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Soualiga News II (3113)

Members of the Council of Ministers and Governor attend Church Service marking Constitution Day

PHILIPSBURG – Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs, headed the Council of Ministers delegation that attended an Ecumenical Church Service in commemoration of Constitution Day, 12 October, which took place at St. Simon & St. Jude Anglican Church on Back Street, Philipsburg, on Monday.

Also in attendance was His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday and Mrs. Holiday.

Members of the Council of Ministers present were: Minister Claret Connor, Minister Rafael Boasman, Minister Martin Hassink, Minister Ernest Sams, and Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs, who was the host of the church service.

The sermon was delivered by Father Terrence Rawlins.

Also in attendance were Members of Parliament, Collectivite of St. Martin Vice President Rosette Lake Gumbs, High Council of State representatives, high ranking civil servants and members of the congregation.

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REPAIRERS OF BROKEN WALLS INTERNATIONAL MINISTRIES' ANNUAL MEN VS. WOMEN TALENT SHOW IS BACK

PHILIPSBURG - The most anticipated Men vs Women talent competition is back and it promises to be bigger and better than last year. Men and Women from different Ministries and different groups within the community will battle it out in 8 different categories, including dance, drama and the much anticipated surprise element.

The annual men vs women Talent show, which is now in its fourth year, will be held on Saturday, November 14th 2015 at Philipsburg Cultural Center at 7PM.

Last year's show was a major success with many hilarious moments and jaw dropping surprises. The women ultimately came home with the win and the trophy. This year the men and women are preparing routines that will blow last year's show out of the park.

This annual talent show is a fundraising initiative by ROBWIM to help fund the various community outreaches and activities.

Tickets are available at the Family Bookstore or via a ROBWIM rep. The price of the tickets are 12 us dollars, 12 euro or 22 guilders.

More information on the event can be obtained on our website www.robwim.org and FB page https://www.facebook.com/robwimorg. A ROBWIM representative can be reached via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tel. +1-721-556-9283.

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Increase in number of flight movements and passengers in Caribbean Netherlands

BONAIRE/SABA/ST. EUSTATUIS (Caribbean Netherlands) 5200 flight movements took place from and to the Caribbean Netherlands in the second quarter of 2015. Compared to the year-earlier period this is an increase of more than 8 percent.

The largest airport of the Caribbean Netherlands, Bonaire, shows an increase of 20 percent to 3000 flight movements. The number of passengers at this airport also increased considerably, by 6 percent.

At the airport of St. Eustatius the number of flight movements fell by well over 7 percent. The number of flight movements at the smallest airport, Saba, remained unchanged.

Increase in number of passengers

The number of passengers travelling from and to the Caribbean Netherlands showed an increase of 4.1 percent in the second quarter of 2015 compared to the year-earlier period.

The number of passengers on Bonaire increased the most, by almost 6 percent. The number of passengers on St. Eustatius, on the other hand, fell by 7.3 percent.

The number of passengers on Saba remained unchanged.The value of goods imported by air was 4.6 million US dollars in the second quarter.

Compared to the same quarter a year earlier imports decreased by 10 percent. Nearly 88 percent of the total import value by plane goes to Bonaire. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

The statistics can be found on statline.csb.nl

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Minister of Culture Bourne-Gumbs Constitution Day Message: Our Culture plays a Key Role in Nation Building

PHILIPSBURG - As citizens of St. Maarten, it is of utmost importance to preserve our tangible and intangible heritage, which would help us to identify clearly who we are as a people, St. Maarteners!, which can inspire positive change, stability and unity during a time of crisis.

If we do not bring awareness to our community about our history and culture, we are all missing out on an accurate view of our society and successfully building our Nation. We also need to continuously educate our young and old, why we as a people can celebrate Constitution Day and ensure it becomes a part of the curriculum in all schools.

Significant positive change in St. Maarten; has become a burning desire in the hearts and minds of our people. In order to bring about that significant change, it is essential for the strong leaders in our different districts, to see past party lines, assemble the people in each district together in large numbers, assume leadership seriously and form groups that will work together to start building powerful beneficial principles, on which that district will exist.

We will eventually have a wider range of ideas, customs, and wisdom to solve problems and enrich community life, and that way of living, will certainly affect the quality life. Each group, whether cultural or not, will have unique strengths and perspectives that the larger community, St. Maarten, can benefit from. I encourage all of us to work towards building St. Maarten, because we are a people of perseverance and courage.

I wish all the citizens of St. Maarten a Happy Constitution Day.

May God Continue to bless St. Maarten.

Mrs. Rita Bourne-Gumbs

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports

Sint Maarten, West Indies

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PHD/CPS advises against bathing/swimming in Great Bay on Friday

GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Public Health Department (PHD), and the Collective Prevention Services (CPS), both departments within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, are strongly advising against any swimming in Great Bay on Friday morning.

This advisory is in relation to water that is being pumped into Great Bay from the Great Salt Pond.  This water can be contaminated, from amongst others, rainwater runoff into the ponds which is then pumped into Great Bay in order to lower the water levels and prevent flooding in the Philipsburg area.

PHD/CPS advisory is a precautionary measure to prevent swimmers from coming into contact with any contaminated water that could pose a health risk if ingested or by skin contact, thereby making the person vulnerable to recreational water illnesses.

Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (Ministry VROMI) on Thursday evening started to control (lower) the water levels in the ponds in connection with inclement weather that the country started to experience from Thursday morning.

This measure taken by Ministry VROMI on Thursday is of a precautionary nature in the event there is additional heavy rainfall throughout Thursday night, the ponds will be able to handle the runoff therefore preventing any flooding in low lying areas.

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Police sets record straight that official information must come from Police Spokesperson or other Police Authority

PHILIPSBURG - In the edition of a local news paper published on Tuesday October 6th regarding the attempted armed robbery of the armored vehicle of the “Pan American Security Service”, the police is informing the general public and all media outlets, that the police department will not be responsible for any press releases or statements made or published by any media outlets on the island, that were not issued by or on behalf of the police spokesman. (Police Force Sint Maarten)

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Plenary session of Parliament to appoint new President and Vice Presidents set for October 13

PHILIPSBURG – The House of Parliament will meet in a plenary session on October 13 to appoint the President and two Vice Presidents. Soualiga Newsday will broadcast this session of the House via its live video feed.

The public Plenary Session is set for Tuesday, at 9.00am in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelmina Straat #1 in Philipsburg. 

The agenda point is the appointment of the President and Vice Presidents of Parliament.

This meeting of the House was requested by the National Alliance Faction Members of Parliament (MPs) W.V. Marlin, S.E. Jacobs, Democratic Party Faction S.A. Wescot-Williams, United St. Maarten Party Faction F.G. Richardson, and MP M.A. Lake.

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. 

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

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Queens and Runner Ups in the 2015 Pink Parade

PHILIPSBURG - As the Positive Foundation continues to actively fight breast cancer with their annual awareness activities, St. Maarten reigning Carnival Queens and Runner Ups are especially honored to have taken part in this year’s parade.

A heartfelt “Thank you” is extended to the Foundation for the invitation and to First Caribbean International Bank – CIBC for donating their very stylish “walk for the cure” shirts.

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General Audit Chamber submits to Parliament its Audit on Governance of the Bureau Telecommunication & Post

PHILIPSBURG - Today, Monday, October 5, 2015, the General Audit Chamber submitted its report on the “Audit on Governance at Bureau Telecommunication & Post (BTP)”, to Parliament.

The purpose of the audit is to provide insight into the organization and the functioning of the governance at BTP, as well as to examine the causes for the arrears in financial transfers to Government. The investigation also looks into the uncertainties related to these transfers. Governance relates to management, control, monitoring and accountability. The report includes findings, conclusions and recommendations related to internal governance, external governance as well as the effectiveness (performance) of BTP.

BTP is the telecommunication regulator for Sint Maarten and is also responsible for, among others, the development of policy frameworks, the performance of activities and advising the Minister of Telecommunication, Economic Affairs, Tourism, and Transport (TEATT) regarding telecommunication and postal issues.

The impetus for an audit at BTP was the growth in arrears of the financial transfers from BTP to Government. BTP collects concession and spectrum fees from telecommunication operators and other telecommunication vendors in the local market. During the investigation, governance kept emerging as a concern, and the discoveries support the conduct of a governance audit at BTP.

A number of the findings are significant, some are considered alarming.  The findings are such that the General Audit Chamber feels that significant action is needed from the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication, the Director of BTP as well as Parliament.  Each must take their respective responsibility to ensure compliance with the law. The argument that “the Country is still engaged in a buildup phase”, has to come to an end, and those responsible have to take action, in the opinion of the General Audit Chamber. 

The General Audit Chamber concludes that the most important, elementary forms of external and internal governance, are absent at BTP. The National Ordinance BTP that governs the institution, for the most part, is not complied with and important documents such as the legally required performance contract, the employment regulation and the regulation governing the operations of the Supervisory Board, are still not viewed as priorities. The General Audit Chamber further concludes that the governance within BTP, or better stated, the lack thereof, impacts the effective functioning of BTP and is, one of the causes for the lower than projected financial transfers to Government.

This is an undesirable situation in an organization with significant financial interests.

In the course of five years, inadequate responsibility has been exercised regarding BTP. The result of which are a myriad of significant and worrisome circumstances, most still persist to this day.

The Minister has failed to properly fulfill his role. No vision has been provided for BTP. Legally required actions, for example approving annual budgets, and formalizing regulations/procedures for operations, either do not occur, or if they do, happen very late.

In fact, the investigation shows that despite a succession of Ministers, there has been and continues to be, little or no oversight of BTP. The General Audit Chamber concludes that the failure by the Minister(s) to properly and sufficiently exercise legal authority, is a primary cause for the arrears in transfers from BTP to Government.  Additionally, the General Audit Chamber was unable to establish that action was taken to comply with the National Ordinance in terms of the regulation of financial transfers. A “temporary arrangement” has existed since 2011 to handle the financial transfers, however, it is not in accordance with the National Ordinance.

The General Audit Chamber was not able to determine whether during the Parliamentary debate related to the Country’s budget and that of the financial statements, questions were posed regarding BTP. In keeping with good governance, it is desirable that members of Parliament are informed and can pose questions to the responsible Minister regarding an organization with an arrears in required contributions.

The situation in terms of oversight exercised by the Supervisory Board is also worrisome. Because of the absence of the legally required procedural regulations, procedures for management, employment regulations and the performance contract for the Director, the Council is not sufficiently equipped to effectively supervise. In addition, the General Audit Chamber discovered instances of actions by the Board that are not unequivocally legitimate.

BTP does not operate optimally. The efficiency and effectiveness of BTP is hampered by an organizational structure that is not in proportion to the staffing. Specifically, one in four persons at BTP is a high level manager. One would expect an equally high level of expertise from such a structure, yet most project and activities are outsourced.

The General Audit Chamber could not find any evidence that outsourcing is conducted on the basis of a public procurement system. In a number of cases, the audit indicates that there are insufficient guarantees in place, and that the perception of possible conflicts of interest is present at BTP. Furthermore, formal job descriptions, a performance evaluation system and other basic organizational tools necessary for proper governance, are not yet in place five years after the start of operations.

Operational costs for BTP’s 2015 budget are approximately half of income. Budgets are U.S. Dollar denominated, while annual accounting documents are drafted using Guilders. Comparative analysis is therefore complicated because the budget must first be restated in Guilders. In terms of effectiveness and efficiency, a U.S. Dollar denominated financial administration carries high banking costs. The General Audit Chamber did not receive a reasonable explanation for the choice of the U.S. Dollar.

A number of specific recommendations are presented to the Minister, the Director and the Supervisory Board, respectively. The objective is improving internal and external governance so that BTP can meet Government’s expectations in terms of financial transfers.

The report “Audit on Governance Bureau Telecommunication & Post” is published in both English and Dutch and is available on the website of the General Audit Chamber (www.arsxm.og).

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OBNA Representative visiting islands of Sint Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius. Call for an appointment

PHILIPSBURG – The Development Bank of the Netherlands Antilles (OBNA) has scheduled several meetings for interested persons and for those who already have on-going projects with the financial institution on the islands of Sint Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius.

OBNA’s Head of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Section, Stanley Marks, will be holding sessions on each island during the following dates.

On Monday, October 12, Thursday, October 15 and Friday, October 16; those interested can meet with OBNA’s representative by calling for appointment: 587-0142 or 542-2343.

Persons can also stop by the bank’s offices at the Virgon Building, at the C.A. Cannegieterstraat Unit #11-D.

On Saba, appointments should be made with Harry Simmons tel. 0416-3350 for Tuesday, October 13.

For St. Eustatius, persons should call Ivan Berkel at tel. 523-0610 for Wednesday, October 14.  

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