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Royal Netherlands Marechaussee welcomes Minister Richardson to Knowledge Center

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS - On Thursday September 23, 2021, in her pursuit to forge relationships and seek opportunities for Sint Maarten youth in the Kingdom, Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson visited the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee’s Education, Training and Knowledge center in Apeldoorn, better known as the OTC. At the OTC Minister Richardson and her delegation received a warm welcome from Commander of the OTC Frank Rippens, deputy Commander of the OTC Willemijn Arends and their colleagues.

The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee also referred to as the KMAR has been supporting Sint Maarten through the assistance that is being provided to the Border Protection and Mobile Unit of the Immigration and Border Protection Services (IBP) and to the Police Force of Sint Maarten (KPSM).

At the OTC Minister Richardson first received an in-depth presentation on the overall structure, mission, vision, and operations of the KMAR. As part of its on-going support to Sint Maarten, based on the mutual regulation on border control of 2018 (Onderlinge Regeling Versterking Grenstoezicht Sint Maarten), and continued in the joint protocol to further strengthen border control along with Aruba and Curacao of 2021, the KMAR has developed and educational curriculum that also includes an E-Learning environment specifically designed for Sint Maarten recruits and Immigration officers.

During the discussions, Minister Richardson inquired with the Commander and deputy Commander of the KMAR if there was any interest at the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee in promoting the organization as a learning and career institution in the Caribbean countries of the Kingdom. Deputy commander Willemijn Arends expressed her pleasure to receive this question from Minister Richardson as did Commander Frank Rippens, who advised that in fact becoming a more inclusive organization is something that the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee finds worth pursuing.

While at the OTC Minister Richardson also met with Sint Maarten's local Immigration officer Mr. Rignald Gressman who is currently in the Netherlands following a course to become Sint Maarten’s first certified document three expert (DOC 3) after he successfully obtains his certification. Documents specialists are charged with examining travel and identity documents or other documents to determine their authenticity for the Immigration organization as well as external partners.

In their daily operations the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee increasingly has more technical resources at its disposal to become a more effective organization. While visiting the OTC’s Educationcal Development department, Minister Richardson was offered a glimpse into a virtual reality training setting, through a VR-simulation headset, created to enact real-life scenarios that will help to sharpen KMAR officers’ skills, knowledge and responses in daily operations.

"Visiting the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee’s Education, Training and Knowledge center and seeing their operations firsthand was quite impressive. I am truly grateful for the experience and the warm welcome received and the willingness and dedication expressed to continue to assist Sint Maarten in strengthening its borders” Minister Richardson stated.

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One arrested during house search in drugs smuggling investigation

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On September 23, 2021, the Alpha Team carried out a house search and arrested one suspect with initials Z.M.D.D. (24) for his involvement in a drug smuggling operation.

The house search and arrest are in connection with an ongoing investigation into trafficking and/dealing in narcotics.

The incident that triggered this investigation took place in July 2021 at Princess Juliana International Airport. Several items relevant to this investigation was confiscated during the search.

After the search, the suspect was transported to the police station in Philipsburg and detained there in connection with the investigation.

The Alpha Team is a joint multidisciplinary Team consisting of the Police KPSM, Customs, Immigration, Royal Military Police and the Coast Guard. (KPSM)

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Government and NRPB on SMHDF funding request related to Housing

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Government of Sint Maarten would like to address the two articles regarding the Sint Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) that were published in The Daily Herald earlier this week. In these articles, SMHDF expressed its disappointment about the funding allocation decisions of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund.

Since the inception of the Trust Fund in 2018, 369 SMHDF units have been repaired, totaling US$ 1.06 Million. Worth noting is that the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) is making the final preparations to refurbish the 64 Belvedere tower apartments. These repairs, which have an estimated value of US$ 5.4 Million, have already been tendered and are scheduled to commence in the next few months. As it relates to the announcement of SMHDF to increase the rent of their tenants, the Government will be seeking further information from SMHDF.

With respect to the statement of SMHDF that it was never asked to meet with the Steering Committee “to properly present its case and explain the reasons why funding is so important”, the Government wishes to clarify that the procedures to submit proposals to the Steering Committee are formally set. Once the Council of Ministers supports a proposal that has received the necessary technical input from stakeholders, it is submitted to the Steering Committee for consideration. The representative of Sint Maarten in the Steering Committee receives instructions through the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers on the position of the Government in the Steering Committee. Third parties are not offered the opportunity to present their case to the Steering Committee.

On the statements made by the Steering Committee, the Government wishes to clarify that support from the Trust Fund, with the repair and new construction of low-cost housing, has been proposed on several occasions without setting a definitive amount. In a letter to the Steering Committee in March 2020, the Government estimated that a total amount of 22 million US Dollars would be needed for repairs in Belvedere. With this letter, the Government also reconfirmed its support for a potential housing project and highlighted possible financial support for SMHDF as part of such a project.

At the request of the Government, a Rapid Housing Sector Assessment was conducted by the World Bank, and extensive technical assistance was offered to SMHDF over the last few years. A review of the financial situation of SMHDF showed the need for structural improvements with the financial management of the Foundation. The recommendations as outlined in the Assessment are intended as a framework for discussion with the Government about possible actions to improve the housing market in Sint Maarten.

The Steering Committee met several times to discuss a potential housing project based on the outcomes of the Rapid Housing Sector Assessment and the financial review of SMHDF. Initially, a decision on a housing project was not made, as it was not clear whether there would be sufficient funds remaining in the Trust Fund for such a project. In July 2021, on the initiative of the Government, the Steering Committee agreed to earmark 20 million US Dollars for a potential housing project and requested the World Bank and the NRPB to prepare a detailed proposal for final decision-making. In preparing this proposal, the World Bank and the NRPB have also been requested to consider the opportunities of blended financing to increase the available envelope. The Government intends to bring other financial parties to the table in the preparation of this project. In the coming months, consultations with stakeholders and possible project partners are scheduled to take place, including with SMHDF. Unfortunately, SMHDF made its statements publicly without having further dialogue with government on the earmarked funds.

In closing, this Government would like to emphatically state that our priority has always been to solve Sint Maarten’s dire lack of access to adequate housing, and we will continue to seek opportunities to remedy this during the current governing period. Is it relates to the announcement of SMHDF to increase the rent of their tenants, Government will also be seeking clarifications on the decision to enforce such.

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More Value & More Data with New Chippie Mobile Plans

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Leading telecoms provider Flow has announced major enhancements to its Chippie prepaid mobile plans with the introduction of new Combo bundles and Data bundles that include unlimited talk and data roll-over.

The all-new Combo bundles combine data, minutes, and SMS text, and provide customers with more bang for their buck with the introduction of unlimited talk time, additional data, and data roll-over, while the new Data bundles provide huge data and include a data roll-over feature with one, three, seven and 30-day options.

“In celebration of our new bundles we are offering double the data on all our new data bundles. We realize the importance of keeping in touch in this digital age and are committed to doing everything we can to support our customers as they strive to get their lives and businesses back on track. Our teams have listened and have worked hard on ways to assist by enhancing our mobile offerings,” said Charlesworth Sydney, Country Manager of Flow Eastern Caribbean.

“Our focus is always our customer, so it is imperative that we listen and adapt our offerings to satisfy the changing needs based on our increasingly dynamic environment. The world is changing, as do the needs of our customers, so we must adapt as well to continue to show up for our customers. Our customers at the heart of everything we do.”

The introduction of a flat fee to add extra data to Combo bundles also eliminates any additional charges for out-of-plan data usage. This new feature leaves it entirely up to the customer if they want to buy extra data at a simple flat fee. There are no unexpected charges and extra data can be purchased at any time during the bundle duration.          

The codes to activate Chippie’s new Combo and Data bundles have also been simplified for a smoother experience and all plans can now be activated by sending an SMS to short-code 3434 and customers can also switch between the various bundle options as they see fit.

Reactivation will also remain simple with an automated renewal feature, eliminating the need to remember SMS activation-codes after the initial activation, and with sufficient prepaid credit on the account, there is no need to send codes to activate.

“Although customers were generally pleased with our mobile speeds and our LTE coverage, we listened to some feedback that pointed to the need for an easier-to-manage experience and more value on mobile minutes and data. Now more than ever, staying connected is critical, so our new plans offer more data, unlimited talk, and roll-over data,” added Sydney.

“The changes to the way our bundles work offers a more seamless, user-friendly experience. Essentially, we have added more value without asking customers to pay more. That’s part of our commitment to deliver more for our customers.”

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General Hospital basement floor pouring on Thursday evening

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC)’s general contractor will be pouring the first section of the basement floor of the new St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) on Thursday evening (September 23, 2021) starting at 8 pm.

In order to safeguard the highest quality of concrete and the least amount of risk of traffic congestion to hinder the continuous pouring of 500 cubic meters, which will take an estimated 10 hours, the pouring will be done in the evening and is scheduled to start at 8 pm and involve a total of approximately 70 truckloads.

The cement trucks will be entering the SMGH construction site from various entrances, being: the SMGH construction site entrance at the roundabout on Welgelegenroad / G.A. Arnell Boulevard, the main entrance of SMMC and the SMGH construction side entrance on Jackal Road. In order to regulate a smooth operation, traffic regulators will be on hand at the roundabout to guide the traffic flow.

The pouring may result in some noise pollution, in particular for residents in the immediate vicinity of the construction site, however SMMC and the general contractor will do their utmost to keep any possible nuisance to a minimum level.

For any possible complaints regarding the new hospital construction activities, persons can go to the SMGH section of the SMMC website and follow the complaints procedure at: https://smmc.sx/SMGH/SMGH-ESMP

SMMC would like to take this opportunity to apologize for any possible inconvenience that is caused by the ongoing construction of the new hospital, as SMMC continues its mission of raising the level of health care on St. Maarten and provide the community of St. Maarten and surrounding islands with quality care, close to home.

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Rotary Sunset to Host Virtual Reading Slumber Fun

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Friday September 24th, 2021, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset will be hosting its fourth annual Reading Slumber Fun Event. The event will kick off at 7:00 pm sharp until 10:00 pm on the virtual platform, Zoom.

This year’s “Reading Slumber Fun” promises to be one for the record books as the club takes their popular and most talked about slumber party online for the second time. The theme of this year’s event is “Jungle Book”, and children of all ages are asked to get their pajamas, pillows, and blankets ready for a fun-filled evening of live storytelling, literacy games and giveaways.

The month of September is recognized by Rotary clubs worldwide as Basic Education, Literacy and New Generations month, where Rotary clubs focus on advocating the importance of Basic education and Literacy through various projects and literacy programs. The Reading Slumber Fun event is a “slumber party” themed event geared at promoting the importance of reading through dramatic storytelling, puppet shows and educational and interactive games.

The fourth annual Reading Slumber Fun event will feature some dynamic local readers and storytellers and will conclude with the viewing of a movie. All participants are asked to login to the Zoom meeting using ID # 992 348 5801 (no password required). In order to keep the virtual event interactive and engaging, all participants will be required to have their cameras turned on, any participant with their camera off will be removed. The cost of this event is absolutely FREE of charge, children are asked to bring their happy smiles and enthusiasm to make this event a success.

“All you gotta do is, Look for the bare necessities. The simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife.” – Baloo. The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset is asking children of all ages to join them for a fun-filled evening where they can journey across the world with their vivid imaginations.

For more information, persons can email the club via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call 721-587-4193 or visit the club’s Facebook page at Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset.

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St. Maarten South Omega Leo Club takes on a Leo District 60B “Period Poverty” project initiative

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten South Omega Leo Club has taken on a Leo District 60B “Period Poverty” project initiative which is centered towards recognizing the importance of women’s health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

This awareness campaign is also geared towards highlighting the importance of feminine sanitary products as well as accessibility to proper health care treatments. 

The St. Maarten South Omega Leo Club recognizes that it should be a right of all women to have the access to sanitary napkins as well as other care facilities that women need to maintain a healthy life. The club hopes that the other islands in the Caribbean will follow suit on the path to making this a reality, and setting the trend for others to follow. 

The St. Maarten South Omega Leo President, Leo Javid stated “I am elated to have the club participate in a region wide effort in eradicating the disadvantages that women are often faced with in regards to their health and well-being, especially now with the COVID19 pandemic heightening  the ever present issue”. 

Thus far, it is great to see the outpouring support throughout the various communities all over the Caribbean region especially here on St. Maarten We are pleased with the donations received thus far from businesses and institutions in the community such as DIVICO and the NRPB who understand the importance of this matter and recognize that it requires a joint effort from everyone. 

This project is aims to spread awareness, sharing dignity, offering medical tips as well as care treatments to detect early signs of cervical cancer and to provide those with at least three months’ supply of feminine hygiene products. 

We are happy to be given a platform where we can assist in bringing forth change and we look forward to many more businesses supporting our efforts as well as other organizations participating in this initiative.

The St. Maarten South Omega Leo Club hopes that many more organizations and persons are inspired to lead in service and that no matter how small your contribution is within society, know that it has a lasting impact on your community. 

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Leo Tomeeka Matthew receiving donation from DIVICO

 

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Prime Distributors donates to SMMC’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Event

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Prime Distributors recently made a donation to the St. Maarten Medical Center ahead of their Prostate Cancer Awareness event taking place this Saturday, September 25th from 9:00am – 3:00pm. The event marks the resumption of SMMC’s annual Prostate and Breast Cancer screening campaign in collaboration with partners the Positive and Elektralytes Foundations.

“Early detection saves lives and as a healthcare institution, we have a responsibility to serve the community and provide curative, palliative and preventative care. Taking all necessary precautions to mitigate any potential spread of COVID-19, we’ve decided to resume our prostate and breast cancer screenings after some inactivity due to the pandemic. We are extremely happy that this year Prime Distributors are generously supporting us in our efforts in the fight against prostate and breast cancer. Prime has always been willing to assist SMMC in our efforts to ensure and safeguard the health and wellbeing of our patients, via donations to our community outreach events, donations to our staff or donations to our wards, and for that, we’re extremely grateful”, said Shari de Riggs, SMMC’s Communications Officer.

Speaking on Prime Distributor’s contribution to the event, Brand Manager Graziella Zimmerman remarked “Prime Distributors is happy to be a part of this wonderful and much needed initiative. The health and wellness of our community is extremely important, especially in these unpredictable times. We urge everyone to come our and take part in these screenings, as early detection saves lives. We express sincere gratitude to the Elektralytes and Positive Foundations as well as SMMC for putting together these screenings”.

“Even though we are living in such uncertain times, we will always try our best to help our community”, concluded Zimmerman.

In addition to prostate cancer screenings for men, SMMC will offer blood pressure and glucose monitoring for men and women and CPS and the Ministry of VSA will host a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up at SMMC. Healthcare professionals such as Doctors, Pharmacists and Infection Control Practitioners will also be on hand to provide information and answer any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

To avoid long lines and allow for proper social distancing, pre-registering for the prostate cancer screening is strongly encouraged. Men over the age of 45 who have not had a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test within the last two years are asked to email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with their name, date of birth and phone number to register. In light of the pandemic, only a limited number of walk-ins will be facilitated.

To ensure the safety of all attendees and volunteers, SMMC’s universal masking policy remains in effect and will be enforced. Persons making use of the prostate cancer screenings and the health checks will also be subjected to a temperature check and SMMC’s COVID-19 questionnaire.

SMMC kindly asks that persons who are experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headaches, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea avoid attending the event but encourage them to make an appointment once they are no longer experiencing symptoms.

Prostate cancer screening is available year-round at SMMC’s Urology Department and appointments can be made by calling + 1 (721) 543-1111 extension 1378, 1379 or 1307.

SMMC also plans to resume their annual Breast Cancer screenings in October which will also feature a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up and a health check corner.

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Minister of Justice Richardson on working visits to the Netherlands. Visits Youth Penitentiary & Youth Protection Services

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS - On Saturday, September 17th, 2021, the Minister of Justice Ms. Anna E. Richardson and support staff traveled to the Netherlands for a work visit. At Schiphol airport the Minister Richardson was welcomed by the Minister of Plenipotentiary, Mr. Violenus and his staff.

The work visit kicked off on Monday September 20, 2021, with Minister Richardson visiting the Youth Protection Amsterdam (Jeugdbescherming Amsterdam) that works closely with Social Affairs and the Ministry of Justice to tackle domestic violence and child abuse matters.

Youth Protection Amsterdam presented Minister Richardson with their improved holistic approach that focuses on simplifying the procedures and making them more effective. After the presentation the Minister had very fruitful dialogue with the management team.

Also joining the presentation were social workers from Saba and Bonaire that work at Youth Protection services in the Dutch Caribbean (Jeugdbescherming Caribisch Nederland) who were visiting the Netherlands for a training. In the near future, Minister Richardson would like social workers in Sint Maarten working within our Youth Protection services to have the opportunity to participate in similar programs.

Following the visit to Youth Protection Amsterdam, the Minister received a tour of the first small-scale male adolescent facility (Kleinschalige Jeugd Voorziening) in Amsterdam. This facility utilizes an open concept that can be rewarded to detainees and/or convicted persons based on their motivation, behavior, and personal circumstances.

The facility houses a maximum of 8 residents aged 12-23 years and allows residents to remain in school, have family contact and work regular hours. Persons are mainly placed there when they are in pre-detention or after good behavior in a Youth Penitentiary. As part of the residents’ stay the social workers of the facility assess their personal circumstances and create a personal development plan which includes their direct surroundings such as parents and peers.

According to the behavior of the resident and their commitment to their development plan, the judge decides whether the resident can remain at this facility or needs to be transferred to a Youth Penitentiary.

The Minister’s last stop for the day was to a private juvenile detention center in Lelystad where she toured the facility and learned about the prison operations and rehabilitative and educational programs offered to the inmates. The facility works closely with the Ministry of Education to offer a variety of education programs for the residents.

Minister Richardson stated: “Visiting these well-established facilities brings a lot of realization of what our existing institutions are in need of but also highlights the types of additional facilities we lack and need to establish. More importantly however, these in person opportunities open the door for partnerships and support where needed. The organizations that we visited today were very welcoming. The communication has been quite positive thus far and there is much willingness and enthusiasm to have Sint Maarten be a part of programs that are underway. For example, meeting a social worker from Saba and from Bonaire that are currently in the Netherlands training with the Youth Protection services is quite inspirational.

Whilst I know the BES-islands form an integral part of the Netherlands, the fact remains that we share a Kingdom and Sint Maarten has some of the same challenges as the BES-islands. As such, we all need to be in discussions about trainings and programs that are geared to helping our communities with the challenges we have in common. That is the purpose of this work visit, to get connected with the wheels that are turning in an effort to improve the areas that are demanding our united attention.”

During her work visit, Minister Richardson will visit various judicial and youth institutions to forge working relationships, get a better understanding of the judicial system and its stakeholders and explore ways in which Sint Maarten can be included in programs and receive assistance where necessary.  

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Minister Richardson, her support staff together with Project Leader-Janneke van Eijk, Member of the Board Sigrid van de Poel and their support staff.

 

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MP Emmanuel says Trust Fund rejection of housing proposal feels incomplete

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Christophe Emmanuel on Monday said the statement by the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) about raising the rent of its tenants feels like there is more to the story than the foundation is saying and questioned government’s role.

SMHDF General Director Helen Salomons informed the media that the World Bank (WB) Trust Fund Steering Committee has denied SMHDF’s request for US $45 million in funding. She said that the rejection is for reasons unknown. According to Salomons, the World Bank decision means that SMHDF can no longer finance and subsidize low rent rates and will not be able to construct affordable social housing for thousands of St. Maarten residents on the social housing waiting list.

MP Emmanuel said Salomon’s statement that she doesn’t know why the foundation was rejected was strange considering that Trust Fund projects are by consensus and only government’s non-support could lead to an outright rejection of such an important project. The Minister of VOMI and Housing would definitely know the reason and inform the Steering Committee of the Trust Fund accordingly.

“The question is, did the government and specifically the Minister of VROMI and Housing back the project proposal? And if government did not, what would the reason be for not supporting a US $45 million project to fix and construct homes for people,” MP Emmanuel said.

He continued: “It is no secret that the housing foundation is a complete operational mess and it is past time that the board and management are dismissed. I would not be surprised if government and the Trust Fund was not comfortable putting US $45 in the hands of that foundation. However, we are talking about the possibility of rent being raised on people in very hard times. So now the ball is in government’s court. What will government do now?”

The MP suggested that a new board and management be put in place and the proposals re-valuated, or place the funding with an established entity such as the St. Maarten Development Fund. “But first, government needs to explain why the funding was rejected. The issue is too important to just accept a rejection and move on. What can be done to get a positive response to the US $45 million proposal? That is the only concern now,” the MP concluded.  

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