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NGOs celebrated as ‘pillars’ of community

CAY BAY--"Pillars" of the community was how non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to fill the many gaps in social needs were described by speakers at the observance of International Volunteers Day at a celebration hosted by Samenwerkende Fondsen (Cooperative Funds) on Saturday at Seaside Nature Park.

Some 30 NGOs working in the field of health care, education, sports and granting of funds among others were commended for their work by Acting Governor Reynold Groeneveldt as well as Samenwerkende Fondsen President Angela Dekker.

Networking among the organisations was encouraged with presentations from dozens of these organisations on their projects, needs and successes. Giving insight into their projects were Intervision Foundation about its mini-animals at Discovery Farm, Island Gems Foundation (co-financing of social projects), St. Maarten AIDS Foundation (Real Talk), COCCAAE Foundation (New Generation STM Drum Band), Beyond Writing Foundation (storytelling programme), Mental Health Foundation, Dorcas Food Kitchen, Philipsburg Jubilee Library, Kids at Sea, National Institute of the Arts, and Voice of the Youth Brigade.

SXM DOET, the St. Maarten leg of the Kingdom-wide volunteer event set for March 2015, was introduced to NGOs by Melanie Choisy of Be the Change Foundation. The event seeks to assist NGOs to complete several small projects in two days by recruiting others in the community to lend a hand.

Samenwerkende Fondsen Project Advisor Jose Verschueren-Sommers and board members encouraged all organisations to work together to achieve their goals and projects throughout the years to come for the betterment of the community.

International Volunteer Day, marked on December 5, is an international observance designated by the United Nations since 1985. It offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to make visible their contributions - at local, national and international levels - to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Dr. Rum to semi-finals

HILVERSUM--Dr. Rum, the artiste name of St. Maarten rapper Jernaldo Thielman, and his partner April made it to the semi finals of the popular talent show The Voice of Holland. Their performance on Friday was a big success and they scored the highest amount of public votes.

Dr. Rum (24) and April (27) had the honour of being the opening act during Friday's live show of The Voice of Holland on RTL with their two-minute version of the song "Billionaire," originally of American recording artiste Travie McCoy, featuring Bruno Mars.

April sang the first part after which Dr. Rum made his entry being pushed onto the stage on a green sofa chair by two ladies. Dr. Rum, dressed in a funky US $100 bill suit, did his part dancing along with a set of professional dancers, and at one point even walked into the audience.

The duet got the audience, which included family and friends, crazy. People were clapping and dancing. The team leaders of the show got up from their chairs and swung along. April and Dr. Rum got a standing ovation from the audience. TV viewers at home loved them too because they got the highest number of public votes, cast via the app, sms or telephone.

Dutch rapper Ali B., April and Dr. Rum's team leader, said in his live comments right after the performance that he was very proud. "This was so great. Really!" He complimented Dr. Rum for having grown over the different shows, since the first blind auditions. "Nobody at the time knew where this was going. But you have shown us that you are good. You bring a lot of happiness, not only here but also at home."

Team leader Trijntje Oosterhuis said April and Dr. Rum radiated energy and positivism, the performance being natural, without the nervousness that many other talent show candidates displayed. "It instantly got 10 degrees warmer here," she said.

April and Dr. Rum will go on to the semi finals, along with seven other candidates. During the semi finals this Friday four candidates will be sent home. Four candidates will go on to the finals the week after.

"It felt so amazing. I didn't expect this. I am so grateful," Dr. Rum told The Daily Herald on Sunday. "We worked really hard to get here. As I said before, any next performance has to be better than the one before," he said.

About Friday's performance, Dr. Rum said: "April was able to shine with her beautiful voice, and I could rap and dance. I was in my comfort zone. This is my thing. I truly enjoyed it, even more so than the previous performances."

The past weeks have been like a roller coaster for the St. Maarten born rapper who moved to the Netherlands five years ago to study music and producing at the Albeda College in Rotterdam. "It has been crazy, a whole lot of emotions. People recognise me now in the supermarket and train. They want to take photos with me. People stare at you. It took me some time to get accustomed to it," he said. The Voice of Holland is viewed by some 2.5 million people each week.

Dr. Rum and April, as well as the other candidates, have been training several days a week. "It is getting more intense now. What can I say, it is really a dedication."And the next show? "I really don't know. You can't predict these things, but don't forget that I won already by coming this far."

Colombia’s Maria Lopes-Perez is Miss Caraïbes Hibiscus 2015

page11c170MAHO--Maria Alejandra Lopez-Perez from Colombia was selected Miss Caraïbes Hibiscus 2015 on Saturday evening at Casino Royale in Maho. The beautiful Colombian, who was also Miss Pan-America in 2013, beat eight other contestants for the crown.

Originally there had been 13 contestants, however, Miss St. Martin/St. Maarten Lisandre Nicoise had withdrawn from the competition, and contestants from Curaçao, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela's flights were cancelled as the result of a bomb scare at SXM Princess Juliana International Airport. The crown for the winner did not arrive on time for the event.

The pageant was opened by Master of Ceremonies King Beau Beau, who welcomed the crowd in no less than six languages, before introducing the panel of judges and the contestants. The judges of the event were Stuart Johnson, Raj, Hanisha Alwani, Richard Diallo and Janeesa Fernandes.

King Beau Beau then went on to name the contestants, 19-year-old Michelle Gumbs from Bonaire, 20-year old Maria Lopes-Perez from Colombia, 22-year-old Alimanda Juliet from Guadeloupe, 22-year old Samair Wislene-Popo from Haiti, 22-year-old Regina Harding from Jamaica, 24-year-old Leslie Lalande from Martinique, 25-year-old Karla Peniche-Hernandez from Mexico, 22-year-old Chandel Menckeberg from Suriname, and 22-year-old Stephanie-Marie Miles from the United States.

After the introductions, the crowd were entertained by singers Zook Look who performed their "Medley one." They were followed onstage by the three dancers of Afro-Latin moves, whose dance utilising their orange dresses and yellow fans was well received by the crowd.

It was then time to meet the contestants. The nine young women presented themselves as a group in a dance, before coming onto the stage one by one to make their introductions. Miss Bonaire, dressed in blue and white, combined beauty with a sweet demeanour as she spoke of the beauty of her island and invited all those present to visit. It was no surprise that with her graceful, slim appearance she was compared to the flamingo, Bonaire's national bird.

Miss Colombia, dressed in colourful and revealing native attire, addressed the crowd in fluent English and French, and said she wanted to travel and help people. She said she believed that beauty has a purpose, and hers was to assist others.

Miss Guadeloupe, a Spanish language graduate, was dressed in a white and yellow long skirt and a small top. She said it was her wish to launch her own cosmetics brand. She stated she likes to play sports, reading and writing.

Miss Haiti announced that she came from the country of fire, liberty and potential. She was a practised speaker who said she loved St. Maarten and would like to come back. She came onto the stage dancing in a red and blue dress.

Miss Jamaica, in a carnival-style dress, showed that beauty and brains often go together. The medical student stood out through her pretty face. She said her country was known for its hot and sweet music: reggae, and for producing the fastest man and woman in the world.

Miss Martinique, a swimwear stylist who spoke mostly in French, praised the culture, flowers, food and beauty of her island. She wore a red and white ankle length lace dress.

Miss Mexico, dressed in a stunning carnival outfit, stood out through her confidence, her vivid way of speaking and a very pretty face which made her an instant favourite with the crowd. She said to be from a country full of culture, tradition and contrast.

Miss Suriname made a powerful entrance to the song "We are one," which was also the start sentence of her speech. She pointed out that her costume had influences of different traditional costumes from her country.

The last contestant to introduce herself was the tall and graceful Miss USA, who entered the stage in a gold outfit inspired by the statue of liberty. She said her dream was to open a dance school.

After the formal introductions of the contestants, King Beau Beau named and thanked a large number of sponsors both from St. Maarten and French St. Martin. Performer Jeremy then stepped up with a zouk performance. After Jeremy's song, the second segment was ready to commence, and King Beau Beau introduced the second segment of the competition; the swimwear round.

The contestants of Bonaire, Colombia, Guadeloupe and Haiti were the first to step up in matching pink bikinis and high heels. They were followed by the contestants from the remaining five countries.

Miss Mexico and Miss United States proved to be early favourites with the crowd, both drawing whistles from audience members.

After the swimwear round, there were more performances from Fabien and Jeremy, giving an acoustic performance which had the crowd clapping along and even joining in with parts of the song.

After this popular performance, it was time for the round that many people had been waiting for: the evening wear round. The contestants came on stage in the same two groups as with the previous round.

In the first group, Miss Colombia stood out with a bright dress, which she wore with matching lipstick. In the second group, Miss Jamaica, also in a red dress, with gold sequins and red feathers sewn onto it, received a positive response. Miss USA also stood out in a glamorous gold coloured dress.

After more performances from Afro Latin Move and Jeremy, it was finally time for the results. All contestants came back on stage and were presented with a red rose and a watch on behalf of sponsor Shiva Jewellery.

The audience was asked, by making noise, to decide on Miss Popularity. Miss USA easily walked away with the sash. The photographers present chose Miss Colombia as Miss Photogenic.

The other titles, determined by the judges, were as follows: Miss Mexico won Best Culture wear with her carnival costume. Miss Jamaica won both Best Eveningwear and Miss Amity and was selected second runner-up. Miss Mexico was first runner-up, before the moment everyone had waited for. Miss Colombia was announced as the winner.

Bomb scare causes evacuation at SXM Princess Juliana Int’l Airport

page1a170~ Marechaussees tend to irate KLM passengers ~

AIRPORT--A bomb scare caused a mass evacuation of the terminal building at SXM Princess Juliana International Airport on Saturday, disrupting normal operations for close to four hours and resulting in numerous incoming flights being diverted to other airports.

Roads leading to SXM Airport from the Simpson Bay causeway roundabout and from the Maho roundabout were closed in connection with the threat.

A phone call received at the police central dispatch at 9:35am Saturday indicated a bomb was on board the KLM aircraft that had been parked overnight due to technical issues that resulted in the cancellation of that flight on Friday.

Police then alerted SXM Airport to the threat and in turn airport management implemented their evacuation procedure.

The airport's Managing Director Regina LaBega declined to comment, but indicated that once the evacuation had been completed emergency procedures had been turned over to Government and the police.

Passengers, many bringing their luggage with them from waiting to check in, were shepherded out of the terminal building by airport staff to the parking areas on the Winair office side of the complex.

Despite practically no shade, hundreds of passengers waited quietly in the hot sun for close to three hours before the "all clear" was given. Most accepted the inconvenience and there appeared to be few complaints or medical issues. Airport staff handed out bottles of water and periodically kept passengers updated with information, as well as enquiring whether anyone required medical attention.

"What can you do? It's not the airport's fault," commented one passenger.

But for some passengers not all had gone smoothly.

"This is ridiculous," fumed one passenger. "We've been sent outside, but no one has given any updates. We're standing here in the sun, there's no shade and we've not been given any water. KLM has sorted out water for its passengers, but no one else has water."

Another questioned the airport's evacuation procedure when all passengers were waiting at first directly outside the terminal entrances before being moved to a safer distance farther away from the terminal.

One airport employee reported a "chaotic" situation outside the airport: "There are hundreds of people here. No one seems to know what to do. It took over an hour for the police to arrive."

"No one gave us any news," said another man. "I don't know what they're going to do. We don't have a bomb disposal expert on the island. Also, this flight arrived yesterday so there won't have been any suitcases on board."

The same man also stated that if there were indeed a bomb, it wouldn't be very effective to have people waiting right outside the terminal "as we'll still be blown up." The man himself still preferred to wait outside the terminal building.

Passengers Karen and Mark were all checked in and upstairs in the departure lounge waiting for their JetBlue flight to Boston when they were told to evacuate the building at 11:00am.

"An alarm went off in the building. At first we thought somebody set if off by mistake, but when it continued we knew something was up," said Karen. "Everybody evacuated in an orderly way and at first we thought it must be a drill, but then soon realised it was the real thing. The bad part is that our luggage was already checked in and I assume they will have to put everybody through the whole security procedures again. But it's better to be out here and safe."

Another woman said: "There's nothing you can do about it, but I've had a wonderful time here. This is the first time I've been evacuated because of a bomb scare, but I feel safe and protected out here."

One couple hoping to go to Los Angeles was at Gate Four and about to board their plane when the evacuation order came.

"This was unfortunate timing. We were actually keen to leave. It was our first time on the island for a wedding anniversary, but we had a disappointing week as construction work was going on at our hotel every day," they said.

The first to be allowed back into the terminal building around 1:15pm were airport employees, airline staff, immigration and Customs, etc. They were followed half an hour later by the passengers.

Evidently most of the evacuated passengers came from the departure lounge and a massive queue formed inside the terminal as they waited to go up the escalator to clear security procedures again.

Police spokesperson Inspector Ricardo Henson held a short press conference in the company of SXM Airport public relations spokesperson Kalifa Hickinson once the "all clear" had been given.

"There was one call made by the person, a male voice, and the dispatcher tried to question the caller, but he hung up immediately after saying, 'This is serious, it's not a joke,'" said Henson. "Given the seriousness of the situation, a suspected bomb on the KLM plane, all police authorities were advised and our actions were scaled up. These types of calls are very serious and we have to act on them. We realised also that the KLM flight did not depart on Friday, adding to the gravity of the threat."

Henson declined to comment on the caller's voice, whether it was that of a local Antillean or foreigner or whether the call could be traced.

"At this time the call is not being treated as a hoax until the investigation is completed," he said.

Hickinson and Henson both assured that the airport and police had been adequately prepared for such an incident.

"When this type of thing happens it causes confusion in the sense that traffic has to be deviated, traffic jams build up, but thank God no one was injured, everybody is safe, and we are getting the operation back to normal," Henson stated. "The entire building was searched and the aircraft was thoroughly searched internally and externally."

Hickinson confirmed that incoming planes had been diverted to other airports during the scare, but did not have details of what flights or how many.

However, it was known that InselAir had been diverted to Antigua and then had flown on to Haiti before arriving in St. Maarten at 7:00pm. Some Winair flights landed at Grand Case, while flights from the United States, including JetBlue and American Airlines, were diverted to San Juan. A LIAT aircraft returned to Antigua.

This left airport staff to deal with the aftermath of the incident. Some flights had to be cancelled because of the crew's rest time regulations. Other flights had refuelled at the airports to which they had been diverted and then still made their way to St. Maarten, with many aircraft arriving at the same time.

One airport employee estimated the incident would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. "I hope a review will take place and lessons learnt for the future. I feel the response to this incident could have been handled a lot better," the employee said.

Meanwhile, the Dutch Royal Marechaussees on Saturday evening attempted to calm irate KLM passengers stranded since Friday and Saturday after both of those flights were cancelled following a technical fault in the plane's cockpit instrumentation system, sources revealed.

Mechanics worked on the problem, but the pilot of the troubled plane reportedly was not satisfied with the sound of the engines on Saturday and refused to take off, causing more grief for weary passengers trying to leave.

According to a press release sent out late Sunday evening, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) Ted Richardson was alerted about the situation on Saturday. "Before visiting the airport just after midnight, the Minister contacted the KLM country representative, the Civil Aviation Authority and SXM Airport Management with respect to the situation," the release stated.

"After assessing the situation, the Minister instructed that the stranded passengers should stay at the terminal building until the morning. In collaboration with the airport management, KLM crew, Minister Richardson ensured that the unfortunate travellers are attended in providing them water, food and blankets. The police, the Customs and the airport security, who all were present at the terminal, were assigned to ensure the passengers' safety and the safety of the premises," the release added.

Sunday's scheduled flight arrived and took off normally and a second KLM aircraft arrived late in the afternoon to pick up more stranded passengers. The original plane is still grounded.

Unconfirmed reports were received of passengers becoming irate at the way they were being treated by security and KLM ground handlers after the second cancellation. KLM reportedly paid for 20 rooms at The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa, but some 40-50 passengers were forced to sleep at the terminal building as no other accommodation could be found to put them up.

Compounding an already tense situation, a theory arose that the bomb threat had come from one of the irate passengers. None of these reports could be verified by KLM last night.

The Hague prefers to wait for new St. Maarten Govt

THE HAGUE--The Kingdom government is awaiting the installation of the new St. Maarten Government before proceeding with the implementation of the integrity plan as it would rather do this together with Philipsburg.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated after Friday's meeting of the Kingdom Council of Ministers that the talks with St. Maarten's caretaker government were "still ongoing," but that The Hague preferred to await the final formation of a new government.

"There is a government with a caretaker status. Strictly speaking, you can talk with a caretaker government, but it is more productive to do that when there is a new government in a few weeks." The screening of St. Maarten's new Council of Ministers is currently taking place.

The Kingdom government remained adamant that the integrity plan to strengthen integrity in the St. Maarten government, announced by Plasterk in early October this year, had to be executed. Part of this plan is appointing an integrity authority, integrity officer, which the Kingdom government wants to dispatch to St. Maarten to carry out the integrity plan.

"We are still discussing how this authority would have to be anchored. It seemed befitting to me and also the Kingdom Council of Ministers to strive to do this in consensus, and with the new government," said Plasterk. He hoped to reach a consensus on the anchoring of the integrity authority before the end of this year.

The Kingdom Council of Ministers didn't take any new, concrete decisions on the integrity authority or integrity plan on Friday. However, it was reemphasised that the integrity authority would not only be reporting to the St. Maarten government, but also to the Kingdom government.

Reporting back to The Hague was deemed important because the St. Maarten government is a party in the integrity reports of the Wit-Samson Integrity Committee and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and it plays a central role in the process to improve integrity. "Such an authority cannot be resorting under the local government because that same government is part of that chain that needs strengthening," said Plasterk.

The minister didn't want to go into details about the process of dispatching a special white collar crime unit from the Netherlands and assistance for the local Prosecutor's Office and National Detectives Department. "We are busy with it. That is all I can say about it," he said.

When asked how he would qualify the state of the relations between The Hague and Philipsburg since the last instruction in October this year to order an in-depth screening of the candidate ministers before their appointment, Plasterk said that the relations with the other countries in the Kingdom were good.

"We shouldn't be quick about saying that the relations are less relaxed when there is a difference of opinion in the Kingdom. We have good relations, but occasionally, there is an issue that results in a discussion, just like in the Netherlands we can also have a stern talk with the Municipality Amsterdam," he said.

As for the length of the formation process in St. Maarten, which started after the August 29 elections, Plasterk said that he would rather keep out of that issue since it concerned an internal affair of the country. He said that, on occasion, formations in the Netherlands also took that long to conclude.

Friday's meeting of the Kingdom Council of Ministers was attended by Ministers Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges of St. Maarten, Alfonso Boekhoudt of Aruba and Marvelyne Wiels of Curaçao.

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