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IsLands’ Airport Safety Conference Takes Off at SXM Monday

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) – Experts from various airports that comprise the Islands’ Airport Safety Committee (IASC) will be discussing issues related to all aspects of operational safety at aerodromes from Monday, May 21 to Friday, May 25th, at a conference hosted by the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM.

The Honorable Interim Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications, Dr. Cornelius de Weever, will officially open the conference which will attract delegations from Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba and Suriname.

According to the head of the SXM delegation, Stefania Kong - Gumbs of the Quality Assurance Department, the conference was supposed to have been held in September 2017 but due to hurricane Irma it had to be cancelled.

SXM was given the opportunity to host this year’s event by the President of IASC, Mr. D. Phalai and Mr. Michel Hyman, COO, accepted on behalf of the SXM airport. At the opening session on Monday, Hyman, will provide the conference with updates and information about developments at SXM Airport following the severe damages inflicted by Irma last year.

FAA expert, Kenneth Taira will give a presentation on “Safety in Airport Design” while another FAA colleague, Mr. Mahendra Raghubeer will follow with a presentation on “Safely in Airport Operations”.

The packed schedule which includes a meet and greet at the beginning, conference meetings, audits, and a closing party on Friday, has been designed to offer participants an opportunity to engage in interactive sessions, while they would also be able to see for themselves how the island, and particularly SXM airport, continue to recover from the devastation of last September storms.

“Aviation safety is at the core of SXM Airport’s fundamental objectives. SXM Airport is constantly striving, in close collaboration with partnering airports and the entire air transport community, to further improve aviation’s successful safety performance while maintaining a high level of capacity and efficiency.

“We are indeed happy to be able to host the Conference this year, in spite of all the challenges of rebuilding our airport and island after the unprecedented damages suffered at the hands of Irma and Maria last year,” said Hyman.

“We hope all participants will be able to experience first-hand the resilience that we are known for, and the friendliness that is our trademark,” he added.

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Vocational Training School receives presentation from STB about tourism economy

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – On Tuesday, May 15, staff from the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau (STB) visited the St. Maarten Vocation Training School group 4 Business Administration class, where they received a presentation from STB.

STB is continuing with its efforts of bringing greater awareness about the country’s Tourism Industry to the school population.   STB Lisa Noel gave the presentation to the students.

The presentation was a very interactive one that sought to test the students’ knowledge about the industry while at the same time teaching them about how they too play a role in helping to shape the country’s main industry.

Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Cornelius de Weever, said on Thursday that the local population is an asset in a country’s tourism product.

“The population overall and in particular, those at an elementary and secondary school level must be aware of the importance of tourism to the national economy, and have a positive attitude towards tourism, because it’s everybody’s business.

“The income earned from our single-pillar tourism economy trickles down into everything.  The values of our tourism economy need to be instilled into our education system and the approach by STB at this stage is a great start,” Minister Cornelius de Weever said on Thursday.

STB will continue working with the elementary and secondary schools with regarding to enhancing their knowledge about the tourism industry. The students were presented with St. Maarten Tourist Bureau’s tees and tourism and hospitality pamphlets for their participation.

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SMCP MP SMITH: EXPERIENCES OF A FIRST TIME MP IN PARLIAMENT

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – “Going through two elections within a mere seventeen months and emerging from that experience as the third highest vote getter with 580 votes, qualified me to become a Member of the Parliament of Sint Maarten. But what does that mean,” queried Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Member of Parliament (MP) Wycliffe Smith in a press statement on Thursday.

“I was soon to find out after the swearing-in ceremony which took place on Easter Monday, April 2nd, 2018. Cramped together in a hall at the Governor’s Office, the fifteen elected parliamentarians listened to the wise counsel offered by His Excellency, the Governor, prior to him administering the oath of office. Unfortunately, due to limited space, each parliamentarian was only allowed to invite two persons to attend the ceremony.

“Initially, the first public meeting of Parliament was scheduled to be held two hours after the swearing-in ceremony. In this meeting, the Chair and Vice-chair of parliament were to be appointed and the newly sworn-in MPs would have had the opportunity to give their maiden speeches. Unfortunately, because the parliamentary coalition had not yet been formalized, this meeting was cancelled.

“On Tuesday, April 3rd through Monday, April 11th a series of orientation meetings was organized for all MPs. The newcomers in Parliament plus just a couple of senior parliamentarians faithfully attended the orientation sessions which were conducted by Dr. Luciano Milliard, professor of constitutional law at the University of Aruba. In the sessions, he dealt with the three basic laws generally used by parliamentarians, namely the Constitution of Sint Maarten, the Kingdom Charter and the Rules of Order of Parliament.

“In addition, Professor Milliard discussed with us how a law comes into being: from an idea, to an initiative or draft law, to a law that is passed by Parliament. It was also interesting to be part of a mock parliamentary meeting. New to the orientation this year was a full day’s session on ceremonial protocol which ended with an official dinner where the protocols of official dining were demonstrated and explained.

“After the orientation session, I came face to face with the actual workings of parliament. I experienced my first faction leaders meetings. These meetings are called by the President of Parliament to discuss matters that affect the political parties, such as the Regulation for Faction Workers. Then, there are the Central Committee meetings and the plenary or public meetings of Parliament. The majority of the meetings held, are meetings of the Central Committee in which matters are duly debated and where members exchange ideas and make proposals.

“In the last Central Committee meeting held May 15th 2018, concerning two draft laws. One pertaining to an amendment to the 2017 budget and the other to the automatic exchange of tax and financial information between countries, I raised a series of questions and made several comments regarding these two laws. At the end of the meeting the Minister of Finance said to me, “I am getting more blows (questions) from the coalition partner than from the opposition”. I said to him, “Please do not take it personal. I am just doing my job!”

“When the discussion in the Central Committee meeting has been sufficiently exhausted, the President of Parliament then submits the issue to a Public Meeting of Parliament for final handling. In the Public meeting, Parliamentarians can approve, reject or defer the issue to another meeting.

“You might have also noticed the difference in decorum between a Central Committee meeting and a Public Meeting of Parliament? During Central Committee meetings, deliberation is more informal and MPs are not required to stand when speaking. They simply raise their hands and receive acknowledgment from the Chair. The Public meeting on the other hand is much more formal.

“MPs are required to sign the speakers’ list if they wish to address any one of the topics on the agenda. Furthermore, the duration of the speaking time is fixed and MPs are required to stand as they address the Chair. During my brief time in office, I experienced both meetings. For me the preparation for the Central Committee meeting is more tedious and thorough. Once the research is done for the Central Committee meeting it is then far easier to prepare oneself for the Public meeting.

“My first Public Meeting was the budget meeting in which I presented the motion to reduce the salaries of MPs by 15%. I am pleased that I was able to deliver on SMCP’S campaign promise. Unfortunately, the motion was not debated during the budget meeting but was deferred to a subsequent meeting so that it can be included in the cost cutting measures that still have to be approved by the Council of Ministers.

“As you can imagine, the motion did not sit well with many of my colleagues in Parliament but I believe that it resonated well with the general public who is expecting their elected officials to lead by example and demonstrate their empathy and solidarity with the people who are still suffering in the aftermath of hurricane Irma.

“For a small parliament I am amazed at the amount of reading that is required, both in English and in Dutch. Every day, a plethora of documents land in our email boxes or are uploaded to one of the drives on the Parliament’s server to which all MPs have access. In my view Parliament, is well on its way to becoming a paperless institution.

“I wouldn’t want to end this article without commending the staff who work in Parliament. In my opinion, they are doing a great job! They are friendly, helpful and willing to go the extra mile to accommodate Members of Parliament or simply just to get the work done,” Wycliffe Smith, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party said on Thursday.

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Starting the development of a resilient building regulation

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Sint Maarten, new building regulation to build back better and be more resilient in disasters is necessary to avoid mass destruction and casualties in the future. VNG International is supporting the process of defining new building norms.

Defining appropriate norms

After Irma, no one needs to be reminded why appropriate building norms and their compliance are essential. Now is the opportunity to define well informed spatial plans and building regulations.

A Building Ordinance and a Building Decree are both in place, but have not been reviewed or revised for a long time. The force of the category 5 hurricane showed that probably more would need to be done to make new and perhaps even existing buildings more resistant against future Hurricanes, or other disasters.

Seeking input from different stakeholders

On May 15 and May 16, on the invitation of the Ministry of VROMI, various stakeholders, including architects, developers and private sector met to discuss both existing and seek advice on possible future building norms.

The aim was to get insight from experts on the pros and cons of different norms used in Europe, the United States and other Caribbean islands.

Expert Gert-Jan van Leeuwen, former director of the Association of Residential Construction and Supervision in the Netherlands and with longstanding experience in the Caribbean, guided the discussions and will further develop a proposal for the building norms together with the Ministry of VROMI.

The activities took place in the framework of the recovery project of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and was organized jointly with the Ministry of VROMI.

Follow up

On the basis of the inventory, the new norms will be included/added in the existing Building Decree and put forward for approval within two months. It will be key to afterwards provide training for issuance of building permits on the basis of the new regulation in place and for inspection to ensure compliance with the building code. This will also be done with support of VNG International.

More information

For more information please contact VNG International: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; +31703738401

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Minister De Weever Congratulates those working in the field of telecommunications on WTISD day

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Acting Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) Cornelius de Weever extends congratulations to all telecommunication-sector workers on the occasion of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD), which will be internationally observed on Thursday, May 17.

The theme for WTISD is “Enabling the positive use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for All.”

“This is the first WTISD day post-Irma.  The most powerful hurricane in the Atlantic caused severe damage to our telecommunications infrastructure.  Despite the limitations and obstacles, our telecommunication providers were still able to get systems back online within a short period of time.

“I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the people, and the Government of Sint Maarten, to congratulate our telecommunication workers and management for their dedication and resilience in overcoming the obstacles that presented themselves right after the passing of hurricane Irma and Maria.

“The telecommunication workers and management worked diligently to get us back connected with the outside world allowing for families and friends to be able to communicate with each other near and abroad.

“Having said the aforementioned, the 2018 WTISD day theme presents opportunities for us which should be explored.  As we build back better, we have to see where we can use AI as we move forward in building resilience in our telecommunications and information technology infrastructure,” Minister Cornelius de Weever said on Wednesday.

May 17th has been identified as a day to help raise awareness of about the potential of AI to accelerate the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

In recent years there has been significant progress in AI technology, made possible by tremendous advances in contributing fields, such as Big Data, machine learning, computing power, storage capacity and cloud computing, among others.

AI-based technologies are already emerging as a key component of proactive tools and applications being used to help people lead better lives by improving healthcare, education, finance, agriculture, transportation, and a wide range of other services.

May 17th marks the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865 and the creation of the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

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Governor’s Symposium 2018 puts focus on Climate Change

SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) - The Governor of Sint Maarten, His Excellency drs. E.B. Holiday, announced today that the 2018 Governor’s Symposium will be held on June 15, 2018.

The event will be held at the auditorium of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in Cupecoy. This year the theme of the event is ‘Climate Change and Small Island States – A Call For Strategic Action’.

The symposium will feature national, regional and international speakers who will share their views and ideas and participate in an interactive panel discussion with the audience.

In particular, the speakers will among others address trends, vulnerabilities, effects of climate change especially as it relates to Small Islands States, and the need for policy action.

Due to the limited space the Governor’s Symposium is by invite only. Governor Holiday is inviting persons 15 years and older interested in attending the symposium to submit their personal information.

For details please check the Facebook page Governor of Sint Maarten www.facebook.com/Governor-of-Sint-Maarten. The deadline to submit your personal information is June 11, 2018. Based on the information submitted a selection will be made and the selected persons will receive an invitation to the event.

The Governor’s Symposium Organizing Committee installed by the Governor to organize the Symposium is comprised of Mrs. Emilia Connor-Thomas as chairperson, Mr. Patrick Trijsburg as secretary, Ms. Desiree Connor, Mr. Silvànico Pauletta, Ms. Dahjanarah Philips and Ms. Rayan Rammo. As preparations for the symposium progress further updates will be provided.

The overall objective of the Governor’s Symposia is the promotion of good governance. The annual Governors Symposium is considered to be a supportive platform for all invited stakeholders - government, civil society and the private sector - to focus, raise awareness and function as a catalyst for best practices within the community of Sint Maarten.

This will be the seventh Symposium the Governor has organized. Previous themes included National Heritage, Sustainable Development, Education for Democracy, Governance: the value of checks and balances, Securing National Development and ICT Governance – Shaping our Future’.

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UTS announces Winner of $1,000 SMS & WIN Campaign

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On the occasion of May 17th, World Telecommunication Day, UTS selected the winner of our $1,000 SMS & WIN campaign. 

The winner, Ms. Elicha Arndell was ecstatic to receive the call from UTS confirming that she was randomly selected as the winner of the $1000 prize. 

The SMS campaign started on April 30th, giving customers a chance to the cash prize of $ 1,000. This campaign was one of UTS’ activities intended to provide customers savings or a chance to win something extra during a, for many, financially challenging carnival season. 

Other activities included the distribution of free Chippie prepaid credit to the crowd viewing the carnival parades and special ticket packages offering UTS customers significant savings and extra prepaid credit for some of the more popular carnival activities. 

“Our aim this year was to definitely bring our customers something REAL,” states UTS Marketing & Communication Officer, Ivy Lambert. 

“We wanted to make a difference by offering tangible added value, opportunities to win something meaningful and to make participation in carnival events affordable and fun. We’d like to wish everyone a happy Telecommunication Day and thank all who SMS’ed to enter our competition. 

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and we are thrilled to be able to brighten the day of Ms. Arndell, as well the many other customers over the carnival season.”

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Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin gives update as hurricane season approaches

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Wednesday May16th, during the Council of Minister Press Briefing, Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin give an update on the plans and activities of the World Bank. 

The Prime Minister stated, “In anticipation of the first tranche from the Trust Fund, the World Bank and the ministries have been working hard during the past months on the final damage and loss assessment and the preparation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. 

“I am happy to report that this plan is in its final stages and has been sent to the Council of Ministers, Parliament and stakeholders for vetting. Once completed the NRRP will be sent to the steering committee responsible for the final decision making on all future projects to be funded by the Trust Fund.” 

With the support of the World Bank and the Netherlands, the Government of Sint Maarten has identified a number of emergency projects that should start as soon as possible once the 1st tranche has been disbursed. 

These first projects aim to address the most urgent needs of the people of Sint Maarten and to prepare Sint Maarten for the peak of the hurricane season.

“If you may ask what is happening now, of course, we would like for these projects to have started yesterday but the reality is that the preparation of these projects and especially the internal procedures of the World Bank take much more time than we, as Council of Ministers has anticipated. 

“Please note 470 million euros is a lot of money, and this Government must ensure that every cent is accounted for,” said Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin.

Both the civil servants of Sint Maarten and a team from the World Bank of more than 25 people are on the ground right now to help finalize the preparation of these projects. 

This is necessary to ensure that the formal grant agreements on these projects can be signed between the World Bank and Sint Maarten as soon as possible. The expected timeline right now is that the first emergency projects can start in the course of June.

These are projects that specifically serve to address the most urgent needs of the people of Sint Maarten and to prepare the country as much as possible for the peak of the hurricane season. 

There are three major emergency projects: 

(1)     A first project on emergency repairs, disaster preparedness and public utilities with a budget of 55 million US dollars. 

–       Repairs Police Stations

–       Repairs and equipment Fire Station 

–       Repairs and equipment shelters 

–       Urgent school repairs 

–       New location and equipment Meteorological Department

–       Roof Repair for vulnerable groups (500 roofs)

–       New ambulances 

–       Emergency Communication Equipment

–       Emergency repairs electricity and trenching lines 

–       Water storage tanks 

–       Repair street lights

(2)     A second project that provides income support and targeted skills trainings to under- or unemployed people in different sectors. This project has a budget of about 19 million

-        Existing hospitality training program (700 participants)

-        The emergency project opens the program to other sectors (2600 participants)

-        Income support is provided to under- and unemployed people who participate in a training program to enhance skills 

(3)     And finally, a crucial third project focusses on debris removal and assistance with solid waste management, which currently has a budget of about 15 million US dollars.

-        Cash for work program to clean the island

-        Clearance and management of hurricane debris (‘The baby dump’)

-        Clean-up of ship wrecks

-        Assistance with preventing new fires

-        Assistance with plan for sustainable solid waste management (‘the big dump’)

During this phase we are also finalizing or finalized the following;

The legal requirements to establish the Recovery Bureau and the advertising of the positions to staff the Bureau and the financial management provisions and procurement procedures to ensure the start of the projects previously stated.

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Suspect in fatal “hit and run” traffic accident not to be prosecuted

COLE BAY - The Police traffic department has released the information that the suspect in the fatal hit and run traffic accident which took place on Saturday January 27th2018 at approximately 4.00 a.m. on Union road in the vicinity of Ace Mega Center causing the death of Roy Flanders, who was known to be mentally challenged, has come forward. 

The suspect in this case had left scene of the accident and did not report it to the police department. The suspect identified with initials J.F.A. gave a complete and accurate statement to the traffic investigators of what exactly transpired that night. 

The prosecutor dealing with traffic cases who was continuously updated with the progress of the investigation was also informed of the statement given by the suspect.  

After reviewing the entire case it was concluded that this case was purely an unfortunate accident and based on the statement given by the suspect and on the request of the mother of the victim, the prosecutor decided not follow through with any prosecution and ordered the case closed. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Gasoline and Diesel Prices to be adjusted on Thursday

PHILIPSBURG – On Thursday, May 17, fuel pump prices will be adjusted for gasoline and diesel. 

The current price of unleaded gasoline is Naf.2.141 per liter; the new price will be Naf.2.177 per liter.

The current price of diesel is Naf.1.665 per liter; the new price will be Naf.1.680 per liter.

The Government of Sint Maarten regulates the prices of petroleum products by imposing a maximum price at which wholesalers and retailers can sell these products in the country to motorists.

At the international level, the prices of crude oil have experienced adjustments and local prices follow the international trend, and therefore prices are adjusted to reflect this. 

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