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2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The official start of the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane season is a few days away. How prepared are you? June 1st officially marks the beginning of the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which will run until November 30. Based on long-term averages, in an average season, there are about fourteen (14) named storms; seven (7) become hurricanes, of which three (3) are usually major hurricanes (with wind 111mph or higher). This year all institutions have issued their predictions for a hyperactive season. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an 85% chance that the upcoming season will be above normal.

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The above normal activity, predicted this year, is attributed to the following main factors:

Near record warm temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. Warm ocean waters are a source of fuel for hurricanes and storms.
The development of La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean by the season's peak (Aug to Oct). La Nina reduces upper-level winds across the Caribbean, favoring the formation and intensification of Atlantic hurricanes.
In addition to the prediction of a hyperactive hurricane season, an extreme heat season (June – Oct) is also forecasted for the Caribbean region. Hotter than usual temperatures for June to August as well as intense night-time and daytime heat with increasing humidity from through September. Heat events are expected to become more frequent, more extreme, and longer in duration globally. Therefore, we need to understand how heat impacts human health and what we can do to prevent impacts. Please note that no matter how many tropical cyclones are forecast to develop, there is no way to predict so many weeks or months in advance where a certain tropical cyclone is expected to develop or what country it will make landfall. Remember that it takes only one major hurricane to make landfall on our island, which makes it an active season for us. We must also be conscious of the fact that, it does not have to be a storm or a hurricane, an active tropical wave or just 2 to 3 hours of heavy rainfall can have devastating impacts on our lives. The geographical location of our islands makes us vulnerable to these forms of natural disasters; consequently, being prepared and well-informed is key. As we begin yet another hurricane season, let us learn from our past experiences and do all in our power to prepare adequately and to seek credible information in order to make timely decisions that will protect life and property. The Meteorological Department St. Maarten (MDS) will monitor the development of all tropical systems closely and will issue watches or warnings when it becomes necessary using various communication mediums: radio, newspaper, its website (www. Meteo.com), and Facebook (www.facebook.com/sxmweather). You can also subscribe to our WhatsApp Community Groups for alerts.
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2023 Income Tax Forms Due in One Week.

~ Submit 2023 Income Tax Return Forms by May 31 Deadline ~

PHILIPSBURG;--- The Inspectorate of Taxes would like to remind the general public that the deadline for submitting your 2023 Income Tax Return Form is Friday, May 31, 2024. Submissions must be made at the Tax Administration Office, located in the Vineyard Building, during office hours from Monday to Friday, between 8 AM and 2 PM.

To access the 2023 Income Tax Return Forms A & B and view the list of required documents, please visit www.tax.sx, under the Documents tab. The forms are also available on the Government of Sint Maarten website and via the online services of the Government at onlineservices.sintmaartengov.org.

Throughout May, seniors/pensioners can receive assistance exclusively at the Tax Administration Office by appointment only. To qualify for assistance, seniors/pensioners must earn a maximum of Naf 15,000.00 per year and should bring all required documents, such as a wage tax card, interest letter, etc., to their appointment. To schedule an appointment, please contact the Tax Administration via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 542-2143 / 542-5301 / 542-5304 / 542-3839.

Please note that the 2023 Income Tax Return cannot be submitted online or via email. Tax Return Forms must be submitted in person at the front office of the Tax Administration Office. Upon submission, please remember to bring a copy of the form for stamping as a receipt. Requests for extensions must be submitted before the deadline of Friday, May 31, 2024, along with a valid reason. Additionally, spouses are reminded to jointly submit one tax form.

If you have any questions or require further assistance, please email the Sint Maarten Tax Administration at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Ombudsman concludes investigation regarding garage disturbance.

PHILIPSBURG:--- Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel recently concluded an investigation regarding an objection filed on behalf of the residents of Cole Bay against the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) issuing a hindrance permit to a garage operating nearby of their homes.

The investigation concluded that the ministry failed to execute the following tasks:

  1. The ministry failed to provide the Complainant with a response to her objection;
  2. Adhere to the procedures stipulated in the hindrance National Ordinance (‘Hinderverordening’);
  3. Conduct a fair and transparent investigation;
  4. Execute enforcement measures.

Besides publishing the hinderance permit request in the local newspaper, no other procedures required by law for issuing a hinderance permit were followed, and no enforcement measures were taken by the ministry despite the absence of the required permits.

Based on inter-ministerial meetings held with the Ministry of TEATT, Justice, and VROMI, it became apparent that there is a need to urgently address several structural issues that may hamper enforcement in the short and long term.  The lack of a comprehensive zoning policy coupled with the lack of communication, cooperation, and sharing of information between these Ministries and departments enables businesses to operate without the proper business license, hindrance permit, and/or a building permit. During the meetings held, it was also observed that the Inspectorates of both ministries are limited in the extent to which they can execute enforcement measures.

The Ombudsman also reviewed the procedures applied during an inspection that was carried out by the Ministry of VROMI in August 2022 (approximately 1 year and 7 months later) in reaction to the request for enforcement submitted in January 2021. The review determined that the inspection had been executed in an inept manner. It was revealed that prior to an inspection the ministry would contact alleged offenders and set a specific time and date for inspections to take place, which in turn limits the capacity of the Inspectorate to accurately/effectively assess whether an individual or organization is/was violating the law. The failure to properly document its findings and carry out follow-up inspections to support its conclusion in this case was also a matter of concern.

Despite the Complainant having filed the objection, there was little to no interaction between the Complainant and the Inspectorate. At no point was the Complainant contacted to provide additional information to substantiate the objection.

As it pertains to the standards of good governance, the Ombudsman concluded that the standards of adequate organization of services, promptness, fair play, and cooperation were violated. To date, since the final report was issued, no decision has been provided to the objection filed.

Considering the investigation and findings, the Ombudsman made the following recommendations:

 

  • - Execute enforcement measures in accordance with the ‘beginselplicht tot handhaving’ (principle obligation to enforce: this compels the ministries to carry out enforcement measures once a violation has been established or detected) and the national ordinance;
  • - Provide Complainant with a decision to her objection within 1 month of this report;
  • - Execute joint controls based on complaints received regarding hindrances that negatively affect the general public;
  • - Ensure cooperation between the Ministries of VROMI and TEATT to ensure that business licenses, building permits and hinderance permits are issued in accordance with the law and existing policies;
  • - Ensure proper execution of the ‘Hinderverordening’ (e.g. informing those persons, within the legal parameters, by means of a notification at their address of the establishment of a business and its potential activities);
  • - The current system used to respond to incoming objections, letters, requests and grievance should be thoroughly reviewed to address existing bottlenecks;
  • - Provide the Ombudsman with an update on the status of the finalization of the fine book;
  • - Provide the Ombudsman with an update regarding the completion of the zoning policy.

The Ministry of VROMI has been requested to provide a status report on the recommendations by

31 July 2024. The entire report can be found on the Ombudsman’s website: www.ombudsman.sx.

St. Maarten Little League Association 2024 Challenger Jamboree.

The St. Maarten Little League Association is pleased to announce that Social & Health Insurance (SZV) has partnered with us to host the 3•• Annual Challenger Jamboree on Saturday, June 15, 2024. The Challenger Jamboree is a fun softball game for those with different (physical or intellectual) disabilities.
We are partnering with institutions such as Sister Basilia Center, Prins Willem Alexander School, and 721 Kids Foundation, as they regularly care for qualified persons to participate in the games. There is room for more athletes, so we are encouraging families from the wider community to register their loved ones if they form part of this group of special people. The registration deadline is June 7th, as final preparations are being made for printing the lime green T-shirts for each participating athlete.
Volunteer buddies will be on hand to assist the special athletes as they bat, run, catch, and have a great time. Thanks in advance to organizations such as the Fire Department and the St. Maarten Police Force for their continuous support of this annual event.

'The Challenger Jamboree softball game is a unique and important event fostering more inclusivity within our community. SZV is honored to join the St. Maarten Little League Association in hosting this year's game. It is our wish that as many persons in
our community come out on June 15 to cheer on the athletes during this special event."
- Charonne Holder, SZV Manager Corporate Communications

The general public is invited to come out to support our special athletes on Saturday, June 15. The games will be held at the Erwin "Baca" Richardson Little League Stadium from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The day of fun will commence at 9:00 a.m. with an opening ceremony, and the games will start immediately after. Lunch will be served to all participants to close off the day.
Anyone wishing to register an athlete, volunteer, or learn more about the event can contact the St. Maarten Little League Association at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call
+1721 523-0B50 I +1721 556-1779. Monetary or in-kind donations for refreshments are welcome.

Come on, St. Maarten. Bring out your families and friends, and let us collectively show support for our athletes. Food, drinks, and music will be on sale, so there is no excuse for you not to attend!

Ottley sends letter to CoM demanding transparency on GEBE Power Outages.

omarottley06052024PHILIPSBURG:--- The Honourable Omar E.C. Ottley, Leader of the United People's Party (UPP) and Member of Parliament, is calling for urgent transparency and information from the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister Dr Luc Mercelina regarding the increased power outages at NV GEBE.
Since February 2024, operational difficulties have escalated, leading to severe load shedding. Areas such as Dutch Quarter, Middle Region, Sucker Garden, Guana Bay, Dawn Beach, St. Peters, and Philipsburg are experiencing power outages up to three times daily, sometimes lasting up to three hours. These outages disrupt residents' daily lives, hinder economic activities, and erode trust in public institutions. "While some would want to blame the employees of NV GEBE for the present situation, we have to be better at speaking to the people who do the actual work daily. Ask them their opinion on what the best possible action should be. Some employees have been there since before 2005 when Wartsila commissioned the 1a 16 MW power plant extension to increase power supply to St. Maarten, costing over US$15 million. Ignoring them and their wealth of knowledge in a dictatorlike fashion is not the way to solve the problem for everyone. Let us not forget these GEBE employees and their families are being affected, so they too want a solution and need answers from the Prime Minister," said MP Ottley.
On March 7, 2024, MP Ottley and fellow UPP Parliamentarians Akeem E. Arrindell and Francisco A. Lacroes formally requested an urgent parliamentary meeting to address these escalating outages. To date, Chairlady of Parliament Sarah Wescott-Williams has not convened this critical meeting, which raises the question of whether she is protecting the two-by-four Government of which her Democratic Party is a part and the current Prime Minister, Dr Luc Mercelina, from scrutiny.
MP Ottley sent another letter raising concerns about the situation at NV GEBE on May 30, this time addressed to the Council of Ministers. The Honourable MP Ottley urges immediate transparency and communication regarding the ongoing power crisis. He said, "As the shareholder representatives of NV GEBE, the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers hold ultimate responsibility for resolving this crisis, and it has been five months, yet no clear plan as to how they will address the situation. "The blame game will not put lights on and keep electricity flowing in the people's houses. The Government must be open and honest with the people of St. Maarten about the situation," said MP Ottley. The letter outlined specific questions that need urgent answers. Amongst the questions posed to the CoM are concerns about whether they have identified the specific issues causing the increased power outage. MP Ottley asked, "What immediate measures are being implemented to mitigate these outages? Which plants are being overhauled or repaired? Does NV GEBE have the new engine(s) that have yet to be installed, and why?"
MP Ottley said he is also curious to learn whether the CoM has held an emergency Shareholders Meeting to find a short-term solution for the constant power outages and if they have even considered long-term solutions to "ensure a stable and reliable power supply for the island. He said an important concern is also the need for more communication. In his letter dated May 30, MP Ottley asked "What steps are being taken to improve communication with the public regarding power outages and the measures being taken to address them?"
He said, "The silence from the Council of Ministers and Prime Minister Dr Luc Mercelina over the past five months is unacceptable." While Dr. Mercelina is busy with photo ops of himself removing barricades at the Government Administration Building, he should be the pressing issue regarding NV GEBE's power outages. As Prime Minister, he is responsible for providing clear and actionable information to the public regarding the state of NV GEBE.
The people of St. Maarten deserve transparent and accountable leaders. The two by 4 Coalition Governments, led by Dr Mercelina, must step up and deliver real solutions to this crisis. The current situation is not just an inconvenience; it is a critical issue that impacts every aspect of life on our island.
MP Ottley has also reiterated the urgent need for Chairlady Sarah Wescott-Williams to convene the requested parliamentary meeting to address these concerns and bring much-needed answers to the people of St. Maarten. "The citizens need to know whether their Government can handle this situation and deliver results," said MP Ottley.
He stated that The United People's Party remains steadfast in its commitment to the well-being of all St. Maarteners. We call on the Council of Ministers to act swiftly and transparently, ensuring that the hardships faced by our citizens are alleviated and that a clear path to resolution is communicated.

 

 


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