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Situation facing migrant workers ‘not worthy of NL’, minister says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Social affairs minister Karien van Gennip has pledged to take action to improve the housing and working conditions of people coming to the Netherlands from the rest of the EU to do manual labour in agriculture, slaughterhouses and distribution centres.

The current situation is ‘not worthy of the Netherlands’, Van Gennip said during a debate on her ministry’s budget this week. In particular, she said, the ‘value of labour’ must increase.

If that means higher prices for products, so be it, the minister told MPs. By demanding better quality housing, fewer staffing agencies and making sure foreign workers have proper health insurance it will be more difficult for employers to draft people in from elsewhere, the minister says.

Legislation introducing a certification system for staffing agencies will be introduced next year, but critics argue this does not go far enough. Instead, they say, staffing agencies should be fully licenced, as recommended two years ago in a major report.

Last month her ministry’s chief inspector called for a rethink on Dutch economic strategy, telling the NRC in an interview that employers are able to increase their profits using cheap labour, but the social cost – the pressure on scarce space, housing and schools – is being picked up by society.

Without limits, or targets, for population growth, employers will continue to bring in workers to do certain jobs because successful economies like the Netherlands and Germany are ‘magnets for migrant labour’, Rits de Boer told the paper.

Distribution centres, slaughterhouses and greenhouses are all reliant on low paid personnel and staffing agencies are actively recruiting workers in central and eastern Europe, he said.

‘They come because the staffing agencies facilitate it,’ he said.

Parliament

MPs from across the political spectrum have called for measures to reduce the influx of EU workers and a rethink on growth industries which require cheap foreign labour to function.

The government’s migration advisory council is currently working on a new report which looks at how many new arrivals the Netherlands can cope with and what the implications are if that level has been reached.

Meanwhile, The Hague’s employment chief Martijn Balster told broadcaster NOS that some workers are ‘renting’ a single mattress to sleep on for €150 a week. He said it is high time to think about the way the Netherlands organises its economy.

‘Yes, even if it means tomatoes become more expensive,’ he said.

Not all are equal

‘Not all workers are equal in the Netherlands and a whole different set of rules apply to foreign workers who are being fobbed off with lower wages,’ said economist Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska who is editor of Polonia.nl, a website for Polish nationals in the Netherlands.

Both employers and consumers are profiting from this state of affairs and think nothing of an economy based on exploitation, she said. ‘There is no “meet & greet” for these workers, just a backdoor to the slaughterhouses and the greenhouses,’ she said.

‘Where they spend the night is of no concern to consumers. All they know is they don’t want them as neighbours.’ It is high time, after 15 years of EU workers coming to work here, that Dutch become smarter, she said.

‘The era of cheap labour is coming to an end and this country should develop a sustainable agenda for the future.’

(DutchNews)

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Deposits on cans delayed after all, April 1 new introduction date

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Cans used for soft drinks and beer will carry a deposit of 15 cents from April, not January as planned, the country’s highest administrative court said on Friday afternoon.

Environment minister Vivianne Heijnen said earlier that the deposit system would be introduced from January 1, despite the objections of the industry which said key equipment was not available.

The Council of State said that the lack of machinery would make it difficult for supermarkets to meet their obligations and that it would be better to delay the launch until April.

The government decided nearly two years ago to introduce deposits on drinks cans in an effort to cut down on litter. Deposits were introduced on small plastic bottles in July 2021 and in the first year of operation around 80% were handed in for recycling.

(DutchNews)

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Support for blackface Piet shrinks: only 19% of young adults back stereotype

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Support for the traditional blackface Zwarte Piet has halved within six years and only one third of Dutch adults now want the character to remain black, according to new research by I&O.

In particular, support for the blackface version of Sinterklaas’ helper Piet continues to lose popularity under youngsters, I&O said. In 2021, one third of young adults supported the blackface Piet, but this year only 19% do so.

Older people are also turning their back on blackface with between a third and two in five still supporting the stereotype, although the year-on-year change is much smaller. ‘Black’ Piet will ‘die out slowly,’ researcher Milan Driessen told the AD.

‘Now that so many youngsters want a different Piet, it is a question of time before support drops to zero. Zwarte Piet has already disappeared from shop windows, the Sinterklaasjournaal and in the media.’

Despite the downturn in support for ‘Black’ Piet, two in three people say that the small minority of campaigners against the racist stereotype are spoiling the celebration for the majority.

Support for the traditional Piet is strongest among people voting for the far right PVV and Forum voor Democratie, where 79% back the blackface version. One in three of those who vote for the fundamentalist Protestant SGP are also blackface supporters.

(DutchNews)

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Brussels wants to cut big boxes for small items down to size

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – European Commissioner Frans Timmermans and his fellow commissioner for the environment Virginijus Sinkevičius presented a number of far reaching European wide measures to curb package waste on Wednesday.

The measures target everything from biodegradable fruit stickers, a ban on small shampoo bottles in hotels and disposable coffee cups in bars to reusable beer bottles and recyclable leftover waste. Packaged fruit and vegetables will also be phased out.

Europeans produce an average of 180 kilos of packaging waste a year and half of all paper and 40% of all plastic waste consists of packaging, the commissioners say. The aim of the plan is to shave off 15% of the amount of packaging waste compared to 2018 by 2040.

The proposals will not be welcomed by the packaging industry and supermarkets, NOS said, because they will have to invest in recycling systems and alternative materials. The plan states all member states must have a deposit scheme for single use plastic bottles and cans by 2028.

The Netherlands already has such a scheme in place for bottles with cans to follow in April next year.

Little boxes

The commission also wants to tackle over-packaging. From 2030 ‘each packaging unit will have to be reduced to its minimum size in terms of weight, volume and packaging layers, for example by limiting empty space’, the draft reads.

In the cast case of cosmetics and electronic products, for example, the percentage will be 15%. Amsterdam has been grappling to deal with a glut of cardboard boxes made worse by peak online purchases around the holidays and events like Black Friday.

The city council has now started a campaign to encourage Amsterdammers to tear their boxes up and deposit the cardboard in the designated containers, so it can be recycled.

Waste and sustainability chief Zita Pels said extra collections in peak periods and more awareness on the part of Amsterdammers, as well as €100 fines for dumping waste next to the containers, would help make the capital cleaner and more liveable.

‘We are also talking to online retailers about more circular solutions for cardboard packing waste. Prevention is better than cure,’ she said.

(DutchNews)

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‘Ill prepared’ Dutch need disaster kit at the ready, says terrorism expert

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Citizens in the Netherlands are ill prepared for a cyber-attack or other type of disaster which might paralyse the country, experts have said ahead of a national awareness campaign starting on Thursday.

Society needs to become more ‘resilient’ and people need to be capable of coping for at least 48 hours in case of a disaster, national terrorism prevention and safety coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told the Parool.

‘I remember the then minister Guusje ter Horst’s 2009 campaign for an emergency pack for every home, with a battery powered radio, candles and a first aid kit. That awareness needs to come back,’ he said.

Aalbersberg said the need to prepare is more urgent than ever because cyber-attacks are increasing. The Netherlands is extra vulnerable because of its advanced digital technology and lack of analogue alternatives, he said.

The government is not going to distribute emergency packs, justice minister Eric van der Burg told the paper, but there will be a dedicated website from Thursday.

The website Denkvooruit.nl (think ahead) will include tips like like ‘stocking up on candles, batteries for your torch or a dynamo-powered torch which will always work in case of outages,’ Van der Burg said.

(DutchNews)

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The Missing Strength in the Fight against Domestic Violence

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY – By Alston Lourens) - Good Day people of St. Martin. Last Friday, St. Martin joined the world in commemorating the "International Day for Awareness towards the Eradication of Violence against Women and Girls." Several major local organizations made sure to contribute to the awareness of the above, including the eradication of "Gender Based Violence and Domestic Violence."

I had the honor of being invited to several events about violence against women and girls as a panelist or speaker. I noticed that all these events were completely organized and attended to by women, exclusively. Men were almost non-existent in the audience. It was as if the idea of men being involved in events like these were considered taboo. While sitting with an old classmate, who was also invited to the same 3 events, I wondered why? Why are women so appreciative of myself and Jamal accepting these invitations and showing up?

Throughout the panel discussions, we have learned that the Caribbean as a region has more instances of violence against women than the global average. Women were admonished to report their abusers; instead, what was evident is more, women protected the abusers.

As the conversations went back and forth, it became very obvious to me why we were invited and what was missing.

What was and is still missing in the fight against violence against women and girls is the men. Its evident men are not a part of the fight at all.

Where are the male organizations speaking out against domestic violence against women and girls? Where are the churches, the sports clubs, the service clubs, the fraternities? Why aren't groups of men speaking up against domestic violence and respect for women and girls, and why aren't men at the forefront? This is not as much a women's problem, but everyone's problem, MEN included.

Traditionally, women and girls see us (their men, their fathers, their brothers) as their protectors. Are we really protectors? Are we protecting our women and girls? Most men would proudly say: "I'm protecting mine," but is that true?

We are definitely not protecting our women and girls when we laugh at jokes and sing songs about a woman being beaten or mistreated... We as men are definitely not protecting our own daughters when we share a video on social media of any woman being mistreated. This might read harshly, but we need to realize our part in all of this.

Even if a man has never abused or would never ever ever ever think they would abuse a woman or girl, but he allows another man around him to tell a story of mistreating a woman, that man is not protecting his daughter or sister or mother from future disrespect by other men.

What about mistakes, we all make them. The Caribbean cultural norm of "If he don’t bang me, he don’t love me" needs to be brought into context as well. We have for too long allowed, hid, and protected violence against women in our culture. The male's integrity is protected, while the female is told to move on and to not aggravate men again. The women are told not to wear short dresses, don't speak up or else. The sad truth is that these statements are sometimes told by other women they trust, too.

Dear Caribbean, it is 2022. Let us forgive ourselves for allowing violence in our culture against our own. Let's collectively change our mindset to protect our own. Caribbean men, you know how we feel about our mothers and grandmothers, we know there is nothing manly or macho about abusing those we are supposed to protect.

We need to immediately begin to change this "Caribbean" way of dealing with violence against women and girls so our next generation of young boys and girls don’t continue experiencing this nonsense.

We, as men, cannot think we are protecting the women closest to us by allowing the disrespect of women anywhere else. This is a tough thing to realize. Most men would dread having to "pull up" another man if being told a story about how the man had to use violence to "handle his woman" or "put her in her place."

Caribbean men, imagine you having to stand up to your brother, your friend, your father, your faithful pastor, a police officer, a work colleague, a neighbor, a man you respect, about something that most men would consider not your business. Well, if he is that comfortable saying that around you, then he made it your business bro, be a man. You are not protecting women and girls (including yours) if you keep letting it slide and say nothing. Why? Because by not standing up for that woman, we are not standing up for every woman, including our own sisters, girlfriends, wives, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers. By laughing as if it's a joke, or to feel a sense machismo, while hiding behind the onus of "cause that’s our Caribbean culture" we allow another man to continue thinking violence against any woman is ok, acceptable, funny, or macho.

Men, it’s never too late to change your perspective on this even if you as a man has committed violence to a woman or girl in the past, if you are sorry, if you feel you were wrong, lets redirect this karma into making a difference in other men and boys’ lives.

Times change, it is 2022 and everybody has a phone. The violence that would have been hidden 20 years ago is now trending on the timeline, 1 act of violence can be seen, laughed at and shared by millions of people influencing their own sensitivity about violence. Friday morning on the day, I read a news article about a young man shooting his pregnant girlfriend in the belly and 2 hours after that saw a picture captioned that another man had thrown his companion out of a moving car, in St. Martin.

Theres a lot we #asmen need to talk about, a lot of healing that still needs to happen, most women have no idea what so ever of what we are going through because we hide it so swaggy. We need to work on that. But let us not forget, Caribbean men, all around the universe are well known as the subspecies with the sweetest words, the best cooks, the most romantic accents and for being the best lovers the world about, it is time we change our mindsets, learn to forgive ourselves and each other, begin to hold each other accountable and add 'best protectors of women and girls' to that list. #bigmanting We can’t protect ours if we can’t protect all.

Alston Lourens

A Caribbean Husband, Father, Brother, Son, Grandson, Nephew, Godson, Colleague, Cousin, and friend to many Caribbean women.

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Minister Doran: Country Sint Maarten wins case against Alegria for long lease water rights

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Country Sint Maarten has won the case against Alegria Real Estate NV over the long lease water rights. This decision was handed down on Friday, November 25, by the Court of Appeals in the case that was filed against the injunction case decision of the Court in First Instance. In this decision, the Court of Appeals has not only reversed the judgment by the Court in First Instance but also denied Alegria’s claim to be issued 13,525 m2 in water rights for 60 years based on their claimed agreement that would have been reached between the company and previous Government administrations. The area in question is located at Burgeaux Bay in Maho, adjacent to the Alegria-owned property, The Morgan Resort.

In September 2020, the Court in First Instance (Injunction/Civil Court) ordered Country Sint Maarten to issue water rights to Alegria based on Alegria’s stance that a legally binding settlement agreement was reached between the parties. That judgment also included a daily fine of NAFl. 10,000.- up to a maximum of NAFl. 1 million if Country Sint Maarten failed to issue the draft ‘settlement’ decree that was supposedly agreed upon. Country Sint Maarten, represented by attorney Zylena Bary, filed an appeal against this injunction case as Country Sint Maarten considered the judgment to be incorrect. Pending the handling of the appeal case, the attorney also filed a request to suspend the working of the first judgment which was honored by the Court of Appeals. Country Sint Maarten remitted no payment to Alegria in the handling of this matter. However, the Court of Appeals’ ruling ordered Alegria to compensate Country Sint Maarten for legal fees.

In their nine-page decision to deny Alegria’s claims, among other legal matters, attention was paid to the question of which Court (administrative or civil) was the correct one to have the long lease issue adjudicated, the question if an agreement was reached that could bind Country Sint Maarten and if there was a reasonable expectation raised by Alegria that they would get said long lease rights. The Appeal Court did not consider that Alegria had a reasonable expectation that they would receive the water rights in long lease due to, among other facts and circumstances, the negative advices from Domain Affairs which contradicted the actions of the former Secretary General of VROMI, the position of the Minister of VROMI Egbert Jurendy Doran as mentioned in the warning letter to said Secretary General on August 5, 2020, and the minister’s denial of the request for water rights on October 6, 2020.

The conclusion of the Court of Appeals is that Country Sint Maarten, in any case in the injunction case originally filed by Alegria, is not bound by the email correspondence between the former attorney handling the matter for Country Sint Maarten and the attorney of Alegria. As such the decision in First Instance had to be annulled and the claims of Alegria were denied.

Concerning the judgement, Minister Doran said, “I count this a monumental victory for the people of Sint Maarten. Just over two years ago, I gave my commitment to correcting this egregious error on behalf of Country Sint Maarten. The civil servants of this Ministry have done their due diligence to protect our land and sea, and to defend the environment for this generation and others to come. We will continue to collaborate with non-governmental organizations such as the Nature Foundation and others in the best interest of Sint Maarten, her people and our future. Many other wrongs are still being addressed, and we will continue to fix them with the integrity that is valued by the majority.”

The Ministry of VROMI and, by extension the entire Government of Sint Maarten, is very pleased with this outcome as this matter has been the source for much turmoil and uncertainty both internally and externally for the last two (2) years.

Water Rights Alegria Labels

 

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11 Mentors and 10 Foster Parents complete STAP Training. Successful Awareness Campaign “Be The Village Foster A Child” books Results!

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On October 6th, 2022, graduates were told that they will not be sent on this journey alone. “You will have the support of Foster Families Central who provides guidance and advocates on your behalf. A dedicated team of social workers from The Family Guardian Department, will be in close contact with you as it carries out its responsibility for the overall wellbeing of the child”, said SJIS’ Interim Director Cynthia Filemon during the certificate ceremony.

Psychologist Aisheline Maduro, STAP (Selectie Training Aspirant Pleegouders/Selection Training Candidate Foster-parents) Training Instructor, said that these trainings are important to ensure that prospective foster parents and mentors understand the commitment they are making. Every foster child needs someone who is going to be there for him or her. Someone to open doors to a future they thought impossible. Foster parents and mentors, giving from the heart in such a capacity as this affords the opportunity to help shape lives. Co-trainer Ivan Plantein acknowledged the commitment displayed and emphasized the children’s need for good leadership and guidance in their lives.

Also present at the ceremony were Kimberly Dort Brown, Department Head, Court of Guardianship St. Maarten, who spoke of the importance of foster parents and mentors, and Priya Misir, Foster Care Program Manager, Ki Britannia Foundation who said, "I am who I am today due to the positive influence of a mentor. Knowing that 11 youth in foster care will experience that same positive transformation through mentorship brings me great joy.”

Foster Care Coordinator Meredith Concincion said that of the 45 persons that registered 11 mentors and 10 foster parents completed the four-day training. The training included topics such as healthy versus an unhealthy family system; social influences on development when children hurt and live in foster care.

In extending congratulatory remarks, the Department of Youth, under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport extends sincerest congratulations to the management and staff of the SJIS for executing another STAP Training to the volunteers, who have committed and dedicated their time to become successfully trained and much needed mentors or foster parents to our children in the foster care system.

The Department noted that through close collaboration between the Department of Youth and the SJIS “Be the Village, Foster A Child” 2022 Awareness Campaign, the Department of Youth deemed it necessary to support this endeavor, as it addresses a key focal area in Children’s Rights while enhancing and promoting child protection on the island according to Department’s mandate. “In this light, we encourage all past and new mentors or foster parents, to remain steadfast on this journey as together we aim to free our children from abuse, violence and neglect”.

According to Concincion, this is the first and will be the last training for 2022. More trainings will continue when SJIS is able to secure the necessary funding.

The Foundation Judicial Institute St. Maarten continuously recruits foster parents and mentors. Persons interested in becoming a foster parent or mentor or partnering to sponsor future STAP trainings can contact the Foundation's Foster Care Coordinator at email address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and mobile number 1721-5264310. 

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Concordia Cup 2022 – Saint Martin retains cup

SINT MAARTEN (MULLET BAY) - The annual event of the Concordia Cup golf tournament was held over the weekend of November 13th and 14th. Started in 2005, this tournament is based on golf’s “Ryder Cup“and pits Dutch side St. Maarten Golf Association ( SMGA ) players and French side Saint Martin ( Les Tamarins ) players. The event is held over two days with 18 players per team.

Scoring is 1 point for a win, ½ point for a draw, 0 point for a loss.

Due to the lack of golf carts the format was changed so that the players would only have to complete 18 holes in total instead of 36 holes. On Saturday morning 36 players started play at Mullet Bay Course in teams of “2 against 2“for 9 holes. The lowest score of the 2 being the one that counts against the opponent’s lowest score. Les Tamarins players team managed to go ahead with a score of 5 and a half vs 3 and a half.

Following on, all players went straight on to play the remainder of the course with a different format. In teams of 2, the players had to hit the same ball alternately until the end of the hole. This time the Dutch players fought back gaining 5 points over 4 points. So, after the first day the competition remained close with the French team leading with 9 and a half points vs 8 and a half for the Dutch.  

Sunday morning the format was 18 individual matches. SMGA players had to win 10 out of the 18 matches to win back the cup. A daunting task and one that sadly did not come to fruition, with Les Tamarins gaining a successful 11 wins against 7. Thus, Les Tamarins golfers retained the Concordia Cup 2022 with a 20 and a half to 15-and-a-half-point win.

Since 2005 this 2022 Concordia Cup is the 18th annual tournament. Presently the Dutch side has won 10 and the French side 8. The French side has won the cup for the last 4 years so the future years will be exceptionally interesting.

Keith Graham (President SMGA) thanked Jan Peter Holtland for taking over from Gitte with the scoring and organization. Jean Paul Clerk (President Les Tamarins) thanked Fred Boureau for his help and the SMGA for the organization.

The Concordia Cup tournament, although very competitive, is played based on friendship and in good spirits and all players look forward to continuing this prestigious tournament for many more years.

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COMMERCIAL/BUSINESS CUSTOMERS WITH PAST-DUE ACCOUNTS

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - NV GEBE has worked tirelessly to consistently provide all customers, including commercial/business customers, with electricity and water services, despite the ransomware attacks on March 17, 2022.

The company has shared several notices urging customers to keep their accounts current by making timely payments, based on their average monthly consumption. Payments can be made without a bill. Such a payment is credited to customer accounts and a receipt is issued for the customer’s accounting records. 

Unfortunately, N.V. GEBE’s financial records reflect that several commercial/business accounts are currently PAST DUE. Starting this week, notices are being distributed to various commercial/business customers with PAST DUE accounts. 

N.V. GEBE KINDLY REQUESTS FOR ALL BUSINESSES WITH PAST DUE ACCOUNTS TO PLEASE REMIT PAYMENT OF THE PAST DUE AMOUNT FOR THE PERIOD UP TO AND INCLUDING OCTOBER 31, 2022. 

TO PREVENT DISCONNECTION OF YOUR SERVICE, PLEASE MAKE YOUR PAYMENT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, NO LATER THAN WITHIN TWO (2) BUSINESS DAYS OF RECEIPT OF THE NOTICE.

N.V. GEBE appreciates customers’ prompt attention and cooperation. As a community member, we ask for your consideration in paying for the essential utility services that N.V. GEBE provides to you. NV GEBE cannot continue to provide utility services without payment. That is not a sustainable situation.

N.V. GEBE has explored various avenues to work with the business community on resolving this matter. The payment plan opportunity was available for a limited period, until November 21, 2022, and regrettably, is no longer possible at this time.

For further information, please contact the NV GEBE Customer Care Department via the help desk at: (721) 546-1100/ 546-1160, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., WhatsApp: +1721-588-3117 or, at the Philipsburg/Simpson Bay branch offices.

NV GEBE remains dedicated to its mission to serve the community of St. Maarten, providing reliable, cost-effective, quality electricity, water, and waste management services in a safe, environmentally friendly, sustainable, and innovative manner.

The community will be provided with continuous updates and additional details on relevant matters. Please stay informed via GEBE’s website: www.nvgebe.com, and Facebook page: www.facebook.com/nvgebe, as well as other media outlets. 

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