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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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Prime Minister Jacobs has first meeting with Dutch State Secretary Van Huffelen

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Today, January 20, the Honorable Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs held a fruitful meeting with the newly appointed State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Alexandra van Huffelen via video conference call together with the Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, Minister Plenipotentiary Rene Violenus and their respective support staff. Prime Minister Jacobs was able to discuss several topics of interest with State Secretary Van Huffelen during this first official meeting.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Jacobs updated concerning the COVID-19 situation on St. Maarten and government’s current mitigation efforts in this regard.

St. Maarten was able to receive official confirmation from State Secretary Van Huffelen to have the deviation of article 25 handled as an agenda point in the next Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR) meeting scheduled for February 4. State Secretary Van Huffelen also confirmed that this request would be heading to the RMR with a positive advice from the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) as per the Committee of Financial Supervision’s (CFT) advice. Additionally, the trajectory of the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (COHO) was discussed where cooperation between St. Maarten, COHO and the CFT is concerned.

“It is important to hear one another and for us to understand each other as we are all on the same page with the same goal; to improve St. Maarten. State Secretary Van Huffelen has been well informed concerning St. Maarten’s current status, as such, we have agreed to have bi-lateral meetings and four-country consultations and quite some matters to be discussed in the coming weeks”, concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

Honorable Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Silveria E. Jacobs has first meeting with State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations Alexandra van Huffelen

 

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Continuation Plenary Session of Parliament about Draft National Ordinance 2022 Budget

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The House of Parliament will sit in a plenary public session on Friday, January 21, 2022.

The plenary public meeting handling the 2022 draft Budget, which was adjourned on January 20, 2022, in the first round. Will be reconvened on Friday, January 21, 2022, at 10.00am 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.orgwww.pearlfmradio.sx and Parliament’s Facebook page: Parliament of Sint Maarten, with a link to the Live stream.

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Prime Minister Jacobs addresses concerns about deviation from article 25

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Prime Minister of Sint Maarten Hon. Silveria Jacobs in the House of Parliament on Wednesday addressed the concerns of Members of Parliament (MPs) about the fact that the House is handling the draft 2022 national budget without having the deviation from article 25 granted by the Kingdom Council of Minister (RMR).

“Government has a legal obligation to submit the budget. Governmentt has a legal obligation to request deviation based on the deficit as a result of the disasters we have been facing from 2017 up to the present. The Committee of Financial Supervision (CFT) has advised positively and the RMR should have already approved such as per law, however, they are in default. No conditions other than the provision in the Kingdom Act Financial Supervision under the CFT can be added to be able to deviate.

“We are in discussions with new Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations to get this handled on February 4. Parliament should do its due diligence, debate and approve the draft 2022 national budget, and Government then has to incorporate all amendments etc. before it can be sent to the governor for ratification. Seeing the current timeline, there should be no challenge to have a ratified budget in place by mid-February to be able to live up to our obligations to the people of Sint Maarten. I have explained this part in my letter of December 23, 2021, to the Honorable MPs via the chair,” Prime Minister Jacobs said on Wednesday in the House of Parliament.

Jacobs adds: “These are the political and legal realities that we are facing. Despite this we have continued to engage with the Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations to encourage our discussion partners and colleagues to handle the matter a.s.a.p. To that effect an official request was sent to have a meeting with the new Dutch State Secretary of Kingdom Relations to address specifically this item along with other pertinent matters.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts we could not get the meeting before our debate, today. But I do have a meeting scheduled with the new Secretary of State Van Huffelen on Thursday. In the meantime technical staff have met twice to prepare for this meeting. I will be able to update on this matter once I have spoken to the Van Huffelen.

“The Council of Ministers have presented a draft budget to the House of Parliament for deliberation as part of its legal obligation and thereafter the council will take the necessary steps to ensure that its ratified,” Prime Minister Jacobs concluded.

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UPDATED: Armed Robbery at Carrefour Express on Thursday

SINT MAARTEN (CUPECOY) – The police said in a brief statement that they are investigating a robbery that took place at Carrefour Express Jordan Village in Cupecoy around 12.30pm on Thursday. The suspects fled in a vehicle towards the Lowlands border with the French side. Additional information will be provided later.

UPDATE: The preliminary investigation indicates that two slender postured men that were dressed in light clothing entered the supermarket and at gunpoint robbed the business of the day's proceeds. The robbers then stepped into a small car and fled towards the French side.

The Special Unit Robbery (SUR) is requesting any information from persons, who may have seen or recognize the suspects connected to this investigation, to share this information with the investigating detectives.

The detectives can be contacted via phone at 542-2222 ext. 203 / 204 / 205, the anonymous tip line # 9300, or persons with information can also send a private message via our Facebook Page- Police Force of Sint Maarten - Korps Politie Sint Maarten or website https://www.policesxm.sx/ 24/7.

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PFP: Coalition Obsession with Pre-Clearance Is Disrespect for Airport Workers

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Party for Progress (PFP) Member of Parliament (MP) Melissa Gumbs took aim at what she calls a constant push for United States (US) pre-clearance to be established Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA).

US pre-clearance allows US-bound passengers to clear customs before their flight. In the Caribbean, only Aruba, the Bahamas and Bermuda have US pre-clearance facilities.

Gumbs addressed her concerns to Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT), Roger Lawrence, in yesterday’s public meeting of Parliament to handle the country’s 2022 Budget.

In her remarks, she questioned the rush to commit the country to US pre-clearance, which requires an initial investment of US $80 million and then annual operational costs of between $4 and $8 million. Costs might include providing gated community housing for American Customs & Border Patrol personnel, as well as paying for their family’s relocation and their children’s education fees, among other attached obligations.

Aside from the cost burden, Gumbs believes that the Government should focus on PJIA’s capacity issues. “This should be the priority if the airport is to regain its safety and security ratings from the International Civil Aviation Organization,” said MP Gumbs.

She also questioned the allocation of human resources that will be tasked with assessing the feasibility of US preclearance for PJIA.

“While I applaud the Minister’s approach of forming an inter-ministerial committee to further investigate the topic,” MP Gumbs said in the meeting, “I assume this means frequent workgroup meetings to figure out how we could afford this investment and how it would work with US Customs personnel living and working here, and so forth. But this sounds like straining an already-under-capacity government taskforce. They would be discussing something that we know would not actually pass an airport audit by US Customs and Border Patrol, which happens before any further discussion. So why is this the focus?”

However, most concerning to MP Gumbs is the blatant disregard that the coalition demonstrates regarding the mental health and safety of all airport workers, especially air traffic controllers. In her remarks, MP Gumbs highlighted the recent Air Caraibes A330 emergency landing at PJIA, after its left engine caught fire after takeoff. She noted that Air Caraibes, aided and guided by PJIA air traffic control, was able to safely land at 7:30pm, when the runway is relatively quiet. MP Gumbs questioned how this scene would have unfolded if it had occurred at 12:00pm on a Saturday afternoon, which is peak hours for runway activity at PJIA.

“The reaction to that is ‘well we usually have aircraft incidents around Christmas time, so that is no reason to not pursue pre-clearance,’” MP Gumbs states. “I find this equally amusing and terrifying. If this is the type of logic the coalition wants to apply to high-expense issues like these, then maybe they should apply it to every aspect of governing. Think of the time and money we’ll save, not actually focusing on fixing our issues because they’re ‘usually’ what we’re dealing with.”

This is a continuation of what MP Gumbs calls the “deflection tactics” of several coalition MPs, where they lack facts to counter sound and valid arguments, instead resorting to personal insults.

“It is for the people of St. Maarten to question what these MPs have done, one being a representative of Sint Maarten non-stop for the last 40 years,” PFP MP Raeyhon Peterson commented. “What has been accomplished, in particular over the last decade, other than being the politician who has disrespected the Parliament and the Constitution more than anyone else in our young history?”

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