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Sarah: “US Preclearance More Than Just a Presence at PJIA”

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Now the issue that is polarizing the community of St. Maarten is the planned US preclearance presence at the PJIA. Not the Dutch aid, or the pace of the Trust Fund Program, not the reconstruction of the airport, but US preclearance!

I am of the opinion that a US preclearance presence at our airport could be beneficial for the island. In fact, in all Government programs of recent times, US preclearance is mentioned, including the one that governs the current Government. I also can attest that since I was a member of the Executive Branch of Government, negotiations have been going on regarding US preclearance.

I think we have so polarized the issue, that no one is standing still by ALL what it entails, what it will require etc. There are for example some none airport related matters that need to be addressed as well. Safety, sovereignty, immunity, liabilities etc.

The latest statements from Government Ministers have even me confused and I can just imagine the general public. Given the status of such a project, I can imagine that we also have international partners scratching their heads.

Rather than requesting a meeting of Parliament on the topic, I have chosen the route of formally asking the Parliament’s approval to question the Minister(s) in a meeting of Parliament, specifically for that purpose.

Making use of this right of “interpellation”, is shorter, more direct and Ministers must come to Parliament prepared. This right is enshrined in our constitution and worked out in our Rules of Order.

The request from a member to have an interpellation must be motivated. My request is further motivated in the letter as submitted. The questions are usually sent to the Minister(s), once Parliament decides to call the Minister(s) in on the topic. But I have already provided these to Parliament in my request for an interpellation.

Letter to Parliament

Based on the Constitution of St. Maarten, article 63, sub 2 as further expounded on in the Rules of Order, article 68, sub 1, the undersigned, Sarah A. Wescot-Williams, Member of Parliament hereby requests parliament’s approval to invite the Prime Minister, the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunication and Transportation, and the Minister of Finance to Parliament within the shortest possible time.

The reconstruction of the Princess Juliana International Airport is a matter of ongoing debate and concern. Statements by different minsters have unfortunately not contributed to putting to rest the prevailing sentiment that the plans to reconstruct the airport, the airport’s financing and the US preclearance plans, are not synchronized between the airport companies and their shareholders. In other words, we don’t seem to have our act together.

That several international partners are in one way or another involved in one or more of the abovementioned aspects, and the apparent lack of one vision from local authorities and stakeholders in my view place St. Maarten in a negative light and weakens the country’s position.

I hereby also wish to put forward the questions, I would like the abovementioned Ministers to provide Parliament with the answers to, if my proposal to call the Ministers to appear in Parliament is supported by Parliament:

  1. Is there a firm agreement between Government, PJIA and all other involved stakeholders on the WB/TF financing proposal for the reconstruction of the airport? If yes, please list name, function and date of approval.
  1. And again if so, what is the delay in proceeding in accordance with this agreement?
  2. Is the airport still desirous of seeking other financial options?
  3. If so, what are the terms and conditions for other potential financiers?
  4. Is the airport still engaged with potential financiers it had approached in the earlier stage of its reconstruction efforts? Are the interested organizations and or firms on hold or have these talks been terminated?
  1. Is it permissible under the WB/TF agreement to simultaneously pursue other options for financing?
  2. What is the current financial position of the PJIA(E)?
  3. What is the precise (re)construction plan or layout for the airport?
  4. Must or can a US pre-clearance facility be included in the plans at this time?

10. Do we already know what is required, financially feasible, and economically beneficial of the envisaged preclearance?

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Man UP & Check UP Prostate Cancer Awareness Campaign kicks off with a BLUE BANG

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - Napa Auto Parts and Cole Bay came alive as the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), the Positive Foundation and Elektralyets Foundation, kicked off the 2019 registration drive for Prostate Cancer.

Many eager men were waiting for the registration which ran from 10am until 2pm. On site, St. Maarten Medical Center’s Urologists Dr. Ramos, Dr. Rojas, nurses and volunteers for the Prostate Cancer Awareness registration were on hand.

Men had the opportunity to register for a prostate specific antigen (PSA)blood test and get answers to their questions from both Doctors.

Over 50 men got registered at Napa Auto parts. Upon registration men received a unique Prostate Cancer Awareness Campaign Man UP Check UP T-shirt, educational literature, Fiji Water and Vitamalt.

Men were greeted by the Prostate Cancer Awareness Team in a sea of blue with smiling faces. Survivors and warriors of prostate cancer from our community encouraged and accompanied their male friends to get informed and registered for the big FREE screening on September 28th at SMMC from 10am to 2pm.

The objective of the campaign is to break the taboo of Prostate Cancer on the island, educate and encourage men to talk of this disease with their health care providers and with other men in the community.

On September 22 at 7PM, the Christian Faith Ministries International Church in Dutch Quarter will be the host of a Man UP & Check UP Prostate Cancer Awareness Information session with guest speakers Dr. Ramos of the St. Maarten Medical Center and Dr. Rojas who will talk about erectile dysfunction. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend this free event.

The St. Maarten Medical Center, Positive and Elektralyets Foundation are encouraging and calling on men between the ages 40 to 75 years old to action in an effort to help save lives in the community. The next registration drive is scheduled for September 21, 2019 at Kooyman on the AJC Brouwers Road, St. Maarten from 10am -2pm.

Internationally, September is observed as prostate cancer awareness month with the light blue ribbon as the symbol. This September, the Positive and Elektralytes Foundations would like to get the men in our lives to talk about the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test with their doctor and make an informed decision about the best testing approach.

“This September let’s turn awareness into action. Early detection is the key to saving lives through screenings like the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) and the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) which helps to identify prostate cancer in its earliest stages,” concluded Shelly Alphonso and Mercedes “Elektra” van de Waals-Wyatt, Presidents of the two foundations.

The Foundations would like to Thank Mr. Michael Ferrier and his team at Napa Auto Parts, the partners, volunteers and sponsors who came out to make this a pilot prostate cancer awareness event a grand success.

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LU hosts annual fire drill exercise

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Learning Unlimited Preparatory School (LUPS) held its annual Emergency Fire/Disaster Drill exercise on Friday, September 13 in keeping with its outlook on disaster preparedness and preparation.

The exercise included various emergency response teams including the Fire Department, Police Department, and Ambulance services. The Fire Department responded with two fire engines and several members of their emergency response team. LU's community police officer, Mr. Felix Richards was on the scene as well to provide organizational assistance. The fire department contingent also included representatives from the disaster management service, the prevention, and repression departments.

The LU staff and students were swift in their response and evacuation actions. Teachers, students, staff and even canteen workers evacuated the building and arrived in their allocated evacuation areas in less than three minutes. Almost everyone was accounted for with the exception of two designated students, who were reported missing.

During the drill, a smoke machine was used to simulate real-world conditions and the designated two students remained in the main building unannounced to the fire department. Upon the arrival of the emergency services crews, they were informed of the situation and notified of the missing students.

The firemen and firewomen were extremely well-prepared and they performed their duties professionally and responsibly in a very timely fashion locating the students and providing relief actions. All of the emergency response services were impressed with LU's quick response time and complimented the school's administration and emergency response leaders for a job well done.

Following the conclusion of the evacuation exercise, LU's emergency response team met with the local fire department and Officer Richards to review the drill and provide feedback.

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COM receives presentation from GridMarket and Island Resiliency Partnership about Resilient Energy

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Council of Ministers (COM) recently received a presentation from GridMarket and the Island Resiliency Partnership about their work in helping small islands in energy transformation towards building resiliency.

Island Resiliency is a Dallas-based public-private partnership designed to support communities on the frontlines of climate change by accelerating their transition toward renewable energy and resilient infrastructure. This comes at no-cost to governments and island stakeholders.

Gridmarket is a New York based company and partner of the Island Resiliency Partnership that leverages its network of donors to accelerate this transition.

Ms. Angelique Gumbs, Head of the Department of the Interior & Kingdom Relations and Mr. Patrice Gumbs Jr, Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of Foreign Relations met representatives of the Island Resiliency Partnership in the margins of the UN organized review of the SAMOA Pathway, a set of strategies for inclusive development, in Apia, Samoa, in October 2018.

This was followed with a mission led by Minister of Justice Mr. Cornelius de Weever, on behalf of the Prime Minister under whose mandate development and recovery lie, to Earth X in Dallas, Texas, in April 2019. Earth X is an international, nonprofit environmental forum whose purpose is to educate and inspire people to action towards a more sustainable future.

During the meeting, the Minister made presentations on the energy and development trajectory of Sint Maarten and its efforts towards building resiliency, post Hurricane Irma. GridMarket and Island Resiliency Partnership are currently working with Palau and Samoa on their respective energy programs and concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Samoa in the margins of Earth X.

The Sint Maarten delegation invited GridMarket and Island Resiliency Partnership to the island on a mission to meet with key stakeholders and to make a presentation to the Government.

During their mission, the team met with GEBE, Bureau Telecommunication Post (BTP), the Chamber of Commerce, SHTA, and various Departments within Government including, the Department for Education Innovation, the Department of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of VROMI.

The two entities are seeking an MoU with Government that will allow them to begin gathering the necessary data to make the most adequate proposals to government.  Their proposals are made using factors including climate and weather, energy costs, energy use, local laws, subsidy programs, and physical characteristics of sites.

During their presentation, the team was able to, present to the Council of Ministers real-time data on the energy use patterns of critical infrastructure using the medical center as an example.

Utilizing GridMarket’s databased platform, the Island Resiliency Platform is able to help governments and island stakeholders achieve energy goals, measure their progress, and demonstrate how – and to what extent – they have made an impact. The aim is to do this through a transition to clean, distributed and affordable energy systems.

Discussions during the mission touched on past efforts of the Government towards renewable energy including wind and solar, as well as efforts in the area of waste to energy. The Council of Ministers of Sint Maarten underscored the need to take advantage of the opportunities to improve the living conditions, including the significant cost of energy for the people of Sint Maarten. Discussions on future partnership and the proposed MoU will continue.

Should the Government approve this proposal, Gridmarket will offer the project to their network of international donors and investors for financing. If successful, this initiative would crosscut and address a number of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals including #7 Affordable and Clean Energy, #9 Industry, innovation, and Infrastructure, #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, #13 Climate Action, and #17 Partnerships for the Goals.

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USP Board calls on Governor to break his silence on government

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The board of the United St. Maarten Party (USP) on Thursday called on Governor Eugene Holiday to break his silence and tell the people of St. Maarten if Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin has submitted her cabinet’s resignation now that she has minority support in Parliament.

The USP board said that since MP Franklin Meyers pulled his support from the UD/SMCP coalition, thereby throwing down government, the Governor has been silent in explaining the people the process.

"The government has fallen as we say locally. The government is busy spinning as if they are waiting to hear from Parliament to inform them that they do not enjoy the support of the majority in Parliament. In the meantime, the Governor, who has usually been diligent in these instances, is letting confusion reign by staying quiet," the board said.

The Governor, the USP said, has met with faction leaders and has not reported to the public. "The question is, has the Prime Minister tendered her cabinet's resignation and has the Governor accepted it," the board said.

"It is incredible that government collapses, there is no government, and the Governor isn't updating the people. We are calling on the Governor to break his silence. We are also asking that the now minority supported government cease and desist with any decisions in government," the board said.

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Man Up & Check UP Prostate Awareness Campaign Underway

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - The Positive and Elektralyets Foundation have partnered with the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) to launch a Man UP & Check UP Prostate Awareness Campaign on St. Maarten.

The objective of the campaign is to break the taboo of Prostate Cancer on the island, educate and encourage men to talk of this disease with their health care providers and with other men in our community.

The campaign includes registration drives, information sessions, screening at the St. Maarten Medical Center for registered participants. Furthermore, there are public service announcements on local radio stations, radio and TV interviews, posters, banners and social media campaigns, t-shirts and electronic billboards awareness messaging.

The first registration drive is scheduled for September 14, 2019 at the Napa Auto Parts in Colebay, St. Maarten from 10 am – 2pm.  Members of the St. Maarten Medical Center along with the Positive and Elektralytes Foundation are encouraging men between that ages for 45 – 70 who have never done a PSA test to register during this event.  The SMMC has agreed to contribute the expertise to review the results of the PSA, a free consultation and perform a freeultra sound if necessary. However, the PSA test will have to be paid for at the lab or covered by insurance.

The next registration drive is scheduled for September 21, 2019 at Kooyman on the AJC Brouwers Road, St. Maarten from 10am -2pm.

On September 22 at 7PM, the Christian Faith Ministries International Church in Dutch Quarter with be the host of a Man UP & Check UP Prostate Cancer Awareness Information session with guest speakers Dr. Ramos of the St. Maarten Medical Center and Dr. Rojas who will talk about erectile dysfunction.  Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend this free event.

On September 28, 2019 SMMC with review the PSA results of the registered participants during a free consultation and perform an ultrasound if necessary.

Prostate cancer survivor Mr. Michael Ferrier and prostate cancer warrior Mr. Raymond Benjamin have graciously agreed to be the spokes persons for the Man Up & Check Up campaign. Mr. Benjamin along with Dr. Rojas candidly shared their personal and professional experiences on Speaking of Everything with Oral Gibbes earlier in September. Mr. Ferrier has agreed to be the voice for the prostate cancer awareness public service announcements heard daily on local radio stations. Both Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Ferrier are anxious to join the conversation to spread to message of prostate cancer – especially the importance of early detection.

Other contributors to the Man UP & Check UP campaign include Mr. Elvis Harrigan from Picture This Studio, Tashin Brown from International Liquors and Tobacco, Vita Malt and Ms. Francine Chance for the Fiji Water, NAPA Auto Parts and Kooyman, Speaking of Everything, local radio stations on St. Maarten and Viva Signs who are all excited about the campaign and its call to action for men on our island to help save lives through early detection.

Internationally, September is observed as prostate cancer awareness month with the light blue ribbon as the symbol. This September, The Positive and Elektralytes Foundations would like to get the men in our lives to talk about the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test with their doctor and make an informed decision about the best testing approach. “This September let’sturn awareness into action. Early detection is the key to saving lives through screenings like the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) and the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) which helps to identify prostate cancer in its earliest stages” concluded Shelly Alphonso and Mercedes “Eelektra” van de Waals-Wyatt, Presidents of the two foundations.

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Prime Minister clarifies position on the financing of Airport Reconstruction

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – During the Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday September 11th, Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin took the opportunity to clarify the position of the Council of Ministers on the financing of the Airport Reconstruction project.

Prime Minister Romeo Marlin in her opening remarks said, “Over the past few days, there has been quite some speculation through the media about new financing options for the reconstruction of our airport. As Prime Minister and chair of the Council of Ministers, I regret that this speculation has been fed by press releases from within the Government itself.

Whatever the underlying intentions may be, the complex financial negotiations about the future of our international airport should under no circumstances be played out in the media. This action not only risks to discredit this Government or derail the existing agreements with the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the bondholders. What the speculation ultimately does is undermine the international image of this country and as such the investment climate of our island.

To the people of Sint Maarten, I would like to make it very clear that the official position of the Government of Sint Maarten has and will remain the same: the airport terminal reconstruction will be financed with the available funding from the World Bank Trust Fund, the European Investment Bank and the Government of the Netherlands. The Airport has informed the Council of Ministers that this also remains the official position of the Management of the Airport.

I would further like to remind the people of Sint Maarten that this approach has been formally approved by our Parliament through the adoption of the 2019 budget. 

Let me give you in 10 bullet points a factual summary of where we really are when it comes to the financing of the airport terminal reconstruction project.

One – the Airport has already received 20 million US dollars in financing from the Government of the Netherlands and the Government of Sint Maarten over the past six months.

Two – The Airport has used a significant part of this bridge financing to avoid bankruptcy, to fulfil its payment obligations and to continue the ongoing works in the terminal.

Three – There is a firm commercial understanding with the bondholders on the financing of the reconstruction of the airport and the release of all insurance proceeds. While the negotiations were not easy, I’m glad that the Minister of Finance and the NRPB have found ways to align the interests of our airport, the bondholders and the Government of Sint Maarten. The official signing of the agreements with the bondholders is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

Four – the grant agreement with the World Bank is ready and is expected to be signed in the upcoming weeks as well.

Five – the grant agreement with the World Bank will be for an amount of 72 million US Dollars. In addition to the 50 million for reconstruction works, the World Bank has also allocated one million for project management. Moreover, the grant agreement will include a 21 million liquidity support facility to ensure that the Airport can fulfil its debt service obligations throughout the reconstruction, in case of an external shock to passenger traffic, as a result of another hurricane or a US recession.

Six – the loan agreement with the European Investment Bank to the tune of 50 million US dollars is ready and can be signed as soon as the 2019 budget enters into force. While the budget has been approved by Parliament, it only enters into force after the six weeks appeal period of the Ombudsman under Article 127 of the Constitution has expired and the budget ordinance has been published in the national gazette. This is scheduled to happen on or after October 7th. A signing ceremony will take place shortly after the national budget enters into force. 

Seven – the on-lending agreements between the Government of Sint Maarten and the Airport are also ready to be signed by the Minister of Finance once the 2019 budget is in effect. The terms of these loans are extremely attractive and certainly not available on the commercial market. The total value of the two loan facility, one for the World Bank part and one for the EIB part, is more than 120 million US dollars. Both loans will be for a period of twenty years and have an interest percentage between 3.5 to 4.5 percentage. The EIB loan comes with a grace period of five years and for the on-lending of the World Bank grant, the Government will extend a grace period on repayment and interest of eight years, until December 2027. 

Eight – While the financing of the airport reconstruction is being finalized - the Minister of Finance and the Airport continue to explore other financial avenues, either as back up or as additional funding for future investments in the airport. To date, no other financing has been committed and any information on these other financial avenues remains strictly confidential due to applicable non-disclosure agreements. These agreements are in place not to be secretive, but as standard best practice for these type of financial discussions.

Nine – In addition to the physical reconstruction of the terminal, the Government and the Airport Management remain strongly committed to improving the corporate governance of the airport and other government owned companies. I’m glad to report that on request of the Council of Ministers, the NRPB has established a task force of key experts that will develop corporate governance improvement plans for Airport. This task force is chaired by former Notary Mike Alexander and further includes Professor Dr. Frank Kunneman, Mr. Rob van den Bergh and former island secretary and Secretary General of the General Audit Chamber, Mrs. Joanne Dovale-Meit. More information on the work of the task force will be announced to the public within short.

Ten – As the last of my ten bullet points, I would like to emphasize that the work at the Airport is ongoing and improvements are being made to the terminal as we speak. The Airport’s project team continues to work intensively on the mold remediation of the terminal building, on improvements to the current departure facility, the design of the next phase of the reconstruction works and the preparation of the necessary tender packages.  The passenger numbers are rising, and the airport is working on an increase of the current capacity of the departure facility.

While money is sometimes seen as the solution for all our problems – there is no quick fix for the airport that any money can buy. All efforts are being made to accelerate the completion of the works in the fastest possible timeframe. We can do a ground-breaking tomorrow or on St. Martin’s day, we can derail the existing agreements and push for alternative and probably more expansive financing, but it will not speed up the works.

This is not a matter of politics, or at least it should not be. This is a matter of the real time that it takes our Airport to complete a massive reconstruction project of over 120 million dollars in a safe, sound and sustainable manner. As your Prime Minister, I remain devoted to doing the right thing: we will get this done!”

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Bervoets Leaves Nature Foundation to Become Interim Director at Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets will be leaving the Foundation to head the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance as of October 1st. The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), based in Bonaire, is a regional partnership of conservation organizations including the national parks on the six islands of the Dutch Caribbean (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten) and is intended to support and strengthen nature on the islands. 

“After almost ten years working at the Nature Foundation, where I have been honored to be a part of the conservation movement on Sint Maarten, my expertise is now required to support not only St. Maarten but also the conservation activities on all six islands of the Dutch Caribbean. The purpose of DCNA is to protect the extensive biological resources and promote sustainable development of the natural resources of these islands, both on land and at sea. 

“My work on Sint Maarten has been challenging, but I am proud to have played a role in the establishment of the Marine Park, to establish Mullet Pond in the Simpson Bay Lagoon as a protected area, and to have been involved in conservation activities focused on nature education, protection of sea turtles, sharks, marine mammals and other species and areas. It was a complete pleasure to work at such an incredible organization. Now I look forward to work with the Board, Partners and Secretariat of DCNA to support conservation activities in the wider Dutch Caribbean. I also look forward to the community of Sint Maarten continuing to support the work of the Nature Foundation and its new Interim Manager Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern, “Commented Bervoets.  

Hellen van der Wal, Chairlady of the Board of DCNA, stated that after almost a decade of exemplary service as Managing Director at the Nature Foundation Sint Maarten, Bervoets has accepted a new challenge to become Interim Executive Director at the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance as of October 2019; “Supported by island park management authorities and DCNA Board members, Tadzio shall lead efforts to build ties not only within the Dutch Caribbean, but regionally and nationally, developing strong working relationships with the Dutch Ministries and top tier conservation organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Bird Conservation Netherlands and the World Wildlife Fund. 

“Tadzio will work alongside a voluntary DCNA Board and professional secretariat during his tenure, jointly building a unique mechanism of multi-island cooperation for park management support and nature conservation in the Caribbean.

The park management authorities and Board members of DCNA are grateful to Tadzio for accepting this challenge and we hope that his experience and expertise will continue to benefit the interests of nature conservation in the Dutch Caribbean,” continued van der Wal.

The structure and governance of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance are currently undergoing a much-needed modernization. This process is quite fundamental and designed to improve DCNA’s services to the six park management organizations in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. DCNA is keen to ensure its readiness to jointly address growing conservation and climate change challenges in the region and to intensify cooperation with various actors and partners in the European Netherlands, Caribbean and internationally. 

The extensive biological resources are the basis of one of the main sources of income on the islands: nature tourism. DCNA not only focuses on the sustainable management of existing protected areas, but also to increase awareness and knowledge of the value of nature. 

The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance is a non-governmental, not-for-profit foundation that is designed to assist the national park organizations of the islands of the Dutch Caribbean, i.e. the islands of Aruba (Parke Nacional Arikok), Bonaire (STINAPA Bonaire), Curaçao, Saba (Saba Conservation Foundation), St. Eustatius (STENAPA) and St. Maarten (St. Maarten Nature Foundation). The central office of the DCNA is on Bonaire. 

DCNA's mission statement is to "safeguard the biodiversity and promote the sustainable management of the natural resources of the islands of the Dutch Caribbean, both on land and in the water, for the benefit of present and future generations, by supporting and assisting the protected area management organizations and nature conservation activities in the Dutch Caribbean".[1] 

DCNA is funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery and Queen Beatrix is one of DCNA's patrons. 

Bervoets was already in Bonaire last week when Minister of Agriculture, Nanture and Food Quality Carola Shouten opened up the new DCNA Offices in Bonaire with Governor Edison Reina.

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St Maarten placed first in annual FCCA Essay Contest

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Maria Granger, a 14-year-old student of the Learning Unlimited Preparatory school placed first in the Senior Division of the annual FCCA Essay contest organized and coordinated by the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau.

D'Angelique Harregan of the Methodist Agogic Center was also a finalist in this year's competition.

Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT), the honorable Stuart Johnson commended the performance of Granger on Monday saying he was very proud of "St. Maarten's shining stars." Johnson said the St. Maarten students who participate in this event each year, continue to show their talent and more importantly, their love for St. Maarten.

"This is indeed a proud moment for St. Maarten again, to have a first-place winner in this important competition, says May-Ling Chun, Director of the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau. She said the competition is "significant as it helps our students to get a better understanding of our tourism-based economy. "By understanding it, they become more positive contributors to the further development of the industry," said Chun.

The competition is designed to create greater awareness amongst schools and the growing population on the importance of the tourism industry and more specifically, the Cruise Industry.

This year's essay competition attracted entries from 19 nations, with the theme being: "Many Cruise passengers use cruising as a way to sample different destinations. What impression does my country?

leave on these passengers, and how does it or should it attract them back as stay-over guests?"

As the winner in her age group, Maria Granger will be awarded a cash scholarship of $3000,- with the Learning Unlimited Preparatory school receiving a monetary award of $3000,-

For being an on Island Finalist D"Angelique Harregan will receive a cash amount of $200,-

The Minister of TEATT and the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau has extended its sincere thanks to the teachers at the Learning Unlimited, and the Methodist Agogic Centre on their guidance of the students and helping them to achieve greatness.

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USP: Our people come first in any new government discussion

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The board of the United St. Maarten St. Maarten Party (USP) on Monday re-iterated what it has always said when it comes to forming a government: objectives and initiatives have to be about the people of St. Maarten first. “it’s very simple for us,” the USP said. “Our people come first,” the party added.

The board issued a statement on Monday afternoon after UD Faction Leader and Member of Parliament Franklin Meyers withdrew his support from the UD/SMCP coalition on Monday morning. The USP pointed out that MP Meyers basically echoed statement made by the USP MP’s for the past year or more about the way the country is being governed, or not rather not governed.

“We have pointed out the various short-comings of the government and the continued ineptitude of its Ministers. It got so bad we even supported a motion of no confidence tabled by a UD MP to send UD Minister Emil Lee home because we believed so strongly Lee was so wrong for St. Maarten and its people,” the USP board said.

The board also reminded that it warned that the constant in-fighting of the UD would one day come to a head because at some point in time, “it has to stop being about you and start being about the people.”

“So to hear MP Meyers talk about selfishness within the government sounded very familiar. Our party will not form a government just for forming sake. It must be in the best interest of the country. Agreements would have to be clear. Focus must be placed on helping people, repairing homes, assisting GEBE, reconstruction of the airport, but again the well-being of the people. This must be the priority,” the USP board said.    

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