Dear Editor,

In the past two to three weeks the news has been rife with reports on the implementation of the NHI scheme for

St. Maarten. Though this is not new as the idea presented itself in the 2014 election without much information or sound reasoning. The minister of public health and labour Mr. Emil Lee said that haste is of essence and delaying the implementation might not be wise in his opinion. The minister said to have spoken to all stakeholders including the Netherlands, though SHTA and other organizations are not wholly on board, while the Netherlands being a stakeholder is not quite clear...

Then it hit me that the minister is himself interpreting advice from the CFT as coming from the Netherlands. But be that as it may here is why we need to slow down and put in place policies that would assure the local stakeholders that this scheme won’t result in unlimited taxation going forward.

We know today of the pressure exerted on our school system by an uncontrolled implementation of compulsory education. Of course as a society we were and still are convinced that every child should be guaranteed an education; we don’t understand why we should pay such for all who end up here. Because of open and uncontrolled immigration, people were literally able to walk from the airport and register their children in local schools. Persons applying for residence or work permits were allowed to lie on the forms and later inviting their families over, putting more pressure on an already heavily burdened system. Because of this free for all Schools, SMMC, public housing and many more institutions here suffer from lack of space, and payment which the tax payer ends up carrying the load for.

The minister also intimated that the civil servant and the labourer will all be the same in this new NHI, and since he claims the unions were part of the consulted stakeholders I wonder aloud if WICSU, ABVO and other organizations representing civil servants don’t see anything wrong with that picture. We have the (LAR) civil servants Regulation because we have recognized by law that the civil service should be different in their functioning and how they seek redress. Moreover, as has been the M.O. of past years when newly implemented systems or experiments don’t pan out to our expectations, the civil servants, because they are a captive work group in government, are the first to be forced to tighten their belts.

Furthermore, the civil service has always paid their contributions and the reason the system AZV/SZV is having problems is that government never turned in the withheld amounts, which now form part of our debt negotiations. So where are the guarantees or checks and balances; the same won’t be true in the future. It would also be interesting if we were told what would happen to private insurers when government by its very action becomes their primary competition. At this time I recall an adage that says, “The business of government is to stay out of government.”

How would it affect dependants oversees or illegals on the island. The minister himself has commented on the fact that too many permits are been extended to outsiders for jobs locals can fill, so maybe we can be told how this would be addressed and how this activity will impact the NHI. How is the abuse of the system, which today permits patients to be referred abroad for medical tests and not only emergency treatment? Can we not enforce a better way or make it possible for these tests to be done locally.

And of course, in the present system depending on your pay grade and your years of service and how much you contribute determines whether your internment is designated as 1st,2nd or 3rd class how would that be organized in our NHI.

We know certain things require speed but we would much more rather have sound and well thought out decisions than hasty kneejerk changes that aim solely to placate the CFT or the stakeholder the minister sees in the Dutch. So for the sake of a seven year old “country” still finding its feet with so much yet to be done let’s slow it down. In the trade-off between efficiency and time we would hope efficiency takes precedence. It would seem to be in our interest to slow it down.

Elton Jones

Dear Editor,
Why even bother at this time to write about the qualifications of a parliamentarian, when the next parliamentary election is all the way in 2020? Sadly, this has been the mentality in the past that has led us to vote for persons, based on friendship, family ties and family tradition, instead of looking at the qualifications, qualities and experience of the candidates.
One of the reasons we have not paid much attention to the qualifications of parliamentarians, is because during election time, our politicians campaign as if they were running to become ministers in government. However, they failed to point out the difference and the separation between parliament and government. To summarize, the people elect the parliamentarians, and the parliamentarians in turn appoint the ministers. Therefore, if we want a good Council of Ministers, we must vote for noble, qualified parliamentarians, who would ensure that we get a good government.
Besides the four criteria for parliamentarians listed in the Constitution, parties, as well as the people should hold candidates to a high standard. Article 49 of our Constitution states that to “be eligible for membership of Parliament, a person must be a resident of Sint Maarten, a Dutch national, have attained the age of eighteen years, and must not have been disqualified from voting”. As far as the age is concerned, a person can be on a party’s slate at age 17; as long as he/she turns 18 by the time the oath has to be taken.
Based on the Constitution, anyone with the Dutch nationality can become a parliamentarian in Sint Maarten. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the constitutions of neighbouring countries like St Kitts and Nevis, the Commonwealth of Dominica and the Territory of Anguilla clearly stipulate that to be elected, persons must be connected to the country or territory by birth or descent. If such a criterion were applied in Sint Maarten, many persons would not be eligible to become members of parliament, including myself, as well as several of our current MPs. Revising the nationality article will require a constitutional amendment, which needs the approval of the other countries of the kingdom.
The criterion “must not have been disqualified from voting” relates to the final verdict of a court of law. In other words, once the court case of a prospective parliamentarian is still in appeal he/she has all rights to join a party or to establish a party. The prospective parliamentarian also has the right to campaign, to be elected, to take the oath of office and to function as a member of parliament until he/she receives the final guilty verdict.
This is the reason MP Silvio Matser is still functioning as a Member of Parliament. Even though the Court in First Instance, as well as the Joint Court of Justice found him guilty of tax evasion, he has appealed the case at the High Court in The Hague and consequently has the right to function as a parliamentarian until he receives the final judgement from the latter court. We may not agree with the law, but we must abide by it.
In addition to the constitutional criteria mentioned earlier, it is important that we also evaluate prospective parliamentarians based on several other qualifications, such as love for Sint Maarten, Dutch language skills and integrity. If persons have a love for Sint Maarten, it will show in their involvement in the community. They will be engaged, in one way or another, in trying to better the society. Their motive for getting in politics would be for the sake and the good of the people, and not for personal gain. They should ascribe to, and live by, the principles of integrity, transparency, accountability, and love for the country.
How many of the 125 candidates who took part in the 2016 elections are still visible and active today? Even many of them, who have been elected to parliament, often do not see the need to represent us as we expect them to. One parliamentarian has not attended parliamentary meetings in months. At times, several of our parliamentarians have refused to attend meetings. Not too long ago, the minority faction in parliament even declined to represent us at a high-level kingdom meeting. This is really not the kind of representation we expect from our parliamentarians!
As far as Dutch language skills are concerned, it is important that prospective parliamentarians have at least a working knowledge of the Dutch language. It is interesting to note that the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica includes a language qualification stating that to be qualified to be elected, a person must be able to speak and read the English language. Admittedly, Sint Maarten’s constitutional and judicial systems are very much embedded in the Dutch system. It is obvious that Dutch supersedes the English language, when we read the disclaimer at the bottom of each page of a translated law: “No rights can be derived from the English translation”.
The SMCP believes that if voters take the additional qualifications into serious consideration when electing parliamentarians, Sint Maarten would have a stronger, better qualified, integrity-based parliament, which in turn would appoint ministers to the Council of Ministers, based on their professional, experiential and ethical qualifications.

Wycliffe Smith
Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party

Dear Editor,

On the occasion of the passing of Mr. Roger Snow, please accept my most sincere regrets and condolences; you and to all of those who work at The Daily Herald. As I wrote in my little book a while back, “Saint Martin ─the entire island─ owes an ocean of gratitude to Mary Hellmund and to Roger Snow. This by reason of the singular role this industrious and enlightened couple played in journalism on the island for roughly one quarter of a century.” That was writing-speaking as if that role was in that past alone, but we (you and I, and a lot of others) know that it is in our present, and shall be with us in our future ─ forever!

Gérard M. Hunt

There are not enough words for me to use to describe what Roger Snow has meant to me and my family. There are not enough ways for me to express gratitude to the man who literally saved my life. I say this without any reservation or hesitation. Roger Snow saved my life.

To Mary, Gordon, Hanneke, Dickie, Jelmer, Paul, Steven, Junior and the rest of the family I extend deepest condolences on behalf of my family. I am truly sorry that I am away at this time but please know that Roger meant the world to me and I will miss him dearly. It was not easy the last few years watching illness deprive us of the Roger we knew. He can now rest on.

I met Roger in January of 1995 when I was at a crossroad in my life, totally unsure what to do with my future. I was jobless, spiraling into depression and a feeling of complete failure was drowning me. By God’s will an opportunity opened in the night layout department at the then infant Daily Herald. Not expecting much, I viewed it as another temporary job that I would soon leave. As history would attest, however, I didn’t leave soon at all. In fact, I’m still there in some shape or form, 22 years later.

I stuck around because Roger Snow, this impressive, compassionate, witty, unselfish human being made it his business to make me understand and appreciate that my life had worth. He didn’t care what my background was, he only cared that I remain constructively active by involving myself in all aspects of newspaper operations, and with his assistance and influence become a solid citizen and contributor in my community.

He afforded me the opportunity serve as layout artist, graphic artist, night editor and journalist at The Daily Herald. He founded Teen Times, not me, I only had the privilege to guide and develop what he called “Herald’s contribution to the youth of St. Maarten.” From Teen Times to serving on more than 10 community and cultural organizations, to starting my own PR company and all the accolades in between … it all started with Roger Snow. Had he not saved me and given me a chance, none of that would have been possible and God knows where I would have been today.

He was a giant of a man in stature and character. But make no mistake, he was not always a gentle giant and with good reason. There were times he dished out some tough love. Some very tough love. He never sugarcoated anything for me as I was typically extremely stubborn and headstrong. He would often yell “Mike! You are wrong! Get over yourself!” and then proceed to give me the verbal dressing down that I deserved.

One of our “discussions” became so heated in our little office on Front Street, I started to cry. A grown man, I broke down in front of another grown man like a baby. I wasn’t crying because I was hurt or insulted or upset. Tears ran because I wanted so much to impress that man. I hated letting him down. In typical Roger style, he never let you stay down, he found a way to lift you back up.

You know a person has influenced your life positively when you can remember almost everything he has ever told you. Roger’s words have stuck with me throughout my life and I still live by them. He often shared those words while taking a puff on his pipe on our office porch in Philipsburg when electricity went and we didn’t have a generator, or when we were waiting on film to develop, or when we took a break from laying out the paper together which we often did side-by-side. Even in those dark days after Hurricane Luis when we finished work at 7:00 in the morning and he had to drive all of us home.

He cared about my family and my activities. He cared about my general knowledge and saw to it that I was educated in the ways of journalism, human nature, politics, life. He was steadfast in his belief that the newspaper plays a vital role in the community and never allowed me to forget for whom and why we produce The Daily Herald.

Many people have asked me over the years why I’ve stayed loyal or maintained a strong link with The Daily Herald. My answer has never changed: because Roger Snow saved my life. I remained loyal to him, to a friend and mentor.

I will miss my friend and mentor dearly.

Mike Granger

Dear Editor,

An alternative suggestion for the associated problems with the jet blast and the entrance to Beacon Hill, is to build the previously discussed boardwalk. Properly designed, it could eliminate or substantially reduce the on again off again tidal wave of sand that virtually closes off the only entrance to Beacon Hill; provide the Jet Blasters with a safe distance to enjoy their experience, with the only danger being blown into the ocean; create a safe walkway for pedestrians versus their current balancing act on the low concrete curb or roadway; allow benches for enjoying the sunset and plane arrivals; and still provide a beach which could be protected from erosion with the addition of a floating breakwater.

This is not an original idea, as I believe Mr. Rudy Engel and others have brought it up to various Ministers over the years, but with the most recent tragic and avoidable accident that occurred recently time is of the essence to come up with a viable solution to a problem that won't go away on its own.

Bill Olliver

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