privilege of the rich but is the privilege of a sincere heart.

Recipients were grateful to receive the food packages, and they also had an opportunity to give to create blessings.

“I am very happy to receive the help because I need a lot,” said one recipient. “I don’t work and I have some problems. I am so happy that Tzu Chi can help me. It is beautiful that you are helping everyone.”

Another recipient expressed her gratitude. “Thank God for the Tzu Chi Foundation and God’s blessing for helping everybody and for giving people some food to eat. The situation right now is bad, people cannot work and are in the house all day. The situation is bad, but God is good. Everyone is happy for the foundation and its help.”

Volunteer Kenneth Skerret originally had a day mapped out to focus on himself, but when he saw the volume of work that was required he decided at the eleventh hour to give a helping hand to assist. “We delivered some packages and assisted people who were really in need,” he said adding that because of Tzu Chi’s organization, the event flowed smoothly and went without hiccups. “I myself couldn’t believe everyone was orderly especially when they saw the smile from the Tzu Chi volunteers… Everyone needed a package and we tried to assist each and every one because that is pure love from the heart. This is Tzu Chi and we always want to give love.”

Volunteer Mathew was grateful for the opportunity to be able to help in the distribution process. “Tzu Chi Foundation is doing a great job and the help is coming in handy because things on the island are slow right now,” he said. “I hope you can keep up with what you are doing. I see a lot of sharing. A lot of people are in need and a lot of people are happy to receive the help. I am happy with what is being done. It is very helpful.”

First time volunteer M. Cocks was humbled by the experience. “It’s my first time with Tzu Chi Foundation on Pond Island and I really enjoyed it. It was nice meeting and interacting with people. It was a nice gesture to help, and I would love to continue.”

Another volunteer said it had been a pleasure volunteering with Tzu Chi for the first time helping, giving love and sharing with persons in the community, who are in need.

Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung thanked all volunteers for their humble efforts and recipients for graciously accepting the food packages with a grateful heart.

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Change of venue for Law Program offered by the UoC

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The University of Curaçao Dr. Moises da Costa Gomez (UoC) is offering its Law Program in Sint Maarten since 2018, according to a press release from UoC.

This Law Program is the same as offered in Curaçao, which has been positively assessed by the Netherlands Flemish Accreditation Organization (NVAO).

The UoC stands for continuous improvement including listening to its students, which is part of its quality cycle. Taking into account feedback received from the students, especially in times of COVIC measures, and to improve the educational facilities for its students, the UoC started its search for a venue that will better suit their needs.

Since 1 March 2021 the new venue is Brooks Tower Building on the 5th floor.

Brooks Tower Building offers more space for teaching, and space for a library and administrative and students’ support. It is conveniently and centrally situated and more accessible for the students with improved internet facilities which is an important prerequisite in offering the Law Program.

The UoC will continue its efforts to accommodate its students and provide in the need for homegrown lawyers in St. Maarten. The UoC is planning to offer more programs in the future, starting with the master in tax law.

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Prime Minister of Sint Maarten Silveria Jacobs

UOC invitees

Attendees. 

 

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Minister of Justice supports development opportunities for inmates at Prison

SINT MAARTEN (POINT BLANCHE) - On Monday, April 26th, 2021, the Minister of Justice, Ms. Anna E. Richardson, along with her support staff, met with the Director of the Foundation Judicial Institutes Sint Maarten (SJIB), Ms. Cynthia Filemon and Managing Director of Projects, Consultancy & Management International (PCMI), Mr. Robert Budike to discuss the reintroduction of inmate development programmes at the Point Blanche Prison and House of Detention. Minister Richardson has made clear her commitment to supporting the establishment of programmes and activities through which inmates, who are currently serving time at the prison, can further develop themselves and be provided the right tools that will help the build an honest life upon release. “It’s important that when inmates leave the prison that they are able to leave knowing that they have something to help them move on. Development programmes are essential in providing them with the skills and knowledge that they can leave here with and be able to use to further their lives.”

The discussion covered a number of proposals, one being the reintroduction of the ‘Inmate Entrepreneurship Programme’ which was introduced in 2007. The programme was first introduced as a collaborative effort between SJIB and the Probation Department with the purpose of supporting both current inmates and persons who have recently been released. According to the Director of SJIB, since the establishment of this programme, it was executed once and was proven to be a success. The Director went on to state that: “Former inmates who had undergone the programme have since then shown great strides by becoming business owners and applying the skills that they have learned.” The full programme has a duration of one year in which each inmate will go through the various courses with the proper support needed to complete it. “Although many of the inmates may have dropped out of high school, they show potential and that can be developed with the right support and guidance”, stated the Director.

As a push to provide a variety of development programmes and courses to the inmates, there were further discussions held regarding a QuickBooks course. The interest from the inmates in this course was established on the basis of a survey which was distributed amongst the inmates to identify their level of education, their knowledge of the course and its skills, along with the general interest of the prison population. Based on the survey, thirty-three (33) inmates have expressed interest in participating in such a course. The QuickBooks course presented entails an extensive list of skills that will be developed by each inmate that participates, guaranteeing a working knowledge of QuickBooks that can be used to further themselves as future business owners and/ or employees.

Prior to this meeting held with SJIB and PCMI, the Minister Richardson received a proposal to offer the General Educational Diploma (GED) to inmates at the prison. The programme was successful in the past and reintroducing it with a more defined approach will contribute to increased participation amongst the prison population. The GED, which has an equivalency of a high school diploma, will be introduced to the inmates in a form of a presentation in order to provide all the relevant information needed such as the purpose, what it entails, and it’s benefits, so that inmates can make an informed decision.

While the possibilities of providing the abovementioned opportunities at the prison are being explored, an assessment in the form of a survey, has been distributed amongst the inmates to discover the level of importance of the courses by inmates, along with an indication of possible registrants per programme. Minister Richardson has stated that “it is not only important to have these programmes available, but it’s also important to know that they will be taken advantage of.” It was suggested by the Minister to reach out to former inmates who have benefited from these programmes as a way to positively influence the current inmates as to what these programmes can do for their future.

Minister Richardson added that while these theoretical programmes were being looked into, activities that allow inmates to physically do more is also a point of development. “Working out on a regular is something that is of high interest to the inmates. Fitness is an essential part of their lives and a way to keep themselves busy, among other things. We are currently in discussions with a consultant to identify the best and safest equipment that can be purchased to create a new and improved workout space for the inmates.”

According to Minister Richardson, the need for the reintroduction and introduction of these programmes not only serves as a positive development tool for the inmates, but also acts as a deterrent from succumbing to the same negative environment and pressures when inmates are released.

Minister Richardson has expressed her ambition, stating that she hopes to achieve high attendance of these programmes by the inmates. “These programmes provide opportunities for a proper rehabilitation process. When inmates are released, they should be able to have the means to provide for themselves and not have to fall back into their old lifestyle.”, stated the Minister.

Further discussions are planned to be held regarding the results of the assessment and to further discuss a plan of approach in implementing these programmes.

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