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May 26th
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HOPE LIVES....(I think)....

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After 9 months of a new Parliament, I read about the DP faction's intention to lobby the opposition to investigate the contract between the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies and Checkmate Security Company. While I am not sure how many MP's will have to go along with MP Sarah's idea for this investigation to actually happen ( the 5 in opposition??.. a majority of at least 8??.. or at least of 2/3 of Parliament, so 10??..), or HOW the investigation will take place (using the General Audit Chamber, or the use of a Parliamentary Enquiry), fact is that maybe, just maybe after these past 9 months, hope may still be alive and all was not for naught. Possibly, just possibly, there may be a glimmer of hope that the rumors and whispers about the fleecing of Government-owned companies will be given the attention that is needed. Maybe, just maybe, talk about outrageous salaries & benefits given to members of managements, members of Boards, not-too-shabby retainers to "insider/friendly" lawyers and other professionals, lucrative contracts to friends and family, stupid money being spent (such as moving Great Bay harbor sand to the Simpson Bay Lagoon, then watching it wash away into the lagoon), will at long last be looked into as Parliamentarians are supposed to do. These are all items that should be every tax payer's concern. If all companies and entities that have been established by and for Government would be run in an open, transparent and business-like manner and if these entities would truly endeavor to maximize profit-making, that would then in turn be paid to Government in the form of dividends and concession fees (instead of buying expensive automobiles for executives, handing out company credit cards with outrageous spending limits -if any- and having bloated payrolls), maybe, just maybe Government could get closer to balancing its budget every year. Government could then ensure that sufficient sums of money could be allocated AND paid out to market this tourist destination, that relies just about 100% on tourism. Is it at all possible that "dem tiefin" from us in broad daylight, while we have our eyes wide open, knowing what is happening? Do we care, or is it that some favored few amongst us (way too many in my opinion) are in some form or fashion benefitting from the corruption on all levels, so we do nothing more than grumble, while continuing our ranting & raving against "foreign" intervention? And oh yes, let us NOT even THINK about increasing the TOT again to solve Government's fiscal problems.... The last increase has properly "screwed up" the regular economy while boosting the underground business, causing the actual amount of TOT guilders collected by Government to fall way short of expectations, while GDP is up! The Dutch would say: "Ra ra, hoe kan dat"??? But I started by saying that "hope may still be alive". So open the books! Let in the light! Stop the double talk! Tell the tax payers WHAT is what, WHO gets what and WHY they get what!

Michael J. Ferrier

Last Updated ( Monday, 25 May 2015 10:03 )

 

A Plea to Save the Statia Marine Park

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Dear Editor,

A few years ago I found myself in water as clear as gin with above me a swirling cyclone of horse-eyed jacks churning in the endless azure blue. Off in the distance large schools of fish swirl like living rainbows. As I check my air and kick over the edge of the submarine canyon into the Deep, a profusion of coral shining like submerged jewels rises on either side of me.

As I dive deeper and deeper, and as my air slowly converts itself into a gas as toxic as it is intoxicating, I see a black-tip reef shark, one of those lords of the sea, slowly and confidently swimming into the gloom, oblivious to everything except his own rightful place at the top of the ocean food-chain. At about one hundred and eighty feet I slowly start to make my way to the surface. Suddenly the bubbly sound of my exhale is replaced by a song so melancholy and hauntingly beautiful that it is as bewitching as it is unforgettable: a male humpback whale is singing. And as with the best of all songs his is for love, hoping to attract a mate over the vast ocean. With this as background music I make my decompression stops surrounded by prolific life: turtles and stingrays, blennies and conies and triggerfish. All in such profusion and surrounded by such healthy coral it is as if I am floating in a dream. Before I leave the water I see a grey flash in the distance that startles me. I look more closely and see a lone bottlenose dolphin chasing a grunt as much in pursuit for food as in pursuit for fun. Once back on the dive boat I look up at the majestic volcano known to all who love it as the Quill.

This is Statia, and more specifically, this is one of the two reserves of the Statia Marine Park. I just dove on a site known as the Grand Canyon, one that ranks amongst my favorite in seventeen years of diving. It is a place that I have learned to love as much as the waters I have grown up in and have made my passion to protect here on Sint Maarten. And it is a place in grave and immediate danger of not existing anymore.

Before the dive I describe above I spent years in University and on projects in Bermuda and off of the coast of Eastern Africa and I was ready to come home. I responded to an ad for a Marine Park Manager on St. Eustatius with an organization called STENAPA. And although it was not Sint Maarten I jumped at the opportunity to be a little closer to home.

But Statia, STENAPA and the Marine Park have taught me so much in the year that I have lived there. I have learned that the value of the St. Eustatius Marine Park runs into the tens of millions of dollars in revenue that it provides to the island. And I have learned that its reserves, areas that are closed off to fishing, contribute to the healthy and robust fishery and fish population that occurs on Statia. That is why it was with much concern, and deep trepidation that I learned from my colleagues that there might be plans to drastically alter the seascape of the island by completely abolishing the reserves of the Marine Park.

Globally we are faced with a systematic destruction of our marine environment, a destruction that will ultimately result in our own undoing. Overfishing and pollution have taken their toll on oceans that were once teaming with life. And without our oceans, as esteemed Marine Biologist and Conservationist Sylvia Earl put it, the Earth will in fact be Mars; 'devoid of life'.

The most effective way in ensuring that our oceans are protected and have the ability to restore themselves, where fish can regenerate without the pressures of fishing and stocks can spill over into all territorial waters, is the establishment and management of Marine Reserves. Areas closed to fishing but open to non-impactful eco-tourism such as diving and educational projects.

The elimination of the Reserves of the Statia Marine Park have the potential to open a Pandora's box of dangers and issues which threaten the very existence of Statia as such a unique island in the North-eastern Caribbean, with some of the healthiest reefs and fish populations anywhere. During the year that I worked in Statia as the Manager of the Marine Park I have seen animals and ecological communities there that rival even the most profuse areas I have seen while working in the Indian Ocean. The untapped potential of Statia as a dive tourism destination runs into the millions and millions of dollars.

The discussion that the reserves should be reversed is based on unfounded fact lacking any scientific basis, and it is unfortunate that the discussion has been tainted by the scourge of politics. Reserves actually increase fisheries instead of restrict them. They allow large healthy fish to reproduce and make more large healthy fish in an environment where they are protected and managed; thus reinforcing the fish stock on the island. For it is beyond the intellect of a fish to decide that it will stay in a reserve and it will inevitably swim into a fishable area.

I therefore urge the people of Statia, people whom over the course of the year I have worked and lived there I have grown to love as my own, to realize that the reserves in the Marine Park are necessary and crucial to the survival and uniqueness of the island. And to ensure that Statia's unique and beautiful underwater life may remain so into infinity. And that our offspring will always be able to play in the Golden Rock's beautiful coral gardens.

Tadzio Bervoets
Manager
Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area
Sint Maarten Nature Foundation

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 May 2015 19:04 )

Open Invitation To all champions of ‘Blood-line’ St. Martiners.

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In keeping with our promise made in our State of the St. Martin Nation address 2014, as well as in in line with more recent statements made - we are progressing very well in the preparation of our new St. Martin nation building television program.
As stated before, this particular program will be based on the input- and participation of panelists representing ALL ethnic communities on our island.
Thus-far, the interest shown by these communities is very encouraging and growing.
For the record - let it also be known that we, as the producer of this particular program, also emphatically invite all those who regularly profess to champion the legitimate cause of the 'blood-line' St. Martiners to play an active role in this new setting as well.
In our books - the 'proof of the pudding' in truly championing the cause of St. Martiners, is not doing such in isolation – and/or by preaching to the 'choir' – week in-week-out, but by being able to do such based on a proven credibility and doing such among all other communities on the island, as well as in the 'wide world'.
Clearly, sitting and screaming from one's own corner of comfort hardly contributes to anything substantial, let alone contributes to the best interest of all people present on the island.
We therefore look forward to the input by all those, who regularly use the airways and other means to profess to be champions of the 'blood-line St. Martiners'.
If those 'champions' decline to be part of this 'broad-based', all-inclusive St. Martin nation building initiative – they will have no-one to blame if the train moves on without them – then themselves of course.
In ending.
What could have been yesteryear's brilliant solution to yesterday – if not adjusted to today's realities - could be tomorrow's greatest problem.

Drs. Leopold James
President St. Martin Grassroots People Movement.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 May 2015 13:53 )

Open letter to all concerned

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We are a group of parents of students of the elementary school of French Cul de Sac, and we want to respond to the "coup d'état" orchestrated by parents from metropolitan France of this school.
Approximately 90% of the public of this school is originally from metropolitan France, students, parents and teachers.
The past has shown that Antillean school principals are not welcomed, they were forced out by numerous petitions. Antillean teachers are also reluctant to work in the school because most parents have the reputation of being unbearable, especially with blacks.
Since last September the new principal is a native of Saint-Martin, she is working very hard to ensure that laws are respected while directing the school with an iron fist, especially enforcing compliance with Act No. 2008-496 of 27 May 2008 which makes various provisions in the field of the fight against direct or indirect discrimination. The word of the day now uttered is " She must go."
In the proximity of Oasis restaurant in Oyster Pond, parents from metropolitan France got together and said that the school's principal should absolutely leave because she enrolls too many black children in the school. And some have quickly understood that it will take more than a petition to remove her. Formal meetings were organized by the parents of mainland France. They made sure to exclude almost all parents from Saint Martin to these meetings. A petition to get rid of the principal circulated, they asked almost exclusively metropolitan parents and teachers to sign claiming that since they are the majority , they will not need the support of blacks. Fortunately, they did not reach far with the petition . They also lied by saying that even the Collectivité workers of Saint Martin had problems with the principal. Those statements were strongly condemned and rejected by the Collectivité employees whom have worked in the school for many years.
Strangely, at a time when civil servants, teachers and principal are choosing their post for the coming school year, the principal is accused of hitting students but even more strangely these are not the children of those who are accusing her. How absurd !!!
Last week the gendarmes summoned the children aged 8 to 9 years of the class that the principal also teaches for their investigation in order to send the results to the prosecutor on charges of physical abuse to students. Saint Martin parents, knowing that it was another plot by the French metropolitan parents, asked the gendarmes if they identified any child victims supposedly abused by the principal. To this question the gendarmes answered no, that they had already received half of the class and that the investigation was ongoing. How can the gendarmes summon children for questioning without any parent actually making a complaint that their children have been abused? It is of course those metropolitan parents who complained that the principal apparently hit children and up to this date no victim was identified
At Cul de Sac school , certain metropolitan teachers have longed insulted local children and their parents.

- They have beaten, insulted, mistreated students with the blessings of those who should denounce these acts, the local staff was asked to keep their mouth shut . What happens in the school stays in the school they ordered (last case of abuse was in April 2015 on an child with autism, a complaint was filed).
- Two local staff members were the subject of verbal abuse in December ( complaint sent to the prosecutor) what's next?
- A Collectivité of Saint Martin employee has even been physically assaulted by a Metropolitan Parent
What has happened to those investigations??? Double standards ???
Other complaints can be added to those, all the skeletons should come out of the closet.
The hearings are just beginning.
WE SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, when you choose to live in Saint Martin you should expect to find the ways and customs of Saint Martin people, when you do not like black people avoid going to their country.
Metropolitan parents of Cul de Sac claiming (as they often say at the school gate) that they are the wives of gendarmes, close to the head of staff of the office of the prefét, and friends of the prosecutor, will no longer be allowed to do as they please.
This school is meant for all students of Saint Martin. In this month of celebration of the abolition of slavery and the struggle of our ancestors for our freedom, we denounce racism and this dominance.
After centuries of colonization, we reclaim our past and our traditions as it should be with all our differences. We strongly defend our identity and our culture against this aggression by those parents from metropolitan France which is perceived as oppressive and discriminatory. We therefore support the principal of the school 100% in her quest to promote youth education in Saint Martin and we strongly condemn all racist and unjustified attacks, especially those based on lies.

The Collective of parents of Cul de Sac School.

Last Updated ( Monday, 18 May 2015 19:07 )

Businessman Questions GEBE Spending and Overcharging Clients – Who will Answer?

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Dear Editor.
I took a while to write to you because I was not sure how to deal with the concerns and the other newspapers seem to be getting paid handsomely from GEBE to stop me from writing. I noticed a few months ago things started to turn around in GEBE and I started to hear about the Director and it looked like they are caring so now that they are willing to speak I have a few concerns that I am hoping you can help me with. I am a resident on St. Maarten and I pay a hefty sum for my electric bill for my business and my home and I wonder where this money is going. They started talking about the fuel clause and tried to explain and then they lie about the fact that they are charging people for the fuel when the people at SOL seem to be able to shut them up after they try to say that sol muddied their fuel. More to the point the Director for the accounting, how is he still able to hold his job after he spent money he was not allowed to spend to buy his fancy jeep and take those trips abroad that GEBE had to pay for. I am told that he just paid back for one trip when he made several to Holland. And where is this Maduro man who they say is in charge because he apparently sign off on the same car document. Now the guy Mr. Gartner was already fired from his job in Curacao because they suspected he was using cocaine and they bring him here where he spending GEBE money causing me to get high bill, then we have to ask who watching all of this. The members of the board are apparently having a wonderful time too because some of them are getting fifteen thousand dollars (15,000.00) a month just to be board member and have companies on retainer. This is scary because we don't really know what is going on and the big question is what is the board members doing about this because no local people can get any jobs in GEBE, contractors are crying too many of the jobs GEBE doing themselves and can you imagine that they know who leaked the document to Sarah about the deal in Santo Domingo for the LPG and they don't want to say anything about it. The chairman is comfortable doing nothing because his retirement fund is the GEBE fundS that's what he uses to get his money every month for him and his company, the worst thing is that the man they have in charge seems to be someone who has a history of beating his wife. Apparently he is busy bullying the staff in GEBE, and trying to get rid of the Human Resources director because the director is refusing to allow him to fire people. The company has had all this power outage and load-shedding in the papers and no one come out to say anything about it. Is the Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs not aware of this. I am told that he has no idea what is going on in GEBE and he has the portfolio of GEBE. I hope that they can answer now that they have started to be in the newspaper so much.
SMN NEWS I trust your kind of reporting where you are not afraid to go after them.

AUTHORS NAME WITHELD UPON REQUEST.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 12 May 2015 21:27 )

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