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Ring in 2021 with the Great Bay Fireworks Display

PORT ST. MAARTEN – Preparations are well underway to ring in the New Year 2021, and it will be all happening in Great Bay with a firework display at midnight on Thursday, December 31. This is however dependent on weather conditions at that time.

The firework display is a collaborative effort by the Government of St. Maarten, Entrepreneur Sir Bobby Velasquez, and Port St. Maarten.

Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation, and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Ludmila De Weever said on Wednesday: “2020 has been a very difficult year for St. Maarten families and the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I express empathy and solidarity with all those affected and impacted.

“At the same time, Ministry TEATT along with stakeholders have been diligently charting the course of renewed economic activity in order to keep the economy, the engine of our country moving forward in these uncharted waters.

“Visitors have been returning to our shores via our airport during the past months since our re-opening. Mega yachts and private jets have returned for the tourism season, and at the start of the New Year, we will see two considerable hotel properties who were closed since Irma re-opening for guests.

“I am very confident that we will see the resumption of cruise tourism to our country in 2021. Let us go into the New Year with resolve and confidence that better times are ahead. Please continue to adhere to the public health measures as promoted continuously by our public health authorities.

“The Government has collaborated with Sir Bobby Velasquez and Port St. Maarten to ring in the New Year. Thank you, St. Maarten, for your resilience throughout this very trying and difficult 2020, but I can assure you that we will continue to navigate these unprecedented times together, and I would like to wish each one of you, your families, and our communities good health in 2021.”

Entrepreneur Sir Bobby Velasquez said on Wednesday: “Let us go out of 2020 with a big bang and ring in 2021 full of promise and hope. 2020 has been an exceedingly difficult year for everyone. Let us keep safe and healthy and look towards rebuilding our economy for a brighter St. Maarten for everyone in 2021. Happy New Year St. Maarten.”

The firework display will take place onshore. The display is contingent on favorable weather conditions. The Meteorological Department of St. Maarten (MDS) has already indicated that the possibility exists for inclement weather due to the strengthening of an Atlantic high-pressure ridge that will impact local weather conditions.  

For those who will be coming out with family and friends for a fun filled New Year’s Eve, you are strongly advised to continue to adhere to the public health guidelines that have been advised/recommended by Collective Prevention Services (CPS) in connection with COVID-19 such as wearing a mask, and social distancing. Masks should be worn over your nose and mouth and should be properly secured under your chin.

Continue to practice washing your hands frequently with water and soap for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol content; cover coughs and sneezes by using your elbow.

Port St. Maarten Management wishes everyone a safe and healthy 2021.

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Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs 2020 Christmas Message

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The cabinet of the Minister of General Affairs released the 2020 Christmas Message of Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs on Tuesday afternoon: It’s Christmas time again, and for others it’s just the holiday season. Whatever you may be celebrating this is a time to celebrate. It is a time to celebrate all the good times this year and, most importantly, life. I take this time to wish you a Blessed and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our residents and visitors alike.

If you’ve managed to return home given travel restrictions as a result of the world pandemic, a WARM, WARM welcome home to you. To those of you who may be spending Christmas away from home, a Happy Holiday to you and your loved ones where ever you are.

To all our students especially those all around the world, a very special and warm holiday greeting to you. We appreciate your commitment to your education and would like to invite you to bring the spirit of a St. Maarten Christmas where ever you are. Simply because there is nothing better than a “Christmas morning in St. Maarten.” For us, Christmas and the holiday season will always be about what matters most; family, time with family, relationships and most certainly food.

Many of us will be celebrating differently this year with travel restrictions, financial restrictions and also our new normal of social distancing. However, let us not forget that Christmas is all about the greatest gift of all. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; Isiah Chapter 9: Verse 6. This is the reason we celebrate, and an excellent reason it is to celebrate, indeed.

For this reason, during these challenging times, I ask each and every St. Maartener to focus on the act of giving for it is such a fulfilling thing to bless those who need it most. Let us take care of each other in this holiday season. Let us share what we have and what we can. This is truly the spirit of Christmas, and moreover the spirit of the resilient nation that is St. Maarten.

The holidays are also a time to reflect. 2020 has indeed been a challenging year, with COVID-19 and all the different issues that has come about from its onset. I know there are families still out there who do not have the means to meet their needs and those still suffering as a result of loss of a loved one, whether due to COVID-19 or another reason. During this holiday season we remember those who succumbed to the COVID-19 virus, other illnesses, tragically and otherwise. For their loved one this will be a very tough one; a first without their beloved mom, dad, brother, sister, grandparent or special someone.

For many of us, the holiday season is a break. However, this does not ring true for everyone. At this time we pay gratitude to those who continue to selflessly put their celebrations on holds such as our Police force, nursing staff, doctors and other front liners within our community.

Remember to celebrate this holiday season by moving smart and avoiding large gatherings when out in the community. Adhere to the COVID-19 protocols implemented by government. Mask usage remains mandatory, wash your hands frequently or hand sanitize when that is not possible and keep a 2 meter distance from others when out in public.

As government continues to implement safe and responsible measures for entering the destination such as rapid antigen testing, COVID-19 ‘Prevention & Safety Plan’ for businesses to remain open and early night closures of businesses, it is of utmost importance that we celebrate the holidays taking our brothers and sisters into consideration. You may be protecting a loved one by being responsible.

In closing, let us take this time to reflect on what is truly important to us as a nation and appreciate God's blessings and grace. Take this time to show gratitude for what we do have; 'this beautiful nation we call home.' Give thanks and show appreciation to the most high for life, love, family, health, blessings, and lessons from which we can grow.

On behalf of the Government of St. Maarten, I wish you all a safe, blessed and Merry Christmas. May God continue to bless St. Maarten and her people wherever they may be.

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Mussington: Let us cherish the spirit of kindness, love and compassion towards one another

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) – Opposition Leader in the Territorial Council Louis Mussington, and leader of the Movement for Justice & Prosperity (MJP), on Tuesday issued his Christmas message to the resident of Saint-Martin-Sint Maarten.

Mussington: “The greatest joys in life are found not only in what we do and feel, but also in our quiet hopes and best efforts for others.

“In our continuous endeavors to work in the interest of everyone, let us cherish the spirit of kindness, love and compassion towards one another. As a nation, this is what is expected from us during this festive season and throughout the years to come.

“The MJP wishes the people of St. Maarten happy and safe holidays while following the Covid-19 safety guidelines. Stay Safe and healthy!”

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CPS to Pilot Community Drive-through Antigen Tests on Monday. Get Tested for COVID-19

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (VSA), Richard Panneflek hereby informs the public that Collective Prevention Services (CPS) will be offering a drive through community testing pilot in Point Blanche at the lot before the harbor from 10 AM - 12 PM on Monday 21 December.

The pilot antigen testing campaign is for: persons experiencing signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and persons who have been in close contact with a confirmed case and not already registered by CPS. Testing is free; however, there is a limited supply of 60 antigen tests. CPS therefore advises the public to come out only if you are eligible.

If you are symptomatic and would like to get tested, please bring a form of photo identification so that you can be properly registered with CPS before testing.

You are not required to call 914 to pre-register, just come to the drive through testing facility.

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TelCell N.V. supports the Nature Foundation Junior Ranger Program with a free cell phone prize

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Nature Foundation Junior Rangers were able to participate in an awareness project throughout the month of November creating outreach about the new Eco-Bracelet, during which they introduced the importance of nature and the bracelet to their friends and family. The Ranger that was able to spread the most awareness about the need to protect St. Maarten’s environment won a Samsung A21S cell phone donated by TelCell NV. 

The 2020-2021 Nature Foundation Junior Rangers are the first to participate in a full year program. Each month the Rangers meet for an activity and classroom session that focuses on an aspect of conservation or St. Maarten’s natural environment. The rangers that were chosen to participate applied over the summer by submitting essays about why it is important to protect the island’s ecosystem. 

“The Nature Foundation Junior Ranger Program is an important part of our Outreach and Education programs at the foundation. Educating the next generation is one of the most important aspects of conservation work as these students will truly understand the importance of our natural environment and why it must be protected. Giving students an incentive like a free phone to get them comfortable with outreach and awareness was amazing and we greatly appreciate the support of TelCell,” said Educational Outreach Officer Leslie Hickerson. 

A notable achievement for the program was the inclusion of the PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification through funding provided by the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Caribisch Gebied and Ocean Explorers Dive Center. In the fall the students earned their certification over several courses and shallow open water dives with the Ocean Explorers crew. Throughout their training the students learned about the importance of coral reefs and the current state of our underwater ecosystem and experienced its beauty first-hand. 

Other events have included a tour of the mangroves and interactive discussion about their importance, a virtual quiz night between the Dutch Caribbean Islands, a course about the impacts of single-use plastics and accompanying beach clean-up, and many more. 

The inclusion of the Eco-Bracelet promotion gave the Rangers a chance to give back to the program that has given them many opportunities, and the chance to win the generously donated cell phone from TelCell. Ranger Stefanie Frederiks was most successful in her outreach, involving over 40 of her friends and family. 

“I am very happy to be part of the Junior Ranger program because I have learned so much already and now, I also have my PADI scuba diving certification. I am happy that there are companies like Telem that support these programs and I would like to thank all the people that donated for the Eco-Bracelets. Wear your bracelet and let everyone know that you are an Eco-Warrior! Together we can take care of our island and treat it really well like a golden nugget,” said Stéfanie Frederiks, “I also want to thank Ms. Leslie for her helping the Junior Rangers and for teaching us so much about coral reefs and thank you to the Nature Foundation for this great opportunity.”

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Nine new Coast Guard officers for the Coast Guard

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO - After successfully completing their two-year training, yesterday nine new Coast Guard officers received their police diploma and their Coast Guard certificate from the Deputy Director of the Coast Guard, Eugene Middelhof and the Caribbean team chief of the Dutch Police Academy, Rob Appelhof, the Coast Guard announced in a statement on Thursday.

The new officers received their diploma and certificate during a ceremony at Naval Base Parera. The ceremony was held for a small group due to the COVID-19 measures, consisting of a number of family members and a select group of colleagues from the Coast Guard.

The new Coast Guard officers will carry out the Coast Guard duties at the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard substations in Sint Maarten, Aruba and Curaçao together with their colleagues. The youngsters started with the ‘Opleiding Caribische Politie en Kustwacht’ (OCPK) in March 2018.

The OCPK was the previous training of the new ‘Basis Opleiding Kustwacht’ (BOK). The OCPK students together with their fellow students from the Dutch Caribbean Police Force (KPCN), have endured many physical, mental and theoretical challenges during the training.

After completing the police training at the KPCN, the youngsters followed a two-month nautical module for the Coast Guard. The nautical module teaches them to navigate, seaman skills and boarding on vessels.

During yesterday’s ceremony, the Caribbean team chief of the Dutch Police Academy, Rob Appelhof, said in his speech that he is very proud to see nine Coast Guard officers follow and successfully finish the Police Academy training.

“In spite of the sometimes difficult circumstances and doubts, we have seen you all grow physically and mentally. Congratulations with your diploma”. After Mr. Appelhof’s speech, the Deputy Director of the Coast Guard, Eugene Middelhof addressed the new Coast Guards: “Today is a special day for the Coast Guard, nine new officers will be working for the organization. Two new Coast Guard officers will be working at the substation in Sint Maarten, four at the Aruba substation and three officers in Curaçao.

Here you are at the beginning of a new chapter in your lives as a Coast Guard officer. You shall make the team at the Coast Guard substations stronger, but do not forget to also learn from your fellow Coast Guard colleagues. Congratulations and good luck ”.

The youngsters have been looking forward to this day for two years. After working hard and being away from their homes for a long time, it’s time to celebrate their achievement! The new Coast Guard officers will start in January 2021, at the substations in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten where they will be deployed at sea together with their team members.

The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard wishes all the new officer’s good luck. Follow the Coast Guard's Facebook and Instagram for more information about the next Coast Guard officer training 'Basis Opleiding Kustwacht' in 2021.

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COVID-19 Relief Group is still raising funds

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - “The launch was on Sunday, but the drive still continues”. This is now the slogan of the COVID-19 Relief Group (see attached photo of the organizers) who held its first fundraising radio/telethon last Sunday at the University of St Martin. At the end of the day, 98 persons had donated a total of 4,476 US dollars and 4.359 guilders. The Group had expected to raise more funds so as to be able to assist more people who are in need. Seeing the limited amount of money that was raised, the Group has decided to continue the drive and has begun to knock on the doors of companies and businesses.

Besides, because of the limited amount of funds raised thus far, the COVID-19 Relief Group has decided to only assist persons with food and medication at this time. Persons will need to complete a form which they can obtain via the churches that fall under the following umbrella church organizations: the St. Maarten Council of Churches, the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the St. Martin United Ministerial Foundation.

Prior to the radio/telethon on Sunday, the COVID-19 Relief Group registered some 50 phone calls, which shows that the need for financial aid in our community is great. As a community we must have compassion for our brothers and sisters in need and do what we can to help.

The COVID-19 Relief group would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the 98 persons who donated to this worthy cause and to the 24 volunteers who came out on Sunday to assist with driving, serving and with the counting and reporting of the funds as they came in. A special thank you also goes out to PJD2, Radio St Martin, TV Carib, the University of St Martin, TELEM, UTS, Xerox, KFC, and Domino Pizza for their support.

Since the fundraising effort still continues, people who were unable to donate last Sunday can still do so by giving their donation to one of the three clergy men: Father Adam, Pastor Cuvalay or Apostle Wilson. Donations can also be directly deposited on or transferred to the Republic Bank to the account of the St. Martin United Ministerial Foundation. The US dollar account is number 1001567 and the NA guilder account 1001568. For more information you can also contact Julian Rollocks at +5-999-523-0181 or Wycliffe Smith at 1-721-580-9474.

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Lay-by project officially completed. Minister of VROMI Doran visits site

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment & Infrastructure (VROMI), Honorable Egbert J. Doran and the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication, Honorable Ludmila de Weever hereby informs the general public of the completion of the “Lay-By” project at W.G. Buncamper Road opposite the Vineyard Building in Philipsburg.

The project was initiated to address the limited embarking and disembarking terminals for safe transport of tourists for tour busses between the cruise ship terminal and Walter J.A. Nisbeth Road. Numerous agencies expressed their concerns, which fostered the collaborative effort between both ministries.

With the construction of the lay-by, it will alleviate traffic congestion by avoiding road blocks and allows enhanced management of the tour busses by their representing agencies. The lay-by is solely intended for use by the tour busses and prohibits parking or standing of any other vehicular activity.

The project commenced in June 2020. The execution of the works was carried out by the Department of Infrastructure Management in collaboration with the contractual contractor, Windward Roads. The project has been delayed awaiting the necessary signage.

On Monday, December 14th, 2020, Minister Doran along with his support staff, the Head of the Department of Infrastructure Management and representatives of Windward Roads visited the completed site on W.G. Buncamper Road.

A safe procedure for tourists aboard tour busses to disembark at the head of our capital and explore Philipsburg and the surrounding area is realized with the completion of this project. “I commend the efforts of the staff members and the contracting company for their diligence in ensuring the full completion of the project as the area can safely accommodate our tourists moving forward.”, stated Minister Doran.

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UPDATE: Robbery victim in stable condition. Police continues search for two culprits

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Police are still searching for two suspects who robbed a man of his gold necklace on the Van Romondt Steeg in Philipsburg last night December 15th, 2020 around 07.15 pm, the KPSM said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

During the robbery, the victim with the initials V.M. was severely ill-treated by one of the suspects with a knife. The victim suffered severe lacerations to his chest and face. The victim was later rushed to the Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) in a critical condition.

A search was carried out in the Philipsburg area by the patrols. Officers were not able to locate the two suspects. Later in the evening, the police received information from the SMMC that the victim was operated on by the doctor and is now in stable condition.

The Detective Department investigating this case and are asking anyone who may have any information regarding the armed robbery to contact the Sint Maarten Police Force at +1 721 542 22 22 ext. 204 or 205.

Persons can also use the anonymous tip-line by dialing 9300 or send a message to our Facebook page (Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten).

The Police Force is asking the community of Sint Maarten and businesses to remain vigilant during this period of the year. (KPSM)

ARCHIVED - SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The police are currently investigating a stabbing incident that took place on Tuesday evening around 7.30pm in Philipsburg. A man while walking along the Van Romont Steeg, was attacked by two unknown men.

During the robbery, the victim was stabbed several times. The victim was treated at the scene by paramedics and was thereafter taken to the Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) in critical condition, the police said in a statement on Tuesday night. (KPSM)

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Prime Minister Jacobs receives support from the majority in Parliament

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Today, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs updated the Parliament of St. Maarten on the outcome of the negotiations with the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) surrounding the third tranche of liquidity support to gain the level of support needed to be able to proceed. Over the past six weeks, St. Maarten’s negotiation team has been in discussions with BZK in order to come to agreements on the third tranche of liquidity support. These negotiations mainly included agreements on the structural reform packages where there were possibilities for improving the administrative branch and the country as a whole. St. Maarten’s concerns were thoroughly addressed and discussed and as such, the negotiations have come to an end for the 3rd tranche of liquidity support.

Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “As a country, we are between a rock and a hard place... weighing our strive for autonomy against the immediate needs of the people of St. Maarten. Large countries around the world are faced with financial challenges, but our situation is one that is exacerbated by the challenges we recently faced in 2017 and the subsequent slow recovery and improvement in our effectiveness and efficiency as a government. My personal feelings aside, I must put the needs of the country as my highest priority.”

The proposed Kingdom Law establishes the existence and authority of The Caribbean Entity for Reform and Development (COHO); a Dutch administrative body with independent tasks and powers that will work out the structural reforms, and also assist with expertise and the implementation thereof. One of the tasks of the COHO is to support and supervise the development and implementation of projects and measures by government bodies and public companies of the countries. These projects and measures are outlined in country packages.

The government of St. Maarten received further clarity as to the limits of the authority of the COHO which will be there solely to assist the ministries with execution and monitor the progress made. The authority of the COHO is limited by the agreements established in the package of structural reforms concluded between St. Maarten and the Netherlands. The authorities of the COHO do not encompass the powers that traditionally and legally belong to the Government or Parliament of Sint Maarten. St. Maarten will take the lead and will be accountable for the execution and completion of the structural reforms.

Once the government of St. Maarten has given its political agreement with the support of its Parliament, NAf 61.5 million will be released to St. Maarten in liquidity support covering 4 months of Sint Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) for the last part of the year as well as needed budget support. With the political agreement, the Netherlands will refinance the NAf 50 million which matures on December 18, 2020.

St. Maarten was able to agree with the Netherlands on a possible 15 million euros grant depending on the remaining funds of the Trust Fund by mid-2021. A maximum of 15 million euros will be taken out of the Trust Fund and gifted to the Government of Sint Maarten through the COHO for public financial management and tax reform.

In addition to liquidity support, the Netherlands has committed to providing St. Maarten with a structural amount for the implementation of measures included in the national package, aimed at strengthening the rule of law of St. Maarten as a grant. Namely, an amount of up to 2.7 million euros for further support by K-Mar and Customs in strengthening border control. Furthermore, the Netherlands has also agreed to a one-time grant amounting to 30 million euros for the prison system which includes the construction of a new prison and structural improvements.

At this moment, St. Maarten has explored all viable options to ensure financial sustainability in spite of the world’s new economic reality. As such, after thorough negotiations, St. Maarten is now ready to accept the conditions and the proposed kingdom law knowing that the needed reforms will be able to be executed for more effective and efficient governing.

The opinion of Parliament was clear with a majority giving support to Prime Minister Jacobs to proceed with the agreements related to the COHO and country packages in the interest of the people of St. Maarten.

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