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Island Council Members Reuben Merkman and Clyde van Putten.

 

ST. EUSTATIUS--Island Council Members Clyde van Putten and Reuben Merkman have expressed disappointment in what they see as the imminent appointment of Jenny Thunnissen as Acting Island Governor.

  Merkman and Van Putten said Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations Richard Van Zwol had said the Dutch Government had intended to offer additional personnel to help build capacity in the local Government. Van Zwol conveyed these sentiments in meetings held with the Island Council, its fractions and the Executive Council.

  Representatives of the Island Government were open to receiving the support offered under certain conditions, but did not expect such an appointment. Van Zwol, according to the two Island Council members, promised to report his findings as well as a proposal made by Statia’s Executive Council in a letter to him of February 14, to his minister. He promised to inform the Island Government of Statia on the next steps the minister intended to take.

 

  Representatives of the Statia Government also made it unequivocally clear in meetings with Van Zwol that the involvement of Thunnissen would be unacceptable. This, Van Putten and Merkman said, was communicated to the minister in writing after a video-conference with the Kingdom Representative on January 7, 2017. “We don’t believe that appointing Ms. Thunnissen to any position aimed at supporting the local Government can pass the test of good governance and good intentions on your part,” the two said.

  “It is very unfortunate that despite the frank and open talks which we assumed we had with you (Van Zwol) and your delegation, it is now clear that you were not open, transparent and of good faith throughout your visit. As a matter of fact, it is clear that you did not intend to disclose the full purpose and intentions of your visit, which is to silently take over the local Government under the guise of offering support with capacity building,” the two members said.

  They had pointed out to Van Zwol on numerous occasions that the allegations leveled at the local Government has to be substantiated by Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK and the Dutch Parliament to establish what the problems really are. This is in line with what VVD Parliamentarian André Bosman was quoted as saying during a debate on December 15, 2016. Bosman at the time expressed concern about administrative chaos and the rejection of the island’s budget even though US $700,000 was paid to KPMG to “clear up the budgetary situation.”

  The Island Council Members said also that without a clear joint analysis and understanding of what the perceived problems are, reaching concrete agreements on how temporary additional support will be provided, making provisions for structural solutions and going through the entire process in a proper manner, it is impossible to achieve true and lasting progress.

  “If you and your minister are truly committed to achieving said lasting progress, we strongly urge you to take the right approach towards the process and continue with an open and transparent dialogue with the relevant stakeholders and taking the concerns and opinions of the local Government into serious consideration.”

  The Island Council Members said they look forward to receiving clarity on this matter from Van Zwol and also look forward to dialogue between stakeholders. The Island Council Members urged Van Zwol to contact them if they can help resolve this concern.

Subcontractor for the sewage line connection project on Arrowroot Road, D’MYRA General Maintenance and Construction, has recruited several young men to carry out emergency work last weekend to ensure that the project stays on schedule. D’MYRA is recruiting more young men from South Reward for the project continuation. They will work on the construction and will also be educated on the work and materials used. The project will enter the next phase next week where homes are connected to the mainline. This will take some three weeks. Infrastructure VROMI Minister Christophe Emmanuel visited the work site and operated an excavator. He said he is pleased with the progress of the work and thanked affected residents for their patience.

It seems like it took forever, but Parliament’s adoption of protective timeshare legislation (see related story) is a milestone in efforts to help safeguard this important part of the island’s tourism economy. Less-than-positive developments and experiences in the past years had created an unfavourable image of the sector that represents the vast majority of St. Maarten’s room inventory.

Of course, the initiative law still has to be ratified in the Council of Ministers and scrutinised by the Ombudsman. Extending bankruptcy protection to the timeshare owners would in any case seem to make all the sense in the world, basically as best possible preventing guests from being ripped off.

There are said to be real checks and balances for regulating matters like maintenance fees and service levels. For one thing, developers must fully disclose all projects to buyers to avoid unpleasant surprises later, while deceptive marketing is prohibited and will incur fines to be levied under the still-to-be-established Timeshare Authority.

The sooner the latter is done obviously the better, to also give the National Ordinance some “teeth.” This new body is to offer a practical tool for resolving potential disputes within the industry in the near future.

So there is still a lot to be done before the Dutch side’s main visitor accommodations offer is up to par with that of similar products in other vacation destinations, including the US, but a very big first step has now at least been taken.

News that Rolando Brison is the new Head of Tourism no doubt raised an eyebrow or two. After all, when he was announced as director of the newly established St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) mid-2016 there were allegations of embezzlement during his time at Winair.

The airline later said it no longer had any problems with the marketing expert, but the appointment at STA never materialised. In fact, Brison was taking legal steps based on promises made and expectations created, but had to resign the legal claim on that position to be considered for his new function.

In that sense this latest development prevented a potentially difficult court case for Government, in effect killing two birds with one stone. Moreover, Brison is obviously qualified for the job with a degree in Tourism and Recreation Management, while he has already produced relevant reports that were apparently well-received.

Perhaps the best part is that he was contracted for only one year. This gives him the chance to prove he is worth the confidence, but keeps both parties’ options open for afterwards.

It is actually quite normal that persons are hired for a set period rather than in regular service when it comes to these types of functions where fresh ideas and approaches play an important role. On the other hand, should things go well there is no reason the work relation can’t be continued.

The complaint is often heard that locals, particularly young professionals, don’t get enough opportunities within the island’s hospitality industry. In this case one could even see it as a second chance, which should serve as example and certainly not be wasted.

Although everyone is, of course, entitled to their opinion, for now Brison has been given the benefit of the doubt. The public will be watching.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad--Mexican cement manufacturer Cemex is paying US $86.36 million for Trinidad Cement Ltd. (TCL) and its three cement plants in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, the company has said.

PARAMARIBO--The flash floods that have inundated villages in the hinterland, are slowly subsiding, Colonel Jerry Slijnhaard, National Coordinator Disaster Management NCCR has reported. Some 1,500 residents of Maroon villages in the Lower Marowijne river area have been relocated to higher grounds in recent days, after heavy downpours over the weekend.

DANDONG, China- - As Beijing tightens its grip on trade with North Korea, the economies of Chinese towns along the 1,400-km border the two countries share are floundering.

NEW YORK--Verizon Communications Inc said on Tuesday it would buy Yahoo Inc's core business for $4.48 billion, lowering its original offer by $350 million in the wake of two massive cyber attacks at the internet company.

LONDON- - Late music icon David Bowie was the big winner at the BRITs in London on Wednesday, taking the British male solo artist and album of the year prizes at the UK's top music awards.

LOS ANGELES--Angelina Jolie said on Tuesday she hoped her family would be stronger after her divorce from Brad Pitt, but that the actress still thinks of him as a wonderful father.

CANNON BALL, N.D., -- A few dozen demonstrators opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline defied a Wednesday deadline to leave a protest camp they have occupied for months to demand an end to construction of the project, saying they were prepared to be arrested.

BERLIN--In the week before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Brussels and pledged America's "steadfast and enduring" commitment to the European Union, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon met with a German diplomat and delivered a different message, according to people familiar with the talks.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., - - Astronomers have found a nearby solar system with seven Earth-sized planets, three of which circle their parent star at the right distance for liquid surface water, bolstering the prospect of discovering extraterrestrial life, research published on Wednesday showed.

LONDON--A heterosexual British couple who object to what they call the patriarchal nature of marriage narrowly lost a court bid on Tuesday to be able to enter into a civil partnership after judges upheld a ruling that such unions were only eligible to those of the same sex.

LISBON- - Juventus edged closer to the Champions League quarter-finals after second-half goals from substitutes Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves earned them a 2-0 away win at 10-man Porto in a one-sided last 16 first-leg tie on Wednesday.

PUNE, India--Australia paceman Mitchell Starc has raised his game to the next level and India's batsmen need to be wary of his ability to trouble them with reverse swing, home captain Virat Kohli said on the eve of the first test beginning on Thursday.

Dear Editor,

Today, two months after the new Council of Ministers was sworn in, we still do not have a Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication (TEATT). The blame for this has been placed on the vetting or screening process. However, in truth and in fact, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of our Parliament.

Now, the USP (United St. Maarten Party) will have to present another candidate minister and the screening process will start all over again. We trust that it does not take another two months. Who is to tell, though, if this candidate will pass the screening, which is shrouded in a cloak of mystery!

With the exception of the Governor and the Prime Minister, no one else seems to know, for sure, what exactly the criteria are for the screening of candidate ministers.

We expect the Prime Minister to be transparent about this issue and to enlighten the candidate ministers, the political parties and the general public about the screening criteria, the procedures and how the final decision is made to pass or fail a candidate minister.

SMCP believes that the screening criteria should be clearly established up front and that political parties should be aware of these before submitting the name(s) of their candidate minister(s) to the Formateur.

The obscurity as well as the insecurity surrounding the whole screening process could have been avoided, if Parliament had taken the bull by the horns and dealt with the law pertaining to the screening some years ago.

Take Curaçao for example. Shortly after 10-10-10, the Parliament of Curaçao annulled their original screening ordinance and passed a revised one, in 2012. Nearly seven years after 10-10-10, St. Maarten is still using the original 10-10-10 screening ordinance which is apparently outdated and full of flaws.

St. Maarten has a very short history, as far as vetting or screening of candidate ministers is concerned. It is unfortunate that the first three Governments of Country St. Maarten never underwent any serious screening. In its Integrity Report of 2014, the Bob Wit Committee clearly pointed out that the screening was a mess and even stated that the then Prime Minister as well as the Ministers were in violation of the law and could be sentenced to a maximum of three years imprisonment.

Seeing that governments were forming and falling so frequently, the Kingdom Government felt that they should step in to ensure, the much needed integrity in the Government of St. Maarten. Consequently, prior to the formation of the fourth Government in 2014, the Kingdom Government issued a directive, instructing the Governor, to ensure that the screening of candidate ministers be done in a thorough manner. I believe that, if the St. Maarten Government and Parliament had taken the screening process seriously from the beginning, there would have been absolutely no reason for the Kingdom Government to step in.

Almost seven years after 10-10-10, St. Maarten’s Parliamentarians are still complaining about the screening, when all the while it was up to them to do something about it. Finally, after five years, a draft of the screening law, entitled “Ordinance Regulating the Integrity of (candidate) Ministers,” was officially submitted to Parliament, on January 20, 2016, by then Member of Parliament, Dr. Van Hugh Cornelius de Weever. If Parliamentarians were really concerned or dissatisfied with the screening, they would have been more zealous in seeing this law move from the Ad Hoc Committee of Integrity to the Central Committee and finally to the Public meeting where it would have been approved.

It is good to note that when this ordinance was submitted, the members of the Ad Hoc Integrity Committee were: Sarah Wescot-Williams, George Pantophlet, Cornelius de Weever, Leona Marlin-Romeo, Frans Richardson, Maurice Lake, Franklyn Myers and Silvio Matser, who did not attend any of the three meetings that the Committee held. Regrettably, neither the Committee members nor the other Parliamentarians did anything with the draft ordinance. They just sat on it and allowed it to accumulate dust.

SMCP calls on Parliament to handle this draft ordinance as soon as possible and ensure that it is transparent and fair to all concerned.

The next ordinance that Parliament should deal with immediately is the Ordinance Regulating the Integrity of Parliamentarians. The Bob Wit Integrity Committee also seriously questioned the integrity of our Parliamentarians and made very pointed recommendations such as: establishing a code of ethics, making public all paid and unpaid side jobs, setting up a public registry to record all gifts accepted by Parliamentarians, determining whether side jobs are permissible and if so reducing the salaries accordingly. The report also calls for Parliamentarians to declare their assets, before and after taking office, as well as for the establishment of an Integrity Committee.

If Parliament had followed up on the recommendations in Bob Wit’s Integrity Report, the screening of candidate Ministers would not be a big issue today and the integrity level within Parliament would have been higher. SMCP is expecting Parliament to work on these two ordinances as soon as possible.

Wycliffe Smith

Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party

Dear Queenie,

Years ago I dated this guy for several months until he broke up with me just like that. A couple of weeks later he wanted to get back together but he never mentioned that he was getting married that same week, which I found out later from someone else.

We’ve been seeing each other ever since he got married and sometimes he says he’s going to get a divorce but it never happens. I don’t want to break up his marriage but I love him too much to just give him up.

Queenie, what should I do?—Byside

Dear Byside,

This guy is a classic example of wanting to have his cake and eat it too. He will never leave his wife unless she gets wise to him and gets rid of him, but he will hang on to you as long as you let him – and very likely you are not (or will not be) his only byside.

Even if his wife does divorce him and he turns to you, you can bet your bottom dollar he will cheat on you the way he is cheating on her.

If you really do not want to break up his marriage, dump him!! Do it now, before you cause his wife and yourself irreparable harm, if you have not already done so.

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