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Site visit marks the start of the renovation of the Belvedere Towers

SINT MAARTEN (BELVEDERE) - Major renovation work to severely damaged social housing in Belvedere has now begun, marked by today’s informal site visit by several key stakeholders.

In total, exactly 64 apartment units in the six residential towers of Sint Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) will be fully renovated under this contract. This activity – prioritized by the Government of Sint Maarten – is part of the Emergency Recovery Project (ERP-1) of the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, which is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the NRPB.

The units - locally known as “The Towers” - were damaged during the passage of the 2017 hurricanes. The work that has now started will do more than just repair hurricane damage; it will also completely renovate the buildings to adequate living standards. Based on a budget of almost US $5.5 million, the scope of works includes structural repairs, roof and electrical work, and installation of doors, windows, ceiling tiles, and plumbing fixtures.

Because the works entail complete renovation, the buildings must be vacated for the period of construction. Some tenants have already been temporarily relocated, while others will be relocated in the coming months. To minimize the disruption to their lives, all resettled tenants will receive compensation for moving and storage costs, as well as a monthly stipend for the duration of works.

The first two buildings are scheduled for completion in May 2022. With the delivery of the final refurbished units in the fourth quarter of 2022, safer and more secure housing will be available to eligible Sint Maarten residents through the SMHDF.

Attending today’s site visit were Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) Egbert Doran, Director of the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) Claret Connor, Trust Fund Steering Committee member Marcel Gumbs, SMHDF Director Helen Salomons, and SMHDF Board Chairman Antonio Brown. Also present were representatives and personnel of SMHDF, NRPB, activity contractor Leeward Island Construction Company N.V. (LICCOM), and activity supervisor ILACO Suriname N.V.

“I’d like to thank all the families who have been negatively affected for their patience and cooperation. You have awaited the start of these repairs after the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and now through the COVID-19 pandemic. Today marks a very significant milestone where we begin the repairs to 64 homes, ensuring that, within this year, they are back in our listings, meeting suitable living conditions and are safe for the families who will reside in them. This remains a proud moment for the Government of St. Maarten to live up to the promise of increasing resilience via these projects,” said Prime Minister Jacobs after the site visit.

“I am pleased to see that the renovation works have begun. This is long overdue for the occupants of these homes, who are hardworking citizens of this country. We have heard their cries for a long time now and I personally visited some of the units and witnessed the deplorable living conditions that they had to endure. Seeing that we are finally having these units completely renovated gives me great joy,” said VROMI Minister Doran.

“Since the inception of the Trust Fund, the NRPB has supported the implementation of critical repair work to Sint Maarten’s social housing stock. I am happy that this assistance has continued to this day, with the soon-to-start renovation of the Belvedere towers. As the NRPB, we are committed to building back a better and more resilient Sint Maarten,” said NRPB Director Connor.

“I wish to thank the NRPB, the Dutch Government, and the World Bank for their technical and financial support and trust in SMHDF’s vision for bunker-friendly housing units within Hurricane Irma’s rebuilding process. I can categorically state that our vision would not have materialized without this support. I also thank the Prime Minister and Minister of VROMI for the significant contribution, in terms of affordable and safe housing, that you are collectively making. This concept will yield and propel cross-subsidization throughout our portfolio to create a thriving SMHDF. A housing corporation that can appropriately and responsibly maintain this respective complex and more,” said SMHDF Director Salomons.

Since 2018, some 369 social housing units have already been repaired using finances from the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, totaling approximately US $1.1 million. Of these, 109 units were repaired through the NRPB, while 260 units repaired by SMHDF immediately after the hurricane have received retroactive financing.

PHOTO 1 7

The six residential towers (foreground) that will be fully renovated as part of the Trust Fund’s Emergency Recovery Project (ERP-1).

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NRPB Project Manager Paul Sijssens (left) giving a presentation on the scope of works to Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs (fourth right), VROMI Minister Egbert Doran (third right), SMHDF Director Helen Salomons (second right), and SMHDF Board Chairman Antonio Brown (right).

 

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Traffic controls underway to ensure road safety

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Police officers conducted traffic controls at several locations around the country, KPSM said in a statement on Tuesday. The Police Force of Sint Maarten KPSM plans to continue these controls to ensure road safety.

Road users, in particular motorists are reminded by police to have their vehicle documents with them in the vehicle at all times when on the road. Those documents include a valid driver’s license, insurance, and inspection card.

People with unpaid fines are advised by police to pay these or face the “pay or stay” approach. This approach sees fine dodgers taken to the police station and held there until the outstanding fines are paid in full. (KPSM) 

police traffic contr ins1 tue2501

 

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Extended pre-trial detention for Ginger Island shooting suspect

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The suspect in the Ginger Island Drive shooting has had his pre-trial detention extended by sixty (60) days by the instructing judge on Monday, January 24, 2022.

E.M. is suspected of shooting his victim in the shoulder on 15 October 2021 in a parking lot on Ginger Island Drive after an argument concerning a parking spot. He is also charged with possession of a firearm.  

Police arrested E.M. on 30 December 2021 in the vicinity of Oyster Pond. He has been in custody since his arrest for the non-fatal shooting and other related charges.

The suspect is expected to appear in the Court of First Instance on 21 April.

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St. Maarten Babe Ruth Leagues Hosts Its First Open House Event at Motorworld Show Room

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - On Saturday, January 22nd, 2022, The St. Maarten/ St. Martin Babe Ruth League (SXM Babe Ruth League) hosted its first Open House at Motor World in Cole Bay.  The aim of the Open House was to introduce the Board Members, players, coaches, and volunteers of the SXM Babe Ruth League to the general public, dignitaries, media, and prospective sponsors, SXM Babe Ruth League said in a press statement on Monday. 

“Information was provided regarding the aims, goals, and vision of the league which include the commencement of the SXM Babe League on February 5th, as well as, participation in the Babe Ruth League Caribbean tournament which is scheduled to be held in the Bahamas in July of this year.  

“The SXM Babe Ruth League would like to thank Motor World, Monster Factory, Babe Ruth Inc, Babe Ruth Caribbean, St.Martin Baseball/Softball Association Core Media and VID Media Solutions for contributing towards the SXM Babe Ruth League Open House. 

“We encourage parents, players, coaches, and volunteers to get involved with the SXM Babe Ruth League as we prepare to develop and enhance St. Maarten’s baseball product,” SXM Babe Ruth League said on Monday.

For further information regarding general enquiries or player registration, kindly visit our website at https://www.sxmbaberuthleague.com or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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SMMC postpones elective admissions. Daycare and Outpatient services continue

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - In light of the rise in COVID-19 admissions, St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) has postponed all non-urgent and elective admissions effective immediately. Patients whose appointments have been postponed will be contacted by the hospital ahead of their scheduled appointment date and time.

Daycare and appointments at SMMC’s Outpatient Department (Policlinics) will continue as planned. Patients visiting SMMC are asked to ensure that they fill out the COVID-19 screening questions truthfully, that their masks are worn correctly and that social distancing rules and guidelines are adhered to. Only persons with appointments may be allowed to enter the building with the exception of minors and medically indicated companions. Persons who refuse to comply or cooperate may be kindly asked to leave the premises.

SMMC also reminds the public that patient visiting hours have been suspended. Persons with friends or family admitted to SMMC are asked to make use of text messages and phone and video calls where possible to keep in touch with their loved ones. Persons wishing to receive an update on a patient must contact the patient’s emergency contact (which is typically a spouse or immediate family member) as SMMC does not provide patient information to third parties in an effort to protect and uphold patient confidentiality and their patients’ right to privacy.

SMMC apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause and thanks the public for their cooperation as they provide quality care close to home while keeping their staff and patients safe.

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Man found dead in apartment on Saturday

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - On Saturday morning around 8:00am, Police Central Dispatch received a call that a young man had been found dead in his apartment on Zozo-Moran Drive in Cole Bay.

Police and ambulance were directed to the location. At the scene, they discovered a man lying on the ground with no signs of life.

Preliminary investigation indicates that the victim had lost his life after having been fatally shot several times by unknown suspect(s).

The body of victim with initials H. G.d-J. was confiscated pending further investigation.

Detective’s request anyone with information about this incident to contact the Police Force on +1 721 542 2222 ext. 204 or 205 or the free anonymous tip line 9300. You can also visit www.policesxm.sx to report crimes anonymously via the tip contact form or you can leave a private message via Facebook page: Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten. (KPSM)

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SCDF thankful for renewed corporate confidence after long Carnival hiatus

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) introduced the contestants of its four pageants last week, is preparing to do the same for the Senior Calypso Competition and other cultural events and recently stressed that none of it would have been possible without the understanding and cooperation of its corporate partners and service contractors over the last two years.

“The last two years have been beyond difficult for us in every way. The misconception of many is that once Carnival is over, so is everything else. But our commitments remain, we still have monthly obligations and Carnival related multi-year agreements to live up to. Without Carnival for two years, the foundation had to become creative to meet those obligations as well as count on the understanding of our partners to survive,” President of the SCDF Alston Lourens said.

Lourens added as a result of Carnival not being held for 2020 and 2021, the foundation had to meet with almost all of its partners and contractors to discuss existing multi-year agreements and how they would be fulfilled in the absence of Carnival. “We even had to relocate our office to a smaller unit, thank God for an understanding landlord,” Lourens said.

“We engaged our corporate partners, we restructured, renewed and in some cases extended existing multi-year agreements with major financial and operational implications. We secured cooperation for this year and beyond and we are forever grateful that everyone maintained their confidence in the product and realized that it was in the best interest Carnival and its stakeholders,” Lourens said.

Next up for the SCDF will be the roll-out of its local cultural events for Carnival 2022. These include the Senior Calypso Competition, the opening of Carnival which will feature several local bands, Steel Pan Explosion, a showcase of Legendary Carnival Bands, Culture Night, the Soca Monarch Competition, the Village Cook-Up and more. The promoters of the international nights will also start rolling out their respective events.

“We missed our local events the most and we are excited to start promoting them. The response to the introduction of the pageant contestants has been overwhelming and we are looking forward to the same response for all of our local shows,” Lourens concluded.

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Grisha sets the record straight on missing dossier. Hints at possible Parliamentary inquiry at PJIA

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - President of Parliament, the Honourable Grisha Heyliger-Marten, says the revelation of the existence of a "potentially damning" dossier on PJIA may well shed light on shortcomings at the top levels of the Government-owned Company.

The document will be formally booked into Parliament early this week, and Parliamentary officials indicate that this time around, the PJIA dossier will follow the proper channels for accepting official documents.

If the alleged contents are factual, uncovering these truths can result in swift action to remove any impediments to the long-awaited rebuilding of the Airport.

"The contents of the PJIA dossier might provide even more reasons for an urgent Parliamentary inquiry in the interest of transparency and good governance. Many questions regarding PJIA have remained unanswered since Hurricane Irma. I, therefore, believe it is in the general interests that a public debate on this matter and how to move forward takes place as soon as possible," said Heyliger-Marten Sunday.

On Sunday evening, MP Heyliger-Marten issued a press release clarifying her position on the PJIA dossier's recent discovery. Since the news of its existence surfaced on St. Maarten, many people have speculated that its contents will reveal misspending and other wrongdoings by the Supervisory Board of Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and its once ousted Chief Executive Officer Brian Mingo. However, Heyliger-Marten said she will not act on speculation but would await the document's arrival at Parliament.

"Up to last week, the Parliament of St. Maarten was not officially aware that someone had sent "the PIJA dossier" to both the Parliament and the Council of Ministers." It seems although it was delivered to Parliament, the document may have fallen through the cracks and never underwent the proper process. "This is very serious and problematic in itself," said Heyliger-Marten.

According to Heyliger-Marten, in June 2020, Independent MP Christopher Emmanuel had hinted at the dossier's existence. According to Emmanuel, someone had already submitted the PJIA dossier to Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Back then, she told Emmanuel she would need the time to investigate if Parliament received the dossier since it never crossed her desk as Member of Parliament.

Talks about "the PJIA dossier" again emerged during last week’s handling of the national budget for 2022. "At that time, I had no facts and could not confirm the dossier's existence or contents, and therefore could not publicly go on the record making statements without having the facts. Naturally, informal discussions between MP's can and do take place about their thoughts and opinions on matters. Still, as representatives of the people, we should be mature and disciplined enough not to publicly make statements until we know they are factual and can be substantiated."

That same evening after the meeting was adjourned, I followed up on inquiries I had already started making to establish who initially received the dossier at the Parliament. During the meeting, National Alliance MP William Marlin had requested this investigation. I also called an urgent meeting of the Presidium for 9 a.m. the following day to finalize the investigation.

Heyliger-Marten said, "During the Presidium meeting, it was definitively established who had signed for receipt of the document. When contacted, the person in question confirmed that, as customary, she had either handed over the dossier to the former Chair of Parliament or placed it on his desk for further handling.” It remains unclear why the document was not officially booked in at Parliament.

"This error further emphasizes why the efficiency of the functioning and processes within Parliament needs to be addressed," said Heyliger-Marten.

Heyliger-Marten said that during her first address to Parliament as Chairlady, she pledged to adhere to the principles of discipline, efficiency, and transparency for the Parliament of St. Maarten moving forward. "The mishandling of the PJIA dossier is an excellent example of why these principles are essential."

Heyliger-Marten also said Parliament's investigation of the receipt of the dossier had gone as far as it can for the time being. She said the documents would be resent and booked in correctly Parliament, after which all MPs will receive a copy.

"Depending on the dossier's contents, Members of Parliament are free to request a meeting for Parliament to discuss this matter and decide the next steps by Parliament and the Council of Ministers related to PJIA", Heyliger-Marten said.

Heyliger-Marten herself has consistently advocated for the speedy reconstruction of the Airport. On May 14th, 2021, she sent a letter to the Honourable Prime Minister with several questions seeking clarity on "developments" at PJIA.

"In that letter, I indicated that, depending on the answers received to my questions, I would consider seeking an inquiry/investigation at the Parliamentary level into the reconstruction and financing agreements for PJIA and related matters."

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Continuation Plenary Session of Parliament about Draft 2022 Budget to continue on Monday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The House of Parliament will sit in a plenary public session on Monday, January 24, 2022.

The plenary public no. 08 which was adjourned on January 19, January 20, and January 21, 2022, will be reconvened on Monday, January 24, 2022, at 11.00 hrs. in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg. The Council of Ministers will be present.

The agenda point is:

  1. Ontwerplandsverordening tot vaststelling van de Begroting van het land Sint Maarten voor het dienstjaar 2022 (Landsverordening begroting 2022) (IS/352/2021-2022 d.d. 8 december 2021) (ZJ 2021-2022-152)

(Draft National Ordinance stipulating the Budget of the Country for the year 2022 (National Ordinance Budget 2022) (IS/352/2021-2022 dated December 8, 2021) (Parliamentary Year 2021-2022-152)

Due to measures taken to mitigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the House of Parliament is only allowing persons with an appointment to enter the Parliament building.

The parliamentary session will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115, via SXM GOV radio FM 107.9, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the internet www.sxmparliament.org, www.pearlfmradio.sx and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten, with a link to the Live stream.

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Minister Ottley confirms reduction in self- isolation period for asymptomatic persons

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - After consultation with the Collective Prevention Service (CPS) and considering the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC’s new guidelines, the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Hon. Omar Ottley stated that after garnering the necessary information, he has decided to reduce the COVID-19 isolation time to seven (7) days.

Minister Ottley emphasized that it is critical that persons continue to wear well-fitting masks and take additional precautions after leaving isolation or quarantine.

Please note that the new COVID-19 isolation rules do not apply to health care personnel, persons who are immunocompromised or for those with severe to critical illness. It will apply to the general population in the community, including workplaces and schools.

Health Care personnel will follow the COVID-19 isolation guidelines implemented in their workplace, as their guidelines are dependent on the situation at the time. (E.g., contingency, crisis etc.)

The Minister stated that other countries the United Kingdom of Great Britain (UK) have already reduced their isolation period after CDC announced that the isolation period was reduced to five (5) days. However, Minister Ottley opted to be on the safe side and reduce the isolation period to seven (7) days instead, which is a middle point between the previously established 10 days and the newly established five (5) day period.

A). Who is not suitable for shorter isolation and quarantine periods?

▪ Children 2 years of age and other individuals who are unable to wear a mask.

▪ People who have moderate or severe illness.

▪ People who are immunocompromised.

B). Who MUST isolate?

- People who have a positive viral test for COVID-19, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.

- People with symptoms of COVID-19, including people who are awaiting test results or have not been tested.

- People with symptoms, even if they do not know if they have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Guidelines:

  • Isolate for 7 full days from the date of first symptom.
  • End isolation if fever-free for 48 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and if other symptoms have subsided.

After ending isolation:

  • Continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public.
  • Avoid travel until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.
  • Avoid eating around others at home and at work until a full 10 days after your first day of symptoms.

C). Who does not need to isolate/quarantine?

- People who are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.

- People who had confirmed COVID-19 within the last 90 days

Guidelines:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days from the date of last close contact with someone with COVID-19 (the date of last close contact is considered day 0)
  • Get tested at least 5 days after close contact with someone with COVID-19. If test is positive or you develop symptoms, they must isolate.

D). For persons who are unvaccinated or have not been fully vaccinated:

- Stay home and away from other people for 10 days after last contact with a person who has COVID-19. The date of your last close contact is considered your start date.

- Continue wearing a well-fitting mask when around others.

- For 10 days after last close contact with someone with COVID-19, monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

- If symptoms develop, get tested immediately and isolate until test result have been received.

- If test is positive, follow isolation recommendations.

- If symptoms do not develop, get tested at least 5 days after you last had close contact with someone with COVID-19.

  • If the test is negative, you can stop quarantine, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask until 10 days after your last close contact.
  • If you are unable to get tested, you can stop quarantine after day 10 if symptom-free throughout the 10-day period, and you should continue to wear a well-fitting mask when around others at home or in public. End isolation if fever-free for 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and if other symptoms have subsided.

Minister Ottley ended by stating that these changes facilitate individual social and well-being needs, return to work, and maintenance of critical infrastructure and the economy.

Shorter isolation/quarantine periods focus on the period when a person is most infectious, and continuation of layered prevention strategies are key to preventing COVID-19 and decreasing transmission within the community.

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