Sunday, Oct 04th

You are here: Home

Gumbs stressed need for good relations during visit

page3a112THE HAGUE--St. Maarten Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs is satisfied with his first working visit to the Netherlands. “I got the message clearly across to the ministers that we want good relations and that the attitude of the Netherlands is not conducive to solid relations in the Kingdom.”

Gumbs’ main reason for paying an official visit to the Netherlands for the first time since his appointment in December 2014 was the invitation to attend final event of the 200th anniversary of the Dutch Kingdom which took place in Amsterdam on Saturday.

While in the Netherlands, Gumbs also made use of the opportunity to have a meeting with several of the Dutch Ministers, the Council of State and the Presidents of the First and Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.

“It was a good week with good meetings,” he told The Daily Herald on Saturday, one day before travelling on to New York where he will join the Kingdom delegation for the United Nations’ General Assembly.

Gumbs said that he had made clear from the moment the current government took office that St. Maarten wanted good relations with the Netherlands and the other partners in the Kingdom. However, the harsh attitude displayed by the Dutch Government towards St. Maarten, issuing instructions in the area of finances and integrity and bad talking the island, hasn’t contributed to solid relations.

The meetings with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk were described as positive. “I emphasized that I want better relations. I think we were able to clear up some things with Rutte. I want to work with the Kingdom I told him. I hope my message will help to improve the relations.”

The meeting with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders was of a different nature for the relations with this minister have been particularly well. “He recognizes the importance of having good relations within the Kingdom. How the Kingdom can contribute, for example, in lobbying for the Netherlands to attain a seat in the United Nations Security Council. We are working together as a Kingdom to secure this seat. He appreciates that level of working together,” said Gumbs.

In the meetings with the Presidents of the First and Second Chamber, Ankie Broekers-Knol and Anouchka van Miltenburg respectively, Gumbs brought up the Dispute Arrangement (Geschillenregeling) and the fact that this regulation has still not materialised despite the fact that the four Parliaments in the Kingdom have reached an agreement on this issue.

The Governments of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten support the wish of the four Parliaments as expressed at the last Inter-Parliamentary Consultation for the Kingdom IPKO. “However, there seems [to be – Ed.] little interest from the side of the Dutch Government to move forward on this,” he said.

The follow-up meeting to solve this matter, one of the decisions that were taken at the June 16 Kingdom Conference in Curaçao, never happened. The three Dutch Caribbean countries are now working on a draft document relating to the set-up of the Dispute Regulation. “We hope that this paper can serve as a basis for discussions in the Kingdom. It is urgent, because the longer it takes to set up this regulation, the more stress will build up in the Kingdom.”

Gumbs admitted that it had taken a while for him to pay a first working visit to the Netherlands. He said that things had been quite busy for the first months after the appointment of his government. He said that the Council of Ministers was now complete and that there was more time to invest in strengthening relations in the Kingdom as well as in the Caribbean.

Gumbs expressed special appreciation for the Cabinet of Minister Plenipotentiary Josiane Fleming-Artsen in The Hague. “I am impressed and I appreciate the load of work that they carry out with a small team.”

SNSM to be honoured by IMO for Gonzalo heroics

page4c112MARIGOT--French-side sea rescue service SNSM is to be presented with an honorary certificate by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in recognition of the bravery and sense of duty shown by the volunteer crew of lifeboat SNSM 129 in their efforts to save vessels and lives, in particular yacht Voyage II, during Hurricane Gonzalo on October 13, 2014.

The prestigious international distinction Prix de L’OMI for heroic acts at sea is one of only four certificates to be awarded worldwide by IMO in 2015. The awards ceremony takes place in London, England, on November 19.

Coxswain of SNSM 129 Jean-Claude van Rymenant has also been advised by Préfète Anne Laubies in a congratulatory note that he will be presented with the Ministry of the Interior Medal, bronze grade, in due course.

IMO’s citation recognises “the unrelenting efforts deployed in extreme conditions to save a couple and their baby on the yacht Voyage 11, which ended up on the rocks, and recognises that once that family was safe your efforts to save other occupants of beached vessels continued, even at the cost of losing SNSM 129 on the rocks.”

Letters of congratulation to SNSM St. Martin were sent by the President of SNSM headquarters in Paris, Xavier de la Gorce, Director of Centre Régional Operationel de Surveillance et de Sauvetage (CROSS) Antilles-Guiana Edouard Perrier, and Secretary Général de la Mer Michel Aymeric.

Recalling that fateful day last year, van Rymenant dismissed criticism that SNSM 129 should not have gone out.

   “We had seven volunteers on board and our boat withstood the weather very well with 800 horse power and big props,” he said. “We were still manoeuvrable even with over 65 knots of wind. We got the towing line very fast onto Voyage II, but the skipper took 20 minutes to attach it and at the same time he was trying to save his anchor. That caused us to end up on the rocks as well, but we did save the baby. I think we did the right thing. Rescues and saving lives, it’s what we do. “

Added President of SNSM St. Martin René-Jean Duret: “Saving a life at sea has no price. The cost is in the repairs, maintenance of the lifeboat and equipment. SNSM operates solely on donations and fundraisers; it’s why we need the public to donate generously. Help us to help you. One day it might be your life that needs rescuing.”

Van Rymenant disclosed that contrary to earlier decisions, SNSM will no longer take the lifeboat proposed to replace SNSM 129 because it was found to be older and less well equipped, but will instead take back “129” after the major repairs to it have been completed in France. SNSM 129 is due to be transferred to Pointe Blanche on Friday, to begin its journey to France.

Clear skies showcase heavenly marriage

page5e112POINT BLANCHE--Crystal clear skies sprinkled with sparkling stars provided the perfect background for the consummation of a heavenly marriage – a “Blood Moon” or “Supermoon” eclipse. This once-in-a-generation event will grace the skies again in 2033.

The silver disc of the “supermoon” was steadily blanketed by the reddish hue of earth’s shadow starting around 8:11pm. The total eclipse began at 10:11pm and peaked at 10:47pm. The total eclipse lasted about 72 minutes.

A “supermoon” is a full moon that appears larger than usual because it is at perigee, the closest point of its orbit around Earth. The Supermoon eclipse concurrence is relatively rare, having not happened since 1982.

Although some observers view an eclipse with fear, calling it a “blood moon,” for astronomers and stargazers the event is to be welcomed with celebration.

“It’s a beautiful sight in the night-time sky,” said Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. “It’s a way of connecting us to the universe at large. It gives us this view that there’s a bigger picture than just what we’re concerned with in our daily lives.”

The entire eclipse, from first shadow to last, was visible from most of the Americas, including the eastern half of the United States, Greenland, Western Europe, Western Africa North of the equator and parts of Antarctica. Other portions of the world, including Western North America, the rest of Europe and Africa and a swath of Western Asia, saw most of the drama, although they missed the first or fading bites of the moon.

Hammergren pointed out that these astronomical events link humanity to history. Humans have been watching the skies for thousands of years, creating mythology, arriving at scientific discoveries and simply taking pleasure in the movement of celestial bodies.

“Astronomy, in particular, is something that hooks us up to our most ancient roots,” he said.

For some, astronomy also provides clues to earthly futures – and this particular “blood moon,” as some end-times believers call the lunar eclipse for the reddish tint of the earth’s shadow, is revealing of particularly troubled times to come.

The eclipse is said to be the last of a “tetrad”: four consecutive total lunar eclipses, all separated by six lunar months, that took place on Jewish holidays. The first three in the current series took place April 15, 2014; October 8, 2014; and April 4, 2015.

Some Christian ministers have theorised that the sequence has earth-shaking significance, noting that other tetrads took place in key years in history, including 1492 (Jewish expulsion from Spain) and 1948 (a Mideast war).

In promotion for his 2013 book Four Blood Moons, Christian minister John Hagee claimed that the tetrad was a signal being sent by God.

“The coming four blood moons points to a world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015,” he said.

Mark Blitz, head of El Shaddai Ministries and the author of Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs, says God is trying to get humanity’s attention and we ignore it at our peril.

“There are always the naysayers and the agnostics when it comes to God trying to reach mankind in His urgent message to repent,” he told World News Daily, which has been charting the eclipse’s arrival with headlines such as “‘Blood Moons’ expert: Get on God’s calendar” and “Coming solar eclipse seen as ‘judgment.’”

“Here we have had four total lunar eclipses in a row on Passover and Tabernacles,” Blitz said. “And just look what is happening in the world today!”

Sceptics have pointed out that claims made of “blood moons” – a term that has arisen only in the past few years, Hammergren said – should be taken with at least a few grains of salt. After all, their coincidence with Jewish holidays is logical, as the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, and some tetrads’ occurrence in significant historical years is an example of confirmation bias: looking for connections that fit preconceived notions.

“Some people look at it as being a portent of doom. That is not uncommon,” said the Griffith Observatory’s Laura Danly. “But it really isn’t. It is the alignment of the sun and the moon.”

Hammergren said, “People have been predicting the end of the world for thousands of years in recorded history, and not a single time has that come about.”

Venezuela opposition leader Lopez jailed for nearly 14 years

rebelCARACAS Hardline Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was jailed on Thursday for nearly 14 years on charges of inciting 2014 anti-government protests that spiraled into violence killing more than 40 people.

The ruling enraged foes of socialist President Nicolas Maduro who say Lopez is an innocent scapegoat, but it brought cheers from grassroots government supporters who view the U.S.-educated activist as a dangerous conspirator.

After a marathon session at the heavily guarded Palace of Justice, judge Susana Barreiros ruled Lopez, 44, who was arrested in February last year, had masterminded the violence and street riots that erupted for three months.Though Lopez had publicly called for peaceful resistance to the Maduro government and was behind bars during most of the unrest, prosecutors said his speeches sent subliminal messages and constituted a call to violence.He was ordered to return to the Ramo Verde military jail to serve a sentence of 13 years and nine months.Lopez's case has become a cause celebre for opposition supporters over what they deem the Maduro government's trampling of human rights. The U.S. government, the United Nations and international rights groups had all called for Lopez's release."This is not only an attack on liberty and legality ... but also a provocation to the Venezuelan people," said Jesus Torrealba, leader of the opposition coalition which includes Lopez's Popular Will party.Some Lopez supporters banged pots and pans in upmarket areas of Caracas, a traditional form of protest in Venezuela. Others took to social media to vent their anger, hailing Lopez as a Venezuelan "Nelson Mandela."The sentence was a slap in the face for the United States, which had been pressing for his release during a quiet rapprochement with Venezuela over the last few months.U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said she was "deeply troubled" by the ruling.

rebel2Lopez has for years been one of the most prominent hardline figures in Venezuela's opposition. He was a successful and popular mayor of the Chacao district of Caracas until 2008.He is the scion of wealthy families and a direct descendant of the sister of Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar as well as of Venezuela's first president, Cristobal Mendoza.That blue blood creates barriers with the poor, and his confrontational style puts off some moderate opposition figures.A 2009 U.S. government cable revealed by WikiLeaks said that some in the opposition thought Lopez "arrogant, vindictive and power-hungry," though conceded his "enduring popularity, charisma and talent as an organizer." ('s critics paint him as a dangerous radical in the pocket of Venezuela's wealthy elite and the U.S. government. They point to his attempts to unseat President Hugo Chavez in 2002. During a failed coup attempt, Lopez helped organize the illegal arrest of one of Chavez's cabinet members.Earlier in the day, Lopez supporters and government backers clashed outside the trial, with one opposition activist dying of a heart attack, according to Popular Will.U.S.-based TV network Telemundo said freelance correspondent Daniel Garrido was attacked and had his equipment stolen.Relatives of government supporters who died in the 2014 violence held a vigil outside the court on Thursday."Lopez caused many deaths," said Delcy Diaz, 45, who works in a government-run welfare project. Lopez's team plans to appeal, and the ruling may bring protests against Maduro. But opposition leaders are trying to keep supporters focused on a December parliamentary election where polls show the ruling Socialist Party may fare badly due to Venezuela's economic crisis."With elections in which they are poised to win, there is little appetite in the larger segment of the opposition for a renewed protest movement," said Venezuela analyst David Smilde, a professor at Tulane University.

Chinese delegation impressed with island’s ‘beauty, ethnicity’

page9c111MARIGOT--“The competitive nature of the global market place demands that we act global and think global. We must sell our assets of stability, ease of access and ease of doing business.”

Those were some of the remarks made by Founder and CEO of Invest Caribbean Now (ICN), Felicia Persaud, in her keynote address at Friday’s exclusive invitation-only conference in the Chamber of Commerce on the theme “Investing in St. Martin’s Tourism Product”.

“Partnerships, collaborations, linkages, networking…that’s the key to the success of businesses, economies, governments, because from where I sit there is no way that any government on any island is smart enough to do it alone,” she added. “Private and public partnerships that work together can take this island forward.”

New York-based ICN partnered with the St. Martin Tourism Office and the Port of St. Martin to bring over 40 executives, all women, from assorted Beijing companies to St. Martin. The purpose was to pitch to the Chinese delegation not only the delights of the destination but also the investment opportunities and tax incentives.

The group had attended the UN Summit in New York prior to the St. Martin visit.

Major projects open to investors are the expansion of port services, the Marigot Bay Development Project and other tourism-related opportunities that fall within the Marigot Revitalisation project. 

The conference came about as a result of St. Martin Tourism Office’s invitation to Beijing last year by the World Cities Tourism Federation (WCTF), that connection being made by Invest Caribbean Now.

ICN specialises in matching high-end investors to key opportunities in Caribbean destinations. It was the first time the private sector investment agency had brought its annual conference to St. Martin from New York where in 2012 the island was the focus of the conference.

Earlier, speakers included Vice-President of the Collectivité Wendel Cocks, Vice-Chairman and Secretary of China Women’s Development Foundation, Qin Guo Ying and the Executive President of China Women Tourism Committee, Xiong Yumei.

St. Martin Tourism Office President Jeanne Rogers-Vanterpool in her remarks drew attention to the office’s new “smile at life” communication campaign, showing the video clip, and outlined some of the key advantages of St. Martin’s attractive fiscal policies and tax rules to encourage investment.

A panel discussion on Chinese outbound tourism followed the speeches with three panellists participating. The session was moderated by Executive Director of the Sino-American Friendship Association, Li Li.

The discussion produced some interesting statistics about Chinese travellers, especially the women.

Among 107 million outbound tourists in 2014, 17 per cent more female tourists travelled abroad than men. In the first half of 2015, 80 per cent of customers planning an outbound trip were women, the consumption environment of the destination dictating their choice, in other words personal shopping determined which destination to choose.

Female tourists were not only satisfied by shopping, however. They also liked spas, yoga and spa tours, amusement parks, local cuisine, movies, sightseeing and cultural tours.

Figures show that 71.9 per cent of female tourists preferred planned travel while 28.1 per cent travelled without a plan. They are willing to spend but prefer to stick to a budget.

One study shows women with extra disposable income are most likely to spend it on tourism. This accounts for 28.23 per cent of their budget, higher than on health care, cultural education, beauty, entertainment, and shopping.

Outbound trip decisions made by females were tallied at 70 per cent; 70 per cent travel one to two times abroad while younger female tourists travel two to three times abroad. Female tourists are becoming increasingly independent with 50 per cent making the travel choice and paying the bills.

The conference got off to an impressive start Thursday evening with a welcome dinner at Villa Mes Amis in Lowlands. An island tour for the group had been planned for Friday afternoon followed by dinner that evening. The conference ended with an exchange of gifts.

While it was too early to get a sense of any investment feedback, Li Li indicated the women CEOs especially liked the “ocean views, beauty, the villa, and are keen to come back with their families.”

Felicia Persaud concurred: “They liked the beauty of the island and the people. As soon as they got off the plane they were taking photos. They rarely see people of different cultures and ethnicities so they were amazed by that. Unfortunately the trip was very short because it was tied in to the UN Summit. Now we have to develop the link between China, New York and St. Martin.”

Also attending the conference were Senator Guillaume Arnell and Vice-Presidents Ramona Connor and Rosette Gumbs-Lake, as well as Territorial Councillors and other prominent persons from the French side.

When asked for her reaction to the conference Vice-President of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, Bernadette Davis said: “This is a very promising initiative. Jeanne said it well - you can’t develop tourism unless you have an investment programme. I believe in jumping on the train before it leaves the station. It’s harder when the train has left. Let’s be honest, China is the next upcoming economic giant.”

Page 6 of 1358