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Aug 01st
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ST. MARTIN PEOPLE’S LIVES MATTER TOO

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‘Help keep their properties among themselves’.
This is an open – but very necessary and urgent appeal - to all St. Martin political leaders, including Prime-minister Marcel Gumbs, President Aline Hanson, Members of Parliament, Members of the Collectivity, land-surveyors , real-estate agents, notaries, banks, political activists, bloggers, St. Martin radio and tv-talk show hosts and all others involved with- and concerned about land- and property issues, affecting native St. Martiners.
Increasingly - St. Martiners are losing properties in a variety of ways.
Either through sales on the open market to outsiders, who then make sure to maintain- and to develop these acquired properties exclusively among their own kind.
Just drive around for instance in the Cul-de -Sac area in the North- and observe a new form of gated ‘South-Africa’ being established in the most beautiful areas of the island – and you will see where we are heading as a society.
However also – among a certain ethnic Caribbean group a very powerful ‘syndicate’ has emerged, which slowly- but surely is buying up auctioned off properties left- right and center on the island only to be preserved- and to be developed for the benefit of their own ethnic circles.
Although, we can not blame these ‘outsiders’ for doing what they are doing in that regards - one does not have to be a ‘rocket-scientist’ to understand, where this all is leading to and where eventually it will leave native St. Martin people – becoming ‘squatters’ at best.
Clearly – this process of ‘outsiders’ increasingly owning land on our island - is a form of a peaceful - but equally very effective form of St. Martin people becoming ethnically cleansed, or becoming victims of a silent genocide by substitution – nothing more, nothing less !
While - in principle, we do not object to the right of people to sell their property – it should also be noted that a people without land, in fact does not exist as such and that therefore in our country’s best interest this should not be allowed to happen just like that – without some kind of restriction or pre-conditions.
The time is long overdue - that on this island, we also find ways and means to prevent native St. Martiners, un-necessarily losing their properties to non-St. Martiners.
In this regard, we must commend very highly the Soualiga Grassroots People Movement for focusing all its attention and energy exposing this very dangerous threat to the very existence of the native St. Martin People that is taking place on the island.
Just for the record.
Although, our St. Martin Grassroots People Movement still regrets the process that led to the formation of the Soualigan Grassrooters - in principle we agree very much thus-far with most its positions on issues effecting our people from the perspective of preserving the native, indigenous St. Martin People.
For now – our movement strongly recommends all those mentioned at the beginning of this open letter to do whatever it takes to prevent properties owned by St. Martiners UN-NECESSARILY and without pre-conditions ending up in the hands of no-St. Martiners.
While – at the moment – there might be no laws, nor legislation protecting the property ownership of St. Martiners – we will not accept any excuses for not at least IMMEDIATELY – creating a new MINDSET and WILLINGNESS – that eventual will lead towards legislation as proposed above.
It simply is UN-ACCEPTABLE that the small-scale native, indigenous St. Martin community can not be protected against being ‘gobbled up’ by outsiders who flood the island and have all kinds of advantages in their favor to simply de-facto take over our land.
In the meantime, we recommend all notaries involved in the sale of properties belonging to natives, to call in family-members to give them the first serious options to buy the property in question BEFORE preparing any sale to non-St. Martiners.
It simply is un-acceptable, that notaries and others collaborate with certain family-members, who want to, or who are financially forced to sell family land - to sell to outsiders – BEFORE first making an offer to their own siblings, cousins, or other family members.
For any notary to collaborate in any sale, bypassing family-members, is completely, un-professional, un-ethical, immoral and goes completely against the tradition of our ancestors.
Let it therefore be known that notaries and others who participate in this type of activities, will be exposed and held accountable for in fact contributing towards the ultimate genocide by substitution of the St. Martin people.
While we will carefully monitor and report on these developments, we recommend people to also share these kinds of sales which deliberately circumvent family members getting first option with the public and/or with all pro- St. Martin activists.
After all – ST. MARTIN LIVES MATTERS TOO.

Leopold James

Last Updated ( Monday, 20 July 2015 11:41 )

 

Art Will Save, Build, and Nourish Our Lives But We Need a Space for it to be Developed

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Dear Editor,
Usually I tend to focus my thoughts, and by extension my words, on matters that deal with the environment; on the conservation of our natural resources and the need for us, as a Small Island Developing State, to develop sustainably. But sometimes one experiences something that shows that we indeed live in a society where the needs are felt most in sectors which are crucial to the development of Sint Maarten as a people and as a country. I had one of these experiences last Saturday when we witnessed what can only be described as Beauty, or more specifically Hope manifested through Beauty.
During last Saturday’s Art Saves Lives recital, where students who took part in the program dazzled the audience with the skills they have learned over five days of being exposed to Art in all of its myriad forms, I sat there sometimes moved to tears, sometimes moved to laughter and always moved to awe, inspired by young people guided by those most dedicated to our community and by professionals in their respective fields. And all my thoughts, in seeing these young men and women, where heightened by the knowledge that, if we as a country continue to develop these talents, talents which we have so much of, then there is great hope for our Sweet Home St. Maarten. But alas herein lies the dilemma.
Art saves, creates and molds life. And therefore it is essential that we focus heavily on ensuring that our youth continue to develop and continue to grow and express themselves through artistic expression; that the opportunity exists for our people to tap into that infinite stream of creativity that has made humanity the most unique of species.
Although some may regard art and art education as a luxury, simple creative activities are some of the building blocks of child development. Learning to create and appreciate visual aesthetics may be more important than ever to the development of the next generation of St. Maarteners.
According to a report by Americans for the Arts, art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and the experience of making decisions and choices in the course of creating art carries over into other parts of life. And when children are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art they develop a sense of innovation that will be important in their adult lives. The kind of people our society needs to make it move forward are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions. And this is crucial to developing and nurturing an identity, both individually and nationally.
And why were we so moved and did we feel so viscerally the importance of what we were seeing on that Saturday? It is because humans instinctively know the importance of why we as a species evolved the ability to create art. “Imagine society without the civilizing influence of the arts and you'll have to strip out what is most pleasurable in life – and much that is educationally vital”, commented Sir Peter Bazelgette, Chair of the English Art Council when asked why art is important. “Take the collective memory from our museums; remove the bands from our schools and choirs from our communities; lose the empathetic plays and dance from our theatres or the books from our libraries; expunge our festivals, literature and painting, and you're left with a society bereft of a national conversation about its identity or anything else,” continued the scholar. But the reverse is also true: if we struggle to have these things to begin with then we in fact will always struggle to have a national conversation or identity for that matter.
So what then is the dilemma mentioned earlier? It was amazing to see last Saturday our local students interacting and learning from some of the most respected names in the Arts anywhere: from St. Maarten to New York. But the most striking and disconcerting theme of the whole evening was; “We Do Not Have A National Performing Arts Centre!” We do not have a space, an area, where our future can be mapped out in terms of being dedicated to art. We lack that space, amidst all of the developments happening on the island, where we can give, receive, exchange, showcase and develop art within our community. We desperately need a professionally built center for no other reason but to develop our people and develop our nation artistically. Not for money, not for profit, but for us. This should be priority on the list of things that should happen in our country so that the spirit, the energy and the drive which all of us experienced During that Art Saves Lives recital can continue to ensure that St. Maarten becomes a better place. Without that all of the hope I mentioned earlier, all that manifestation of beauty and energy and creativity, all of the benefits associated with art, will be lost. And so will St. Maarten.

I apologize to the Editor for dipping my toe, so to speak, in something that is not conservation or environment related. But then again I guess I am talking about the same coin here, just a different side. Indeed the conservation of our natural resources and the development of arts within our society can only lead to a better development of St. Maarten and her people. A development that is sustainable, inclusive and progressive for this small country with big possibilities. And finally to the organizers of Arts Saves Lives, as the students sang in their presentation: indeed you are flashlights. Daresay you are beacons, lighting the way for so many souls into a brighter and more creative future. Into a brighter and more creative St. Maarten. Thank you.

Tadzio Bervoets
Guana Bay Road
St. Maarten

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 July 2015 16:42 )

An Integrity Committee is most definitely needed

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Dear Editor,

Okay, I have read the document on the establishing of the Integrity Committee and I must say that I CANNOT DISAGREE MORE with my good friend MP Christopher Emmanuel. I do not think that the establishing of this Committee is "bad for business" unless it is the business of nepotism and corruption that have plagued us for the last 25 years.
I also believe that some of the comments made by many members of Parliament misrepresent what is actually in the document. I am not saying they are lying but they are taking a very extreme view of what powers the Committee actually have. MP William Marlin in his comments stated that a simple relationship with a Minister or MP can disqualify you from a contract or job, which according to me is really stretching the meaning of the document. Article 1 specifically states what aspects the Committee can look at. It does not look like a baseless witch-hunt in my opinion.
The United People’s Party in the person of MP Frankie Meyers, submitted some amendments to the document which I can agree with but I most definitely can’t agree with the ‘pleading the fifth’ comment. I think that this should be valid for private citizens but once you put yourself in the public office this rule should not apply to you. You want to plead the fifth you should HAVE TO resign from your position. I must mention that I do agree with the UP that in the first instance the advice from the IC should NOT be binding but in the case that the Ministers of Parliament do not act on the advice, it should after a specific period of time become binding.
I also agree with MP Sarah Wescott-Williams that an Integrity Committee HAS TO be established. If you listen MP Christopher Emmanuel and MP Silveria Jacobs, they do not see the Committee as being necessary as they feel that the current High Councils of State should suffice in controlling Government decisions. In practice this is however not the case, Government continuously does whatever it wants with decisions and especially with the Government owned companies and other semi-private organizations.
Article 21 clearly states that the IC before making any advice has to first do a preliminary investigation and in this preliminary investigation they will check a. the validity of the complaint, the truthfulness and the position of the whistle blower; b. The professionalism, consistency, completeness, independence and impartiality of the investigation; c. the proportionality and substance of the investigation and the procedures and methods used; d. The way external experts can be used if the knowledge does not exist in the IC. So there is a specific process that needs to be followed, a witch hunt is very difficult if these rules are followed.
Article 22 states that once the investigation is complete the IC has to report to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister then reports to the Governor. The report is then published in the ‘Landscourant’. Again this is a normal process and the ghost stories about the IC making ‘decisions’ that cannot be viewed or challenged is just wrong.
Article 23 establishes the secrecy of the investigation which protects those being investigated in case nothing is found that they are not wrongly affected by being investigated.
Article 24 is to me a strange article because even though the advice of the IC is binding, the Council of Ministers have 4 weeks to respond as to how they will remedy the situation. Sub 2 of this article states that if the COM disagrees with the advice they have to motivate this in writing within the 4 weeks.
In conclusion, I must say that with the small changes I mentioned above had I been a Member of Parliament I would have to vote for this motion. Maybe that is the difference here, maybe the MP’s feel that they will be investigated just for the fact that they are MP’s. Why would they feel this way? MP Christopher Emmanuel mentioned on the floor of Parliament that he hasn’t done anything so if this is the case I expect him to vote for the IC since if it remains this way, he has nothing to fear.
Who I think should definitely vote for an amended motion are the ones whose names come up in rumors of serious wrongdoings in the form of using their positions for personal benefit and the benefit of their friends and family. These MP’s should be the first to vote for the IC motion if they are doing nothing wrong. I would think they would want to clear their name. If these MP’s vote against this motion, we can only assume that there is something they are hiding. At least that is what I will be thinking.

Kendall Dupersoy

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 June 2015 19:58 )

The Grassroots Movement - which one ?

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Ever since the failure of a certain group to outright claim the name known for years as the St. Martin Grassroots People Movement, as well as its work, they have presented themselves under the 'sound-alike' name of some other so-called Grassroots Movement.

While time will tell how unwise this action has been and that most people recognize imposters when they hear them, let the following be known for the record nevertheless.

As clearly has been the intention of these 'copy-cats', the un-specified- and the deliberately loosely use of the name Grassroots Movement is causing a lot of confusion with those who are not aware of what led to this unfortunate situation.

Therefore, unless clear reference is made by anyone to our - officially registered - name on both sides of the island - the St. Martin Grassroots People Movement - for sure they will not be referring to us.

In addition - in such event, we will not feel called, nor obliged to respond to any criticism, allegations, or any negative publicity.

In ending - those who feel - that because of their actions, the St. Martin Grassroots People Movement has been silenced, and/or even destroyed - keeping at least one eye wide open, while asleep - might be advice well taken.

In the meantime, anyone, who enjoys the works of others without giving due recognition - as if such were of their own creativity – should be aware that they are conducting a low act called plagiarism.

Plagiarism clearly is an expression of a lack of creative-intelligence, dishonesty and comes at a price - always.

We will be following the developments and reactions to this letter with great interest.

 

Drs. Leopold James, president and founder of the original St. Martin Grassroots people Movement.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 09 April 2015 14:32 )

It’s Time for Us to Build Our Nation Not Tear it Down!

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Dear Editor/Publisher,

"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." This powerful quote has been attributed to Albert Einstein and forms the basis for my letter today.

Why is this quote pivotal to my letter? As a former journalist who minored in Mass Communication at the University of Tampa twenty years ago, it has become extremely sad for me to see the state of our deteriorating press on St. Maarten as it pertains to fairness, accuracy and content from all forms of media, with particular emphasis today on our print media. Having been on the receiving end of that bias more times than I care to think about, Victorious Living has decided to address this issue head on, not only in addressing the blatant bias of our print media but also the poor journalistic ethics that in particular the Today sometimes exhibits.

As we have looked at the trends over the years, it appears as if the emphasis is more on sensationalism; the macabre, gloom and doom than the things that would seek to empower and uplift the people of this nation. For the interest of time and space, I'd like to first address the most recent biased and inaccurate reporting from the Today Newspaper of Friday March 20th. In this seemingly vindictive and judgmental piece of writing, the writer seems to have gone on a witch hunt to find every reason to turn a perfectly empowering press release which focused on building the leadership capacity of our nation and highlighting one of our young local heroines for taking a stand against pedophilia, to make the initiative of hosting Leadercast seem as the most conniving effort.

What is sadder is that the writer of this article in the Today Newspaper did all types of investigative reporting to determine the cost of a Leadercast license and then went on to express that as a foundation, Victorious Living, a non-profit organization is overcharging. Unfortunately, not once did the Today Newspaper inquire about the event from Victorious Living whose mission is to empower, enlighten, enrich and reconcile the lives of people to our Creator and each other.

Today did not ask any relevant or investigative questions of VLF as a true journalist who has no agendas would have done. The Today did not consider the fact that Victorious Living has been empowering hundreds of families, young people and individuals in St. Martin and beyond for thirteen years and does not rely upon Government subsidy. Rather, VLF utilizes Leadercast as an empowerment tool and a fundraiser to be able to offer our community much needed emotional and life empowerment support.

The American Press Institute states: "...Merely engaging in journalistic-like activity – snapping a cell-phone picture at the scene of a fire or creating a blog site for news and comment – does not by itself produce a journalistic product. Though it can and sometimes does, there is a distinction between the act of journalism and the end result. The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds."

Sadly, the Today Newspaper did not see it fit to contact the source of the press release in addition to his other sources to provide a story that was for the public good. He announces costs of the event; but does not inquire about the cost for the food at the event, the sound; the venue; permit and all other costs to be factored in, in addition to raising funds so that the work of the foundation continues to transform the lives of hundreds of people.

The American Press Institute's research-based online document, Journalism Essentials, states: "Journalism is our modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate society. As with any map, its value depends on a completeness and proportionality in which the significant is given greater visibility than the trivial. Keeping news in proportion is a cornerstone of truthfulness. Inflating events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping, or being disproportionately negative all make a less reliable map."

Last year for Leadercast 2014 the Today newspaper took another cheap shot at the event; which I only responded to in a private e-mail to Mr. Haar concerning the sordid and inaccurate reporting that was done. This time around, we could not be silent, because over the past five to seven years, we have watched in amazement at the biased and unethical reporting conducted by the Today and other media at strategic times which make us wonder if the intent of the paper is to only destroy the moral fiber of this community.

If that is the case, as a people, and a citizenry, St. Martiners should not allow themselves to be held hostage by persons who do not have St. Martin at heart. It is therefore time for change. It is time for the media to police itself; it is time for us to uphold fairness, truth, justice and the overall good of our society. We therefore request the Today newspaper to retract its very defamatory spin on Victorious Living's recent press release and reprint it fairly.

To the entire community of St. Martin, we need leaders who are worth following. That leadership is also necessary in our media. We must demand a higher caliber of journalism in our print and mass media than we are currently getting. Victorious Living is about empowering others as we are empowered to impact the lives of people positively. As the visionary of Victorious Living I want to remind each citizen as Martin Luther King once said: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." It is time to take a courageous stand for the truth and justice in our land, regardless of the costs!

Sincerely,
N. Erna Mae Francis-Cotton, MA, DD
Visionary, Victorious Living Foundation

Last Updated ( Monday, 13 April 2015 19:52 )