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TelEm: Internet interruption due to ‘malicious cyber attack’

POND ISLAND--The TelEm Group says Monday's five-hour interruption of its high-speed Internet service was due to a "malicious cyber attack."

The company said in a press release Monday night that it had traced the interruption in its high speed ADSL Internet service to "malicious hackers who directed a cyber attack aimed at bringing down the Internet service provider (ISP) network."

Logs reviewed by technicians showed "unusual activity" from one particular IP address Monday afternoon with increasing broadcasts from the same IP address for a number of hours until the network was compromised and brought down.

Network Engineering Manager Jed Carty said the attack had been directed at TelEm Group by a malicious person or persons who so far have not been identified.

"We have reported the incident to the relevant authorities who make it a point of following the IP address trails of such attacks to identify where they are coming from and to warn other ISPs around the world about their operations," Carty said in a press release.

He said Monday's cyber attack had left customers on the island without mobile data and ADSL Internet connections for close to five hours while the malicious IP address and other suspect IP addresses were isolated from the company's switching equipment.

"No ISP is totally immune from such attacks, but we will be monitoring all broadcasts more closely over the coming days to guard against any new attacks and to be ready for an immediate response should another attack occur," Carty assured.

He said customers literally had flooded the company's Helpdesk for the best part of the day Monday enquiring about the outage.

"Up until late last night the Helpdesk was still assisting customers with reconnections and reconfigurations," said Carty.

He advised customers to unplug and restart their modems as a first step to restoring their connections and to call TelEm's Helpdesk, tel. 548-HELP, should they still be experiencing difficulty.

Carty apologised to customers on behalf of TelEm Group management for the interruption in service.

Family: Do not use autistic pupil as poster boy for teachers’ strife

~ 'Autism, delinquency two very separate issues' ~

PHILIPSBURG--The family of the fourteen-year-old Prins Willem Alexander School (PWAS) for Special Education pupil who was taken to the Philipsburg police station on Wednesday for hitting a teacher in the face with a rock is concerned that the boy, who suffers from autism, is being used wrongly as a poster child for delinquent behaviour in public schools.

Teachers have pulled together in solidarity and emergency meetings were called by Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) as a result of three attacks by pupils in three separate public schools on Wednesday.

They say their cries over the years have been falling on deaf ears and they want affirmative action taken against children who continue to commit violent acts against educators. Similar sentiments have been expressed by teachers, irrespective of the school system, in the past.

The PWAS pupil's case has taken the spotlight, having caused an injury requiring medical attention. In the other two cases pupils and/or their parents were aggressive with the teachers.

The family is concerned that the case is being used to push the issue of intervention, but unfairly so because of the boy's condition. As a result, they say the community is only receiving the message that there is "yet another 'bad boy' on our hands that we need to tackle."

The boy's mother, half-sister and her husband are all educators and said they fully supported and understood the teachers' desire to feel safe and gain control in the classroom, but that the incident was isolated and somewhat preventable, and there was a slim chance of another attack as long as the boy's condition was addressed.

One family member said it was unfair for the parents to be blamed and shamed, because they cooperated with the school on a regular basis, but were being thrown into the same basket as parents who showed up at schools to confront teachers.

They were surprised to hear about the teachers' intentions to go on strike had the boy returned to school on Monday, because when he has a meltdown he is kept home until well enough to return to school.

There is also a general agreement in place, they said, whereby if he becomes unwell or disruptive during the day the mother collects him once notified by the school.

The mother said the school had called her on the day of the incident, but instead of having her pick him up, they had said to bring a doctor's note to show that he was not doing well. The incident ensued later that day, when the teacher moved his table and chair during a class break to separate him from another pupil.

While this does not sound like provocation, the family member, who has experience in a school for special education and is trying to raise awareness on autism, said the boy was helpful and non-violent, but that autistic children could become aggressive if they did not feel safe and did not cope well with change.

She said the Prosecutor's Office had thrown out the case on the same day of the attack because it was obvious the boy was not a delinquent. He had been seen a few hours after the attack, being led calmly into the police station with his mother holding his hand.

She said that although he was 14, his mental developmental age could be around 5, that autistic children were filled with anxiety and were oversensitive to certain smells and sounds.

The change in location would also be a stressor to an autistic child. PWAS pupils were relocated from St. Peters to Dr. Alma Fleming-Rogers Educational Care Centre in Belvedere earlier this school year.

"Teachers in special education are expected to be equipped with the tools to recognise a meltdown, know how to handle and cope, and avoid an escalation. ... St. Maarten is obviously still behind in this area of training educators," she said.

The family hopes that instead of the story becoming the newest melee on the island about spoiled children, it can be used to bring awareness about autism, which the family says is a taboo but growing issue on the island.

The issues are "a school system that is ill-equipped, an island that is way behind in information, a people that still enjoy 'melee' versus information, a suffering generation of youth!" the family member said.

"The reality: two parents who live together, have raised their son together, take him to church weekly, visit schools and health professionals in the land of the still very ignorant. Fighting to keep this child on track. ...

"Things like autism exist even in St. Maarten and sometimes when ignored by a system things escalate and people get hurt, but it need not go so far.

"I apologise to the teacher on behalf of the failing educational system of which, for decades, I have been a part, I apologise to the many teachers out there whose stories of assault you have not heard, I apologise to the mother of this young man for the years of struggle with little help, to the (my) father who is doing all that he can do.

"I apologise to my fellow islanders for what this child did. And I apologise to myself that the hopelessness and frustration of our lack is causing me so much hurt. St. Maarten, come on, how long are we planning to keep this up?"

Integrity Chamber draft law to Council of State

THE HAGUE--The Council of State has received a request for advice on the draft resolution to establish an Integrity Chamber for St. Maarten via a so-called General Measure of the Kingdom Government ("Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur" AMvRB).

The Council of State (Raad van State), which is the highest advisory organ of governments in the Dutch Kingdom, on Monday confirmed the receipt of the request for advice on the draft resolution regarding integrity of the St. Maarten Government. The draft resolution was stated on the list of requests for advice published on the Council's website Monday.

The Advisory Division of the Council of State for the Kingdom will be handling the request for advice. This process may take a maximum of three months, but in this case it is more likely that it will be around two months.

The Council of State for the Kingdom will make a policy analysis, look at legal issues and technical aspects when assessing the draft resolution. Questions that will be analysed usually include: can or should the problem be solved by legislation, will the proposed legislation be effective, efficient and balanced, is it compatible with higher law such as the Constitution, international treaties and European law, is it in accordance with the principles of democracy and the rule of law, and is it compatible with the principles of good legislation?

The advice will then go back to the Kingdom Council of Ministers for decision-taking. The minister who requested the advice, in this case the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, will publish the advice and the text of the decree in question at a later date.

A spokesman of Minister Ronald Plasterk confirmed that the draft decree has been sent to the Council of State for advice. "That is part of the procedure before the Kingdom Council of Ministers takes a decision," he stated. A General Decree of the Kingdom Government based on a consensus with the St. Maarten Government remained a possibility, he added.

Minister Plasterk has indicated on several occasions that he preferred a decision based on consensus above a unilateral decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. The latter decision, based on article 51 of the Kingdom Charter, the guarantee function of the Kingdom, essentially boils down to higher supervision.

High-level-talks between The Hague and Philipsburg to reach an agreement have been ongoing for weeks, but with little success thus far.

The Kingdom Council of Ministers took the decision on January 30 this year to start the procedure of a General Decree, or an AMvRB, to impose an AMvRB to establish an independent Integrity Chamber with the authority to investigate possible cases of integrity violations in the St. Maarten Government.

Early March, the AMvRB for St. Maarten was again on the agenda of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. Both The Hague and Philipsburg remained mum on what was decided at that meeting.

Teen, Senior Queen contestants vie for points in Speech, Cultural Wear

page10a256PHILIPSBURG--Twelve Teen and Senior Carnival Queen Pageant contestants modelled impressive custom cultural wear and motivated their opinions on independence and diversity in front of a jam-packed conference room at Sonesta Great Bay Resort on Sunday night.

The annual Speech and Cultural Wear competition proved a hit with the crowd, and was the first segment of the overall pageant. Points gained carry over to the main event at Carnival Village, so no winners were announced. Attendees will have to wait to see who the ultimate winners are, although they hold their opinions on what girls gained a leg-up in the running.

Judging by cheers of the crowd, Jondalin Brown delivered the most impactful speech of the show's first half, which featured the Teen Carnival Queen contestants speaking on "My Village of Diversity." Contestants were asked to described an imaginary village, diverse in terms of colour, religion, culture and sexual orientation, and to motivate their opinions on the pros and cons of this diversity.

"One thing that confuses me is that we do not embrace diversity," Brown said in rhyme at the beginning of her speech, in a more critical take than the other speeches. While some members of the audience seemed hesitant at first, they were won over by the end of the speech that challenged society in "St. Maartenburg" to wake up.

Fellow teen contestants Ishani Richardson, Samantha Williams, Adreeane Harrigan, Romaincia Fleming and Tsjaniqua Lake described primarily from a positive perspective how diversity makes a community stronger, praised embracing differences, including in sexual orientation and language, and lauded St. Maarten's multicultural society as a strength.

They spoke of different perspectives and skills being essential and how diversity made them grow and become better. "Diversity taught me to love and embrace," said Lake, who has local and Guyanese roots.

The Teen and Senior contestants modelled cultural wear designed and made by some of St. Maarten's best cultural artists and designers. No two outfits looked remotely similar, save for a few recurring patriotic colours of red, white and blue.

Outfits honoured or represented traditional ways of life or local flora, such as Senior contestant Mabel Arnaud's, which modelled a flamboyant tree. Damiana Blijden was dressed as a "cotton lady." Depictions of St. Maarten, country flags, sea shells, starfish, planes, flowers and monuments were some of the objects added to the outfits.

Senior contestants Blijden, Arnaud, Phausha Winklaar, Chalmarie Vlaun, Anttonet Baker and Sidneila Richardson delivered speeches on "Independence for St. Maarten: Destiny or Fantasy?"

"Destiny" was the resounding patriotic answer from the contestants, who motivated their opinions in a number of ways, but outlined what they envision as needing to happen before the goal becomes reality.

The task of summarising the country's problems and potential in five-minute speeches without notes was notably more difficult for the Senior contestants, who also had to pay attention to criteria such as eye contact, pace and audience engagement, but the crowd encouraged them by clapping whenever the contestants lost steam or stumbled.

St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) President Michael Granger said the challenges presented "the best of pageantry in one event" and gave insight into "what and how they feel, how they communicate, their dreams and aspirations for country."

The judging panel comprised Donovan Smith, Ashayna Nisbett and Zahira Hilliman for Speech, and Fabiana Arnell, Fabian Badejo and Marcellia Henry for Cultural Wear.

The evening was hosted by Fernando Clarke and co-hosted by reigning Carnival Queens D'Shnay York, Bria Sorton and Anna Rabess-Richardson.

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Rita Bourne-Gumbs was counted amongst special guests, along with other Carnival 2015 contestants.

St. Maarten to be featured on HGTV’s ‘Caribbean Life’

COLE BAY--St. Maarten/St. Martin again will be the featured destination on "Caribbean Life," a series on the popular North American Home and Garden Television (HGTV) on Sunday, March 29. The new episode premieres at 9:30pm and re-airs on Monday, March 30, at 12:30am.

St. Maartener and Island Real Estate Team owner Arun Jagtiani is the featured realtor, as in the previous episode. He will help a couple from Washington DC find a home and return to their roots in St. Martin to start a business and a new life. The couple, Tiana and Sega, have since set up their business Share X Mobility on the French side.

Tiana is the daughter of historian Daniella Jeffry. She attended Methodist Agogic Centre and St. Maarten Academy before she moved to the United States.

Jagtiani said in a press statement promoting the show that he had contacted his friend Erika Cannegieter, the late founder of Be The Change Foundation, to be on the show with him. She declined, but introduced him to her friends Tiana and Sega who are featured in the upcoming episode.

Cannegieter lost her battle with cancer before filming of the episode commenced. The people she brought together for the show have dedicated the episode to her memory.

This new episode is one of at least eight shows in different HGTV series showcasing St. Maarten. Aside from "Caribbean Life," St. Maarten has been the destination for several "House Hunters International" episodes.

Sunday's episode will mark Jagtiani's fifth appearance on an HGTV show.

"Shows like this are the most effective marketing tools for the island, as it costs the taxpayers nothing and it gives almost 30 minutes of exposure to our core target market for tourism," Jagtiani said.

Each HGTV show typically has an audience base of four to six million viewers in North America.

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