Friday, Oct 24th

You are here: Home

FCCA conference commences, official opening ceremony today

~ Ministers applaud efforts, encourage customary friendliness ~

POINTE BLANCHE--The 21st Annual Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Cruise Conference and Trade Show commenced with yesterday's moving-in and registration of exhibitors, a session of sought-after one-on-one meetings at Port of St. Maarten's specially built conference facilities and an evening hospitality reception at The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa.

The official trade show opening ceremony takes place this afternoon and that of the conference in the evening.

The conference will welcome more than 800 guests, including many high-level cruise executives, government leaders and industry experts. St. Maarten and St. Martin will showcase the island jointly during the conference. Both sides of the island have underscored the importance and the opportunity created by the conference to showcase what the island has to offer to tourists.

The FCCA said in its newsletter yesterday that the hosting of the Caribbean's largest cruise tourism conference and trade show "will reconfirm St. Maarten's commitment to maximising cruise tourism's economic impact."

Projecting a "conservative growth rate of 20 per cent, or 105 additional cruise ship calls, would mean an extra US $67 million per year directly contributed to St. Maarten's economy," stated the FCCA. "Plus, a 20 per cent increase in cruise tourism-impacted employment would represent 1,625 more jobs with US $32 million in wages."

The last FCCA conference to take place in St. Maarten in 2003 had a strong impact on the development of the cruise line industry on the island. Passenger arrivals rose 70 per cent between 2001 and 2005 to nearly 1.5 million. "These numbers extend far beyond the cruise pier; they impact the entire economy," said the FCCA.

In a special meeting held October 2, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication Ted Richardson; Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Patricia Lourens-Philip; Finance Minister Martinus Hassink; and Council of Ministers Secretary-General Cassandra Janssen were briefed on event preparation by St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies (SHGC) Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo, Supervisory Board member Renald Williams, Chief Financial Officer Ton van Kooten and FCCA Coordinating Team chairperson Ichel Moeslikan.

Mingo briefed the ministers on the work that had gone into the realisation of the needed infrastructure for such a large conference and catering to the needs of attendees, while ensuring safety and comfort in accordance with FCCA rules and regulations. They were assured that preparations, which started two years ago, were on schedule and that measures were in place to handle any possible calamity.

The FCCA Coordinating Team said it had involved local students to assist with the event and that the local business community had shown support through a variety of sponsorship efforts.

The ministers applauded the efforts to ensure the conference would be memorable, with a long-lasting impact on the economy, a SHGC press release said.

"As awareness of the importance of cruise tourism to our local economy should be present among everyone on the island, whether directly or indirectly involved, the council requests the population to welcome the visiting guests with our customary friendliness, which provides our island with the beloved name 'St. Maarten, the Friendly Island.'"

SHGC thanked the council for government's cooperation; in particular, the tourist office, police, security, immigration and protocol.

Invitations have been sent to local government officials and businesses. Business owners/managers are reminded that registration for the Open Day on Thursday, October 9, from 8:00am to 1:00pm, which gains attendees access to the trade floor of the conference, closes tomorrow, Wednesday, October 8, at 12:00pm. Select "FCCA Registration" on and follow the instructions provided.

Holiday asks Heyliger to form Government

HARBOUR VIEW--Member of Parliament and United People's (UP) party leader Theo Heyliger, in his capacity as formateur, was requested by St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday on Monday to form a new government for the period 2014-2018.

A press release from the Governor's office said, "Having evaluated the report of the informateurs and following the consultations, the Governor met with Mr. Theo Heyliger today [Monday – Ed.] and requested him to form a new government based on a majority in Parliament and consisting of ministers who are committed to the promotion of the wellbeing of St. Maarten and dedicated to jointly execute the governing accord 2014-2018."

The Governor emphasised the importance of the strict observance of the regulatory requirements, including the screening criteria, applicable to the appointment of candidate-ministers.

The release added that the formateur had taken the commission into consideration and would inform the Governor regularly during the formation process. The Governor requested that the final report be handed in by October 20.

Holiday received the final report of informateurs Joe Richardson and Marcel Gumbs on Friday highlighting that there is a governing accord signed by eight incoming Members of St. Maarten Parliament, seven of whom are members of UP. The eighth is current Democratic Party (DP) Minister of Health Cornelius de Weever, who has entered into a coalition agreement with UP.

The signed governing accord establishes that the eight members have agreed to form a government, addresses a number of priority areas and outlines a procedure for coming to the selection of candidate-ministers and the candidate-Minister Plenipotentiary

Police shoot and arrest two suspects with gun

page1a120CUL DE SAC--Two men were shot in the legs by police while unsuccessfully attempting to escape from officers.

A report had been received that the occupants of a grey Kia with licence plate M4880 and a white Toyota Corolla with licence plate P or M 9240 had threatened someone with a firearm in St. Peters around 12:15pm Monday, a press release from the police confirmed.

When grey Kia was spotted by police on L.B. Scott Road, it was chased into the Cost-U-Less car park, where it was driven up to the bollards by the entrance to Rose's Lane, near the cricket field.

One of the two occupants pointed a gun at police officers, causing one of the officers to fire a single shot into the vehicle's side door. The men were forced to stop the vehicle by the bollards at the end of the car park. They then made off on foot towards the cricket field.

The police press release said the officers had chased the men who, whilst running, had pointed a gun at them. In response, the officers fired at the legs of the running men, resulting in both men sustaining gunshot wounds. Despite the wounds and despite having lost shoes, the men continued running, jumping over fences and through bushes, one of them dropping a firearm in the process.

At this point, the officers lost sight of the suspects. Shortly afterward, both suspects were found hiding behind a building near Dollar Store on L.B. Scott Road. The suspect B.D. (21) had gunshot wounds to his right leg and K.L. (25) had been shot in his left leg. Both suspects were arrested and treated by paramedics on the scene before being taken to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for further treatment.

Meanwhile, at the Cost-U-Less car park, uniformed officers, detectives and forensics officers dealt with the crime scene. A number of bullet shells were left in the car park, as well as on Rose's Lane. The suspect's shoes that had been lost during the chase were still there, as well as the firearm dropped by one of the suspects.

The scene was closed off for the Forensic Department to collect evidence. The firearm, a .45 calibre Glock, was confiscated for further investigation. Traffic in the area was diverted temporarily.

After treatment at SMMC, both suspects were released into police custody, where they will remain for further investigation.

"The Police Force is working with limited resources and sometimes under extreme conditions to rid the streets of illegal firearms and other criminal activity taking place on the island. The two arrests in this case would not have been as successful without the assistance of the community," the press release stated.

"The Police Force is encouraging the community to continue calling in and giving the police information regarding any crime or criminal activity."

Anyone who has any information about the occupants of the second vehicle involved, or indeed about anyone who is in possession of any illegal firearm, is requested to contact the police station or call the anonymous tip line 9300.

Public school teachers with perfect attendance receive financial award

~ Teachers lauded for work at WTD event ~

CAY HILL--Public school teachers with perfect attendance records during the last academic year were rewarded with a token of appreciation during the World Teacher's Day (WTD) ceremony at the Belair Community Center on Saturday evening.

The group of teachers were each presented with a cheque of NAf. 250 as well as a certificate of appreciation. World Teachers Day was Sunday, October 5, but the official ceremony for teachers was held on Saturday evening.

Presented with financial awards were five teachers from the Marie Geneieve de Weever School; three teachers from the Leonald Conner School (formerly Leonard Conner School); two teachers each from the Charles Leopold Bell School and the Ruby Labega School and one teacher each from the Oranje School and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School.

Head of Public Schools Glenderlyn Davis-Holiday said the award was intended to promote good attendance at schools. This is the second year the school is recognising teachers for attendance. Davis-Holiday urged teachers to see their jobs as a vocation and not just as an area to earn an income at the end of the month. "When you teach and when you love children, you reap the rewards," she said. "To teach is to love and to love teaching is a previous gift."

All teachers were lauded for their service in the classroom at the well-attended event, which brought together teachers from the various school boards. Several school boards plan to have separate events for its teachers.

Education Minister Patricia Lourens-Philip thanked teachers for the work that they do and the sacrifice they make on a daily basis as they go about doing their work. She said teachers sacrificed time, talent, family life, family finances and personal ambitions to help mould young minds in the classroom. Successful schools, she added, are run by good teachers and successful schools lead to a successful country.

She said the reception was held in honour of teachers and it gave all education partners – government, ministry, school boards and union – an opportunity to publicly acknowledge that to invest in a teacher is to invest in the future, as teachers touch the lives of every person as they develop as human beings.

Another motivation for the reception was as a result of the evaluation of last year's conference in which teachers said they wanted "something fun" to be held for this year's World Teachers Day. The fun was injected towards the end of Saturday night's WTD event with a cocktail reception and dancing to tunes provided by DJ Oswald.

Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) President Claire Elshot spoke about adequate remuneration for educators. She said the union had a "little warning" for educator regarding working without extra without monies. She said teachers need to give the best to students, but authorities also need to "keep up" with the remuneration to educators since many teachers go into their own pockets to purchase things for their classrooms. Her comments resulted in a loud round of applause from the capacity crowd.

Representatives of several school boards addressed attendees. Amongst them was Methodist Agogic Center (MAC) Director Rose Hughes-Coram, who thanked teachers for inspiring children to be the best that they can be, and urged them to continue planting seeds of knowledge in them. She said persons should think of teachers every day and the "very important" role that they have in preparing students for a world that they have not seen.

Heyliger weighs in on integrity report

PHILIPSBURG--United People's (UP) party leader Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger on Sunday issued a statement on the integrity report compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on instruction from Governor Eugene Holiday.

He said some were attempting to paint a picture of "an unwilling St. Maarten. Unwilling to address reported and alleged integrity issues highlighted in the report." He said, however, that it was important that "we" focus.

"I thought it was important to point out that contrary to the opinion of some, you cannot wave a magic wand and address every reported issue overnight. Comments emanating from the Netherlands would have you believe that St. Maarten could have solved or curtailed every instance of reported integrity issues the same week the PwC report was issued," he said in a statement.

"St. Maarten, in their opinion, should not be given the opportunity to address its own issues. St. Maarten, they imply, is not capable of doing this and requires that its hand be held," he said. He said the incoming government will seriously look at the findings of the integrity reports.

"In the same breath, the world should not expect our democratic government to set aside all forms of due process and legal frameworks and address these findings irresponsibly. Every branch of government, individual and instance that has been tagged by these reports must be looked at objectively. We also have to differentiate between conjecture and fact. We will hold true to democratic principles. We will not conduct ourselves as a radical and reckless mob or go on a witch hunt in order to satisfy ulterior motives," he said.

"The public discussions have given rise to a broad examination of the level of integrity and propriety that the public ought to expect from their government and government entities. It is a worthwhile discussion that should in time result in dispelling any mistrust the public might have of government, politicians and of the institutions that serve them if allegations prove to be true following the application of due process and the rule of law," he said.

He said rather than acknowledging that St. Maarten should be given the opportunity to right its own ship and that St. Maarten has already taken numerous steps to enhance integrity, voices from abroad know that nothing erodes trust faster than allegations of corruption. "Circumstances are often such that pretence and untruthfulness are more likely to promote their ends than honesty," he said.

He said integrity should be promoted throughout government. "The great majority of St. Maarten's public servants are good people dedicated to their jobs. That a few should so severely damage the hard won reputation of the whole public sector is deeply saddening."

He said the new government "will also be an open one. We have to finally dispel the thought that government promotes a culture of secrecy where information is scarce and only a few have access and benefit. Government must be open to all. Transparency promotes accountability and an open government promotes efficiency and participation to the benefit of every citizen."

In the meantime in a separate statement Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure Maurice Lake said he supports the implementation of the integrity report recommendations. "We got back the results from the two integrity reports and we just got to implement the recommendations from the two reports. We don't need the outside world to define us," he said in a release issued by the ministry's press secretary Roddy Heyliger.

Lake said the counterpart policy should not be feared adding that stakeholders should work together. "Annually we give out millions of guilders in scholarships and the country needs to get its return on the investment made. Our young people want to work and we should be able to provide them with work once they get the training for the position. They have nowhere else to go but here, and they should be able to find work at home," Lake said.

He reiterated earlier sentiments about raising the bar in parliament and in politics which he identified as one of his goals for the next four years.

Page 9 of 1089