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2019 annual report of APS submitted before November 1 deadline

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - The General Pension Fund of Sint Maarten (APS) submitted its 2019 annual report on June 29, 2020, four months ahead of the legally declared annual deadline of November 1. The 2019 annual report was submitted to the Minister of Finance of Sint Maarten, the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten and the General Audit Chamber.

With this early submission, APS can ensure a more accurate and efficient current year reporting and further planning and budgeting. This also allows APS to further accelerate the cycle of internal control improvements and streamlining of its processes. APS has been working the past years on early submittal by streamlining the internal processes. This is the second year of early submittal of the annual report by APS.

“APS is very proud of this accomplishment as we pride ourselves on being a professional entity that adheres to the legal regulations imposed on us, which includes, meeting our deadlines. APS will continue to make strides to improve on a consistent basis, having identified these areas in our Strategic Agenda, ensuring that the pension scheme will be financially sustainable, now and in the future.” stated APS Director Nadya Croes-van Putten

The 2019 annual report highlights several key aspects that show the performance of the Fund over the fiscal year. Most importantly being the funding ratio. Annually, APS aims to achieve a minimum coverage ratio of 100% and a target of 105%. For the year-end 2019, APS achieved a coverage ratio of 103.81%. This was achieved by gaining significant positive return on APS investments of 9.54% in 2019. Other contributing factors were an increase in collections, resolution of overdue receivables and improvement in the accuracy of the pension administration.

According to APS Director Croes-van Putten, “This favorable coverage ratio shows an increase by 6.24% in comparison to 2018. This is the highest year-end funding ratio since the Fund’s inception and it means that APS can cover all its financial obligations. Despite the strain the COVID19 crisis has put on our fund we continue to weather the storm. The preliminary May 2020 funding ratio was already at 101.10%. And further growth is expected in June 2020.”

The completed 2019 annual report can be found on the APS website www.apsxm.org, under Annual Reports in the Downloads section.

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Racism and bigotry in St. Maarten are unacceptable. MP Heyliger-Marten requests formal position of Bar Association

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - "The fact that Mr. Hatzmann sees the people of Sint Maarten as “little village people” proves that he is part of the bigger problem" said United People's Party Faction Leader in Parliament, the honourable Grisha Heyliger-Marten Wednesday evening. She urgently calls on the St. Maarten Bar Association to state its formal position on Mr. Hatzmann’s press release.  

Her statement was a sharp reaction to an article published recently by an online blog site. The headline of the online article was "Dean Bar Association welcomes Dutch intervention at Pointe Blanche prison”. In response, Heyliger-Marten pointed out that only once the article mentioned of the support of the motion of Dutch MP Chris van Dam, which called for the Kingdom Council of Ministers to take full control of the Pointe Blanche Prison for five years at the expense of the local government.

In the article, attorney Geert Hatzmann dismissed calls from MP Heyliger-Marten and Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs for equal treatment for St. Maarten from the Dutch Government and urgent completion of decolonization as “nothing but demagogic nonsense.”

Heyliger-Marten considers it a direct insult to St. Maarten, it’s people, and those who the people elected that an attorney working and living on the island calls St. Maarten a “little village that plays little country” who were not equal to the 17 million people in Holland. "If you live on our island and have the audacity to call us hungry criminals who would have killed each other if the Dutch didn't send food baskets and soldiers with guns to stop us from killing each other over it, then you are part of the problem."

“It is very unfortunate that people like Mr. Hatzmann tarnish the reputation of the Dutch population in general, including those in the Netherlands who have publicly spoken out and demonstrated against racism lately”, the MP added.

The attorney had also said that St. Maarten was only a financial burden to The Netherlands who provided financial, material and personnel support out of moral obligation, which prevented locals from “butchering each other for food.” He also labelled St. Maarten’s past as being “a jet-black period of structural serious human rights violations” and said it was hilarious that residents spoke about colonialism because St. Maarten is “absolutely not the equal of the Dutch Government.”

“Mr. Hatzmann’s mindless and ignorant comments are a perfect example of the saying: It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt. As a European Dutch national, Mr. Hatzmann should know it is his mother country the Netherlands who has a “jet-black history” of pillage, genocide, suppression, slave trade, the betrayal of Jews, and other crimes too numerous to mention, stated MP Heyliger-Marten.

MP Heyliger-Marten stated that it is mind-boggling that as an attorney, Mr. Hatzmann would make these populist, unsubstantiated, and emotional statements on legal or other issues without having done his research and studied the facts. “Mr. Hatzmann could have easily accessed the extensive academic research by legal scholars who actually know what they are talking about on the unfinished decolonization of the Caribbean, islands before making his reckless statements.

If he prepares as poorly as this prior to representing his same “small village” clients in the courts, they have a very small chance of winning their cases. In that respect, I strongly advise Mr. Hatzmann, to focus on educating himself and representing the best interests of his clients, until he is elected to represent the best interests of the people of Sint Maarten in general”, Heyliger-Marten stated.

“On one hand, he ridicules and dismisses invoking the international legal order by the Parliament of Sint Maarten against the Government of The Netherlands. But on the other hand, he welcomes intervention by the Government of the Netherlands to correct alleged human rights violations of that same international legal order by the Government of Sint Maarten”. “This simply makes no sense”, according to MP Heyliger-Marten, “and Mr. Hatzmann should realize that without the international legal order, he would be without a job”.

Mr. Hatzmann seems to put his biased trust in the ability of failed civil servants of a colonial, self-confessed institutionally racist narco-state that has admittedly lost the war against organized crime, an EU-designated tax-haven, and a country where several ministers were forced to resign due to incompetence and immoral and lawless behaviour to fix problems in Sint Maarten.

“Because of this unfinished decolonization Sint Maarten has been prevented from taking full advantage of its development potential and the options to directly access financial and other resources, from sources other than the Netherlands”, according to the MP.

Earlier, Heyliger-Marten had praised State Secretary Raymond Knops for pointing out to the Second Chamber in The Netherlands that intervening in the internal and budgetary affairs of St. Maarten would be unlawful. She did point out though that she found his stance one of convenience, since on numerous previous occasion the Dutch Government had instituted policies as conditions for financial support during some of the most devastating periods of the islands' history.

The MP said that the Dutch Government had the opportunity in 2017 to rebuild the Point Blanche Prison when they took some 70 million ANG that never went through the World Bank Trust Fund, to "improve" the justice system on St. Maarten. "Some of that money could have been used from then to build the prison and improve conditions, and Holland has the obligation to do so do based on resolution 1514 of the United Nations.

“In any case, I will not sit back while certain Dutch colonial elements on the island or elsewhere try to ridicule Sint Maarten and its people with racist and colonial remarks, and certainly not when they enjoy all that we have offered them over the years”, Heyliger-Marten concluded.

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Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs Emancipation Day Address

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs delivered the following address on the occasion of Emancipation Day on July 1st:


Good Morning,


In 1863, when the institution that was slavery, was officially abolished on the southern side of St. Martin, our ancestors on whose shoulders we stand today had already liberated themselves by making it economically unfeasible for it to be maintained, while family members to the North were already freed some 15 years before in 1848. History has shown us, even after most countries in Europe abolished the slave trade itself since the early 1800s, the Dutch were the last to abolish slavery,

Denmark in 1803

Britain in 1834

France in 1848

Dutch in 1863

While Suriname and the rest of the then called Dutch Antilles officially abolished slavery in 1863, here on St. Martin, our ancestors Ran for freedom across the borders, the Diamond 26s and many more. So the Plantation owners finally gave in and both sides maintained the same status, and as can be seen on our monument, 1848 is a pivotal year for St. Maarten and her people.

Though the massa been a hide’m ....our ancestors freed themselves. It saw an end to the most brutal, horrendous, inhumane time in our history. We often conceal the level of pain and hurt that surrounds this time. What it was... was self-enrichment on the hard work of our people. Though the physical restraints were removed, we have yet to remove the institutionalized inequalities we continue to face even today as member states in the Dutch Kingdom.

While slavery was one of the most horrific events in our recent history, today, we honor our ancestors' strength, who had to toil through this hardship for so many years. We take time to remember the journey and celebrate Freedom, assess our Freedom, and enhance our Freedom. Emancipation is the commemoration of Freedom, the god-given right of every living being. For this Freedom, our ancestors ran, fought, and struggled.

Today, we celebrate St. Martiners, their perseverance, and their determination. We are now building a nation on their blood, sweat, and tears. They did not accept the status quo, and did not conform. We have what we have today, and what many take for granted today Because of their resilience, their strength of mind and their purpose.

Today marks the victory of the strong will of our people. This was not without its struggles; we all know the story of One-tete Lohkay; a young woman who fled the plantation of her captor. Lohkay was caught, and brought back to the plantation, and punished by removing one of her breasts, giving her the name-- one-tete Lokay. What gives me great admiration for this young woman and her story; is that despite this harsh punishment, she became even more courageous and strong-will for her Freedom. She escaped again and lived alone in the hills coming down to visit persons and gather additional supplies.

With her new found freedom, she led many more to flee to their Freedom. Fellow Sint Maarteners, I implore you to adapt the spirit of emancipation as a descendant of the enslaved, which we have achieved, progressed, survived and made possible, together. And with us, our food, music, dance, culture, and values have passed down from generation to generation.

Today, we are not without our challenges, as black people worldwide fight for equality, the right to determine one's destiny, and the right to live free from judgment; a fight against bigotry that still exists today. We must recognize that we are now truly also in a fight for our right as small island-states for our right to self-govern, for our right of self-determination.

We fight this first and foremost by standing up against any oppression and any form of inequality. We fight this by addressing all forms of institutionalized colonialism still remaining in our systems of government, education, Immigration, etc. But most importantly, we fight this through education, knowing our history, and ensuring that our children know theirs. In the words of Marcus Garvey. "A people without knowledge of their history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots."

We must also remember that our story did not start in slavery, but as emperors and empresses on the mighty continent of Africa, where we traveled, built, explored and ruled.... this story we must also learn to value ourselves and love ourselves and lift ourselves up to where we envision us to be again.

Freedom is a state of mind. Our ancestors imagined a world in which they were free, and they fought towards it. Our brother Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," that highlights the words of Garvey, chanting "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!" Therefore, we must begin to imagine ourselves as a financially self-sufficient country and take necessary actions to that end. We must think it, believe it, plan and work to achieve it.

This Emancipation Day has been themed “Sacred Legacies, standing on the shoulders of giants." which is ever so fitting for us.  Our foundation in this land is based on indescribable strength. A strength that has guided us for years, and will guide us again through the challenges faced with COVID-19 and beyond, and through our collective efforts.

Remember Lohkay, remember the many nameless, I remember! Quamina, I remember Jose Lake sr., I remember Sir Camille Baly, I remember Neville York, I remember Joe Richardson, I remember Nadia and I honor those who toil today, including our current leaders, movers, and shakers.

I conclude today, to impress this final thought upon you--as many of us go through challenges right here on St. Martin, remember our foundation and find that strength within. If there is something that you can conceive; a dream, idea, an opportunity, an avenue of untapped potential, go for it. Our Ancestors did it with far less, and we can surely do it too.

Thank you, God Bless you and May God Bless Sint Maarten and protect her people wherever they may be.

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The Questionable Tantrum of MP Gumbs

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Lionel R. Joseph) - I'm not sure what "revisionist history" has to do with anything when a man speaks of present-day issues. I'm not sure what it means at all. Something is either true or it is not. But it was an odd thing to say. Maybe there is something deeper at play within the mind of MP Gumbs. Resentment perhaps? Who knows. 

What we do know is that Sint Maarten faces many problems today. Some of them are home grown and some are not. One of the greatest obstacles to both progress and simple, everyday governing is the broken Charter and Kingdom structure. 

Regardless of how we got here, no one can deny that the current Kingdom arrangement is dysfunctional.  And the consequences of this are clear.  Since 10-10-10, progress and basic decision making is either studied to death by overpaid consultants or suffocated by more and more entities we never asked for nor ever needed.  We don't need to look much further than the recovery after Irma to see this. Something Theo and others try to point out.  Is it a "bold faced lie" that Dominica benefited from international aid while after almost 3 years only a drop of what was promised to Sint Maarten has actually been spent? Even a child can see the obvious.

Is MP Gumbs saying that the roofless homes we see around us is also a bold-faced lie? Are the stars people see at night where once they had a roof a bold-faced lie made up by Theo? Believe the excuses around the trust fund, not your own eyes, is what MP Gumbs is telling people. Don't trust yourself, but trust the experts. It has been 3 long years of waiting and trusting these experts. She wants us to wait some more apparently.  

The MP cites the Citizenship by Investment Program, where islands sell a passport for a hefty price to foreign investors, as the only fund Dominica benefits from to rebuild homes. Now that is a bold-faced lie. MP Gumbs conveniently forgot to mention that the same World Bank successfully provided funds to Dominica's recovery after Hurricane Maria. Speaking about the World Bank funds, Prime Minister Skerrit publicly stated that US$40 million from that international fund will go to housing in Dominica. This fact was published by the World Bank itself back in April 2018. Is this another "bold faced lie"? Why did it work over there and not here? Did she bother to ask herself that? Perhaps MP Gumbs should spend more time researching these facts than she does on a retired politician. It was a transparent attempt to distract from local reality.

The truth is that something is clearly wrong when our Caribbean peers can rebuild while we wait on more requirements, more new entities, more bureaucracy, and more expensive consultants before one nail can be hammered. That is just madness.   

Some may be puzzled why MP Gumbs would throw a tantrum over a casual radio interview about the simple issue of fixing roofs. I certainly was.  What could get her so hot and bothered? Her response was to shoot down any further talk about fixing roofs, like some uptight kindergarten teacher lecturing small children for asking too many questions.  I mean, how dare you point out that almost 3 years later and countless committees, reports, and entities there is actually little to show. But then, who exactly does MP Gumbs serve, if not the St. Maarten people?

Perhaps the truth is that it is a personal matter too close to home for the MP.  The NRPB, the local guardian of the US$500 million promised to St. Maarten, is coming under closer scrutiny by a skeptical population.  Sint Maarten's representative on the NRPB is MP Gumbs' father, a career politician and former Prime Minister, who has enjoyed more government positions over the past 40 odd years than anyone else.  So, the tantrum was nothing more but the same protecting of personal interest over the national interest.  MP Gumbs is not really concerned with fixing roofs, and certainly not the truth, but protecting the bureaucrats who tell you that what you see with your eyes is not real.  In other words, ordinary folks must not criticize what is close to home of those with power and privilege, like an MP. Her message was to sit tight and shut up for another 3 years, and count your lucky stars above instead. 

It's an easy and a cost-free exercise to stab Theo when it suits the moment. It doesn't make MP Gumbs brave. It makes her common. We've seen it before. It's pathological, especially among those who have accomplished little or nothing in their lives. 

The really difficult job is to take on the greatest challenge we face: the broken Kingdom and the very real consequences of it on people's lives.  For a change, let's hold ourselves and the entire Kingdom accountable for the broken promises. Hold the invisible bureaucrats accountable, because they are the only few who quietly benefit while St. Maarten falls apart.  But that would require taking on real risk and facing the brunt of our mighty European partners.  That is a cost MP Gumbs is unwilling to bear.

If that challenge is too difficult for some politicians, like MP Gumbs, then we'll offer her a simpler challenge: start by creating one real job first.  Just one.  The clock is ticking.

Lionel R. Joseph

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Businesses Allowed to Open on Emancipation Day

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Ministry of TEATT hereby informs that businesses are allowed to remain open on Emancipation Day at their discretion. Emancipation is indeed a public holiday celebrated on July 1st.

There are several activities that will be held on Emancipation Day in recognition of that day. The public is encouraged to participate as much as possible, and enjoy the festivities.

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Minister Samuel reminds public to celebrate Emancipation Day 2020, “Sacred legacies; standing on the shoulders of giants”

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - With only a few more days left before July 1st, Minister of Education Culture Youth & Sport the Honorable drs. Rodolphe E. Samuel is reminding everyone in the community to come out and celebrate the 157th Anniversary of Emancipation from slavery.

Emancipation Day, a public holiday, will be celebrated on July 1st at 9:00 am to 10:30 am at the Freedom Fighter Roundabout located in Philipsburg across from the Sundial School.

This year’s celebration centered around the theme “Sacred legacies; standing on the shoulders of giants” will feature a dynamic repertoire of performances from dance, poetry to drumming.

The production is inspired by the era from 1848 to 1863 when our ancestors fought for their freedom. The performances set out to evoke attendees and viewers to reflect on the situation from then until now. While many may dwell on the many differences we might have as individuals, collectively we are one people, united in the fight for our human rights with the common goal to be free from all forms of oppression.

Minister Samuel has envisioned a presentation that celebrates diverse cultural elements and has involved a small but inspired cast of performers. The Sint Maarten Song will be played on steel – pan by the Mighty Dow. Local calypsonian Marvin “King Stunky” Dollison who will be accompanied by the Community Choir will perform his Emancipation Day song, while the Rudolph Davis Dance Company dancers will be performing contemporary pieces including the “Ponum” Emancipation dance.

Additional features of the program include a musical rendition of the Freedom song by Thierry from Nuff Respek Band. Mention must be made of the revival of drumming, which has always been a part of St. Maarten’s culture.

The program will incorporate the sounds of the West African Drum by Drum-ology lead by Souleyman Camara. Active drummers from Helir Coquillas from the northern side of the island have been an integral part of the revival of the “Ponum” dance since 1989. 

Furthermore, with respect to the health protocols surrounding COVID-19, persons are once again reminded to ensure their safety by wearing masks and maintaining social distancing as they gather during this public event.

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Urgent Plenary session of Parliament about the Ministry of VSA Guidelines for reopening the destination to international travelers

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The House of Parliament will sit in an urgent Plenary Public Session on Monday, June 29, 2020. The Public meeting is scheduled for 10.00 hrs. and will be held in a virtual setting.

The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour will be in attendance.

The agenda point is: Discussion on the ministry of VSA Guidelines for reopening the destination to international traveler.

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19), the House of Parliament is only allowing persons with an appointment to enter the Parliament building.

The parliamentary session will be held virtually and will be carried out live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1 www.pearlfmradio.sx, via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten

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Masked Robber evades arrest after robbing Welfare road restaurant on Friday

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Special Robbery Unit is currently investigating an armed robbery which took place today Friday 26th June 2020, at a restaurant on the Welfare Road, the police announced on Friday evening.

The police on the scene were informed that a male, dressed in dark clothing with a mask, entered the establishment brandishing a firearm and demanded the restaurant’s daily earnings. The suspect then fled the establishment on foot towards the Cay Bay area.

The Sint Maarten Police Force is asking the community to be vigilant. We are urging persons in the community who may have witnessed this or any other crime to come forward with any information that may assist in finding the culprit. A search of the area was carried out by the patrols, but the culprit was able to evade arrest.

The detectives investigating this armed robbery case are asking for witness(es) to contact the station at +1 721- 542 22 22 ext. 204 or 205 or the anonymous tip line on 9300 (free of charge).

You can also visit the website at www.policesxm.sx to report a crime anonymously via the tip contact form, or you can leave a Private Message via our Facebook page (Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten) if you know or suspect something. (KPSM)

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Islandpreneur Live 2020 ends with Virtual Happy Hour on June 26

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - More than 600 people have registered from all over the world to attend Islandpreneur Live 2020, a virtual summit aimed to empower Caribbean entrepreneurs to thrive in the digital world and be more resilient. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Persons can still register to benefit from all the content in the replay and join the last day of sessions live.

On the last day of the virtual summit, Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of Priceline.com/Booking.com and Chairman of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN - www.genglobal.org), will give the keynote at 11 AM AST. GEN serves more than 180 countries in entrepreneurship policy development as well as ecosystem stimulation projects such as the Global Entrepreneurship Week which is hosted around the world every year in the third week of November.

Other key speakers include Daniela Papi- Thornton, thought leader, professor, and creator of the Systems Led Leadership model. Systems Led Leadership helps leaders to rethink entrepreneurship and impact education with a systems’ change lens. Daniela has done signifcant work at Yale School of Management, Watson Institute, and Oxford’s Said Business School.

Rene Romer is was previously CEO of the Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange (DCSX) and is still involved as Senior Commercial Advisor. During the past 37 years Mr. Römer has worked in  the international fiduciary and banking services industry. Rene will share how small medium enterprises can raise capital and position themselves in the global market through the exchange.

Kayanne Anderson is a premier intellectual property lawyer and expert. With more than 20 years of expertise in areas of corporate governance, private intellectual property advocacy and reform, and international cross border transactions. Kayanne will share best practices on how to use the power of intellectual property to transform your business and impact our economies.

Megan Conyers is the Executive Vice President of Florida Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association and an international business growth and strategy executive. Megan has collaborated with various trade and economic development organizations to create thriving business ecosystems and will share on how to best leverage international markets.

The last session of this virtual summit is a roundtable hosted by executive producer of Islandpreneur Live 2020, entrepreneur, and business connector, Ife Badejo. Titled, Digital Revolution & Economic Resilience, this roundtable discussion will focus on how the strategies and policies required to ensure a digital economy and economic resilience during these uncertain times.

There will be two (2) panelists. Arno Boersma is the founding partner of Island Impact - a social enterprise that aims to bring positive impact to small islands through initiatives in sustainable development. Most recently he was the director of UNDP’s Center of Excellence for Small Island Developing States. A knowledgeable strategist with a passion for turning knowledge into action, preferably knowledge related to island opportunities in energy, water, climate, tourism, waste, ocean, and biodiversity. Arno is ideal to share on the impact of digital revolution and small island developing states such as many of the islands in the Caribbean.

Telly V. Onu is the managing partners of Beyond Capital Markets. Ms. Telly Valerie Onu has been at the forefront of the financial innovation ecosystem with over 19 years’ experience as a financial and impact innovator, digital economist and transformation expert and thought leader. She has designed,and led multimillion dollar projects and implementation teams. She has worked with World Bank Group, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, and Microsoft. With an Executive Masters in e-Governance specializing in complex project design implementation & management, cryptography, public key infrastructure (PKI), decentralized networked governance, innovation and transformation and based on the island of St. Kitts, Telly can speak to building economic resilience in the digital age.

After all the sessions are done, Barefoot Wine and Prime Distributors, will host Islandpreneur Happy Hour, which includes the island’s first virtual wine tasting. A hospitality expert will showcase how to create unique drinks for virtual parties of all kinds with Barefoot wine. This type of celebration increased during the past months and has continued as means to connect with family members and friends are still spread around the world. To toast and make the most of this session, organizers encourage attendees to have their favourite beverages close. This part of the virtual summit will be streamed live from the PWR Agency’s facebook page, www.fb.com/experiencepwr.

This summit is complimentary for everyone. The public is still able to register for free at www.islandpreneur.com. For inquiries, kindly email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or whatsapp +1-721-523-1842. Organizers are grateful to partners, Barefoot Wine, Prime Distributors, TelEm, Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten, and Urban Adapters for making this virtual a success.

Telly

Telly V. Onu, managing partner, Beyond Capital Markets

 

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USM Building Bridges of Dialogue for Human Rights

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Coinciding with a structural crisis within the Dutch Kingdom, the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprising of anti-racist activists worldwide, the University of St. Martin (USM) held its very first online seminar on Saturday, 20 June 2020 and broadcasted live from Zoom and Facebook to over three thousand viewers.

The full day webinar, titled Human Rights in the face of COVID-19: Labor, Economy, Education and Migrants, was an initiative co-sponsored by the Sint Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform (SMAPP), an alliance of trade unions and civil society organizations dedicated to combatting social inequalities.

Following introductions and greetings offered by USM President, Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez, SMAPP co-coordinator Claire Elshot, BAK representative and coordinator of SDGs public awareness Drs. Loekie Morales and the honorable Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, five experts presented solid interventions, which in turn led to in-depth discussion with public participation. Dr. Daphina Misiedjan, a lecturer from Erasmus University Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at The Hague, addressed the webinar with a thorough review on the importance of understanding human rights in times of crisis from a global perspective.

“Human rights are tied directly to crisis. The catalogue of human rights as we know it in its modern form, looking at the treaties on economic social and cultural rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and, as an umbrella, the International Declaration on Human Rights – these all came after the second world war. Human Rights means having a minimum standard for a dignified life; this is especially important for those who do not have the means to realize the rights, those who have historically been marginalized,” said Dr. Misiedjan who looked at employment, education, health and political freedoms under lockdown.

Presenting on social, economic and labor rights, sociologist Raymond Jessurun looked at the structural inequalities based on racist discrimination that are now unfolding within the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom due to the Netherlands’ conditions on the islands for receiving humanitarian aid. Challenging Dutch State Secretary Raymond Knops, Jessurun said: “why is Sint Maarten applying the Dutch-recommended hike in retirement age, closer to that of the Netherlands, but when it comes to receiving aid to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, we are not equal….why do we have to give up some of our salary?”

During the afternoon session, former Minister of Public Health, Labor and Social Development (VSA), Pamela Gordon-Carty spoke on the condition of labor throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands during the COIVD-19 pandemic. Examining the political structure within the Kingdom, Gordon-Carty highlighted the obligations of the constituent countries -Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten and the Netherlands, the last of which is the signing State party to international law and ultimately the sole responsible entity for the realization of human rights. “On different levels, many steps are not being taken and some proposals being brought forth are not in compliance with international law”, she said. “Holland has to remember whenever proposals are executed, they must be in compliance for the masses, not just to a select few.”

On his own behalf Dr. Carmona introduced the topic of human rights and education with reference to processes of emancipation in our Caribbean region. “Education has always been an important tool in the process of emancipation and the struggle against poverty and structural inequalities, the press release stated. “The pandemic has underscored existing inequalities…those without internet at home had little chance of following classes online.”

Also noted were the recommendations given by UNESCO Teacher Task Force, which included not touching teachers’ salaries and including teachers in the planning of responses to the pandemic during and after.

The final panelist for the full day webinar was former Head of the Prosecutors Office Mr. Cor Merx, who focused on human rights for migrants and undocumented workers. Mr. Merx made a call for country Sint Maarten to combat racism and discrimination, and to be careful in how we frame political discourse concerning undocumented persons.

“The broadcasting of the webinar was no easy feat, due to technical limitations and the fact that it was our first time. However, the content was excellent, and the feedback we have been receiving is simply awesome. That is why we want to do this again but then Kingdom-wide,” said Dr. Carmona, who plans to coordinate a webinar with experts from all countries and territories comprising the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

“What our European counter parts in government, academia and activism need to understand is that any dialogue on human rights that excludes experts from the Caribbean part of the Kingdom is simply invalid; and that is why we took it upon ourselves to initiate such public debate.”

The USM webinar was moderated by Marcellia Henry of UNESCO Sint Maarten and Herbert Martina of TVCarib.

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