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Johnson rejects “false claims” regarding new casino license

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The claims that Minister of TEATT the honourable Stuart Johnson issued a license for the establishment of a Casino on Back Street in the former Super Plaza Building as Caretaker Minister, has been flatly refuted by Johnson as the license in question was issued since January 2019.

Reports hat the Casino License somehow contravened the rule of law as it pertains to the issuance of casino license, are also inaccurate. These claims have not taken into account the fact that the license was issued under several conditions including a restriction from the license holder creating access to the establishment from Cannegieter Street.

The allegations stem from the belief that the new casino if it commences operation, would be too close to the Sundial School and the Philipsburg Jubilee Library. However, this claim did not consider the fact that at least one other casino has for years operated within proximity of the supposed "sensitive establishments." When the license was issued, it was clear that the Library would also not be returning to the present location.

On Wednesday, Minister Johnson said he was shocked at those allegations. He said, "With the Country headed into yet another election following nine years of nine new governments I expect some rhetoric, but I had hoped that there would be some improvements to the level of discourse and the rhetoric would be less."

Johnson said, "This license considered the economic impact and the 50 local jobs it would create when it opens."

"We also considered the sensitive establishments, but we stipulated with the license holder that while we do not discourage new business, we were keen not to have these businesses form an impediment to our ability to protect the social wellbeing of our citizens," said Johnson.

He said that the fact that the property owner for the establishment and the license holder were in legal disputes over the terms of their agreement is no cause for the intervention of the Ministry of TEATT.

"I did not sign up to act as landlord and collect money from tenants, and if any Member of Parliament sees it fit to intervene in this regard, then I cannot stop them. However, my concern is the proper execution of a license I issued and the adherence to the rules and laws associated with that license. If there is a breach of these established terms, then the Ministry of TEATT will intervene as is stated when the license was issued," said Johnson.

Johnson said that the claims of tax evasion by the license holder or those of alleged failure to pay contractor are essential enough issues to be addressed. However, according to the Minister, these matters have their place in a court of law or can be settled by a mediator ", but as Minister, it is not our position to become involved in these matters."

Johnson has expressed hope that the matter is settled amicably and the new business can be adequately established. Several casinos are nearby the "sensitive establishments" both on Front Street and on the Cannegieter Street for many years. "The Ministry has reviewed this license thoroughly and found it to be in keeping with a clear respect for sensitive areas and aligned with my consistent drive to increase job opportunities for the people of this country, which I will continue to work on until my last day in office," said Johnson.

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Kooyman, Positive and Elektralyets welcome 400 women to Paint it PINK

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Kooyman is happy to once again team up with the Elektralyets and the Positive Foundation to host the 4th Annual “Paint It Pink” Makita ladies Workshop this Saturday October 19th, 2019.

The event has gained popularity over the last few years and the hype surrounding the event is growing stronger every year.

Travel Planners joined in on the Fun in 2018 and Sponsored 50 individuals, they have now teamed up to PAINT IT PINK once again this year and have made it possible for an additional 100 ladies to register and join in on the fun.

“We started with 200 ladies, which then grew to 250 and 300 last years, said Kooyman Commercial Officer Evencia Carty-Seabrookes.  And now thank you Zaida and the Team at Travel Planners we have managed to offer 400 participants the opportunity to PAINT IT PINK!”

This year is the 4th edition of the MAKITA PAINT IT PINK Workshop and it’s also the biggest tally of ladies to participate in the workshop thus far. “Hosting 400 ladies will be quite a task this year, said Evencia Carty-Seabrookes, Kooyman Commercial Officer. But we do have a great team including staff, partners and fans who have supported this event from the very beginning. And every year the event gets even bigger and better”.

“The registrations for this event was filled very quickly due to the support of its fan base and growing popularity as one of the feature workshops on the Breast Cancer Awareness Calendar of events, said Elektralyets Foundation President, Mercedes “Elektra”van der Waals-Wyatt. Thanks to Zaida Urvina- Franca and her team at Travel Planners we are now able to open up 100 more coveted spots to some lucky ladies who will now get to experience this interactive workshop and take part in an event which really relies on the sisterhood and support among women. When it comes to Breast Cancer many women need that support from their community, family, friends, loved ones and co-workers to help them go through this tough disease.

This DO IT YOURSELF workshop will offer ladies the opportunity to build their very own “LOVE Shelf “which they will be tasked to “PAINT IT PINK”. The Positive and Elektralyets Foundation feel this interactive workshop offers ladies a time to have fun, love themselves, be breast aware and support other ladies including breast cancer survivors and warriors as we continue our Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns in the near future.

After completing their work of arts, ladies will be treated to free cocktails in the “PINK LOUNGE” courtesy of the team at CC1 beverages as well as Free Beauty Makeovers by Vanity First and Black UP, Fashion & Jewelry exhibitions and Skin Care demonstrations. Fun Miles will also bring the Fun at this event with Games and prizes and a photobooth.

Ladies will be able to enjoy KFC also a major supporter of this event and great delicious treats and eats from Bree’s Kitchen with their signature “PINK PATAT”. Raffles will be done, and the ladies can win wonderful prizes.

Also present at the event this year the students and volunteers from the AUC with information about Breast Cancer, which will be available to all ladies where they can ask questions regarding Breast Cancer and get the discussion going at the event.

The Positive Foundation will be on site offering screening schedules, information booklets critical information regarding breast awareness, about warning signs, self-examinations which ties into their Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Feel it, Find it, Fight it!

The Elektralyets and Positive Foundation would like to thank Evencia Carty, the entire staff at Kooyman, Makita and Zaida Urvina-Franca and her staff at Travel Planners Vanity First and Black UP for their continued support in our quest to continue to help save lives in our community. Through these creative events we can connect with women in the community to be more open to receive Breast Cancer information and to be more Breast Aware and get checked!

Registration for the additional 100 Spots are NOW open. To register, please visit www.Kooymanbv.com and select which session you’d like to attend.

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PM Smith Responds to Query by MP Marlin about World Bank Function

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - In a recent media publication President of Parliament, Member of Parliament (MP) William Marlin, queried whether the Council of Ministers voted on former Prime Minister Leona Marlin representing the island as a “Private Citizen” at a function being held by the World Bank.

Prime Minister Wycliffe Smith stated, “While I have not officially received any questions or request for information officially from the MP, I would like to quickly set the record clear so that information is factual and not misconstrued in any manner or as the MP stated, assumed in any fashion as well.

According to the Minister of General Affairs, the relevant information and facts are as follows. Former Prime Minister, Leona Romeo-Marlin, was invited to a conference on e-Governance being hosted by the World Bank. The conference is to be held on November 16, 2019 where she would have been a panelist/speaker at this event. She was invited, based on her experience, to share some of what Sint Maarten has done and has envisioned in terms of e-governance. The trip was funded in its entirety by the World Bank itself, and not from the monies of the Trust Fund that they are managing on behalf of the Dutch Government. This meant that Sint Maarten in no way directly or indirectly would have paid for this trip.

According to Smith, “At the time, we were aware of the caretaker status of the Council of Ministers and saw this as no issue so on October 8th, the Council voted, and a decision was taken to allow her to attend the November conference. It should be understood that any active minister must have the approval of the Council for travel and engagements that reflect on their role in Government.

PM Smith further explained, “Two days later on October 10th 2019, then PM Romeo-Marlin made another request for her release from the duties as Minister of General Affairs and given her reasons, the decision was taken by the COM to accept the resignations of both Marlin-Romeo and the Minister of Justice, Cornelius de Weever. This decision was based on their request to leave immediately to prevent further political turmoil. As a result of her release from ministerial duties, the approval granted to Mrs Romeo-Marlin to attend the November conference will be retracted. This was noted last week, however due to travels of one minister this could not have been executed. Therefore, upon the return of Minister Geerlings, we will be voting in the next Council of Ministers meeting to retract this decision.”

The retraction is based on the fact that since Mrs Romeo-Marlin is no longer Prime Minister, she has returned to her duties as a civil servant and not just a “Private Citizen” as stated by MP Marlin. With her returning to this status, the procedure for request to travel for the conference is now different. As a civil servant, she is now required to request days, not from the Council of Ministers, but rather from the Secretary General of the Ministry of General Affairs. Mrs Romeo-Marlin has been apprised of this approach and she is busy reporting to and consulting with the Secretary General. A decision is to be made on her vacation request, pertaining to her return to the civil apparatus and her role in the apparatus moving forward.

“I take this opportunity to thank Mrs Leona Romeo-Marlin for her service to this country as Prime Minister and wish her the very best as she moves on,” said Smith.

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Island Gems provides sports equipment to ASA

SINT MAARTEN (SUCKER GARDEN - The children of the No Kidding with Our Kids Foundation’s after-school activities are having a bit more fun and exercise thanks to a recent donation from the all-women Island Gems Charity Foundation. The donation covered a various kind of sports balls, hoola hoops and foam noodles.   

Island Gems member and newly elected secretary Varsha Punjabi led the charge to acquire the needed sports equipment. This project received the cooperation of Sports Gallery owner Umesh Chellani who ensured foundation’s funds could have stretched further.    

Punjabi, along with fellow Island Gems Hanisha Alwani, Asha Stevens, Jody Rosen and Ludmilla de Weever, recently visited the after-schools programme at its location in the Lions Den in Sucker Garden to see the equipment in use by the children. They were happy to encounter the smiling faces of the children and to see the equipment used for both fun and educational purposes. 

Island Gems is a non-profit organization and is the oldest charity on the island. It is the only organization that funds projects on both side of the island. To quality for Island Gems funding, legally registered foundation/associations can send a motivation letter for goods or services with a long-term impact to Island Gems for consideration to any Island Gems member. Island Gems does no give cash.

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Minister Wever: No civil servant dismissed. False narrative created

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Minister of VROMI Christopher Wever on Tuesday said the private and confidential circumstance of a civil servant is being used to create a false narrative in the general public for political gain. The Minister stressed that no civil servant has been dismissed or fired or demoted. "This is completely false," the Minister said. The Minister was referring to his decision to open a formal and legal hiring process for a vacant position under the Ministry of VROMI in which a civil servant was designated in an "acting"/temporary role.

The Minister said it is unfortunate that the internal and personal employment relationship between a civil servant and government has made its way into the public domain and has taken on a political tone. "All personnel affairs of all civil servants whether appointed by national decree or contract are confidential," the Minister said.

However, although he is not comfortable discussing such matters in the public domain, the Minister felt compelled to dispel the blatant false narrative being created around this particular case and insinuations of political victimization. He explained that the civil servant in question was not fired or dismissed. He still holds his senior position in his government function with full salary and benefits.

The Minister further explained that government's organization does not know a function as "acting head", therefore, there is no function of acting head of the Department of Domain Affairs and there can be no issue of someone being demoted from that position. It is just that someone is requested to assume a role, in absence of an actual department head. Therefore, a “removal” of someone from that role is not considered a demotion.

The designation (not appointment) of a person in the capacity of acting head of a department is done by the head of said department. In the absence of a head of a department, an acting head of a department can also be designated by the Secretary General or by the Minister. The Minister holds the end responsibility in this regard, and can designate a person in the capacity of acting head at his/her discretion. There are various ways in which an acting head can be designated, it can be someone from within the relevant organization (an employee within), another department head (albeit within the same Ministry) or someone in a position “higher” than the function of head of a department.

With regards to compensation, if someone is incidentally designated in the role of acting head of department and if the person fulfills a normal role in a lower function for a longer duration, then the person is entitled to a form of compensation.

It can also be decided to give someone a structural allowance if the person is designated for an extended period as acting head of a department. This allowance (whether structural or incidental) is done by national decree, to compensate the person filling the role. The national decree is not an appointment in a particular function, but simply a matter of compensating the person. If the person who performs the capacity of acting head is normally in an equal or higher function, then the person does not receive any compensation.

The formal hiring process to fill the vacancy with someone permanent, as prescribed by law, will make it fair to other young St. Maarteners, workers in the same government department as well as the civil servant in question, to apply for the position.

"This is nothing new in government, it is a regular government process. Acting (or temporary) functions are in place until the formal process is open. We have to legally let the process run and see which candidates we have to best fill the position. Nothing was done with malice. It is very unfortunate that it is being painted this way," the Minister added.

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140 Counterfeit items confiscated during raid of marketplaces

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Saturday, October 12, 2019, around 10.20 am, a coordinated control was carried out with representatives of Liance Law Firm, the Bailiffs office of Ramazan, a representative of Disosa Brand Protection Services Ltd, together with the St. Maarten Police Department. This action was focused on counterfeiting and piracy of intellectual property rights.

Liance Law Firm took steps against different market vendors here on St. Maarten on behalf of Disosa Brand Protection Services Ltd based in Curacao. The company acts globally on behalf of a large number of trademark owners.

This control happened with permission from the Court of First Instance. The action was done on the different marketplaces in Philipsburg whereby different counterfeit brands were checked and fake items confiscated, police announced on Tuesday in a statement.

The law firm seized about 140 counterfeit articles of the brands Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Michael Kors. The fake items were on sale at different marketplaces in the Philipsburg area. (St. Maarten Police Force)

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Amuseum Naturalis Reopens for the 2019-2020 Season

SINT MARTIN (FRENCH QUARTER) - Amuseum Naturalis has reopened after its break and is ready for visitors! The free museum of St. Martin’s nature, heritage and culture is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to noon. The Amuseum is located at The Old House in French Quarter, on the hill above Galion Beach. Amuseum visitors of all ages enjoy special exhibits, gardens, viewpoints and fun activities.

“We’re very excited to announce our fall reopening!” said Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer, the association behind the Amuseum. “We invite everyone to come visit the Amuseum. If you’re a teacher or youth group leader, please get in touch to schedule a free visit!”

Amuseum Naturalis opened at The Old House on July 22, 2018. Since then, the Amuseum has had over 6,000 visitors. Over 2,000 kids visited with schools, youth groups and summer camps. 

Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum of the nature, history and culture of St. Martin and the Caribbean, created by the Les Fruits de Mer association. It is an all-volunteer project, and over 300 people have spent over 5,000 hours to create and operate the Amuseum.

Upcoming events at the Amuseum include a volunteer day from 9am to noon on Saturday, October 19th with lunch served after. The seventh annual Migratory Bird Festival will be held at the Amuseum on November 9th.

Amuseum Naturalis is open from 9am to noon Tuesday to Saturday, and admission is free to all. It is located at The Old House, on the hill above Galion Beach in French Quarter. More information and a map are available at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Amuseum Volunteers 2 ins1

Over 300 people have volunteered to help build Amuseum Naturalis.

Amuseum Naturalis 1 ins2

Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum about St. Martin’s nature and heritage.

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Sarah: Government smartly secures unanimous support for AML/CTF legislation

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Leader of the United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot Williams said in a press statement on Tuesday that: “The changes to the Criminal Code as submitted by former Minister of Justice, Cornelius de Weever were passed on Friday, October 11th.  

“On Friday, the Civil, Criminal and Criminal Procedure ordinances/amendments were tabled in a public meeting of parliament following extensive debates in Central Committee meetings and in the public domain.

“Much to-do was made about the fact that if the laws as presented by the government (read Minister of Justice) were not drastically amended, they could not count on majority support in parliament.  

“Fact is that following the lengthy Central committee meetings,  the  sometimes way-out proposals that came from the floor to the minister regarding same,  the many documents that  were had from the government to substantiate the government’s  proposals for these drafts laws,  no more excuses could be had  to delay the handling. 

“Part of the process during my tenure as Chair of Parliament was to request the Public Prosecutor’s  office,  the Bar Association and the Joint Court to provide their view regarding the Criminal Procedure Code,  and specifically the matter of  Crown Witness,  which is now taken up in that Code. 

“What we saw during the handling of these changes as presented by government to comply with the remaining CFATF recommendations was the blame game; why only now, who scheduled the meetings etc. etc.

“However  the most astonishing part of this particular meeting was the about-face by those members of Parliament who in previous meetings, publicly and  on social media,  exclaimed “over their  dead body”  that these laws would get their support;  and seeing how these members found arguments to now flip-flop on their  extreme position taken against the AML/CTF measures.  

“These members falsely claim that the draft laws were amended to suit those members of parliament who had serious objections.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The two laws (national ordinances) that have been passed up to now are the Civil Code and the Criminal Code.

“The government, based on discussions in Central Committee meetings and on the positions taken by the different factions made a small, yet significant change to the Civil Code, having  to do with the role of the Chamber of Commerce.  In the first proposal of the government, the Chamber was at liberty to dissolve suspected companies etc. This can only happen now, once the Court passes a verdict against the company etc. 

“The most remarkable turnabout was on the matter of the Criminal Code. The parliament received proposed changes to the criminal code from the government.  St. Maarten has a revised Criminal Code since 2015, so these changes the government proposed now have to do with the recommendations by the CFATF against money laundering and terrorism.  An amendment was presented to Parliament, so-called to save the day because if these amendments were not passed, these laws would not get the support of the majority in parliament namely USP, NA and two independent members of parliament.

“In a very nice and respectful way the government representatives, under the leadership of deputy Prime Minister Wycliff Smith explained that what the USP amendments actually suggested, was already in the draft law as presented by the government from the get-go. 

“In a very nice and respectful way, the representatives of Government concluded  to parliament that  the so-called amendment was superfluous and in what I believe was a face saving for the current coalition,  the government suggested to add to its draft law three words (“of te intimideren”).  Three words in order to make it appear that something was done with the amendment that was neither here nor there.  The amendment by the coalition had to be retracted!

“I think it was a good move   by the acting Minister of Justice to secure majority support for this very important law, and at the same time allowed a face saving for the NA/USP/Mercelina, Brownbill coalition in Parliament.

“The narrative should not go down as the government having drastically amended the Criminal Code to appease some members of parliament, as this picture would only further question St. Maarten’s resolve to legislate the necessary AML/CTF measures.”

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BPW Concordia Donate a Towel a Success collective over 250 for storm-stricken Grand Bahamas/Abaco

SINT MARTIN (MARIGOT) - The huge upheaval from the passage of hurricane Dorian has left those in the Bahamas – Grand Bahama and Abaco - in destitute situations, and BPW Concordia St. Martin initiative of “Donate a Towel,” has been considered successful where a pallet equal to 252 towels were collected.

The BPW Concordia St. Martin initiative was held in connection with its triennial theme: Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG1 (No Poverty), SDG 3(Good Health and Well Being) and SDG 17 (Partnership).

The towel drive took place on October 5th from 7am to 3pm.

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Ministry VROMI receives donation from EPIC

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Minister of VROMI Christopher Wever last week received a donation of four garbage bins from the non-profit Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC).

The bins are about 45 gallons each. Grants Manager of EPIC Tanya Power-Steven made the donation on behalf of the group to the Minister and Claudius Buncamper of the VROMI Ministry.

The intention is the place the bins in very specific areas as they are not bins that handle every-day waste.

Buncamper said the locations are still being identified. Minister Wever thanked EPIC for the donation and for their commitment to environmental awareness and protection on St. Maarten.

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