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Fire destroys cricket commentary booth

page1a275CUL DE SAC--A fire of unknown origin destroyed the commentary booth at Caribe Lumber Ballpark last night. The fire destroyed the outer part of the booth and only an unusable skeleton of the booth was left standing after the blaze had been extinguished by the Fire Department.

The commentary booth was a two-storey building. The lower flat was used for storage while the upper flat was used to broadcast mainly first class matches via radio. The fire started in the lower flat, but its origin has not yet been ascertained.

An eyewitness who was one of the persons who called the fire truck told The Daily Herald he had made the call when the fire was in the first flat of the building. According to him, the structure could have been saved if the Fire Department response had been better. He said the fire truck had arrived "about 45 minutes" after he made the first call to the department.

He stated that a pickup truck had come first with firemen who were taking pictures of the burning building and then two fire trucks had came with more firemen and started pouring water on the blazing building. The firemen took more than an hour to extinguish the fire completely.

A release from a Cricket St. Maarten official stated, "Cricket St. Maarten has suffered a great loss with the destruction by fire of the commentary booth. This booth is one of the many facilities that are used on the ground to serve cricket lovers. Cricket St. Maarten is fully committed to serving the island in the sport fraternity and is confident that this setback will not deter such a course."

The fire will not hamper the current cricket tournament, as the field is fully operational. MNO Spartanz will take on Winair Conquerors on Saturday from 1:00pm and KFC Twisters do battle against A&A Supply on Sunday from 10:00am.

Balborda to consider St. Maarten’s request

PHILIPSBURG--Shareholder Representative for United Telecommunication Services (UTS) Minister Dennis Richardson said his counterpart, Curaçao Minister Earl Balborda indicated that he would "take into consideration," St. Maarten's request to swap its shares in the company for control of UTS Eastern Caribbean.

Richardson told The Daily Herald on Tuesday that Balborda indicated that the request would be taken into consideration, but he needed more time to look into the plus and minuses of the matter. Balborda indicated this during the general shareholders' meeting held in St. Maarten last week.

Richardson had sent a letter to Balborda in which the government of St. Maarten expressed its preference to swap its shares in the company for control of UTS Eastern Caribbean. Presumably UTS will then be merged with the TelEm Group of Companies, forming a new telecom entity with operations in multiple territories. Richardson also confirmed that a Letter of Intent (LOI) had been signed between UTS and TelEm to examine the possibility of a partnership.

Richardson said as the Shareholder Representative of UTS, he made the proposal to swap shares as he felt that it would be in the best interest of UTS and the TelEm Group of Companies in St. Maarten. Alluding to the financial challenges that UTS has been encountering in Curaçao, he said using the St. Maarten operation as a cash cow is preventing the local UTS operations from moving forward.

Investments are needed for the company to remain competitive and for it to maintain its position in the industry. Some of the investments needed in St. Maarten, he added, would offer the possibility for TelEm and UTS to merge and form a partnership creating one solid company. Richardson said this was his "vision."

He said St. Maarten cannot wait indefinitely for an answer from Curaçao. "In this regard, St. Maarten will have to move forward at a certain point and take decisions," he said.

In the meantime, The Extra Newspaper had reported last week that the UTS board had been against exchanging the company's lucrative operations in the Eastern Caribbean for the shares of St. Maarten as proposed by St. Maarten. According to Extra, Balborda was supposedly asked to hold off on the matter.

In the meantime, Richardson had indicated in his letter to Curaçao that St. Maarten ultimately would want a decision by April 30. If a decision is reached by that time, the letter reportedly mentions a period of no more than six months for a company split to be finalised. Moreover, it is reported that St. Maarten still would want to maintain a working relationship with UTS Curaçao under the new company in the Eastern Caribbean.

The government of St. Maarten, which controls 12,5 per cent of the entire UTS operation, is reportedly also willing to pay the difference, if necessary, once a valuation of the shares is executed. A committee would be established to guide the process.

St. Maarten wants to position itself to merge the TelEm Group of Companies with UTS Eastern Caribbean eventually, once under St. Maarten's control. With UTS Eastern Caribbean in St. Maarten's control, such a merger would eliminate political and other bottlenecks with Curaçao. UTS Eastern Caribbean consists of telecom operations in St. Maarten, Saba, Statia, French St. Martin, St. Kitts and Nevis.

Letter of Intent signed between TelEm, UTS

~ To examine partnership possibilities ~

PHILIPSBURG--A Letter of Intent (LOI) has been signed between TelEm Group of Companies and United Telecommunications Services (UTS) to examine the possibilities of a partnership between the two companies.

St. Maarten's Shareholder Representative for UTS Minister Dennis Richardson on Tuesday confirmed that an LOI had been signed, but directed this newspaper to TelEm official Helma Etnel, who signed on behalf of TelEm, for details of the agreement.

Etnel could not be reached for comment. TelEm's Corporate Communications Officer Joe Dominique said the company was unable to respond to this newspaper's questions on the matter.

"In accordance with a confidentiality agreement entered into by TelEm Group, we are unable to respond to the questions posed by The Daily Herald regarding a possible Letter of Intent signed between TelEm Group and UTS," Dominique said in a written response to The Daily Herald's questions on the LOI.

"We can state, however, that a meeting is scheduled for this coming Thursday with the union representing TelEm Group workers during which an update on continued partnering negotiations will be given, followed by an internal update to all personnel," he added.

Youth MPs trained by top debate expert

page3c274PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Youth Members of Parliament (YMPs) got somewhat of an advantage for the upcoming Kingdom Youth Parliament (KYP) when they received a two-hour interactive training on Tuesday, from top Dutch debate expert and KYP debate leader Roderik van Grieken.

The debate leader has only met with the Netherlands KYP team prior to meeting the St. Maarten team. He will not meet with the KYP teams from Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius.

Van Grieken was in St. Maarten for general preparation for the three days of youth debate in May. Former Queen, Princess Beatrix will be the guest of honour at the debate which forms part of the celebration of 200 years of the Dutch Kingdom.

Van Grieken told the youngsters that debate is a healthy way to spread ideas and ideas facing tough opposition are good for the proponents. The goal in political debate, the debate leader said, is not to convince the opposition but to get the support of the public.

KYP members from all teams will be mixed together over the three days of debate so at no time there will be a St. Maarten team confronting one of the six other teams. On each day of debate, the 50 YMPs will be split into three groups of about 17 YMPs to serve as proponents, opponents and judges. This setup will ensure that each YMP serves in all three roles and participates in two debates: one as proponent and another as opposition.

The practice session in Parliament House included a mock debate on the topic: "In the Kingdom, everyone should speak Dutch." The mock session was aimed at refining the skills of the debaters.

KYP Chairman Trumane Trotman, currently a student in the United States, was at home specially to be part of the training session. Trotman's St. Maarten teammates are Ember Samuel, Mhakeda Shillingford, Iris Hakkens, Dwayne Griffins, Daniella Maccow, Antoinette Joseph-Philips, Hailey Greaux, Murielle Jean-Michel and Shanna Vasilda.

The training session was also attended by St. Maarten Coach Franklyn Richards, Debate Project Leader Ron van der Veer and St. Maarten Youth Council Director Connie Francis-Gumbs.

Local Carnival legend Calypso Barbara dies

page1b273PHILIPSBURG--Local calypso legend Barbara Althea Nesbitt, better known on the island as Calypso Barbara, passed away in the morning of April 7.

Calypso Barbara was born on July 2, 1940, and had been ill for some time. She was a talented musician, singer and songwriter who had been involved in local Carnival celebrations for decades and was particularly involved in Youth Carnival programmes.

She supported local children who wished to participate in the musical side of the celebrations, teaching them music, song-writing, and even sewing their costumes, and up until last year she was herself a regular contestant in the Senior Calypso Competition.

Calypso Barbara was given homage by St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) President Michael Granger during Saturday night's Calypso Elimination and Junior Calypso and Road March Competition as an icon of the Youth Musical Carnival scene. Granger mentioned on that night that she was in poor health and could not be present to watch the performances, but that they were her legacy.

In an invited comment, Granger said: "The SCDF for weeks has been planning a tribute to Barbara. We are saddened by this news. We paid homage to her on Saturday night during a show she helped to develop in Carnival, the Junior Calypso Competition, and will do so again in the Calypso Finals on April 28. Her contribution to Carnival and calypso in St. Maarten will always be valued. We extend condolences to her family and friends and fans around the world."

Calypsonian Mighty Dow was saddened by the news. "Barbara was part of the lyrical content of my song "What's going on?" in 2005. My memories of that time were that she had the lyrics and she was hunting me down to come and listen. I did, I took them home and the next day I contacted her. I said, 'I love the lyrics, but I want to use my own melody.' At first she wasn't happy, but I said, 'Don't worry.' She said, 'Okay, no problem, I love my melody' but she was happy I accepted the lyrics."

Mighty Dow went on to use the majority of the lyrics written by Calypso Barbara and won the Senior Calypso Competition that year, with "What's going on" being one of his two songs for the finals.

"Barbara came up to me and said, 'Boy, you knew what you were doing.' I paid her some money for the lyrics, and she said, 'Mr. Dow, you are a true man, this is the first time someone paid me for a song.' She was so happy about that."

Mighty Dow said Calypso Barbara had called him earlier this year to offer him some lyrics for this year's competition, but he had to turn her down as he was not competing this year. "She wanted her lyrics to be used in the competition," he said.

"I had a pretty good relationship with Barbara. She wasn't an easy person to deal with, but she is the one who started and pushed the Junior Calypso Competition for a number of years. She was put aside, this happened many years ago. It's not right; she should have at least been kept on as a consultant or something. It happens too often that someone starts something really good and is then put aside."

Calypso Barbara dedicated her skills and much of her time to children, particularly from the St. Peters and South Reward areas, to prepare them for talent shows and competitions, especially for Carnival events. Her work over the decades will never be forgotten by Carnival enthusiasts in St. Maarten.

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