Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2413)

San Juan Beach Hotel Closes

SINT MAARTEN/PUERTO RICO – If you stayed at the San Juan Beach Hotel in the past while vacationing or while on a shopping spree (eg Black Friday), this will no longer be an option to stay at while in Puerto Rico as the hotel has closed down.

San Juan Resort Owners Inc., filed for bankruptcy and the debts are reported to be over US$32 million.  37 people have been left unemployed for the moment.

The hotel which is located on Ashford Avenue in Condado, featured 96 rooms, a restaurant, pools for adults and children.

Those unemployed will be receiving assistance from the Workforce Development Program, an Economic Development and Commerce Department division that offers employment services including counselling, referrals, training etc.



Sint Maarten represented at 17th Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee Meeting of ECLAC

GREAT BAY (DCOMM) – The Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC) of the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) held its 17th meeting recently in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.  The symposium was considered a success.  It was related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the Caribbean.

The SDG’s (the Post 2015 development agenda) are the future Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). During the CDCC 17th meeting of the monitoring Committee, the key outcomes of that symposium were endorsed by the Committee.

The CDCC was created as a permanent subsidiary body to function within the structure of the Commission and promote development cooperation among Caribbean countries.

The conference on ‘Sustainable Development’ was well attended by the ECLAC member states and observers.

Drs. L. Morales, Program Manager at the Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BAK) from the Sint Maarten Ministry of General Affairs participated in the meeting as the only Dutch Kingdom representative.

Sint Maarten recently became member of the ECLAC.

The main agenda points that were discussed were: a coordinated strategy to address debt reduction for sustainable development in the Caribbean; Sustainable development goals for the Caribbean within the post-2015 development agenda.

Financing for Caribbean development and progress in implementation of the 2014-2015 programme of work for the Caribbean, were also discussed.

The CDCC was set-up to promote and strengthen economic and social cooperation and integration among the countries of the Caribbean and with Latin America.

CDCC is also to promote the sharing of information and experiences among its membership; and to promote common positions and strategies among its membership.

The CDCC will promote common positions and strategies on economic and social issues among Caribbean nations and on their relations with third parties, and to present those positions to international forums and agencies.

The first important step towards ensuring that the Post 2015 development agenda will work for the Caribbean Islands is by identifying from among the 17 goals the ones that will best address the priority development needs of the Caribbean countries.

The commission agreed upon focusing on the first 12 SDG’s. Second step is by agreeing to put in place the policies, plans and mechanisms that would facilitate the integration of these goals into National Development Plans (NDP) and regional development strategies. Sint Maarten is on its way to realize the NDP and will incorporate the SDG’s in it.


MP Lake supports MP Marlin's stance on promoting Nationalism, Patriotism and Cultural Retention

PHILIPSBURG – Today's youth take signals from our generation, United People’s (UP) Party Member of Parliament (MP) Maurice Lake said on Tuesday.  This is in connection with fellow MP Hon. Leona Marlin-Romeo call for the promotion of nationalism, patriotism and cultural retention.

“If it is important to us then it becomes important to them. The aspects of our culture that have transcended generation to generation include our language, food and the friendly nature of our people amongst other cultural practices.

“We need to pass on national pride into our young people.  Our forefathers had national pride but we and I am speaking of my generation, including myself, need to get back to basics and educate the young people and the next generation about our culture. 

“The best way to start is in our homes and communities then on to the elementary schools. Parents and caregivers, let’s talk to our young people about the good ole days on our island.  Let’s wear the beautiful national dress at events rather than colloquial western dresses. Let’s sing our songs and dance our dances every opportunity that we get.

“Let’s have community culture days when we meet and eat, dance and sing. Let’s make a start, the young people are looking on and if we keep this up, it will become an integral part of our cultural fabric.

“When we hear the Sint Maarten song, stop what you are doing, respect it and sing the words with pride. We love this island so let’s show this love to our national symbols.

“We must share our culture with the other nationalities, that’s the only way that they can know what is it. We tend to keep aspects of our culture to ourselves and then judge others for not knowing what our cultural practices are. We must practice it, live it and respect it then they will get it.

“Teach the dances in all schools, everyone needs to practice the culture of this sweet land of ours. Give the schools some of your time to pass on culture to the children of the land. Go in and volunteer to share what you know. The children will appreciate it. Our culture will be known and our national pride will grow.

“While some may argue that there are more important issues to be tackled in our school and communities as a whole, how can we aim to move forward when we are unaware of our past? As I always say "to know your destiny, you got to know your history. I always tell the youths of St. Peters, persons worked very hard to build up this community for you to enjoy, respect it. Togetherness, pride and respect are the key ingredients for building up and maintaining our communities.

“A people without an identity cannot be proud. I am a proud Sint Maartener! I am proud of the diversity that exists here, the fact that we can live harmoniously. I am proud of the rights that our people have like freedom of speech. I am proud of the opportunities available here to all people, the uniqueness of these two islands in one and most of all I am proud of the accomplishments of our Sint Maarten heroes as well as our present day people and leaders.  This is why our tourism industry is as successful as it is, in the Caribbean we rank high because of these accomplishments.

“Let us as government sit with the teachers and school managers and understand their challenges, their visions and work together to provide a quality learning experience for tomorrow’s children.

As a MP, I have already visited some elementary schools where we had some learning sessions about government and parliament structure as well as our local heroes.

“I found that resources on these issues are lacking and are in dire need.  To close, I suggest that we make nationalism, patriotism and culture should be introduced in the school curriculum. I know that the Cultural Artistic Formation curriculum for schools attempts to do this but we need this type of curriculum implemented island wide.

“I am tired of having conversations with our young people who respond that Sint Maarten does not have a culture when asked about it. I do blame myself and my generation for this type of response because we know the culture but are not passing it on vigorously to your young people.

“As a legislator we are there to educate the public and pass legislation that promotes our patriotism and culture as well. Our Education and Cultural department must be more involved in energizing our young people as it relates to National pride. Let’s promote our young professionals to hold key positions. This can only help to promote our way of doing things.

“Let’s look at the bigger picture, small mindedness; criticism, slander and distrust have no place in Sint Maarten's future.

While we welcome persons from many nations, we respect the diversity that this brings to our lovely island however we must ask that respect be shown to our culture as well and respect to our National Flag.  Let’s learn how to respect our flag. Fly the Sint Maarten flag near to your flag, its respectful,” UP MP Maurice Lake concluded in a press statement on Tuesday in response to the call made by fellow MP Hon. Leona Marlin-Romeo regarding cultural development.


CPS Concludes Successful Vaccination Training via PAHO

GREAT BAY (DCOMM) – Staff from the Collective Prevention Service (CPS) took part in a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO led ‘Events Supposedly Attributable to Vaccines and Immunizations (ESAVI)’ training recently which was successfully concluded.

Nine persons took part in the ESAVI topic and 11 took part in the cold chain training.  ESAVI training is about a set of symptoms that occur after a vaccination has been given, which causes concern and is supposedly attributable to the vaccination.

The cold chain is the system of transporting and storing vaccines at +2oC to +8oC to avoid cumulative irreversible loss of potency from heat exposure. It is the equipment, people and procedures that keep vaccines cold during their journey from the manufacturer to the patient.

The training benefits the staff and keeps them abreast of the latest developments related to their work regarding cold chain and ESAVI.  This allows staff to continue to carry out their work in a safe and effective manner.

The benefits for the babies, toddlers, teens and parents and the community overall is that with the ongoing training of the staff and follow up with the recommendations made, they benefit from a safe and effective national immunization program, that will protect the children and the community at large from vaccine preventable diseases as well as outbreaks of the aforementioned.

The training was facilitated by Dr. Karen Lewis-Bell, Sub-Regional Advisor for the Expanded Program of Immunizations (EPI) Program from the PAHO Office in Jamaica. 


WHO: cholera outbreaks can be controlled thanks to vaccines, water and sanitation

INTERNATIONAL – Use of oral vaccines is proving to be an effective tool to control outbreaks of cholera, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, adding that the deadly water-borne disease is a major public health concern from Tanzania to South Sudan, and Nepal to Yemen.

The use of Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV) must be both supported by local authorities and used hand-in-hand with focused, sustainable water and sanitation actions in targeted communities, the agency recommends in apress release.

A global stockpile of vaccines, funded by a number of international organizations and foundations, initially made 2 million doses of the vaccine available. In 2015, with additional funding from the GAVI Alliance, the number of doses available for use in both endemic hotspots and emergency situations is expected to rise to around 3 million.

There are several examples in which the vaccine has stopped cholera outbreaks in their tracks, such as in South Sudan in 2014, when thousands of displaced people who had found shelter in makeshift camps at UN sites were given the vaccine. This action almost certainly averted increased illness and death among the vulnerable camp inhabitants who had been at high risk, WHO noted.

But new outbreaks are ongoing in South Sudan and Tanzania, fanned by insecurity and additional displacement. Intensive control efforts are ongoing, and vaccination programmes have been rolled out to target communities at risk. In conflict-wracked Yemen and earthquake-ravaged Nepal, WHO has been working with national authorities and partners on the ground to prepare for any outbreak of cholera, as well as acute watery diarrhoea.

Cholera, according to WHO, is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes copious, watery diarrhoea; vomiting also occurs in most patients. Cholera can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment.

The WHO-ledGlobal Task Force on Cholera Controlaims to end cholera deaths by strengthening international collaboration and increasing coordination among partners in three of the main situations where cholera circulates.

The first is in endemic conditions, where the disease is entrenched in communities, such as in some regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sudden outbreaks are another scenario, where an instant vaccination response is deemed most effective, such as in Guinea and Malawi. Finally, cholera can be a consequence of a humanitarian crisis, as it was the case in South Sudan in 2013, or in the recent outbreak in Tanzania when thousands of people displaced by fighting in neighbouring Burundi were successfully vaccinated against the disease.

Effectively controlling a disease means reducing new cases in defined locations to zero through targeted efforts, WHO emphasized. In the case of cholera, these include the use of oral cholera vaccine, improving water and sanitation practices, engaging the community in implementation of control measures, and sustaining control efforts to prevent its re-emergence.


InselAir opens route between Aruba and Puerto Rico

SINT MAARTEN/ARUBA – InselAir on Thursday carried out its first direct flight between San Juan, Puerto Rico and Aruba.  Puerto Rican authorities see this as a major development with many opportunities from the Latin American tourism and business markets of Venezuela and Colombia.

For Aruba, it also opens up major tourism possibilities with respect to Puerto Ricans travelling to Oranjestad to enjoy the islands beaches and shopping.

The flight takes an hour and twenty-five minutes.  The flights operate twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays.  InselAir operates a Fokker-70 aircraft on the route carrying approximately 80 passengers.



Prime Minister Gumbs Emancipation Day Message

PHILIPSBURG – Prime Minister Hon. Marcel Gumbs delivered the following Emancipation Day Message at the Emilio Wilson Park on Wednesday, July 1 as part of the national observances for Emancipation Day.

“We come together today to celebrate freedom; freedom from the oppressive system that saw people robbed of their homeland, their family, their dignity, and in extreme cases their lives. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade is a historic event that binds St. Maarten together with all its Kingdom partners.

“The joint realization that slavery is a crime against our humanity is another historic moment that binds us together. It is that latter fact that should drive us in this modern age. That is the way for us to give life to this year’s theme: “Emancipation from within; the voice of our people!” As government, we speak on behalf of our people, and our discussions and actions should always lead to greater freedom for our people.

“On June 23, 2000, the people of St. Maarten chose to become an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Some 10 years later on October 10, 2010, that status began a new era; a new era that I think mirrors the historic effort to end slavery. One of the commonalities between the end of slavery and the new status for St. Maarten is that both were born out of calls from the people on this island to be liberated; to be free; to not have others speak for them; to be able to chart our own destiny.

“Coming to a joint consensus that slavery is abhorrent and that we should be allowed greater autonomy are also both part of a realization in the Kingdom that we can do more if we work together, instead of for each other; that we are all better off when we work in a spirit of partnership, and not through the use of subjugation.

“This is the context in which St. Maarten continues to engage especially the Kingdom government; a context in which we directly give voice to the concerns of the people of St. Maarten. Forums such as the Kingdom Conference and the Inter-parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom are now places where our people can directly speak to our issues. We once had the Government of Netherlands Antilles speaking on our behalf; today, we are able to do this for ourselves. We see with each meeting, more and more, that the voice of our people is being heard. That is something we should celebrate this Emancipation Day.

“But even as we celebrate the voice of our people being heard more clearly, we must also admit that there is much work to be done to emancipate our people here at home; right here within the borders of our sweet St. Maarten land. Every day, as my cabinet and I go about our duties, we see people locked in a state of reliance; we see people locked in a state of subsistence. It is our goal to emancipate them from that position.

“This government wants our people to be free in every aspect. That is why we remain committed to projects like the National Development Plan and to the creation of a new comprehensive Economic Plan. These two projects are important elements of our vision to make the people who live here free; to emancipate us, if you wish. We will do this by listening to the voice of the people. We will be guided by the expressed thoughts and wishes of those we are called to serve. It is government’s hope that the entire population will join us in this project of creating and maintaining emancipation for all.

“There will likely be a plethora of views expressed today about emancipation; about freedom. Some may talk about being politically free, others may speak of being financially free and some may even talk about being free of societal influences. As Prime Minister, I hope the common thread in everything shared today is that with freedom comes responsibility.

“When I look at the period after slavery, our ancestors did all they could to ensure that not only could they enjoy their freedom; they used that freedom to improve their lives. I call on each of us to do the same. I make this call because enforcing freedoms from the top down is not the correct approach. To sustain freedom we must all actively participate; we must all make the effort.”


Minister Plenipotentiary Fleming-Artsen briefs FRED participating companies and institutions about role and tasks

THE HAGUE, the Netherlands - During the Flinx Recruitment Expo Dutch Caribbean (FRED) Job Expo held earlier this month in Rotterdam, Minister Plenipotentiary Josianne Fleming-Artsen invited all Sint Maarten companies and institutions to Sint Maarten House where the minister gave a presentation about the tasks and role of the office of representation in the Netherlands.

Angelique Romou gave a presentation about the BrainGain project. 

The companies and institutions that attended the information session by the minister were: United Telecommunications Services (UTS), TelEm, SXM Airport, Social & Health Insurances (SZV), St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), White & Yellow Cross Foundation, Mental Health Foundation, and the SLS Laboratory.

The main sponsors of FRED were: KLM, Air France, TRAKX, I LOVE SXM, and the Government of Sint Maarten.

The fourth FRED Expo brought together professionals, graduates, and pre-graduates and more than 30 companies including a number from Sint Maarten.

Flinx Recruitment acts as a bridge between Dutch Caribbean professionals and local employers.


Armed robbery at Ken’s Bar leaves cashier injured

DUTCH QUARTER - On Saturday June 22nd, 2015 at approximately 8 pm, an unknown and armed man stormed into the Ken's Bar and Restaurant in Dutch Quarter and robbed the establishment of a sum of money.

The cashier was hit with a solid object and as a result was injured. He was brought to the Hospital-SMMC for medical assistance. 

According to witnesses another robber on a scooter stayed close to the entrance. He was on the look-out while the other emptied the cash register. After committing the act both suspects took off on the scooter in the direction of Belvedere.

Immediately after the robbery, the police was called via 911. The dispatchers informed a Patrol Unit and the Detective Department, and they headed to the crime scene to carry out an investigation. Witnesses were questioned by the Police. The Forensic department came to the scene to look for evidence.

The Detective Department is investigating the case. (Police Force Sint Maarten)


How to fly to Paradise

ST. BARTHS - While in the Caribbean, I sat down with Steven Kong, Managing Director of TLC-Aviation, the executive handling operation of choice on St. Maarten. We talked about St. Barths, the exclusive destination of the “Rich and Famous”. St. Barths is short for the official name ‘Territorial Collectivity of Saint-Barthélemy’.

It is part of the French Republic and therefore French-speaking and French-flavored. Celebrities and luminaries have long flocked to this high-end, luxury isle for its privacy and exclusivity. Although it has a reputation of being a chic getaway, the international crowd enjoys the combination of low-key European sophistication and Caribbean laid-back lifestyle. How do private jets get there? They don’t! St. Barths does have an airport (SBH-TFFJ), but the too-short 650 m/2,133 ft runway is furthermore listed as one of the most difficult approaches in the world and not something for the faint-hearted.

“The principal gateway to the island is through St. Maarten’s International Airport, where also the scheduled flights arrive daily from both the USA and Europe,” explains Steve Kong in his office at Princes Juliana Airport. The TLC-Aviation people are easy to recognize at various business aviation conferences; they wear a bright orange shirt which is almost a trade mark. 

“Every year we attend EBACE. Whenever we introduce ourselves, before we know it, we get the question ‘How do we get to St. Barths?’ as if they are asking for ‘How can we get to Paradise?’ Private jets of any size land here in St. Maarten. We do get a lot of assignments from major European and Russian charter operators. In many cases the passengers have a private yachts waiting to bring them to St. Barths, or cruise to the various islands. For those who don’t have a yacht, we provide a seamless transfer to a charter flight of ten minutes with a Twin Otter, Cessna Caravan or Britten-Norman Islander. Those are about as big as an airplane that can land there. But also for the yacht owners and passengers, we provide a smooth transition from airport to harbor through our subsidiary called “Seagrapes”, a yacht support and concierge service provider. So, we’re a one-stop-shop-service for Jetting and Yachting, which is something seldom heard of in FBO circles”

During the winter months, mostly Hollywood stars and producers as well as Russian oligarchs and their following of friends and business partners visit the island. They stay in boutique hotels and resorts of about 12 units and pay US$ 8,000 per night for luxury accommodations and outstanding personal services.

On the eve of New Year’s Eve, the local yacht registry of St. Barth’s harbor usually records about 130 vessels. Fifteen to twenty of them may be in the mega-yacht category of 60 m/ 200 ft or longer. Too big for the harbor, they are anchored in the azure waters of the bay in front of the rustic port Gustavia with the brick-red roofed villas dotted in the surrounding hills. Local fishing boats sit happily next to the super yachts. In the midst of this luxury flotilla at the anchorage is the ultimate show-off in the exclusive fraternity of the super-rich, the world’s largest yacht, the 164 m/ 538 ft ‘Eclipse’. The owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is a St. Barths regular and owns a 70 acre estate there.

Le Yacht Club is the place to “see and been seen” filled with moguls, luminaries, models, and general genetically-blessed types. The club, set back high at the top of the harbor, is a supper club cum nightclub, with spacious lounging areas and private tables by a sleek dance floor overlooking the mega- yachts. A great place for a bit high level chitchat like “this yacht is bigger than the other yacht” and, “this entourage is better looking than the other’s entourage.”

“The same clientele makes several trips per year to our region. Usually, the mega-yachts sail to the Caribbean long before the owners and passengers arrive by plane. So, much of the provisioning is done here,” continues Steve. “The yachts and their crews will be all set and ready to sail. But, for perfect timing and making the best impression to its owners, a captain of the yacht wants to know at exactly what time the jet is coming in. And so, he calls us. He can count on us to get the most updated airport traffic information when plane and passengers are arriving. Although St. Barths is synonymous with Caribbean elegance and chic, our airport of St. Maarten (SXM/TNCM) is the most popular and convenient option for travelling to what is reputed for being a tropical sophisticated paradise and a mixture of all that is best in the Caribbean.”

What makes landing at St. Barths airport such a thrill? Someone explained it as follows: ‘To land there, pilots, unaided by electronic landing guidance, must make a steep, slow glide, thread their way between a pair of wind-buffeted peaks, skim 150 feet down a hill while holding a 10-foot altitude, then level, touch down and brake hard.’ In other words, they have to fly through a notch between the peaks of the relatively high Mont Tourment hill.

The pilot has to work the yoke violently trying to keep level in the pretty strong winds and it creates turbulence. The small and short airstrip ends directly on the beach. All in all, it is pretty exciting. Watching the planes land from the top of the hill where four roads between the twin peaks meet in a roundabout is almost as exciting as being a passenger on the aircraft itself.

The planes come in nose down, diving directly at whatever drives or whoever walks there. It can clear it by about 10 feet before the steep descend over a hill to make the landing. St. Barths has one of those airports where a landing will make one’s hair rise and gives one the goose bumps.

by Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

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