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SCDF announce registration figures for Carnival 2020

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) on Monday announced it registration figures for Carnival 2020. Sticking with its practice of opening registration very early, the foundation opened registration for Carnival 2020 in June of this year, and closed registration on November 1. This gave Carnival enthusiasts five (5) months to register to participate in the various areas of Carnival.

Besides the registration figures for the various local events and parades, the SCDF also announced that Carnival’s flagship event Night of the Hit Makers will be back, as well as the One Love Reggae Concert, Bacchanal Sunday, Caribbean Flag Fest and Soulful Company. No decision has been taken on Latin Night as yet. 

The registration figures for the local events are as follows:

Season Passes – 1, 141 registrants (not sales)

Booths – 146

Carnival Troupes – 16 (junior and senior)

Bands – 11

Roadmarch Competition – 5

Senior Calypso Competition – 6

Junior Pageant – 4

Teen Pageant – 3

Senior Pageant – 8

Miss Mature Pageant - 3

“We open registration early on an annual basis because Carnival takes a lot of planning in different phases. Five months was more than enough time for anyone who was interested to register. Now that registration is closed, we have moved on to the next phase of planning which is coordinating our shows and road events and securing corporate partners,” the SCDF said.

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Grisha: Van Raak Should Stop Meddling in our Elections

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - “If Antonius Adrianus Gerardus Maria "Ronald" van Raak so loves St. Maarten people, he should be on a political slate contesting the January 9, 2020 elections. Otherwise, he should mind his own business!” That was how Grisha Heyliger-Marten, UP candidate #4 and wife of suspended MP Theodore Heyliger reacted to recent statements made by the member of the Dutch Second Chamber for the Socialist Party. Van Raak had stated that “electing Grisha Heyliger Marten is the same as voting for criminal Theo Heyliger.”

“If that’s not a blatant meddling in our elections, I don’t know what is,” Grisha Heyliger-Marten said. “Can you imagine a St. Maarten politician telling the Dutch electorate in their own election that a vote for a particular Dutch politician or party is a vote for racism?”

She continued: “How can Van Raak call Theo Heyliger, who has just been acquitted of all charges in one case and who is yet to face trial in another a “criminal”? So, Van Raak is now judge and jury? What more proof do we need to show that my husband is being persecuted for political reasons?”

According to Grisha Heyliger-Marten, “these are the same people who preach to us about integrity; how about the integrity of the judicial system? Isn’t an accused innocent until proven guilty? How about the integrity of our electoral process?

“We’ve heard about Russian intervention, but nothing is as blatant as this Dutch intervention in our elections. No wonder they are angry that our government turned down their offer of “international observers”. We’ve had Dutch observers before; where are their reports? What did they conclude about our elections? If the elections were “fraudulent” why were they not annulled? And by the way, if the Dutch so believe in international observers, why don’t they allow the Germans to come and observe their elections, after all, what do they have to hide?”

The UP #4 candidate concluded that indeed, “a vote for Grisha is a vote for Theo is a vote for St. Maarten! Van Raak does not speak for the people of St. Maarten!”

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Brison: UP is committed to providing 1,000 homes over a four-year term

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Leader of the United People (UP) party MP Rolando Brison has laid out his party’s plan for the construction of 1,000 affordable homes over the next four years. Brison stressed that unlike others who talk about homes, the UP fully intends to show the people of St. Maarten how this will be accomplished.

“If you have followed me in Parliament you know I prioritize how things get done, not just talk about them,” Brison said, adding that if the governments of other islands in the region cam bear down and build homes for their people, there is no reason why St. Maarten cannot or should not do the same. “You have to take care of your people first. We will not be deterred and we will be fearless in accomplishing this goal.”

The UP’s affordable housing plan is built on four crucial components: Purchase land and make better use of available government land, develop and sign a new investment protocol with APS and SZV on the Affordable Housing Project financing at reasonable rates, construct 250 per year for four years and finally, as an extension of the plan: establish the St. Maarten National Development Bank – Increasing lending options for private homeowners to rebuild.

Brison explained that the total investment portfolio of APS is 400 million guilders according to their latest audited financials of 2016 while the total investment portfolio of SZV is 242 million guilders according to their latest audited financials of 2016. “We will sign an investment protocol to ensure that up to 25% of their investment portfolios over 4 years are used towards realizing the need for housing at reasonable rates,” MP Brison said.

“As Parliamentarians, our faction will establish an Affordable Homes and Economic Recovery law that sets a Trust, funded by lending institutions, which will be reliable and realistic. We will target first the lowest income home renters and provide them with a pathway to homeownership. The act will have as a byproduct the increase in the growth rate of wages for low-income citizens. Increasing the minimum wage will help to address the fact that the present income of the average citizen negatively affects their eligibility to afford homes on St. Maarten,” Brison added.

He said, there are presently over four thousand families in need of affordable housing, and twice that amount is paying over 60 per cent of their income on rent alone. “We must ask ourselves how we can make the lives of our citizens better. The housing issue of our country can easily be called an "affordability emergency"

Brison acknowledged that funding for housing development is never an easy task. Lack of access to proper financing affects private homeowners and requires innovative thinking of Government. “Today's banking requirements and the low-income wages of our citizens are counteractive to their effort to become homeowners. With support from the Algemeen Pensioenfonds St. Maarten APS and the investment strategy of the Social & Health Insurance SZV, we will present proposals that attract funding for the development of the one thousand (1,000) affordable homes,” he said.

Brison explained that the goal when building affordable homes is to design practical and spacious apartments in secure environments at a low cost through strict budgeting. The design will consider the fact that St. Maarten sits on the hurricane belt and is susceptible to impact from storms. The inside of the homes must be attractive and have the space necessary for generational growth. The homes will be designed consideration for the environment and the fact that the island's landmass is limited. The construction of these homes will also be an economic booster, creating hundreds of jobs over the next four years and beyond. Maintaining homes comes with a cost and requires significant human resources. However, Bison said, the necessity of proper home maintenance creates an opportunity to provide permanent employment for many who are without work, by building maintenance service with 24-hour support for the residents of these homes.

With regards to private home owners who want to re-construct, Brison said the overall housing needs in St. Maarten cannot be addressed without considering the limited resources of private homeowners who have seen their property destroyed by hurricanes and are not able to access loans to rebuild. “Therefore, the UP Party will establish the St. Maarten National Development Bank, whose central role will be to provide financing for the economic and social development of our citizens. This Development Bank will be the vehicle that reduces the gap between lender and low-income earners. We will help to address the heavy-handed approach of private lending agencies and provide lending opportunities for smaller families with lower incomes,” he said.

“We have to present meaningful solutions to the challenge our residents face when trying to find affordable homes. Our citizens and their families must be empowered. Through the pathway to homeownership, which the UP Party will establish, our citizens will finally have a roof over your heads, which will be a reasonable budget item,” Brison said.

Brison said the UP fully intends to take the lead on this initiative, considering the rising cost of home rental and increased the cost of homeownership, which blocks the pathway for citizens to have security. He said the UP recognizes the economic inequality in housing with the low-income rate further reducing citizens' chances of becoming homeowners.

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17 children win single-use plastics ban poster contest

SABA - Last month pupils of the Sacred Heart school (SHS) were asked to make a poster about plastic pollution, the upcoming ban on single-use plastic and to promote recycling. A winning poster was selected from each grade. As grade five stood out in terms of creativity, two winning posters were selected from that grade. 

The winners are: Grade 1 - Mason Keck and Collun Clegg, Grade 2 - G'marcus Wilson and D'marion Gomez, Grade 3 - Laryanny Del Carmen and Marisa Lucas, Grade 4 A - Meeka Winston and Chariella Hassell, Grade 4 B - Damian Richardson, Gabriel Ramirez and Bear Clegg, Grade 5 - Michaela Johnson and Kristin Zagers, and  Jayquan Charles and Shawn Barnes, Grade 6 - Kendra Gomez and Kerryann Simmons.

The names of the winners were announced during the official Saba Day program on Friday morning. The pupils received a loud applause from the audience. The pupils were asked to collect their prizes. The posters winning are displayed at the entrance of the Government Administration Building and the intention is to reprint the posters and to show them on different locations on the island.

A petite committee, consisting of Commissioner Rolando Wilson, Island Secretary Tim Muller and Head of the Government Information Services (GIS)/protocol officer Saskia Matthew, were asked to select the winners of each class.

Saba has a recycling system whereby residents and businesses separate recyclables such as glass, plastics, aluminum, metal cans, carton. These recyclables are further sorted at the landfill facilities where they are stored until they are ready to be shipped off the island. Tires, steel and household appliances are also recycled. To further reduce the amount of plastics, the Public Entity Saba is preparing a single-use plastics ban, to be implemented in 2020.

petite committee selects winning posters 01

The petite committee, consisting of Commissioner Rolando Wilson (left), Island Secretary Tim Muller (center) and Protocol/GIS Head Saskia Matthew (right) reviewing the posters of the primary school pupils.

 

 

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MP SMITH NOT PLEASED THAT PARLIAMENT MEETING ON AGRICULTURE WAS POSTPONED

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Member of Parliament (MP), Wycliffe Smith, said that he is not pleased that the urgent public meeting, requested by his predecessor MP Claude Peterson of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Faction in Parliament, was postponed.

On October 23rd, 2019, former MP Peterson requested this urgent public meeting of Parliament with the Minister of VROMI to discuss the land situation with regard to Mr. Denicio Wyatte. Seven days later, on October 30th Peterson followed up with a second letter again requesting the urgent meeting. Eventually, this meeting was scheduled for December 6, 2019, a whole month later. So much for urgent public meetings!

Peterson had requested the Minister of VROMI to give a status update regarding the Government’s lease land or rental agreement with Mr. Wyatte. Over the years, Mr. Wyatte has been recognized locally, regionally and internationally for the great job that he has been doing to promote agriculture on Sint Maarten.

It is unfortunate that Wyatte has to undergo such uncertainty as to his legal claim to the land that he is currently using for his agricultural programs and projects. In his letter to the Chairman of Parliament, Peterson mentioned that Wyatte had “been living in uncertainty with his present [land] situation for the past few years and he has been a victim of the instability in Government and [the] changing of Ministers”.

Indeed, the current Minister of VROMI, Chris Wever, is the fourth Minister that Wyatte is now dealing with and he hopes that Wever will be able to offer a sustainable solution to the land problem. It is for this reason that former MP Peterson called for an urgent public meeting.

Member of Parliament, Wycliffe Smith, who is replacing former MP Peterson, also considers this meeting, which was called for Friday, December 6 at 2:00 pm of utmost importance. Even though MP Smith, together with MPs Wescott-Williams, Emmanuel and Brison, was selected to represent the Parliament in Saba at the Saba Day Celebrations on December 6th, Smith decided to cancel his flight to Saba and to stay to attend the public meeting.

When it comes to putting the people’s business first both Smith and Peterson have deferred traveling and given priority to matters pertaining to the people. As Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Smith is known to be the least traveled Minister.

In fact, MP Smith requested the Chairman of Parliament, via a letter dated Monday, December 2nd to reschedule the meeting for Thursday, December 5th if possible. However, in his letter MP Smith also made it clear to the Chairman that he would not travel to Saba to represent Parliament if the meeting could not be shifted. The following day, December 3rd, the Secretary General informed MP Smith that the meeting could not be rescheduled. Hence, MP Smith cancelled his flight to Saba so as to be able to attend Friday’s meeting.

Regrettably, on Friday morning, December 6th, the Public Meeting was postponed until further notice upon the request of the Minister of VROMI. What does this mean for Mr. Wyatte? How long will Parliament have to wait before another meeting is convened to get an update from the Minister of VROMI regarding the land lease agreement with Mr. Wyatte?  MP Smith says that he will be requesting the Chairman to reconvene this urgent meeting with the Minister before the Parliament goes on Christmas recess.

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EU Ambassador Cantó pays courtesy visit to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Tuesday, European Union (EU) Ambassador Fernando Ponz Cantó paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, according to a press statement from the Cabinet of the Minister of General Affairs.

“Priority for the discussion were the ongoing EU funded projects on St. Maarten, the challenges being faced in the process and the commitment of St. Maarten in finalizing these projects.

“Prime Minister said that these challenges have been highlighted in a meeting held with the Department of Interior and Kingdom Relations (BAK) staff of the General Affairs Ministry.

“Prime Minister Jacobs further stated “Ambassador Ponz Cantó was very happy the projects had Government’s attention and pledged to continue to work with us to get them finalized.”

The EU is a major contributor to many island states in the Caribbean Region in Disaster Management projects and programs which was highlighted at the CDEMA conference where Ambassador Ponz Cantó was also a featured speaker on Tuesday evening.

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Ray-Angel Simon Lynch to represent Sint Maarten in Cuba

SINT MAARTEN/CUBA - Ray-Angel Simon Lynch has been selected to participate in the Second UNESCO International Science School “Promoting youth leadership on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in the Caribbean” Regional event to be organized in Havana, Cuba, from 3 to 5 December 2019. 

Ray-Angel Simon Lynch, who is currently in the 11th Grade Honor Levels Student at K12 International Academy, is a talented individual.  He is a first responder, PADI certified scuba diver, underwater action videographer, Championship Regional & National Dancer, 2-time Water Polo Champion(team), Dance Teacher & Drummer to list a few of his accomplishments.

Forty young participants from 16 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Caribbean countries are expected to attend the regional capacity-building event at which the Caribbean Youth Network on Climate Change will be launched. The event provides follow-up to the successful First Caribbean International Science School for the Caribbean that was organized in Havana in June 2018.

Young people are critical stakeholders who are playing an increasingly important role in designing, co-producing knowledge, providing solutions and raising awareness for climate action. UNESCO recognizes the value of youth engagement in this respect and is committed not only to strengthening youth awareness of climate issues but also to supporting and enabling youth-led action and youth-led knowledge production and dissemination in this field. Minister Irion stated that he was “proud of Ray-Angel for representing the island at this event” and is “looking forward to hearing how it went.”

The event intends to strengthen collaborative learning spaces for young scientists, activists and government officials, aimed at enhancing the contribution of youth through research and civic engagement in relation to public policies for climate change adaptation in the Caribbean, centred on the SIDS of the region.

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Grisha championing real reform for Pensioners

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - With all that has occurred over the past two years since hurricane Irma and Maria devastated St. Maarten leaving many without homes and jobs, the people who must be feeling it the most are our senior citizens.

She made the statement made by Grisha Heyliger-Martin on Tuesday as she continues to address the issue of inequality within the Kingdom and defend the defenseless. The effect of pension reform has its place in the overall redevelopment plans of the United People's Party, which her husband former Member of Parliament Theodore Heyliger founded ten years ago.

"The goal I have set where Pension reform is concerned is to ensure that pensioners whose only income is their pension, do not have to be further burdened by having to pay taxes on their small income," said Heyliger-Martin. She said sadly while St. Maarten is part of the Netherlands Kingdom, the reality is that pensioners within the Netherlands receive about US$1000 more than the pensioner in St. Maarten or elsewhere in the Kingdom.

In The Netherlands, the level of protection was established since the 1960's, but the politicians in the Caribbean Netherlands never asked for equal protection. We must have access to good quality healthcare, a basic income in keeping with the Cost of Living and a decent pension when we retire.

They will say the islands in the Caribbean Netherlands are autonomous and should execute the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on their own. This Covenant was for the entire Netherlands Kingdom, executable within five years after it was ratified by the Hague 40-years ago. Yes, we did make our own mistakes on St. Maarten after 10-10-10 when the decision was taken to keep the maximum pension at Naf.1000, and it is high time that we fix it.

"My goal is not to create animosity with our partners within the Kingdom, but rather to point out the areas of the relationship that still needs to be worked on so that we can truly feel a sense of equality and our citizens can benefit from a level playing field."

Today's pensioner in St. Maarten comprises mainly three types of individuals, those who still have loans to pay which they must continue to pay, those who own or operate a business, and those whose pension is their only source of income.

"Whether you support the UP Party or not, you cannot deny that it is unfair for a 65-year old single female to take Naf.1000, pay taxes, and then pay rent, light and water, and buy food and clothes."

She said the vision of her husband and the party he built with its new leader is to ensure that if you are a pensioner with only the pension as your income, you are exempt from paying taxes. She further pointed out the challenge and cost involved in these seniors having to find an accountant to help them file Taxes, which must come from their pension, which is less than the minimum wage on St. Maarten.

"Physically challenged persons in our community should also receive some form of exemption, and I challenge anyone who can point out to me how doing this will break the bank of the government," said Heyliger-Martin.

The role of a Pension Fund is to manage the savings for the retirement of the working class. Each citizen who works and pays into the pension must have a reasonable expectation of a small nest egg that will help him or her get by after they are no longer able to work full time. If this income is again taxed, senior citizens living conditions will continue to decline.

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Government establishes group to develop action plan about Single-use Plastics

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Single-use plastic items are increasingly becoming hazardous to our environment and daily lives. As an important global and local issue, the Government of Sint Maarten has recognized the need to take action to protect the environment and the lives of those residing on the island.

Consequently, the Government – via various ministries – has established an inter-ministerial workgroup to ensure proper development of an action plan and the synchronization of governmental resources in addressing this important issue.

Thus far, the workgroup has been instrumental in organizing a number of activities for the coming months, starting with the first phase of their project; which is geared towards sensitizing the public and raising awareness as it pertains to single-use items.

Another important item on the agenda was meeting with other prominent environmental NGO’s/organizations and forming partnerships. Subsequently, the workgroup met last Thursday 28th November, with representatives from both the Nature Foundation and Waste2Work to foster a more collaborative effort in addressing and reducing plastic on the island.

The main objective of the meeting was to share information and ideas for the second phase of the project, which will be a pilot project launched during the 2020 carnival season.

For more information, as a company or individual on how you can get involved by donating or participating in the 2020 Carnival Single-Use Plastic Project, contact ms. Hickinson at the Department of Interior and Kingdom Relations via telephone number +1721-542-2999 ext. 2895.

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Christmas Market registration is open at the Library

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Philipsburg Jubilee Library (PJL) will be hosting her annual Christmas Market on Thursday, December 19th, from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the library’s parking lot, PJL said in a press statement on Monday.

The Library’s annual Christmas Market festivities will be hosting crafters, displaying their arts and creative works. Individual decorated stands will offer handcrafted goods where shoppers can find one-of–akind gifts and decorations.

This year themed “Celebrating Traditions” is promised to be a spectacular community event.

In order to make this event a success we would like to invite all interested persons to come out and register to be part of this wonderful annual tradition.

Persons who would like to display or sell their arts and crafts, baskets, liqueurs, cakes, tarts, puddings, and plants should register by December 12th, 2019. The registration fee is only $40, 00 or ANG 72, 00; food vendor’s fee $60.00 or ANG 108.00, NGO’s fee $30 or ANG 54.00.

There is no fee for visitors to the market.

The Philipsburg Jubilee Library has been in dire straits since the passing of the 2017 Hurricane seasons. A temporary solution has been created to accommodate our loyal customers by using the library parking lot area for the Christmas Market. Due to the constraints following the damage incurred by the hurricanes, vendors are invited to make their own provisions for materials, such as tables and tents.

For further information please contact Maryland Powell at the library tel. 542-2970 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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