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Hanson: ‘Transmit values, morals to your children’

MARIGOT--"School is for instruction, but education starts at home."

Those were the words of President of the Territorial Council Aline Hanson in her address at a low-key Sandy Ground Fête on Friday as she unsurprisingly focused on the youth in a district close to her heart for over two decades.

Noting that she is due to retire in September as principal of the Sandy Ground Elementary School after 23 years, Hanson said she was concerned about road safety and the "extremely worrying death toll" among the youth since the beginning of the year.

"I would like the young people and the parents to pay keen attention to this issue where consequences can be tragic. Sandy Ground must not become an area where anything and everything goes. It's the responsibility of all – the Collectivité, the state, associations and parents – that road safety messages and security issues be heard and respected by all.

"I call on parents to be responsible in educating their children, to transmit to them morals and values, and to help the youth live peacefully in Sandy Ground. Parents, your mission starts at home to make your children develop good habits. Don't think that school can do this. School is to give instruction, but education must be transmitted by you. If you don't do it, then who will? Delinquency starts when children have no values, no limits and no respect for authority. Only the parents can instil the right values."

Hanson thanked Sandy Ground representative Georges Richardson and association Sandy Ground on the Move Insertion for the work they have accomplished with the youth. She also thanked associations Butterfinger, Fireball, SOS Enfants des Iles du Nord, the Cultural Center, Sunlight Revellers and other groups and volunteers.

"It's not the Collectivité or the state or the district council who can accomplish things here alone in Sandy Ground, but only with a joint effort by everyone."

She said work is continuing in the regularisation of land issues in Sandy Ground – work that is complex, but that is progressing "slowly but surely."

Other speakers included Georges Richardson and Préfet Philippe Chopin, who agreed "the image of Sandy Ground must change." He acknowledged the good work of many associations and called for more collaboration. State incentive schemes such as "Contrats d'Avenir" are helping the youth get onto the employment ladder, he noted, and disclosed that he has asked the Economic Council to compile a report on the youth.

The official part of the programme was held in the Sandy Ground Cultural Center. Earlier, members of the Territorial Council attended a service in the Apostolic Faith Church conducted by Pastors Hodge and Rawlins. Among the elected officials were former Mayor Albert Fleming and President of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council Georges Gumbs.

The speeches ended with a traditional champagne toast. There was no parade, but activities and live music were on the programme for the rest of the day.

Experimental chikungunya vaccine shows some promise

~ In human trial ~

WASHINGTON D.C.--An experimental vaccine being developed by US government scientists to prevent the painful mosquito-borne viral disease chikungunya has shown promise in its first human trials, but remains years away from approval for widespread use.

In a study published on Thursday in the Lancet medical journal, National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists said the vaccine elicited an impressive immune response in all 25 adult volunteers who took part, and caused no worrisome side effects.

"We believe it is a highly promising vaccine given how well tolerated it was and how robust the immune responses were," said the leader of the study, Dr. Julie Ledgerwood of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Infection with the virus, spread by two mosquito species, typically is not fatal, but can cause debilitating symptoms including fever, headache and severe joint pain lasting weeks or months. There is no current treatment and no licensed vaccine to prevent it.

It showed up for the first time in the Americas late last year. In the US, locally transmitted infections – as opposed to infections in Americans travelling abroad – have been reported for the first time this year.

The early-stage clinical trial involved 25 healthy American volunteers ages 18 to 50, who were given one of three dosage levels of the vaccine in three injections over a 20-week period.

The volunteers were not exposed to the chikungunya virus, but their immune response was measured in the form of neutralising antibodies – proteins produced by a special type of white blood cell that defends a person from an invading virus. An immune response was seen in most of the volunteers after the first vaccination.

Following the second, all exhibited high levels of antibodies. There also was a significant increase in antibodies after the third injection. The antibodies lasted a long time and were present in all of the volunteers six months following their final shot. This was a so-called Phase I trial testing the safety of a vaccine and looking at dosage ranges. Before securing regulatory approval, the vaccine would need to go through a Phase II trial using a larger group of people to test potential effectiveness and further evaluate safety. Next would be a Phase III trial with large numbers of people to confirm effectiveness and safety.

The vaccine already was shown to protect rhesus monkeys from chikungunya. "A Phase II trial likely would take several more years, both for the production of vaccine as well as development and completion of the trial," Ledgerwood said.

Ledgerwood said the NIH needs to work with private organisations or industry partners to move forward. "At least one such potential partner is interested," she added, without saying who it was. "For most vaccines, development takes decades. We don't think it should take that long for this vaccine."

Vaccines often are made from killed viruses or weakened live viruses. This one is different. It is a virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine similar to the type used against human papillomavirus (HPV).

Judge Van de Ven to return to Netherlands

PHILIPSBURG--Koos van de Ven will be laying down his duties as a criminal judge at the Court of First Instance, as per October 1. Van de Ven will be returning to the Netherlands to resume his position as a judge at the Court of Amsterdam, the Joint Court of Justice stated Friday.

Van de Ven started his job in St. Maarten on August 1, 2013, on a three-year contract.

The Court regretted Van de Ven's departure, the Joint Court said in a brief statement.

The Joint Court said it respected Van de Ven's choice and wished him much success with his future career in the Netherlands.

It was not stated why Van de Ven had decided to return to the Netherlands after only a year.

As of October 1, Van de Ven's duties as a criminal judge will be temporarily taken over by Judge Rick Smid, for a three-month period.

Smid is well-known in St. Maarten and has worked previously at the Court of First Instance for longer periods of time. He presided over the trials in 2012 in the so-called Vesuvius case.

The selection procedure for the appointment of a new judge as per January 1, 2015, has already started, the Court stated.

Coast Guard ceremony as Poema changes command

SIMPSON BAY--Sadness and joy were the two keywords at a Coast Guard ceremony yesterday as Commander of the Poema Aart-Henk Goossens said goodbye to the Coast Guard and St. Maarten, and new commander Humberto Alberts was welcomed.

The event, which took place in front of the brightly decorated Poema, was attended by various dignitaries including President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell and Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson. It was a memorable event, not only because the command passed from a Netherlands Royal Naval officer to a Coast Guard officer, but it also passed from a Dutchman to a local man.

Commander of the Netherlands Defence Forces in the Caribbean Hans Lodder, who recently took over from Commander Swijgman, had come from Curaçao to be present at the ceremony. He said it was an honour to be present as the new commander of the Coast Guard on this special occasion.

He reminisced that, historically, when a command was handed over, the old commander would sit in a comfortable chair, whereas the old commander would be made to sit on a wooden chair. This was symbolic of the fact that the old commander had already proven himself.

He spoke about Goossens, with whom he had worked before during Goossens' first introduction on a ship, as well as during a mission regarding Somali pirates. "Having command of a cutter is one of the most beautiful jobs one can do," he said.

Speaking of Alberts and the concept of the two chairs, he said that Alberts did not have to sit on an old chair, as to a certain extent, he had already proven himself and had already been commander of another cutter, the Panter.

He reminded Alberts of the big responsibility that he would shoulder 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for his ship and his crew, and told him to "enjoy the fact that this beautiful yacht will be yours."

Goossens spoke about how he came to the island just over two years ago, to an unknown organisation and an unknown island. He expressed regret in having to say goodbye at the end of his posting.

He told of his experiences during his posting, including various international exercises, mapping out an oil leak off St. Eustatius, taking part in the Hurex and the successful Coast Guard Open Day. He mentioned the cooperation with partners of the Coast Guard, particularly a team-building exercise with detectives, during which Goossens decided to check out the bottom of the ship underwater and found one of the rudders to be missing.

"This wasn't the first time, we had lost a rudder before. On another occasion, we lost our anchor chain." The same day, a new anchor with a 100m chain was delivered, and all Coast Guard officers delivered impressive teamwork to get the new anchor installed on the Poema."

Goossens praised the hard work and capabilities of the Coast Guard officer, before handing out two certificates of merit to Coast Guard officers, and a plaque for the Poema.

He thanked his fiancée, Jasmijn, who worked for the St. Maarten government during Goossens' posting, for the support she had given him during the posting. The couple will fly back to the Netherlands today.

Goossens then wished Alberts good luck and a lot of fun, before officially terminating his command of the Poema.

Alberts, in his speech, rejoiced in the fact that, after two years, he was back home. He started with the Coast Guard in St. Maarten in 2003 as commander of a small unit. He reminisced about the supportive welcome he received.

He started working on the Poema in 2006, but it wasn't until two years ago that he started training for his job as commander of a Coast Guard cutter, "maybe the best job in existence," he said. For the last year, Alberts was commander of the Panter in Aruba.

Alberts promised his new crew 100 per cent commitment. "Together, we will work hard," he said. He also wished Goossens much success for the future, before officially accepting command of the Poema.

After the official part of the ceremony, a small farewell party had been organised where all guests were invited for a drink and some snacks. The camaraderie of the Coast Guard and its extended family became clear once again during the event, with outgoing Coast Guard Commander Eddie Kirindongo and his Coast Guard family raising a drink and wishing the best of luck to both Goossens and Alberts.

Large cross section of community bids farewell to Patricia Pantophlet

PHILIPSBURG--A large number of persons from the community bade farewell to veteran trade unionist Patricia Pantophlet, who was laid to rest during a ceremony at the Philipsburg Methodist Church, where she was a congressional steward, on Friday.

Pantophlet (57) passed away in Bogota, Colombia, on Friday, August 1, after a period of illness. She had been a very vocal trade union leader who championed the rights of workers in St. Maarten for many years. She had been battling lupus for some time. She fell ill and was airlifted to Colombia on July 10.

Pantophlet was also a member of the Alzheimer's Foundation, former member of the advisory body on matters related to civil servants GOA, a member of the Philipsburg Methodist Church and member of the Pantophlet Villas Foundation, which had been close to her heart as many students received assistance via the foundation.

She worked as a dismissal and complaints officer at the Labour Affairs Department for 38 years. She also was the first president of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions (WICLU). The Labour Department closed on Friday so that her former colleagues could attend her funeral services.

She was also a Titular member of Public Service International (PSI) and was fondly referred to as one of the "Power Puff Girls" along with Elshot for their efforts in the labour field.

Pantophlet was the sister of National Alliance (NA) number-two candidate Member of Parliament George Pantophlet. She has received glowing remarks from many persons who knew her and was described by several persons including National Alliance leader William Marlin and Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) President Claire Elshot as the voice of the voiceless.

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