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Soualiga Newsday Latest News (2521)

Tugboat sinks near Point Blanche

SINT MAARTEN (POINT BLANCHE) - The Coast Guard received a notification on Thursday morning, that the tugboat Jason encountered some problems at sea, the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard (DCCG) said in a statement.

The tugboat was towing a barge from Oyster Pond to the Simpson Bay. The captain indicated that at a certain moment he noticed that water was entering the tugboat.

The tugboat sank very rapidly and could not be saved. The two men on the tugboat swam to the barge they were towing and are safe and sound. The barge was towed to Simpson Bay by another boat.

Barge two

barge coast guard

 

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Public Prosecutor’s Office files for appeal in cassation on the decision to reject request for inquiry into the Sint Maarten Harbour Group

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On 1 September 2017, The Public Prosecutor's Office submitted a request with the Joint Court of Justice (the Court) for an inquiry into the Sint Maarten Harbour Group (the Port): a so-called civil inquiry (civiele enquête), the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said in a press statement on Thursday.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office deemed it necessary – for reasons of public interest – to make the Port subject to an in-depth investigation as there were well-grounded reasons to doubt the corporate policy pursued throughout the last decade. The importance of such investigation was emphasized by the results of the criminal investigations codenamed Emerald and Larimar.

“These investigations revealed - among other things - that the Port has been subject to serious malpractices for an extended period of time. Invoice fraud resulted in a financial loss of more than ten million American dollars. Systematic corruption occurred, for example around the bidding process in relation to tenders for infrastructure projects such as the Causeway Bridge.

“These events underline the importance for the community to have transparency on the state of affairs within this public company. More insight may prevent similar malpractices in the future. In the Emerald case, the former CEO of the Port was sentenced to 46 months imprisonment in early 2020.

“Shortly after that, an influential politician was given a prison sentence of 5 years for his part in the Larimar investigation. The Court rejected the request of the Public Prosecutor's Office to institute an inquiry.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office does not agree with this and believes that there are legal grounds to request the Supreme Court to overturn that decision. Earlier today, Thursday the 4th of March 2021, an application for cassation was filed with the Supreme Court in The Hague on behalf of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.”

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Emmanuel asks about more cuts, how internal shifting will work

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Civil servants possibly having to sustain more cuts to their salaries and benefits was one of the main areas of concern highlighted by Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel during the Central Committee meeting discussion on the country reform package on Monday. In total the MP asked 73 questions about various aspects in the country reform package

The MP also took issue with the Minister of Finance for trying to use “word games” to deviate and mis-lead about hiring more people just a few weeks after cutting benefits and being instructed by the CFT to remove the budget 2021 post seeking to fill 155 vacancies. He also queried how internal shifting of civil servants will work with an increased workload as the CFT suggested.

MP Emmanuel pointed out that the country package specifically states: “Based on research on secondary and tertiary employment benefits, proposals for possible cuts will be developed and implemented.

“Considering that some of the aspects in this country package still have to be implemented, the question is will civil servants have to endure more cuts. Clarification is needed as people will already be going through a rough time with cuts to their income,” MP Emmanuel said.

He re-iterated that the government’s statement that basis salaries are not being cut cleverly leaves out the fact that once secondary and tertiary benefits are cut, persons will have to turn to an already stressed basis salary to make up for loss income.

“Government must be clear to the public about what to expect especially with talk of new taxes in the very same country package. Government has yet to say definitively that there will be no new taxes. In fact, everything that we have heard so far, amongst all of the dodging to address anything directly, is that the possibility of new taxes are very real,” the MP said.

“During the public meeting for the handling of the law regulating the 12.5% cut in personnel benefits for civil servants, the Prime Minister stated that she was embarrassed by the salary scales that are in use by the Government and that she had requested this be reviewed by the policy section of the Personnel Department. The Minister went on to draw a link to the country package,” the MP said, and then asked: “Can the minister explain which measure in the country package provides a possibility for the increase in the salary scales in government? As from what I have read, the country package is actually speaking of further reducing benefits.”

Regarding the recent statement by the Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion that he (Emmanuel) was misleading the public by asking about 155 vacancies posted in the 2021 budget, Emmanuel said “the Minister responded as if those were my words. The Chairperson of the CFT sent the budget back for many reasons, including the mention of 155 vacancies to fill, which means you want to hire people.”

The MP explained that the Minister of Finance during mentioned press briefing referred to a letter from the CFT. In the Daily Herald of February 15th reference was made to this letter from the CFT. The article stated the following: According to CFT Chairman Gradus, personnel cost accounts for NAf. 179 million of the draft 2021 budget. This represents a 16 per cent increase compared to what was accrued in 2019, and is derived from government seeking to fill some 155 full-time vacancies. "As a result, the savings resulting from pension reform and the 12.5 per cent curtailment of the employment conditions for civil servants are largely unrealized. The CFT advised you, pending the audit that has been agreed to with the Netherlands, to fill the proposed increases by internal shifts," said Gradus.

Emmanuel said the Minister has to confirm if this is factual information, not play games during a Council of Ministers Press Briefing. He said by stating that the savings coming from the 12.5% curtailment of employment conditions of civil servants would be unrealized, Gradus was under the same impression as everyone else: How are you going to hire after just cutting civil servants?

“The CFT Chairman then recommends internal shifts. The Minister of Finance and Minister of Personnel Affairs (PM) will have to explain what this will look like for an already over-stretched civil core. The Minister of Finance should focus on the truth and finalizing the 2021 budget, not trying to play cute for the cameras,” MP Emmanuel said.

Country Package

  1. Is there intent to change the way subsidies are granted to foundations and other groups? Will the subsidy ordinance as is still apply or is there intent to change this? If yes, how? Please explain the intended change.
  1. What policy plans if any have been drawn up for the execution of the reforms in the country packages?
  1. What is this so called "robust tax system" that the Dutch keep saying will be implemented on SXM? What are the details of this tax system?
  1. More specifically, is there an intention to impose a VAT tax on St. Maarten as well as property/land tax?
  1. Are you of the same opinion as the Dutch that the corporate governance at the government owned companies is not adequate? If yes, explain why you would think this. If not, why is this used as a motivation for control over our companies?
  1. Are you of the opinion that the government owned companies do not produce reliable income and expenditures estimates as suggested by the Dutch?
  1. Will Ministers still have the freedom of signing for expenditures under Naf 50k? If not why not?
  1. Who manages and supervises the crime fund at present? and what type of independent organization will be setup as mentioned in the country package?
  1. It is stated that the countries are working towards a harmonized level of protection of personal data within the Kingdom via a Kingdom Act. What can be envisioned by a Kingdom Act for the protection of personal data and why is it necessary in this form? Exactly what personal information is being referred to? Where and who will be managing this data and who will oversee those who are managing it? What happens if where this data is stored, is somehow compromised?
  1. There is mention of proposals for care and a review of the medical insurance package with introduction of personal payments. So now we want to introduce personal payments to put an added burden on the working class? After already taking a cut in their benefits? What will happen to the seniors?
  1. What benefit is increasing the pension age to 67 for the working class? How does the lifespan of persons on the island factor into this?
  1. What is specifically meant with "reducing the cost of doing business" in the context of entrepreneurship and the investment climate?
  1. There is a strong focus being placed on foreign labor in relation to promoting reconstruction. Why is this the case?
  1. What benefit is there to the local labor force and the country if it is made easier to recruit foreign workers?
  1. How does this tie in with the fact that in 2017 St. Maarten had to give up border control to the Netherlands, under the guise of preventing an influx of foreign labor, so that the local population could benefit from the re-construction jobs?
  1. How is local labor being protected and guaranteed for projects of the NRPB and considering the motion passed in Parliament on local companies getting work.
  1. Part of the analysis of the labor market policy includes a "reduction of working hours" and "relaxation of the dismissal law". What is understood by reduction of labor hours? How will this benefit the labor force and the country?
  1. How will the dismissal law be relaxed?
  1. What benefit is it to employees and the country if the dismissal law is relaxed?
  1. What has been spent from the trust fund on the social security system and what is the status? What kind of delay can be expected if any?
  1. The country package mentions a review of the supervision on the financial markets will be carried out by an independent body. Does this mean a review of the Central Bank? And what will the role of the Central Bank be?
  1. The intention is also to study dollarization. Was a study on this not already executed? How will this study be utilized?
  1. A Deposit Guarantee Scheme will be introduced. Please explain what this is.
  1. There is also mention of strengthening the governance of the Central Bank of SXM and CUR. How? And how does this tie in with the recent agreement of the Central Bank and the Netherlands to work together? Please be specific.
  1. What is the exact role of the Customs Department in relation to tax collection? As it is mentioned that Customs and Tax department administration will be optimized and modernized. Also, optimized and modernized how? Will this include hiring additional personnel?
  1. What is minimum Base Erosion and Profit Shifting?
  1. What is the "corporate governance protocol 2020?"
  1. Who are the parties involved in the Corporate Governance task Force?
  1. Are they appointed for a specific amount of time? Who do they report to?
  1. What will happen to the Corporate Governance Council?
  1. What would be the impact of a 12.5% VAT/BTW tax? Especially considering the cut in the salary packages based on the 2nd tranche.
  1. A VAT tax is a tax on consumption. Which means that poorer households pay the most. Most of the tax dollars that are generated by a VAT come from those who can least afford to pay them. Why would you saddle your people with this tax? When the cost of living is already so high.
  1. A VAT is also usually added to other taxes. SO we have a 5% TOT and now want to add a 12.5% VAT? Why would government agree to this in a country package knowing that costs would be passed on to the consumer?
  1. When a VAT is added, it changes the retail price point of every item and service that is offered. The VAT would need to be calculated for every step of the process that it takes to create a product or offer a service. Then these added costs would be put into the final product price, which causes the consumer to pay for all of the added taxes.
  1. Is government aware of the administrative burden to businesses a VAT would have? Thereby making TAX collecting probably even more difficult?
  1. Will there be tax exemptions for this VAT?
  1. What happened to the NAf. 12.3 mil contract the former Minister of Finance Perry Geerlings awarded to Bearing Point for the ICT services and software of the Tax Department in 2019?
  1. What is exactly being proposed where it pertains to "tax holidays" in the country package as it pertains to limiting administrative interference?
  1. What is the reason for providing the tax and customs administration with information from the banking sector? What information exactly will be provided? Will this require new legislation? How will this affect the confidential and personal relationship between a bank and its client?
  1. What does reviewing the HR function entail? (B-8 in the country package)
  1. A lot is said about strategic personnel policies and a performance management system. Performance management was implemented in 2008 by Government. What is wrong with the current system?
  1. What kind of policies is meant by ‘strategic personnel policies’? Can the Minister give some examples and indicate what would be different from the existing personnel policies?
  1. What does it mean to limit political influence in personnel matters? Ministers are responsible for personnel matters by law.
  1. How much has been spent from the trust fund on creating a digital government environment?
  1. What is the status of the e-gov project from the trust fund? When did it start and what has been achieved/implemented thus far?
  1. How much has been spent from the trust fund for the so called "Quality, effectiveness and implementation power, including the strength of the ministerial staff" as mentioned in the country package and what does it entail?
  1. For years it has been stated that ghost civil servants have been addressed. What is the actual status? Can the minister list per ministry the amount of ghost civil servants and what actions have been undertaken to have this addressed?
  1. Are there employees who are receiving a salary unjustly? Can the minister list per ministry the amount of employees? And the reason this is the case? Again, this is mentioned in the country package.
  1. The section on aviation is very vague. Please explain how the aviation system will be strengthened and the benefits to St. Maarten specifically.
  1. Will the strengthening of the aviation system include better prices to travel within the Kingdom, especially to and from the Netherlands for the students?
  1. On the issue of having One Disaster Risk Management policy, what has been done via the World Bank in the past 3 years in the area of disaster management? How much money has been allocated via the trust fund to this? How much was paid to the World Bank thus far?
  1. Does the government agree with State Secretary Knops that the three laws passed earlier regarding salary and benefit cuts, is a package deal with the country packages and the establishment COHO?
  1. Is the government of the same opinion as State Secretary Knops and the President of St. Maarten’s Parliament, that before any debate takes place, the country packages and the COHO already has majority support in Parliament so both will be approved by Parliament?
  1. During the public meeting for the handling of, amongst others, the law regulating the 12.5% cut in personnel benefits for civil servants, the Prime Minister indicated that the cuts were aimed at the reduction of the costs of personnel. The Prime Minister went on to state that cuts were to generate savings and to be in solidarity with the private sector. Can the Prime Minister confirm if this statement that she made on the floor of parliament was accurate?
  1. Did the government stop hiring additional personnel in 2020 to reduce personnel costs?
  2. Can the Prime Minister conform that B5 of the country package is geared towards further reducing the benefits of civil servants?
  1. During the public meeting for the handling of the law regulating the 12.5% cut in personnel benefits for civil servants, the Prime Minister stated that she was embarrassed by the salary scales that are in use by the Government and that she had requested this be reviewed by the policy section of the Personnel Department. The Minister went on to draw a link to the country package. Can the minister explain which measure in the country package provides a possibility for the increase in the salary scales in government? As from what I have read, B5 of the country package is actually speaking of further reducing benefits. Can the Minister explain to Parliament and the people of Sint Maarten what is meant by the Dutch word 'versobering' in B5 to be exact?
  1. During the public meeting for the handling of the law regulating the 12.5% cut in personnel benefits for civil servants, the Prime Minister stated that if for the execution of the country package Sint Maarten needs 2 or 3 people, Holland is willing to assist in financing the cost or by providing the people themselves. Can the Prime Minister, responsible for personnel affairs as the Minister of General Affairs, explain why it was stated by the Minister of Finance during the Council of Ministers press briefing on February 24th that vacancies have been included in the draft 2021 budget to recruit for persons to amongst other things, execute the country packages?
  1. Can the Minister, again as Minister of Personnel Affairs, confirm that the Dutch Government and CFT agree that additional personnel should be hired from the 2021 budget of St. Maarten?
  1. The Minister of Finance during mentioned press briefing referred to a letter from the CFT. In the Daily Herald of February 15th reference was made to this letter from the CFT. The article stated the following: According to Gradus, personnel cost accounts for NAf. 179 million of the draft 2021 budget. This represents a 16 per cent increase compared to what was accrued in 2019, and is derived from government seeking to fill some 155 full-time vacancies. "As a result, the savings resulting from pension reform and the 12.5 per cent curtailment of the employment conditions for civil servants are largely unrealized. The CFT advised you, pending the audit that has been agreed to with the Netherlands, to fill the proposed increases by internal shifts," said Gradus. Can the Minister confirm if this is factual information?
  1. Can the Minister explain how the Government justifies increasing the pensionable age, freezing the salaries of civil servants and cutting into their benefits, to reduce personnel costs, while at the same time indicating in the draft budget for 2021 that the intention is to hire 155 new employees, which will result in an overall increase of 3.5% in personnel costs compared to 2019?

Hospital Alliance

  1. Please explain in detail what is the Dutch Caribbean Hospital Alliance?
  1. Please provide a copy of this Alliance document.
  1. Who drafted this document?
  1. When was it finalized?
  1. What input did St. Maarten have specifically in the agreement that governs this Alliance? Please provide details.
  1. How does this alliance benefit St. Maarten specifically?
  1. Does this alliance fill any medical voids/services that St. Maarten lacks? Please list them.
  1. What are the annual costs involved?
  1. How will this alliance ensure the continuity of specialist medical care?
  1. How will this alliance increase the quality and availability of medical care?
  1. What is meant with "ensuring our cultural values have top priority" in the context of this medical alliance?
  1. Please mention some examples of "enhanced collaboration" as outlined in the alliance agreement.

 

 

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Women’s Day celebration this Saturday

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - International Women’s Day will be celebrated on Saba this Saturday evening, March 6 at Tropics Café with drinks, food, music and an award ceremony.

All women on Saba are welcome to attend the festivities from 6:00pm to 10:00pm which are hosted by Commissioner of Gender Affairs Rolando Wilson with funding from the Public Entity Saba. There will be an award ceremony to recognize a number of outstanding women. Music will be provided by DJ Zanderzone. The dress code is cocktail.

International Women’s Day is on March 8, but because that day falls on a Monday, it was decided to host the event for the women on Saba on the Saturday before. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Women and leadership; achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”

“All women are encouraged to come out to mingle, socialize and to have a good time. We have many outstanding women on this island. Women helping out others, giving to the community without asking anything in return. We have good leaders, successful businesswomen. Women make things happen. They are the force behind the family. Things have not been easy after the 2017 hurricanes and during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is only right to recognize all women,” Wilson said.

Last year’s International Women’s Day celebration was a great success with several activities, including a reception at Sunny Valley Community Center with former Netherlands Antilles Prime Minister Maria Liberia-Peters.

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Women’s Desk launches campaign to highlight women in community

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Women’s Desk, a division within Community Development, Family & Humanitarian Affairs (CDFHA), in collaboration with Prominent Women will be celebrating this upcoming International Women’s Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge.

The organizing department and organization intend to bring awareness to Women’s Day in March and to host information sessions throughout the entire month on important topics such as empowerment, spirituality, nutrition, and business operations, among other topics.

The info sessions are scheduled to take place on Tuesdays, starting March 8 to the 30, from 6 pm – 7 pm on the Government of St. Maarten radio station SXMGOV 107.9FM and Government’s Facebook page, SXMGOV.

Additionally, 17 women from the various sectors of society who have demonstrated exemplary work, specifically during the Covid-19 lockdown, will be featured on a customized March calendar and will be honored at a gift ceremony scheduled on International Women’s Day.

Women’s desk encourages everyone to like, share, and follow the CDFHA FB page to be kept abreast with great initiatives that the department will be hosting throughout the year.

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Prime Minister Jacobs issues the following statement on World NGO Day

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On February 27, across the globe, we celebrate World NGO day. As the name suggests, the day brings awareness to non-governmental organizations’ work and those efforts that contribute to making the world a better place. These efforts often go unnoticed, so it is important that we take this time out to recognize these generous contributions as we did this morning during the Virtual NPOwer NGO World Day – SXM Conference under the theme ‘2 for 1.’

The day established by Marcis Liors Skadmanis, a UK-based social entrepreneur, is celebrated by many European countries. In 2014, the day became recognized by the United Nations and the European Union.

All over the world, NGOs safeguard human rights, the rights of individuals to access basic human needs, and developing effective policies through advocation.

On World NGO day, I thank local NGOs. They give so selflessly and work so tirelessly to better our society, including our citizens who volunteer, our business community who collaborates and take up their corporate social responsibilities via these NGOs.

Volunteerism and civil society are crucial elements of a society that cares about those less fortunate than us. Government and the private sector play essential roles in our society’s development. Still, civil society can fill gaps untouched by these groups and do so even more efficiently for many reasons.

COVID-19 is providing a perfect example of this critical role played by civil society. Through various programs, our community received support for income loss, which complemented the programs being executed by the Government of St. Maarten.

For this reason, the Government of St. Maarten commits to the continued partnership with NGOs. It helps to facilitate the success of the work being done by NGOs with inclusive policies. The Government will continue to engage with NGOs of all sectors to build a stronger community and adverse some of our community members’ challenges.

I encourage every capable citizen of St. Maarten to get involved in civil society and experience the reward of being a part of something greater than yourself. Happy World NGO Day!

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Community assistance needed to locate suspect who robbed supermarket on Wednesday

SINT MAARTEN (MIDDLE REGION) - Detectives of the Special Unit Robberies are investigating a robbery that took place on Wednesday afternoon February 24th, 2021 at approximately 12.30 pm, on a supermarket located on the Middle Region road, the police said in a statement on Thursday evening.

According to the store employees, who provided a statement to the officer on the scene, a man dressed in black clothing wearing face masks entered the Supermarket brandishing a firearm.

The perpetrator demanded an undisclosed amount of cash from the cashier and then fled the scene on foot in an unknown direction after robbing the establishment.

The officers did a quick search in the area of Middle Region, but the suspect could not be located.

The Detective Department investigating this armed robbery case is asking anyone, who may have any information regarding the robbery to contact the Sint Maarten

Police Force at +1 721- 542 22 22 ext. 204 or 205.

Persons can also use the anonymous tip-line by dialing 9300 or send a message to our Facebook page (Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten) The Police Force is asking the community of Sint Maarten and businesses to remain vigilant during this period. (KPSM)

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155 seniors vaccinated on Thursday. CPS & VMT provide updates on vaccination appointments

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – On Thursday the 25th of February, the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) vaccinated 155 persons who are 60+, with their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Persons within this priority risk group officially registered themselves via the online link on the Government website and received an invitation for their appointment via email or WhatsApp, with a day, time, and location for their first vaccination.

During the day, it was noticed that there were instances, where some people forgot to confirm their appointment by clicking the link in the invitation email.

This is important because to ensure that everyone receives and reads the invitation, to avoid ''no-shows''. Every location receives a specific number of vaccines based on the number of people scheduled for that day. So, if someone does not show up for their appointment while there is a vaccine reserved for them, this could lead to spillage or vaccines going to waste.

This should be avoided because the vaccines are very scarce, which is why the confirmation of your appointment is an important and necessary step.

Confirming your appointment can be done by simply clicking on the link in the invitation. Based on this first experience, the Collective Prevention Service (CPS) and the Vaccination Management Team (VMT) emphasizes the importance of this step in the process and will communicate this to the public through various forms of media.

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Chris: Airline handlers’ letter is biggest indictment of PJIA CEO

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Wednesday said that a letter from the St. Maarten Airline Handlers Association (SAHA) and its Airline Operating Committee (AOC) is the biggest indictment yet presented against Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) Brian Mingo.

“When the representative of all major airlines, your most important stakeholder, decries working conditions that go against basic principles in aviation, then it is past time that you pack up and leave or the airport holding board finalizes his dismissal,” the MP said.

On February 22, the AOC sent a letter to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs drawing her attention to what it termed an urgent matter regarding the airport’s reconstruction project. Most notably, the AOC mentioned compromising of airline safety and security and requesting a clear statement from PJIA of how increased fees were used by PJIA. The letter was also sent to Parliament, the Minister of TEATT, the CEO of PJIA Brian Mingo and the holding board of the airport.

MP Emmanuel said the AOC pointed out that airline and handler staff is still housed in sea containers that serve as offices for the past three years and, based on a recent update by PJIA on new offices, could be still in these containers for another 3 years. “They clearly told the Prime Minister that the working conditions at this point are unacceptable,” the MP said.

“Even more scary, the AOC told the Prime Minister that the ongoing poor working conditions can lead to lack of employee focus, leading to poor judgment resulting in an increase in human error that can potentially jeopardize operational safety and security. On top of that they can’t apply the rules and regulations for COVID-19 (social distancing) which puts the staff at an increased risk of contagion,” the MP said.

SAHA in its letter to the PM also echoed the MP in terms of revisiting the entire reconstruction project. “When I speak, some say I am fear-mongering. But this isn’t me speaking now. I want to quote the SAHA verbatim: “Safety and security departments in all companies operating at PJIA are becoming more concerned and as such SAHA is raising the alarm to urge PJIA management for a complete revision of the priority settings stages of the reconstruction plan.” So our major airline handlers are telling you to revisit the project. I said to scale back on the necessities only. This includes taking care of employees,” the MP said.

The MP said according to SAHA in 2019 the industry, through consultation with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and PJIA, agreed to increase the airport improvement fee. This fee is paid by airline customers and is between US $5.50 to $11.00. In 2020 PJIA indicated that traffic volumes were lower than anticipated and as such the fee was raised to US $12.50.

“PJIA told SAHA and by extension the airlines, that these fees were urgently needed for the reconstruction. With the reconstruction in the state that it is in, SAHA like the rest of us want to know where and how the money was spent. How embarrassing it is that the Prime Minister of a country has to get such a letter. Which clearly means that the CEO and board of PJIA have not been communicating nor have they been transparent with their most important stakeholders,” the MP said.

“This is the biggest indictment yet against the CEO along with the letter from employees who want him gone. Hopefully the airport holding company finalizes his dismissal and that of the supervisory board sooner rather than later,” the MP concluded.

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WYCCF Quality Nurse Claudette Rijff receives first COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – On Monday morning February 22, the first COVID-19 vaccine inoculations took place, a very important step in heading into a post-COVID-19 era.

The White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) at St. John’s Estate, was the place where the first COVID-19 vaccine in the country took place. The event which was live streamed via the Government of Sint Maarten Facebook page, started out by Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs officially launching the vaccination campaign.

In her opening remarks, the Prime Minister mentioned the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the community which started almost a year ago. The loss of loved ones as well as the harsh financial impact on the national economy were some of the key areas that the Prime Minister point out.

Jacobs added how the country has been looking forward to the day that the vaccine would become available and that day is finally here, the day that the Government commences with phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout plan.

Acting Minister of Public Health, Social Development, and Labor (Ministry VSA), Ludmila de Weever, addressed in her opening remarks on behalf of Minister of VSA Richard Panneflek, that Monday marked a special milestone for the country.

Minister De Weever added that Sint Maarten is now one of the countries in the world, privileged to have COVID-19 vaccines, which is a step in the right direction for public health. The organization of this operation wasn’t easy, Minister De Weever pointed out, and thanked, Minister Panneflek, the Collective Prevention Service (CPS), the Department of Public Health, Pharmacies, stakeholders, General Practitioners, the vaccine management team, workstream officers, and their support staff who contributed their expertise, time, and energy to this operation.

Minister De Weever also last but not least, thanked the Netherlands for providing the vaccines to Sint Maarten.

The manager of operations, of the White & Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF), Bregje Boetekees welcomed everyone to the WYCCF and mentioned that it was an honor to have the first vaccine on the island given to one of their dedicated nurses.

WYCCF Quality Nurse, Claudette Rijff, was the first one to receive the vaccine. The vaccine was administered live, while Bregje Boetekees explained the vaccination procedure. Nurse Claudette mentioned that she felt fine and was honored to be the first on the island to receive the vaccine. She said she was proud to be part of the solution to be able to pave the way for others: “I take it to protect you, now you take it to protect someone else’’.

Working in the COVID-19-unit, allowed her to see and experience the effect of the COVID-19 virus on vulnerable clients. I take the vaccine because I want to protect my clients, co-workers, and community, Claudette said. She also mentioned that initially, she was a bit doubtful of taking the vaccine too. Though after she did her research and got convinced that it’s safe and decided that she wants to make a difference. We want things to go back to normal, and the economy to recover, so I would advise everyone to come together and do the right thing, because we are stronger together, Claudette pointed out.

Bregje Boetekees continued by saying that after the live feed, the vaccination at the WYCCF will commence for clients and healthcare workers with direct client contact. In the elderly care unit, where they felt the impact of COVID-19, like no one else, a whopping 86% signed up to receive the vaccine.

Boetekees mentioned that for some it has almost been a year, since they last hugged or kissed their children or grandchildren or attended a church service or family gathering. These clients know, like no other, that this vaccine is a lifesaver. She then referred to the incredibly positive results in Israel, where there is a tremendous decline in infections and hospitalizations under the vaccinated population.

This shows that the vaccine is effective, though enough people need to take the vaccine to accomplish this. “So, I urge you, to sign up today’’. “Because if we all sign up and take the vaccine, it will not be a small step towards normalcy, it will be a giant leap.”

CPS Head, Eva Lista-de Weever then remarked that she felt honored to be part of this national accomplishment and hoped that everyone will join her in registering for the vaccine. Either via the online link (which will soon be made available in different languages) or via the paperback form which can be picked up at several locations, including CPS, Doctors’ offices, the Government Administration Building, and select pharmacies.

Completed forms can be dropped off at the CPS. In her closing remarks, she said that she will be taking the vaccine this week and motivates others to do the same. “Sint Maarten let us do our part to reduce COVID-19. Together, we are protected.’’

Acting Minister of Public Health, Social Development & Labor De Weever, concluded by congratulating everyone involved in this process, and encouraged everyone that this is the safest way for the country. The vaccine is safe, free of charge, and cannot change your DNA. It will be available to everyone who currently resides on the Dutch side, and no immigration checks will be done, and your information will be handled confidentially, so please register, and protect our island, the minister said on Monday.

Lastly, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs closed off by saying that we are very fortunate to have received the vaccine, as many countries much bigger than Sint Maarten have not. This is the largest rollout drive of vaccines that Sint Maarten has ever seen before and we will all get the opportunity to receive the vaccine.

''I for one will definitely get vaccinated when it is my turn, and I encourage each and every one of you to do the same and register for the vaccine,'' the prime minister reiterated. She expressed gratitude to the Kingdom partners, CPS, Ministers, ministries, and stakeholders for all their hard work in the planning and realization of this project.

Nurse Claudette received her Vaccination Passport, and the Facebook live stream was concluded by the Department of Communication (DCOMM) host Roylyka Roache. The live stream can be re-viewed on the Government of Sint Maarten Facebook page, YouTube channel and also via Cable TV.

Persons interested in receiving the vaccine can sign up via https://bit.ly3tOsJLa or using a form that can be collected at the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) Vineyard Office Park Building, the Division of Labor Affairs at the Simpson Bay Public Service Center in Simpson Bay, or at the Government Administration Building.

People who have questions about underlying conditions regarding the vaccine are advised to consult their family physician.

Other questions about vaccination can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call CPS at 914.

PDW 7717

WYCCF Quality Nurse, Claudette Rijff holding her Vaccine Passport. 

 

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