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US board calls for retraction of laws that cut workers income and benefits

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The board of the United St. Maarten (US) party has called for the complete retraction of the three laws that regulate cuts to income and benefits, stressing that government have failed in its basic obligations towards its people and are embarrassingly unable to motivate or defend the reason for the laws other than blaming the Netherlands.

“The only thing we know for sure is that our people are suffering and times are getting harder. It is unacceptable to us that a government which is supposed to ensure a decent quality of life for its people, persists in enforcing these unfair and abusive laws. It is forced suffering by a country upon its citizens,” the US board said.

The US board pointed out that there has been no savings realized by government by cutting people’s income and benefits. “This was confirmed by the CFT who stated clearly that no savings were realized. Yet, this government refuses to bear down and tackle its own waste. Instead, it continues to hire more people instead of using those funds to pay current workers what is owed to them,” the US board said.

Having always stated its party’s opposition to the three laws, the board noted that a motion was still tabled in Parliament to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of the three laws after six months.

“This motion was passed with some MP’s using this motion as motivation to support the laws. Well six months has long passed. Where is the evaluation? Who is leading this evaluation? What is the position of the MP’s who tabled and supported this motion? In actuality the motion has been rendered moot. So we are now calling on the authors and supporters of this motion to lead the way in retracting these laws,” the US board said.

The board lamented that the Christmas season is coming up and civil servants and workers at semi-government entities do not know what kind of Christmas they can expect or provide for their families. “We just had a St. Martin’s Day which saw members of the National Alliance led coalition wishing people a Happy St. Maarten’s day. While there are many things to be thankful for on our national day, we can guarantee that it was not a happy one for many people,” the board said.

It continued: “The government cannot say how the laws will be further implemented, they cannot say how long is temporary, there is no SSRP, uncertainty of the food program, they are busy running people down for taxes, discussing implementing of more taxes, global reports point to food prices continuing to increase drastically, meaning cost of living will only get harder especially with GEBE fuel clause, gas prices are going up. The trend is clear; the quality of life of its citizens is deteriorating and the government has no solutions for anything.”

As such, the board stressed, the three laws must be retracted and people paid and re-paid what they are owed. “Will government give people and businesses a tax break? No it will not. Will government reduce turn-over-tax? No it will not. Will government suspend the fuel clause? No it will not. Nothing is happening but the Prime Minister sent a letter to civil servants on November 5 telling them that the laws will be retracted once ‘we are able to handle our financial obligations independently’. And when exactly will this be? After we have paid off millions in loans?

“What is the government’s identified target to retract the laws? What is government’s plan? Where is the comprehensive economic plan? None of this exists and so we call on the government not to wait, but retract the laws immediately. Your people are suffering. How can this not move you to act and act as decisively as you did when you took away their income,” the board concluded.

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Women’s Desk to start with Teen Dating Violence Sessions to Mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2021 is here. Women’s desk in its role to empower women and by extension the family is embarking on Teen Dating Violence (TDV) awareness sessions under the theme: “Behind the Mask” targeting high school students. This initiative commenced with a kick-off session at the MAC- CSE with the 3rd and 4th form students.

As a result of stress arising by the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a global increase of relational violence. This campaign aims to prevent relational violence among teens by bringing awareness on the prevalence of TDV, warning signs, healthy ways to cope and respond.

Even as the world has become more virtual, digital abuse has also increased dramatically. The theme “Behind the mask” was chosen to highlight this epidemic and the fact that many victims are hidden behind face masks.

Minister of VSA Omar Ottley addressed the students on the topic and shed light on the importance of knowing your worth.

Also, during the sessions, the talented youth of Funtopia Youth Initiative Foundation (FYI) gave an outstanding performance highlighting the reality of teen dating violence. It is our hope that at the end the students are better equipped to navigate and build healthier relationships.

Women’s Desk is one of the support services available to victims of domestic violence on St. Maarten. It is a division within the department of Community Development, Family and Humanitarian Affairs (CDFHA) of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour.

Women’s Desk continues to work towards enhancing the well-being of women in the community of St. Maarten and by extension their families by offering counseling, referrals, case management and programs.

No matter the situation, abusive behavior is never acceptable. Don’t stay silent. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please contact the Women’s Desk at (721) 520-6291 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Police Analyze Traffic Impediments in St Peters/South Reward area

SINT MAARTEN (ST. PETERS) - Police recently conducted a scan/overview of the traffic congestion in St. Peters and South Reward. This helped police officers to identify several points that impede the free flow of traffic in those areas.

The first impediment point is this area is home to most schools in the country.

The second point is the driving behavior of motorists during rush hours.

On the first point, police have little or no influence.

As for the second point, police will attempt to persuade some drivers to modify their driving habits in the best interest of the free flow of traffic. The majority of motorists abide by the road rules, especially during peak hours.

In a previous press release, police pointed out that several bus drivers and parents are simply stopping in the middle of the road blocking the free flow of traffic to allow children to step out or cross the street in these busy areas.

Police finds it remarkable that motorists caught up in the traffic congestion use the opportunity to engage in other distractions such as texting and other distracting activities.

Such activities also impact traffic fluidity at peak hours.

Drivers double-parking close to the school areas add to the traffic impediments.

Police urge all motorists to refrain from these activities while in traffic. (KPSM)

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Sarah Insists on Answers from Minister Doran Regarding Mullet Bay: Also Inquires Regarding the Mullet Bay Inquiry

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – “With the Mullet Bay beach very much in the news lately, Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams is attempting to get answers to her questions which were evaded by the Minister of VROMI in the public meetings dealing with Government’s policies on the granting of long lease land,” a statement from the Office of the MP said on Wednesday morning.

“In her letter to the Minister, the MP reminded the Minister of her attempts to get some clarity with respect to what is taking place at Mullet Bay beach. “During the sessions of public meeting no. 2, which commenced on September 23rd, amongst my questions to the Minister of VROMI were questions regarding Mullet Bay beach and (operating) licenses granted by Government to individuals and companies. In first instance the Minister answered with providing a brief number of the businesses on aforementioned beach. My subsequent questions regarding this topic were conveniently overlooked or just not answered. I specifically asked regarding the fenced-in area on the beach of Mullet Bay. Again, no reply.”

“In recent days activities at Mullet Bay have been very much in the limelight . Via social media one could have seen the  developments on this beach, some of which should definitely raise a red flag. “This is the beach this governing coalition wanted to “give back to the people”. It would appear that with the speed developments on and around the Mullet Bay beach are taking place, by the time the Government does attempt to make good on their promise, if they had ever planned to, we, the people will be holding the empty bag.”

“Locals who follow all the relevant procedures, are being neglected, while a chosen few seems to be able to do as they please. MP Wescot-Williams has again, now in writing, posed the following questions to the Minister of VROMI:

  1. Is Government acting in conformity with the beach policy at Mullet Bay Beach? If not, why not? If yes, please explain.
  1. How many permits have been granted for the Mullet Bay beach and what type of permits?
  1. Please provide a map of the beach with location, size and description of the permits.
  1. How many of the permit holders are sole proprietors and how many NVs?
  2. What is the cost of the trenching being done to lay cables and at whose expense is this work being done?
  1. Are permit holders expected to contribute to this cost and if so, for how much and based on what?

“In addition to these questions, the MP has also asked the Mullet Bay Inquiry Committee of Parliament to apprise the people of its actions, if any.

“By decision dated November 5, of the Parliament, the Mullet Bay Inquiry was established under the catchy caption of “Giving Mullet Back to the People”. The  legal basis for this/an inquiry can be found in the National Ordinance Parliamentary Inquiry.

“Before arriving at this decision, the Parliament was informed of the objectives of the inquiry, by the presenters, namely MP Brison and former MP Richardson.This presentation was made public during the meetings of Parliament. Interestingly, the meeting to formalize this inquiry was requested by the (then) members Jacobs, Doran, Richardson, Irion, Marlin, Brison and Emmanuel, so this matter should be known to the current Minister of VROMI”, MP Wescot explained.

“During the Central Committee meeting on the topic of Mullet Bay, several pertinent questions were put to the Government by Members of Parliament. “As far as I have been able to ascertain, these were never answered. Also in accordance with the aforementioned law, the Committee/Parliament is supposed to formally present the budget for an inquiry for inclusion in the budget of the country. We are approximately 2 years further and it behooved me to ask the following questions of this parliamentary committee, chaired by MP Rolando Brison”.

  1. Have any action been undertaken by this committee in accordance with its mandate? If so, what actions and when?
  1. Has the Government responded to the questions put forward by Members of Parliament on this topic? If so, when?
  1. Has a detailed budget been submitted for the Mullet Bay Inquiry in accordance with the national ordinance? If so, has this ever been included in the country’s budget? If not, why not? Has the committee made any expenses? If so, for what?
  1. Has the Government apprised the Parliament Committee of its activities and those of third parties on the Mullet Bay property and specifically the beach area? If so, what are these activities? 
  1. Has the Government acted in accordance with the Civil Code in allowing activities on the public beach?

“I look forward to receiving the answers from the Minister of VROMI and the Committee chairperson. In fact, I think the governing coalition under the leadership of the Prime Minister should address this matter,” MP Wescot concluded.

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MP Buncamper ask unions to assist as primary stakeholder with recovery and legislation matters

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Wednesday November 3, 2021, members of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions (WICLU) met with the members of the Central Committee of Parliament and delivered a presentation seeking the attention of Parliament for urgent legislation to better protect the economic-, social- and financial rights of workers, Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius Buncamper said in a press statement on Tuesday. 

During the presentation several topics plaguing workers on the island were brought to the forefront.

Based on the Union’s presentation, MP Buncamper posed several questions to the representatives of WICLU to get their views on how to arrive at a balanced and tangible decision-making process that will benefit all stakeholders in an equal and fair manner and not that the efforts and actions taken or to be taken will benefit one group and have a negative effect on another.  

A comparison between sole proprietorship and business (NV’s) ownership was made during the presentation, whereby it was mentioned that in the case of a sole proprietorship the funds generated remain on the island. MP Buncamper said that he agrees to some extend and asked what ideas the WICLU has that Parliament or Government should follow in order to keep the funds from moving off island from, for example, the big businesses that are owned by foreign investors?

The MP said that he is curious to know what the views of WICLU are on Immigration matters, and whether they consider it a serious problem in the country. “We all know that the island suffers from undocumented workers holding down jobs that registered citizens could occupy. This problem is growing graver by the day and effects the economy harder during these difficult times.” MP Buncamper told the WICLU representatives and asked what the union’s position, or possible solution, is to this growing concern as it effects their membership directly. 

“That the food basket has to be broaden to protect the markup of prices is very unfortunate and needs to be addressed by government most urgently” MP Buncamper noted. “Our island depends on the importation of goods where food is concerned. It appears that the only tangible cost that can be adjusted to lower food prices is the personnel costs.” MP Buncamper admitted that “after the passing of hurricane Irma, several organizations and individuals resorted to growing their own produce, baking and cooking to consume or to sell to third parties to generate extra income and to avoid being confronted with high marked up prices and thereby avoiding locally generated funds going abroad.” The MP stated that “many people saw the need to start their own little garden in their yard” and insisted that “we need to continue growing our own local produce and go back to the days when our forefathers and parents used to fish.” Fishery, the MP said, is a very profitable market and should be exploited. 

MP Buncamper told the union representatives that government can address the Saba Bank ownership and it’s usage by our country to create an additional economic pillar and ask the union leaders how they expect the cost to remain low if salaries is the only point of discussion? The MP said that he does not believe that we should be looking at salaries as, in many cases, these cannot be considered livable wages. MP Buncamper also stressed that we need to establish cooperation with our regional partners for purchasing agricultural products, while we prepare to start using modern technologies for farming and fishery. 

The subject of reducing cost of living and making housing more affordable was another point of discussion. As the MP welcomed the union’s suggestions and involvement, he anticipated hearing the union’s views on how they believe government should bring down the cost of living, seeing that most factors that contribute to the rise in cost of living was beyond government’s control.   

Although labor regulations are in place, the unions are of the opinion that there is much fear among workers to become a union member, which can result in disciplinary actions or even being fired. There is also a fear to speak up on matters of abuses. There are laws in place to deal with intimidation in the workplace and perhaps the “whistleblower” law can contribute to preventing intimidation for workers. All workers, unionized or not, can rest assured that the laws will be adhered to and enforced when the proper channels are followed. 

The MP brought up the flexibilization of the labor laws for the union’s opinion and mentioned that there are long mediation processes between the mediator, employee(s) and employer that can sometimes go on for months, whilst the employee is still being paid. These long pending mediations cause immense financial suffering to the business.

Buncamper questioned if the WICLU has taken a position on the flexibility of the labor laws? 

The issuance of business licenses was also addressed. “It is a public secret that business -and directors licenses form a free pass for entry to our country. Having such a license enables one to acquire a residence permit and perform work activities freely” MP Buncamper noted and said that he will review many of the requested director’s licenses to ascertain if the payment offered truly match the work to be performed. Revoking a director’s licenses when it is clear that the local labor market is being jeopardized should become the norm and not an exception. The ultimate penalty would be the revoking of the business license and for that the necessary adjustments of the law must be handled. This initiative, the MP said, should had been taken by the competent ministers a longtime ago. 

MP Buncamper informed the union reps that climate change was discussed recently in a Summit and has the attention of many world leaders, scientists, environmentalists and populations. The union stated in one of their presentation points that they believe the country is entitled to clean energy, which means moving away from the fuel presently used by GEBE power plant. Producing clean energy can be done in various forms, but none presently executed by NV GEBE.  

Another concern brought forward by the unions was the right to SDG6, which entails the rights to clean water. The MP is of the opinion that we are producing clean and pure water and that we are in compliance with SDG6. 

There is a grave social problem brewing at the St. Maarten Housing Foundation and the housing program of the country is almost collapsing. Rent prices for houses and apartments are out of control, thus unaffordable for the average lower class and middle class residents of the country. There are homeless people roaming the streets and sleeping on benches. This topic also has the MP’s attention, and wants to hear the unions position on the functioning of the Housing Foundation and the housing program. 

Lastly, the MP mentioned that if we were to follow proper procedures, the Dutch government might be willing to assist us financially. The MP asked the union representatives how the union sees the 2022 and 2023 budgets when it comes to the implementation or partial termination of the 3 crisis laws? 

MP Buncamper applauds the WICLU efforts to assist Parliament with the aforementioned concerns, as he believes that Parliament can use all the support that it receives.

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STB & TUI Destination Promotional Campaign a Success

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Sint Maarten Tourism Bureau (STB) and TUI Tour Operator executed a destination ‘Cooperative Marketing Campaign,’ in the Netherlands with the primary focus to stimulate tourism bookings as well as generate destination awareness amongst Dutch travel consumers.

The campaign comprised of a retail and online component. The retail component of the campaign focused on increasing visibility of the destination and its partners in TUI Travel Shops.

A poster that included a ‘call to action’ to book a trip together with a visual of the destination and hotel partner was shown on digital screens in 133 travel shops across the Netherlands.

In addition, a targeted Facebook advertising campaign was also carried out on Facebook to reach an audience interested in vacation holidays.

This Facebook advertisement garnered more than 800.000 impressions with an above average click through rate, surpassing the target goal.

To further increase the destination awareness, Sint Maarten was featured in an online banner on TUI.nl. The destination promotional online banner appeared in front of thousands of TUI.nl website visitors on the results page of specific destinations landing pages as well as on the Long-Haul page.

Moreover, the destination was also highlighted in the ‘Spotlight’ section of TUI’s weekly newsletter distributed to more than 700,000 subscribers.

STB and TUI are very pleased with the results as it had surpassed all target, benchmark, and generated bookings to Sint Maarten.

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SMDF Launches Learn SMART e-learning program

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – With St. Maarten still feeling the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF), supported by the Ministry of Finance, is continuing to strengthen national recovery efforts by offering residents access to new educational opportunities.

A follow up to SMDF’s successful Workforce Development Program, Learn SMART, an acronym for St. Maarten Active Recovery & Training Program, is partnering with online learning platform Coursera to provide access to courses from leading university and industry educators around the world including Yale University, the University of Michigan, IBM, and Microsoft. With its wide array of learning tracks, Learn SMART will equip learners with valuable tools and knowledge that will provide them with opportunities to excel in global online–as well as in local offline—careers. Last year’s three-month pilot Workforce Development Program saw over 1,200 requests to participate with hundreds of people completing courses. After the program ended, SMDF received an outpouring of positive feedback and requests to have the program extended which is now being realized via Learn SMART.

With the support of the Ministry of Finance, SMDF is expanding its efforts to support socioeconomic growth in an innovative way. With the program being completely online, learners will be delving into themes such as entrepreneurship, customer relations, and business administration among others over a two-year period.

“The people of St. Maarten showed their appetite for knowledge last year by signing up in overwhelming numbers and more importantly the high rate of course completions show the value in this program.” said Minister Ardwell Irion. “It’s an honor to have this program continue through the work Workforce development Program with the support of the SMDF.”

“The pandemic has significantly impacted St. Maarten’s tourism and service sector, leaving thousands unemployed,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera CEO. “We're honored to partner with the Government of St. Maarten to launch a nationwide training program to help displaced workers develop high-demand business and digital skills needed to regain employment in the new economy.”

“Access and opportunity are two of life’s biggest success factors,” said Makhicia Brooks, SMDF Managing Director. “Through the Learn SMART program we hope to open doors to new possibilities for professional advancement across St. Maarten.”

Additionally, as the world continues to shift towards technology, the Learn SMART initiative will also offer free scholarships to Google entry-level Professional Certificates on Coursera. These certificates, in the fields of Project Management, Data Analytics, IT Support, and UX Design, will create pathways for residents to work in technology areas of the future.

With Learn SMART launching on November 15, SMDF has opened its online application portal to prospective learners. Applicants must be 18 years or older and must provide proof of residency on St. Maarten via utility bill, bank statement, pay slip or Census registration form. The online application along with the required supplemental documentation is available at smdf.sx/learnsmart. For anyone interested in learning more about the program, they can contact SMDF via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Learn SMART is an initiative launched and executed by SMDF in close collaboration with the Government of St. Maarten and one of the world’s leading online learning platforms, Coursera.

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Minister of TEATT received Financial Statements of BTP with unqualified opinion from SOAB

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On November 4st, 2021, the honorable Minister of TEATT, Mr. Roger Lawrence, received the 2018 financial statements including the audit report of SOAB form Bureau Telecommunications and Post Sint Maarten (BTP) and Stichting Overheids Accountant Bureau (SOAB) at the ministers office.

The audit report for the 2018 fiscal year that was handed over to the minister was unqualified, meaning the financial statements give a true and fair view which is a milestone for BTP which was under severe scrutiny after the 2015 audit report of the General Audit Chamber and more recent events involving the dismissed Director.

When the minister took office, he made it a priority to ensure that all governmental entities/ ZBO’s under his helm were or become fully compliant with general accounting principles and corporate governance procedures and obligations. Minister Lawrence is highly elated with BTP’s un-qualified financial statement for the year 2018. The minister stated: “I’m very happy with the progress that BTP is making, and the positive outcome of the SOAB audit report. It indicates that BTP is on the right trajectory to restore trust in our society. To further build and strengthen this great nation, we need to make ongoing efforts to ensure that governmental entities are fully functioning, show professionalism and set an example in our country. My administration will provide professional support to these entities, but also hold them accountable so we can be assured of the best possible services to our community”.

In closing the minister stated that the 2018 Financial Statements of BTP is a step in the right direction, but more work still needs to be done. To fully restore trust and to be fully compliant, we need to make it a priority that the audit reports for the remaining years be produced as soon as possible. The financial team at BTP can continue to count on the support of my cabinet to get this job done. Teamwork makes the dream work.

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Electricity, Water, and fiber now at Mullet Bay Beach

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure (Ministry of VROMI) Hon. Egbert J. Doran announced on Thursday that a project is currently underway which will further enhance the overall experience at Mullet Bay Beach for residents and tourists who visit one of the island's most popular beaches.

The waiver for trenching works, which was approved by the Ministry, facilitates the trenching of 233 meters from the main entrance directly to the beach.

The trench will house utility lines for electricity, water and fiber optic connections by partners GEBE, TELEM and UTS/FLOW. The Ministry is closely monitoring the trenching works to ensure that there will be no negative impact to the adjacent property.

The vendors on Mullet Bay Beach are pleased that the daily water deliveries and use of generators can stop and they can now improve on the quality of service while better adhering to cleaning protocols in these times of COVID-19. They also look forward to being able to offer high-speed Wi-Fi services to beachgoers.

The project will also increase the safety and security of beachgoers through the installation of lights by GEBE and cameras with the assistance of the Sint Maarten Police Force KPSM.

Beachgoers and motorists are advised to drive with caution when heading to the parking area at the beach as trench works are currently ongoing.

The Ministry aims to continue to facilitate all public areas with utility connections. In addition, the utility meters for the vending operations at the Kim Sha Beach will also be completed within short.

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MP Emmanuel: Prime Minister celebrates while people suffer

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - “The lack of empathy knows no boundaries with this Prime Minister,” said Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel in reaction to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs’ celebratory claim of “vindication” after the Constitutional Court upheld three income cutting laws that her government imposed on the people of St. Maarten. “The Prime Minister is celebrating being wrong and making people lives harder,” the MP said.

MP Emmanuel said it should surprise no one that the Prime Minister would have that sort of reaction considering that her government did not consider the immediate and long term suffering workers would have to endure as a result of the cuts. This consideration could not be demonstrated to the court prompting the court to issue a statement of “hope” that the Dutch government and the government of St. Maarten consider the people.

“The Prime Minister actually found a way to strike a celebratory tone after the verdict. All of this while we have police officers getting their electricity cut, and parents getting letters from schools about non-payment of school fees. How do you find the heart to strike a tone of celebration while people suffer?” the MP asked.

“The Prime used the word ‘vindication’ as if there was something to be proud of. She did not use the opportunity to tell civil servants and others when or if they can expect anything going forward or how long these “temporary laws” will be on the books. No, she chose instead to say; you see, we are vindicated! As usual the poor tone and severe lack of empathy was on full display again,” he said.

He added that the government of St. Maarten has never “to this day” divulged what its negotiating approach was and what alternatives were presented to the Dutch government. The government, he continued, also has never answered if it was the Dutch government that actually came up with the 12.5% cut or was that a recommendation from “other sources” that St. Maarten simply went along with.

“Bottom line is this government operates in the shadows. You do not know what to believe since they have been caught in lie after lie. The Prime Minister of St. Maarten has shown in the past and has re-enforced recently that she will condone and say anything to protect the wrong actions of her government, which apparently is “stable” based on deals being cut. So it should surprise no one that she would celebrate being wrong and claim vindication on the backs of the people of St. Maarten,” the MP concluded.  

  

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