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DCNA Lobbies Internationally for Increased Support for Nature Conservation in the Dutch Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN/BONAIRE – The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) has been actively promoting a nature focused agenda both within The Netherlands and internationally. Whether it’s championing the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary, establishing new partnerships or pushing for a Climate Action Plan, 2022 has been a banner year for improved nature conservations efforts within the Dutch Caribbean.

One of the many goals of DCNA is to promote policy and advocacy work, both within The Netherlands and internationally. Together with DCNA board members, the conservation network organization has been actively engaging politicians and policy makers in order to stress the importance of nature conservation within the Dutch Caribbean. Below are a few highlights from the past few months of this important work:

Yarari Sanctuary Implementation Act

The implementation act for the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary was finally approved in the Dutch Council of Ministers on Friday the 8th of July. This was an important next step in protecting sharks, whales and dolphins in the waters of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius. Since the designation of the Yarari sanctuary in 2015, DCNA has been actively involved in drafting the implementation act and the organization is pleased to see the governance structure of the Sanctuary finally being put in place

New Collaborations

In June, DCNA partner organization Blue Marine Foundation invited DCNA to London to meet Lord Zach Goldsmith (Minister for the Pacific and the Environment) to discuss the UK’s Blue Belt Programme, a support program for the UK’s Overseas Territories to assist in fisheries monitoring and control. Together with the Blue Marine Foundation, DCNA is now exploring if such a program could be replicated in the Dutch Caribbean.

Climate Action Plan

In May, as part of the working visit of DCNA Director Tadzio Bervoets and DCNA Chair Hellen van der Wal to the Netherlands, the organization presented its Climate Action Plan for the Dutch Caribbean to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Kingdom relations (BZK) and to the Ministry for Climate with a plea for the Dutch Government to actively work with stakeholders on climate proofing the Dutch Caribbean. The plan was also presented to Members of Parliament Jorien Wuite en Lammert van Raan during a Masterclass held at Pulchri Studio in The Hague.

DCNA will continue to work actively to continue to push forward a more structured support for Nature Conservation within the Dutch Caribbean. There are a number of promising new projects, such as aiding in the implementation of the Nature and Environment Policy Plan BES and the upcoming Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) of the Specifically Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) protocol. You can stay up to date on all the latest DCNA news by signing up for the monthly newsletter BioNews by visiting www.dcnanature.org/news.

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Vehicles left at towing companies and police station. Owners requested to retrieve them

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Police have confiscated or impounded several vehicles and scooters related to theft or non-compliance with the technical requirements of traffic laws under the assumption that the owner or rightful owners would have their vehicles returned to them once all was in order.

However, a number of owners or assignees of the impounded vehicles have failed to appear to collect them, resulting in several abandoned vehicles at the towing companies or at the police station in Philipsburg.

As the peak of the hurricane season approaches, police appeal to owners who are still to retrieve their vehicles to collect them with the required documentation. Failure to do so will result in the vehicle being considered abandoned. A list of vehicles and scooters left at towing companies and the police station has been compiled and is available from police.

If your vehicle is still in the care of the police, contact the force on +1 721 542 2222. You can also visit www.policesxm.sx or leave a private message via Facebook page: Police Force of Sint Maarten -Korps Politie Sint Maarten. (KPSM)

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Youth Health Care Lactation Consultations are every Thursday

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Even though World Breastfeeding Week 2022 came to an end on August 7, the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) Youth Health Care (YHC) from the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (Ministry VSA), continues to have its Free Lactation Consultations every Thursday.

The sessions take place Thursdays from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the Baby Wellness Clinic CPS Vineyard Building, Philipsburg. The lactation consultation is done in collaboration with Women’s Health Services N.V.

The free lactation consultation is for moms in their second trimester and for moms with questions on breastfeeding. Pre-registration is required, and you can call 520-4163 for an appointment.

The goal of any lactation consultation is to identify and address any issues associated with breastfeeding in a way that works for the mother. Making breastfeeding comfortable for both mother and baby takes practice. Common challenges range from breast or nipple pain to finding a comfortable feeding position.

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CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY RECEIVES UPGRADED LICENSES

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Thursday August 11, 2022, the Acting Minister of TEATT, Mr. Omar Ottley met with the St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority (SMCAA) to present the much-anticipated aviation Licenses, which were upgraded to an innovative new ID format. 

The new licenses are an upgrade from the old paper licenses that were issued to the aviation professionals (pilots, mechanics, and air traffic controllers). The new licenses contain all the required information by the aviation ministerial regulations and remain compliant with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

It is a requirement for aviation professionals to have their certification credentials on their person when performing their duties. With the new ID format, it is now less cumbersome to comply with this requirement given that the license is now the size of a standard credit card, driver’s licenses, or ID card. 

Minister Ottley would also like to extend his sincere gratitude to the Netherlands who have provided the SMCAA with the equipment to develop the new ID format licenses.  This is an important step towards modernizing and upgrading the SMCAA licensing system. 

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USP: Proposed Child Sex Abuse law amendments needs Immediate Attention

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Sunday August 14th, 2022, the board of the United Sint Maarten Party (USP) lamented that proposed amendments to the child sex abuse law submitted to parliament by its leader Pamela Gordon-Carty needs to be prioritized and passed. 

On March 11th, 2022, proposed amendments to strengthen child sex abide laws was presented to the Chairlady of Parliament, Member of Parliament (MP) Grisha Heyliger-Marten by the leader of the United St. Maarten Mrs. Pamela Gordon-Carty and President of the Board Mr. Cecil Nicholas. 

The proposed amendments addressed specific loop holes and flaws in the current law that allow sexual predators the freedom to walk away unpunished for crimes against minors. The amendments also address the lack of tools available to police investigators to pursue perpetrators of child abuse. A definitive age of a minor was also proposed in the amendments along with clear definitions of acts of child sexual abuse.  

Gordon-Carty said at the time that there was an urgent need to take a serious look at all of our laws that are out dated, and adjust them to fit present day realities. She further stated, “Situations continue to go unresolved because of an unbalanced justice system, our child sex abuse laws are inadequate in addressing punishment and also limits the scope of investigations.” 

“The alleged child sex abuse as reported by Mr. Ralph Cantave, over the weekend, along with the recent court cases involving not only abuse, but the alleged facilitation by adults of said abuse highlights the urgent need for parliament to address the proposed amendments to the child sex abuse laws that were proposed by our leader Mrs. Pamela Gordon-Carty,” said the President of the United St. Maarten Party Mr. Cecil Nicholas.  He further stated, “As it stands according to our existing laws the alleged abuse that took place at the school is not punishable by law, because the acts involved are not covered/listed as a violation under our existing laws.”  The proposed amendments to the existing law would also help our institutions create enforceable policies and procedures that are routed in a firm legal position, allowing for more decisive decision making in alleged sex abuse cases, said Nicholas. 

The amendments to the child sex abuse law as proposed by our leader Mrs. Pamela Gordon-Carty would make acts such as the ones alleged in the case at St. Dominic High School criminally punishable. So we are not only appealing to Parliament, but also the population to reach out to your elected representatives and demand these amendments be addressed on the floor of parliament and passed before more innocent lives are unjustly affected without any legal repercussions. “Walking away scott-free from permanently damaging our young people can no longer be an option for these sometimes repeat sexual predators,” continued Nicholas. 

“We have had a long history of being subjective on many concerning matters within our communities, whispers are now becoming echoes, let’s not allow the echoes to become the norm while our children suffer. It is time to be objective and decisive on this issue of child sex abuse, the necessary amendments have been submitted to parliament, join us in demanding they be addressed and debated on the floor of parliament post haste, in order to prevent any more children from receiving justice for the irreversible damage done to them through unjustified abuse executed by adults charged with their wellbeing, lets break the cycle,” concluded Nicholas. 

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Ministry of Finance receives updates on Republic Bank’s corporate responsibility plan

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Ministry of Finance was recently the recipient of a courtesy visit from the General Managing Director of Republic Bank Sint Maarten, Sterl Lyons and the Republic Bank (EC) Limited Managing Director Mrs. Michelle Palmer-Keizer.

The Directors sat with Minister of Finance, Ardwell Irion to discuss the recently launched, “Power to Make A Difference” (PMAD), Republic Bank’s approach to corporate social responsibility designed to transform communities and enable sustainable futures. Republic Financial Holdings Limited (RFHL) is signed to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking – a single framework for a sustainable banking industry developed through a partnership with banks worldwide and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEPFI).

In joining UNEPFI, RFHL committed to improving their positive impact and contribution to society by incorporating sustainable practices and strategies across all business areas. The Principles of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require banks to be transparent and accountable. Banks are required to set impact targets in line with the UN SDGs and report on their progress toward those targets.

Given the recent questions in the media regarding the glitches prompted the bank to elaborate on the recent challenges and growing pains experienced during the previous months. There was also an outline of the new and innovate solutions set to be launched by January 2023; this includes e-commerce solutions.

In response to questions by the public, the Directors provided answers to the length of time taken to open accounts on the island. They also shared the positive and growing state of retail and corporate banking on St. Maarten.

“While we did have a lot of questions for Republic Bank, especially regarding recent issues, the management team is stepping up to improve acknowledge and improve on the situation. It is very important for our financial institutions to be transparent and hold themselves to a higher standard of accountability. I appreciate the updates and look forward to future implementations of the corporate responsibility strategies.” said Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion.

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Year report 2021 adopted, Saba again receives unqualified audit opinion

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The Island Council on Wednesday, August 10 unanimously adopted the year report for the budgetary year 2021. The financial statement for 2021 showed a positive balance of US $1.333.350.

Commissioner of Finance Bruce Zagers pointed out in his presentation to the Island Council that Saba again able to achieve an unqualified audit opinion on the financial statements as well as an unqualified audit opinion of the financial compliance of the income and expenses from the independent auditor EY.

“These achievements signify that strong financial management remains one of the fundamental governing principles of this administration,” said Zagers, giving a big compliment to the Finance Department for its consistent solid financial management. “As far as I know, Saba remains the only island in the Dutch Caribbean that has achieved such audit results and for this the public entity’s reputation for strong financial management is well known. This is a direct result of the efforts from our financial team.”

Both in 2020 ($962,000) and 2021 ($1.333.350), the public entity had positive balances, but this was directly linked to the amounts that were received in incidental funding from the Dutch Government during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, considered to be a normal year without abnormal influxes of incidental funding, the public entity closed with a considerable deficit.

Skeleton budget

“This not only shows how fragile our financial position has been for the past years, but it also proves that by working with a skeleton budget, it is rather difficult to remain within the budgetary boundaries even when a very conservative spending approach is taken. Had it not been for the additional incidental funds which are outlined in the reports, it can safely be assumed that 2021 would have ended with a negative balance,” said Zagers.

Zagers said that although the budgetary year ended with a positive balance, the budget in itself offered little flexibility and opportunity for government to grow its operations or to facilitate improved services.

He remarked that in order to balance the 2021 budget, the Public Entity needed special permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom relations BZK to release over $600,000 from the general reserve.

Conservative spending

“Just as in in previous years, in 2021 the Public Entity Saba operated with a skeleton budget, which was balanced on paper, but was far from realistic. Only because of non-structural funding and a very conservative spending policy was it possible to deliver many of the listed results,” said Zagers.

“Using incidental funding to finance structural tasks has become the norm for this administration. For 2021, the finance department managed 70 different incidental subsides, many of which branched off into multiple projects. Had it not been for these incidental funds, the quality of government and its ability to function would be further severely hampered,” said Zagers.

The large number of projects from incidental funding, 70 in 2021, but as high as 86 in the past, puts a big strain on the public entity’s human resources. Zagers explained that during the meeting of the auditor with the Island and Executive Council earlier this week, the auditor pointed out that 15 incidental projects would be considered normal for a small-size municipality in the Netherlands.

Free allowance

With the signing of the Saba Package 2.0 in June this year, the public entity will receive more than 4 million euros extra free allowance structurally from the Netherlands, an increase of almost 50% of the total free allowance that Saba has received annually since becoming part of the Netherlands.

According to Zagers, this increase is a direct result of Saba’s strong financial management and a testament to the good relations that have been established over the years resulting in trust between the local and the national government. “This also shows that with significant lobbying efforts from both the Executive and Island Council, that the Saba agenda and its most urgent needs remained relevant with the decision makers,” he said.

However, it took very long for The Hague to agree to the increase of the free allowance. “If it had not been for the good relations built by this administration, a strong consistent and stable government, and the public entity’s ability to ensure that strong financial management remained a core governing principle even during the most difficult governing periods, this result could have been significantly lower and with many more restrictions,” said Zagers.

Energy subsidy

One significant development which was possible due to the increased free allowance, is the subsidy that was provided to the Saba Electric Company (SEC) which ensures that electricity bills only increased by 10% rather than the anticipated almost 30%. Although energy prices remain high, without this subsidy the energy rates would have been significantly higher for the remainder of this year. This measure will provide some relief for the entire population during these very difficult times where the cost of living is extremely high, said Zagers.

Of the 2021 surplus, $600,000 was allocated to the buffer capital, bringing the amount of this reserve that can be converted to cash to cover any substantial unexpected expenditures to an amount of $2 million. Furthermore, $300,000 was allocated towards a reserve for general maintenance of government buildings, $300,000 towards creating a reserve for infrastructure projects to start tackling the substantial backlogs in maintenance on government properties and the remaining $133,000 to the general reserve.

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ODM: Remain Vigilant and Prepared. Recheck your Disaster Supply Kit

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Monday, August 15 will mark the start of the active part of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, where the islands of the Lesser Antilles traditionally see more storm/hurricane activity up until mid-October.

The Office of Disaster Management (ODM) which falls under the Fire Department (Ministry of General Affairs) headed by Fire Chief/National Disaster Coordinator Clive Richardson, said on Thursday that all residents and businesses need to remain vigilant and prepared.

ODM calls on residents to review the content of their Disaster Supply Kit to make sure it is stocked with the essentials that are necessary to ride out the hurricane season.

Every household’s Disaster Supply Kit should be able to support members of the household for a minimum of seven days after the hurricane has passed.

The Disaster Supply Kit should contain non-perishable food, water and medicine (fill prescriptions before the storm); non-electric can opener; first-aid kit; extra cash (ATM machines and credit cards won’t work if there is no electricity); a battery powered radio and flashlights as well as extra batteries; make sure cell phones are all charged prior to the arrival of the hurricane; fill up your car/truck with gas; check if your home and automobile insurance are up to date; put ID cards, passports and driver’s license, insurance papers in a waterproof bag along with other important documents.

If you are a parent with an infant or young child (ren), you also need to have essential items as part of your disaster supply kit: baby formula; diapers; bottles; powdered milk; medications; moist towels; and diaper rash ointment.

Your Disaster Kit must also include hand sanitizer, a soap bar or liquid soap; two cloth face coverings for each person; disinfecting wipes, or general household cleaning supplies to disinfect surfaces.

Continue to ensure that tree branches around your home are trimmed; cut all dead or weak branches on any trees on your property; clean-up your yard and put away items that could blow away during the passing of a hurricane; re-check your roof and storm shutters to make sure they are secure, and the latter are working.

For those whose homes are not yet storm/hurricane ready, you should make alternative housing arrangements to stay at family or friends.

The community is urged to learn more about hurricane hazards and how to prepare for a storm/hurricane strike by visiting the Government website: www.sintmaartengov.org/hurricane where you will be able to download your “Hurricane Season Readiness Guide’ and “Hurricane Tracking Chart.”

Listen to the Government Radio station – SXMGOV 107.9FM - for official information and news before, during and after a hurricane.

For official weather-related information, check out the website of the Meteorological Department of St. Maarten (MDS): www.meteosxm.com or visit their social media page Facebook.com/sxmweather/

Remember, it only takes one hurricane to make it a bad season. Remain vigilant and prepared!

The hurricane season runs through November 30.

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“Ruby Bute – The Tribute,” concert at St. Martin’s Culture Gardens

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) - Over 12 cultural groups, plus a throng of poets, dancers, and speakers have already signed up for “Ruby Bute – The Tribute” on August 14, 2022.

The Sunday concert takes place at We Agree with Culture Gardens, Bellevue, at 3 pm – 8 pm, said Sabrina Charville, president of the Coffee & Soda Biscuits Association (CSB).

Ruby Bute is best known as a senior painter and owner of Silk Cotton Grove Art Gallery; her storytelling about old-time customs is regaling; and her poetry is spread across three books, including the bestseller Golden Voices of S’maatin—all of which has endeared her island-wide to St. Martin people and their visitors, according to St. Martin Massive! and other publications.

The Gunslingers Steel Band, The Family String Band, Swali-Ka, Inspirational Tees, Colombier Cultural Traditions, Jolly Boyz, SXM Sport Movement, Soualiga Kultural Women Association, and Bottle Neck Blowing Stars are scheduled among the concert performers and presenters, said Charville.

The CSB, one of two year-round platforms for St. Martin poetry activities, already has commitments for poetry recitals from Melissa Fleming, Joyce Hanley and authors Fabian Badejo and Tamara Groeneveldt.

The organizing CSB team has been spreading the word about Bute’s life and achievements with social and traditional media for the last three weeks.

“We are inviting the whole island to come out and honor Ruby” for her work, celebrating our identity with dignity and love for over 40 years, said Charville.

According to the concert’s theme, Ruby Bute is ‘Our S’maatin Golden Icon,’ said CSB member Soshina Stephen on Tuesday during her radio interview.

The “Ruby Bute – The Tribute” concert has an admission donation of $10 or 10 Euros for adults. For children, age 12 and up, the admission fee is $5 or 5 Euros; children under 12 will be admitted free, said CSB. The tribute concert, in the relaxed picnic ambiance among Bellevue’s greenery and agricultural crops, is sponsored by the Collectivity of St. Martin.

NHP TUE09 2 ruby bute visited by csb members aug 5 6 2022

Ruby Bute (center, front) and CSB members take a coffee break at Silk Cotton Grove Art Gallery, August 2022. (© CSB)

 

 

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“College or University 101: The United States & Canadian Systems” workshop to be held on August 18

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – A free workshop entitled “College or University 101: The United States and Canadian Systems” is scheduled to be held on Thursday, August 18, 2022, at the meeting room on the first floor of the Government Administration Building from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

This workshop, organized by Student Support Services Division (SSSD) of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, is aiming to ensure attendants walk away with a better understanding of the US and Canadian college and university educational systems. It is geared at students in their last two years of secondary school or recent graduates who are interested in studying in the United States of America (USA) or Canada, and their parents.

The workshop will be covering aspects from application to graduation. Emphasis will be put on the first year of college/ university, where key differences in comparison to our own educational system need to be addressed, to the last year of college or university.

Workshop participants will learn the various steps in applying to schools and what factors to keep in mind when considering schools to apply to. In addition, while attending college or university, it is important to pay attention to important aspects like the Placement Test, Grade Point Average (GPA), grades and graduation requirements. These and other college/ university terminology will also be explained to the workshop participants. Some social aspects like living in the dorms or off campus will also be addressed. Parents are also urged to encourage their children to attend since this is beneficial to them.

Students are encouraged to contact SSSD to reserve a seat. Participants are encouraged to bring their own writing materials to the workshops, and they are encouraged to be on time. For more information, please call 543-1235.

The Student Support Services Division is located in the Gatspy’s Building, across from the Police Station and next to the Windward Island Bank (WIB) in Philipsburg. SSSD provides many services to students including psychological services, counseling services, speech language pathology services, social work services, educational diagnostic services, career services, and parental workshops.

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