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Academy shares the meaning of Christmas in staging O. Henry's 'The Gift of the Magi'

SINT MAARTEN (CUL DE SAC) - It was a full-fledged Broadway production Thursday evening as more than 100 students of St. Maarten Academy brought home the true meaning of Christmas in song, dance, and acting at the Philipsburg Cultural Centre through O. Henry's romantic comedy, 'The Gift of the Magi".

Set during the early 1900s in New York, the play told the story of a young married couple, Della (played by Krystal Philbert) and Jim (Jahmar Stewart), who found themselves awaiting their first Christmas without money to buy each other fancy gifts. They strategized and, in a strange twist of fate, ended up finding each other the perfect gifts, but at an unexpected cost.

During the performance, the sold-out audience erupted into thunderous applauses several times as the young scholars underscored the main message of the play that Christmas should be about giving the gift of love and not about material things.

The story, narrated in parts by second formers Fadifa Lovell, Evelyne Ilceus, John Monlouis, Diangeli Arrindell, Jesslyn Langlais, Magalie Philander, Shamida George, Kisshan Zaegers, Amard Edward, Dominick Collins, Juliette Duvillage, Lyan Ali, Skyla Davis, and Gabrielle Blake, was directed by the school's Drama teacher, Ms. Joanna Trim.

Trim was commended for working assiduously with 92 second formers and other talented students from the upper levels and the school’s daycare centre for the past two months to pull off the insurmountable feat. She was ably assisted by CAPE Year 2 student, Aimee Monchery, who put her Grade 1 with distinction earned at the 2017 Music CSEC examinations to good use.

Monchery, who plans to follow her musical dreams after earning her Associate degree at Academy, masterfully prepared the entire cast to perform a myriad of musical ensembles. This saw rising songbirds such as Nakida Eliodore and Giselle Whinfield blending their angelic soprano voices to create beautiful harmony with their peers.

Principal, drs. Tallulah Baly-Vanterpool lauded the production, the first of its kind for the school, as a way of promoting and supporting academic excellence in the context of addressing the needs and potential of the whole child.

“Four years ago, we expanded the scope of our offerings in the expressive arts curriculum to include music and dance (as part of the Theatre Arts program), at the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) level, and now drama is the latest addition,” she further explained.

St. Maarten Academy was the first school on the island to introduce Music at the regional CXC examinations and has placed in the top ten at each sitting ever since. Academy copped the number one spot in the region in 2017 and continues to embrace the philosophy that students can realize their artistic dreams while pursuing academic careers.

At the end of the production, Baly-Vanterpool joined the young scholars on stage and challenged them to pursue Theatre Arts at CXC when they get to Form 5 in the next three years. Their involvement in the play, which served as a term grade for Drama, provided a solid foundation in understanding the inner workings of theatre and what it takes to make a production successful.

Trim said she was elated to work with the group of students, as they have helped her to achieve one of her dreams. She was very appreciative to the board of the Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education (FAVE), under which Academy falls, as well as the Management Team, for providing “an enabling environment for theatre arts...and for being resolute in their belief that the artist and his/ her craft has a coveted place and plays an important role in shaping the minds and lives of the global citizens we teach.”

She thanked the school’s counsellors and her other colleagues who assisted her in supervising the students during their rehearsals. The educator underscored that it took many persons and entities to stage the play, as Ms. Arlene Halley of the National Institute of the Arts (NIA) stepped in to choreograph the closing dance by Jim and Della. NIA also assisted with some costumes, thereby allowing patrons to be greeted by smartly dressed “elves”.

The director and staff of the Cultural Centre also jumped onboard with the production by allowing the school to rehearse at the location to acclimatize the novice actors to the stage setting.

Trim said she felt that the goal of the production was achieved, since many students sacrificed their time, learned to work together, adjusted attitudes, and put aside their differences to make the play a success. By the end of the production, she said many students were able to relate to the sacrifices made by others in their own lives, including their parents, to ensure that they (the students) did not go without, which was the main message of “The Gift of the Magi”.

“To my cast and crew-- the journey was long and painstaking, marred with bloodshot eyes and sleepless nights, anxious parents and nervous students, but with a determination like Della’s we were resolute in our sacrifices and belief that we will share O. Henry’s story about the importance of the gift of love this Christmas. Congratulations to our students and parents for their unwavering support during our first theatrical performance,” Trim offered.

The set, which depicted the home of Della and Jim, as well as a New York shopping centre with a shoe store, jeweler establishment, and hair store, was designed by Trim and built by Randolph ‘Scotty’ Scott. For the next production, Academy hopes to work collaboratively with the Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performance Arts to stage Aladdin.


ACAD INS 2 dancers

ACAD INS3 scene from the play 2

ACAD INS4 Della and Jim

ACAD INS5 Scene from play


ST. MARTIN: The potential and opportunities of Grand Case airport

ST. MARTIN/SINT MAARTEN (By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert) - It is a well-known fact among economists and aviation professionals that the growth of a region may depend on the development of its airport. You may start laughing, but Grand Case airport and French St.Martin are no exception.

Call it a secondary, underdog, relief, or satellite airport and when you’re done with your outburst of laughter, take a look at the argumentation below. Aeroport Grande Case does have a realistic potential of being developed into a player of its own unique kind. As for the expression relief airport, the day after hurricane Irma's passage, the airport was operational for relief flights, despite some damage.

It will unlikely ever become an aerodrome where masses of tourists from all over will arrive. Currently three airlines (Air Caraibes, Air Antilles, St.Barth Commuter) serve the airport with up to eight daily flights to Guadeloupe and three to St.Barth. It is an insider tip that the pricing of flying from Grand Case to Paris via Guadeloupe is worth looking into.

As funny as it may sound, such is also a domestic flight since it is all about the Republique of France and even all within the European Union. Grand Case could easily handle another airline and destination preferably with the aircraft types that currently land at the airport, the ATR for up to 72 passengers.

There is another side to look at things. How about ‘Business Airport St.Martin / Aeroport d’Affaires St.Martin? Recently, French President Macron arrived on a business jet, of course owned by the French Government.

This aircraft type, called Dassault Falcon 7 x, could fly to Grand Case and back from all cities the on the Westcoast of the USA and also Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis and Houston. It could come from Mexico City, Quito, Lima, Bogota. This is just to mention some cities. Let it be an eye opener. It all depends on the type of aircraft that is able to handle the current short runway of Grand Case airport.

For the development of Grand Case airport as well the economy of St.Martin, it is important that the runway will be extended to 1,500 meter, as soon as possible. When realized, the larger types of long range of business jets could come to St.Martin from all of the Americas and Europe as far as Moscow, and the Middle East as far as Dubai. Of course, also some larger scheduled commercial aircraft could land.

There is no business to do on Saint Martin for these jets to come, you may say. Not so fast! These same type of ‘flying machines’ are used by high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals for their leisure trips. A different kind of tourist. The word tourist may be an insult; let’s call them ‘elite visiteurs’. Studies have shown that the landing of one such an aircraft typically means an on-average contribution of approximately US$ 65,000 to the local economy.

Every visitor arriving on a private jet, is a potential investor in the region. They may invest in real estate or commercial property when they like the destination. And they are known to be repeat visitors who are loyal and willing to assist a community.

They are demanding and don’t accept mediocracy, but they have no problem to pay extra for excellence. They often try to avoid big airports if there is an alternative nearby. It is simply because they want to avoid masses and like things fast and easy.

Their flight crews are the same, they want fast access to where their aircraft is parked. Grand Case has the advantage that it provides the ground handling services and the fueling. All the services are provided by one company, the airport.

This aviation segment is lucrative for the airport, because it takes no more than two persons for the handling of the aircraft. Smaller airports can provide fast and exemplary high-quality services when managed well. Those are all points where Grand Case can make a difference and develop a form of uniqueness.

As stated in beginning, the growth of a region may depend on the development of its airport. It cannot come from the airport alone. The region has to develop in a synchronal way.

If one has an airport that stands out as business airport or as airport servicing St.Martin as a ‘destination élitaire’, the surroundings have to follow suit and serve the needs accordingly. St.Martin has the potential but also some shortcomings.

The unique property “La Belle Creole” that was a five-star resort devastated by hurricane Luis is still not redeveloped and is an eyesore. It could be developed into a five-star hotel/resort complex and residences. A development that attracts the wealthy upper-class who arrive with their private jets.

Not only do they contribute more to the economy because they spend more, but they also expect the services of qualified service staff or providers which results in well-paid employment. Who can be against that? There may be reasons why the property has not been restored yet.

One would tend to say that it needs a ‘mover-and-shaker’ to get things going. There is an amount 35 million published. Just think! Serious investors expect a 10-15% return of investment. That means that with every progressing year that there is no operational activity, someone loses 3.5 - 5.3 million annually of not realized return of investment. And St.Martin loses out on opportunities and significant contributions to its economy. Now, it is a ‘loose-loose’ situation that needs to be turned into a ‘win-win’ situation

It would go too far to further get into details of how the collectivity, its business community and tourism segment should plan, act and develop. The objective here is to provide food for thought with regard to the airport development. Realism? I’ve been there.

I was in charge of business aviation development for an underdog airport in Switzerland that had Zurich International Airport as its rival. Yet, I was able to make the underdog the preferred airport of the operator of the largest fleet of business jets (140) in Europe.

Although the odds were against me, I was able to make a turnaround and the airport received more revenue from business jets than from commercial scheduled traffic without losing any of the latter, but rather by increasing business aviation traffic. But, this is not about me, it is about the potential of Grand Case airport and St. Martin and creating a synchronized plan of action.         


Cdr. Bud Slabbaert is the chairman and initiator of the annual Caribbean Aviation Meetup conferences that will be held June 11-13 on St.Maarten/St.Martin. This 4th annual international results and solution- oriented event brings airlift stakeholders from both aviation and tourism industry, as well as government authorities together. Mr. Slabbaert’s background is accentuated by aviation business development, strategic communication, and journalism

airport INS1 falcon7x range a

airport grand case ins2


Rotary Sunset hosts Karaoke and Games night at Sr. Basilia Center

SINT MAARTEN (ST. JOHN’S ESTATE) - As part of Rotary International's December theme, Disease Prevention and Treatment, members of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset gathered at the Sr. Basilia Center to entertain the residents on December 7, 2018.

"This activity was especially designed to assist the residents with their daily treatment regimen. Music and interaction play a big part in most people's lives. It can be relaxing, spark euphoric feelings and increase quality of life.

“For people with disabilities, music and game interaction has several advantages and can help in the development of mental, physical and social abilities," President of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset, Jaida Nisbett stated.

The night included games, karaoke, pizza and drinks. The club would like to thank the Sr. Basilia Center and Events Coordinator Mieria Cortego for affording us the opportunity to fellowship and have a great time with the residents.


Governor Holiday receives Ambassador Irwin LaRocque from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)

SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) - On December 14, 2018, His Excellency Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) payed a courtesy visit to the Governor of Sint Maarten His Excellency Eugene B. Holiday.

During this visit cooperation in the Caribbean region and the role and position of country Sint Maarten within CARICOM and its organizations was discussed.

Governor Holiday emphasized that through the region the shared cultural and geographic characteristics and shared challenges provide a good base for cooperation and therefor for the wellbeing of the Caribbean people.


Mental Health Foundation and KPSM sign protocol to handle mental patient distresses

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Monday December 10th the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) represented by Interim Director Mrs. Eileen Healy and the Chief of Police Carl John, in the presence of the police management team, signed a protocol on how to structurally work together in the handling of a crisis in which mentally challenged persons are involved, police announced on Monday.

The number of crisis of this kind has risen over the last few years and the need for some type of structure to deal with these situations is definitely a necessity. This protocol is written to safeguard the safety of that person and to make sure that these persons get the proper treatment and care he or she needs.

The teams from the Mental Health Foundation and KPSM (Sint Maarten Police Force) tasked with putting this protocol together have worked very hard and have met numerous times to discuss the document and getting it finalized. Words of congratulations and gratitude from Mrs. Eileen Healy and Carl John were expressed to both teams during the signing of the protocol.

The Minister of Justice who is totally aware of the progress that is taking place is extremely satisfied that both parties have finalized and introduced the protocol that will be utilized by MHF and KPSM. The minister stated that is of utmost importance that what is written on paper in this protocol is actually carried out in practice every day or when the need arises.

He also stated the following; Having experienced a crisis first-hand and how it was handled I am delighted to know that the cooperation between the two entities has strengthened. I am sure there is always room for improvement and I look forward to the expansion of this protocol with the ambulance department and any other institution as required. (Sint Maarten Police Force)


St. Maarten Small Properties Association meets with World Bank Group

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - The World Bank Group representatives Ms. Khaleda Atta, Senior Operations Officer and Hannah Messerli, Senior Private Sector Development Specialist in Tourism, recently met with the President of the St. Maarten Small Properties Association (SMSPA) Ms. Nzinga Lake to discuss various matters in relation to tourism developments on St. Maarten.

Topics discussed were gathering of statistical data, implementing policies, economic opportunities, cultural heritage , product development and future tourism developments.

In the meeting with the representatives of the World Bank Group, Ms. Lake also took the opportunity to discuss the over view of the association and challenges being faced in the economy post Irma.

"As an association our mission and goals are to continue working in the best interest of our members and to continue having open and concrete discussions with all stake holders with in our community, regionally and internationally. That also includes the World Bank Group,” said Lake.


Port de Plaisance readying itself for Mega/Super Yacht arrivals. Johnson says: ‘industry achieved much success’

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - The Marine industry has its challenges but the successes that the St. Maarten Marine industry has achieved over the years are worth celebrating and more importantly worth the full support of government, said Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication (TEATT), Stuart Johnson.

His statement was made following a recent visit to Yacht Club Port de Plaisance which is operated by Marine Management / Jeff Boyd, one of the pioneers of the region in the Marine. Boyd who designed Isle Del Sol, Yacht Club Port de Plaisance and several others in other Countries, including St. Kitts took Minister Johnson on a tour of the facilities.

As part of the Governing Program 2018 – 2022 for the St. Maarten United Christian Democratic Coalition, Johnson has been given the responsibility to ensure that the disaster management component of the Marine Trade Industry is revised. Johnson further commented that he is looking forward to working with the industry partners to strengthen the maritime facilities and services.

“The Mega Yacht industry has, and continues to play a vital role in providing St. Maarten with a unique quality of visitors and these visitor arrivals are crucial to our government’s promise of providing a sustainable living for the people. Whenever there are super yachts docked at the various marinas, the economic activities that are generated as a direct result of their spending power are exponential as it goes beyond, car rentals, and restaurants,” said Johnson. This is why I am committed through my Ministry to do whatever is necessary to get the industry back on track in a big way,” said Johnson.

Boyd explained the extensive damage the Dock sustained in 2017 when hurricane Irma devastated St. Maarten, resulting in a complete redesign, repair and some expansion work to accommodate several of the regular Mega Yachts that visit our island each year. Boyd told Johnson, “I look forward to continuing the working relationship with you and appreciate your keen understanding of the importance of a robust marine industry to the future economic development of St Maarten which will be extremely refreshing.”

Minister Johnson said that the visit was crucial as his ministry is focusing over the next few weeks on ways to provide adequate support to the local partners in the Marine Industry. Johnson will be travelling to Antigua shortly to attend the Antigua Charter Yacht Show where he is expected to host captains and crew operators of Super Yachts from around the world.

The event is being organised by Yacht Club Port de Plaisance as “a night dedicated to celebrating all that St. Maarten now has to offer.” During the event Minister Johnson will update guests on St. Maarten’s recovery efforts post-Irma and on the efforts made by the Government of St. Maarten to restore its longstanding status as the Caribbean’s primary superyacht hub. Minister Johnson will mention new marina facilities, lowered crime rates and a cleaner island based on a dynamic approach by the Ministry of TEATT in collaboration with local environmental groups to “ensure proper safeguards are in place for the preservation of marinas and marine life.”

Johnson said Boyd and Yacht Club Port de Plaisance like many others were “excellent” marine partners. He commended Boyd on especially his initiative to restore the Marker Buoys that were destroyed by the hurricane and his swift call to action to prepare for the arrival of the new mega and superyacht season.

Mr. Boyd thanked Minister Johnson for his words of encouragement, but made it clear, that the management and staff of the marina led by Operations Director, Jesse Peterson, was where the real gratitude should be placed.  “They never lost focus and they never gave up” A dock is basically concrete and bollards, but a Marina / Yacht Club is really about the people responsible for the experience our guests receive.  Our team is one of the best and I am truly blessed to have them with me. Work is presently being done by predominantly local companies to restore the entire Yacht Facilities such as the bathrooms and offices which were damaged or completely destroyed by the hurricane.  However, he said that the work is near completion.

Mr. Boyd will also be travelling to Antigua on Saturday and will be taking one of the local DJ’s, Bossman from Soggy Dollar to entertain the Captains and crew members when they host the Dinner and Information event.


US Board flabbergasted. Minister Geerlings calls for working together

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The board of the United St. Maarten (US) party on Wednesday called Minister of Finance Perry Geerlings a hypocrite with selective amnesia for his disingenuous performance during the Council of Ministers Press Briefing on Wednesday morning.  The also advised the Minister to resign if he can’t do the job.

The US board said it was flabbergasted that Geerlings “of all people”, would cry a river and state that opposition members of Parliament are only busy with “the negative” and are not being positive about the development and reconstruction of the country. Geerlings also stated that “we are our biggest enemy” and “we have to stop fighting each other and need to work together”. 

“This is very rich coming from a Minister who, during his time in Parliament, was the foremost attack dog of former Prime Minister William Marlin and the former government after the devastation of hurricane Irma when he and his cohorts were busy scheming to tear government down. Who is this “we” the Minister is referring to? Because he made it clear in the Netherlands recently that he stood alone, not even with his own party leader,” the board said.

“The Minister has the gall to say that St. Maarten is in an emergency situation and the opposition need to get in line? Was St. Maarten not in an emergency situation in late 2017? Were there not calls to do it together? But this Minister in particular when he was an MP called the former Prime Minister all sorts of names and connived his way towards helping in the fall of government. If ever there was a time when we needed to stop and stand together, it was then,” the US board said.

The board added that the present government sold St. Maarten a 6 for a 9 and reality has since set it when it comes to governing. The opposition MP’s, the US board stressed, is doing their job by asking questions and holding Ministers (the government) accountable. The board said that the Minister is acting as if the opposition is making stuff up. “Pertinent questions are being asked in Parliament for once. It is the Minister and his colleague Minister who have to now provide the information to the people of St. Maarten.”

“The opposition MP’s represent the people, they are elected. And as such their right and their job is to get answers about issues in the country. Whether is 3 questions or 300 questions. Whether is once a week or every day of the week,” the board said.

It added that if Geerlings and the rest of the council of Ministers cannot do the job and cannot keep the public adequately apprised instead of hiding and spinning, then he should resign. “The Minister said he doesn’t have the time to answer MP’s because he is getting paid to do a job. Well so are the MP’s and part of your job description is to be accountable to Parliament who in turn is accountable to the people of St. Maarten.”

“Lamenting in a press briefing over MP’s doing their jobs, when you did the same and worse as an MP yourself, when you didn’t care about the people of St. Maarten and their suffering after Irma, when you only cared about seizing power, is hypocritical to the highest order. Do your job,” the board concluded.


Police request assistance from community in connection with shooting in Cay Hill

CAY HILL - On Sunday November 18th, 2018 a shooting incident took place near a hotel in the district of Cay Hill.

This shooting incident is being investigated by the Detective Department of the Police Force of Sint Maarten. To this date no suspects have been arrested, but the investigation will soon lead to the arrest of a possible suspect(s) involved. However, detectives are still looking for witnesses to assist with this investigation.

Person(s) with any additional information which will lead to the arrest(s) can call the Detective Department at +1721-5422222 ext. 208/211. Person(s) who wish to remain anonymous can contact the tip line at 9300. (Sint Maarten Police Force)


Youth Town Hall Meeting this Friday: Youth Speak out on School Violence

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Friday December 6, 2018, the Sint Maarten Youth Parliament in collaboration with the Student Support Services Division of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport, will hold a Youth Town Hall Meeting.

The event takes place at the University of St. Martin from 6 to 8 pm and is a youth-only meeting.

The meeting will address the growing incidences of fights involving students, at or near our schools. However, this will be a solution-focused discussion. The meeting will be led by members of the Sint Maarten Youth Parliament, who will guide the discussion.

It is the aim of the organizers that participating youth will offer practical ways to curb violence in our schools. It is time to reframe the problem from ‘who is to blame’, to ‘how can we make a change.’

The Sint Maarten Youth Parliament extends an open invitation to all youth on St. Maarten to participate in this event.

Whether you have been bullied in school, attacked on the bus, tried to stop a fight, posted fight videos, or the one to start the fight, this invitation is for all youth. When we work together, we can use our differences to effect change.

youth town hall

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