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Port St. Maarten receives best cruise port destination award

page10b254Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Claret Connor (left) receives a plaque from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. President and Chief Operations Officer Adam Goldstein (right).

 

POINTE BLANCHE--A top Port St. Maarten management and supervisory board of directors delegation will return on Friday after attending the 31st Cruise Shipping Miami 2015 with an award: Port St. Maarten, best cruise port destination of 2014.

This is the third consecutive time Port St. Maarten has won this award. “Port management and board have been busy to reinvent cruise St. Maarten by being innovative, facilitating continuous port improvements and promoting product enhancements,” a press release from the Harbour Group of Companies stated late last night. “Also playing a dominant role are the shopping opportunities for cruise passengers, local and diverse international cuisine, and the friendliness and hospitality of the St. Maarten people.”

The port delegation had successful meetings with cruise industry figures. One of the upcoming opportunities is the continued development of home-porting operations for the country, the press release continued.

“Home-porting will mean additional and considerable foreign exchange earnings for the national economy. Additional charter flights will have to be organised by cruise lines to fly to the island to bring in cruise passengers who would start their cruise from here. Before these passengers board the vessel, they will spend some time on the island and also upon their return from their cruise. This will pump millions of additional dollars into the economy.”

Zaandam, McKenzie-Tatem to sit in Statia Island Council

ST. EUSTATIUS--United People’s Coalition (UPC) leader Reginald Zaandam will sit in St. Eustatius’ new Island Council following Wednesday’s election. He will hold his party’s only seat. The other four seats in the council are shared equally by Progressive Labour Party (PLP) led by Clyde van Putten and Democratic Party (DP) St. Eustatius led by Adelka Spanner.

While Rueben Merkman received 104 personal votes, the highest on the UPC slate, Statia’s election rules award the seats to the candidate highest on the party’s slate. This system is different from St. Maarten’s system whereby the candidates with the highest personal votes are awarded seats in Parliament.

In the case of UPC, Zaandam, who received 67 votes, was the list starter so he was awarded the seat. Merkman held the number two spot.

Based on the same election regulations, Astrid McKenzie-Tatem of PLP will hold the second seat won by her party. She will join party leader Van Putten, who was the overall highest vote-getter of the election with 251 votes, in the council. McKenzie-Tatem received 58 votes.

It was stated in Thursday’s edition of The Daily Herald that Charles Woodley as the second highest vote-getter on the PLP slate was the second councilman for this party, because he had received 64 votes. However, he was number four on the party slate while McKenzie-Tatem, with fewer personal votes, held the number two spot on PLP’s slate.

Van Putten, McKenzie-Tatem, Spanner, and Zaandam will be joined by Koos Sneek (135 votes) of DP in the Island Council.

Talks to form a coalition are ongoing in St. Eustatius, as none of the parties won three seats, the number needed to govern without a coalition.

Whether DP, which is currently in the opposition benches of the Island Council, will stay there hinges on whether it can form a coalition with PLP or UPC.

Six parties took part in the election. Three won seats while the other three won none.

“Blanko List,” as the nameless party of former Commissioner Glenn Schmidt is called, received 182 votes, falling short of the minimum 237 votes needed for a seat.

St. Eustatius Empowerment Party (STEP) of incumbent Island Councilman Franklin Brown received 133 votes, also short of the seat quota. Therefore, he will not be returning to the Island Council.

Statia Liberal Action Movement (SLAM), an election newcomer, received 66 votes, the fewest of any party in the election. The party is headed by incumbent Island Council member Millicent Lijfrock-Marsdin.

Individual votes for the other candidates on the DP slate are Ernie Simmons (64 votes), Marietza Patrick (38), Christina Woodley-Charles (36), Raquel Spanner-Carty (30), Shanna Mercera-Gibbs (20), Marlon Murray (nine) and Ralph Berkel (seven). Collectively, the DP slate received 473 votes.

Individual votes for the other PLP candidates were Richeline Leerdam (50), Laurens Duiveman (18), Arlene Spanner-Schmidt (20), Shawn Richardson (seven), Brenda van Putten (four) and Renaldo Redan (nine). Coincidentally, Richardson’s and Redan’s individual votes matched with their positions on their party’s slate. In total, PLP received 481 votes.

Also on the UPC slate were Elvin Henriquez (26 votes), Derrick Simmons Jr. (14), Perla Duinkerk (nine), Miquel de Jesus (six) and René Courtar (18). UPC’s total was 244.

STEP leader Franklin Brown received 82 votes. On the rest of the slate were Hadaki Mitchell (40), Jacques Anson (5) and Iligia Jones (7). STEP received a total of 134 votes.

SLAM leader incumbent independent Councilwoman Millicent Lijfrock-Marsdin received 30 votes. She was not re-elected to the council. The party’s number two and only other candidate, incumbent commissioner Carlyle Tearr, received 36 votes. Together, they received 66 votes.

“Blanko List” leader Schmidt received 126 votes, Gershon Lopes 11, Wilhelm Spanner 25 and Edzel Schmidt 20.

School parades for Feast of St. Joseph

page6b254PHILIPSBURG--St. Joseph School pupils paraded through Philipsburg with colourful balloons, handmade banners and headpieces in honour of past principals, to the beat of drum bands for the celebration of "The Feast of St. Joseph" Thursday morning.

Pupils, staff, and management were joined by other Catholic school managers for the celebration, commencing with mass at the St. Martin of Tours Church on Front Street, and continuing with a balloon parade and refreshments and activities back on school premises.

The parade started at the church and took the path through Front Street, Emmaplein and Back Street before ending at the school. It was led by Vrijwilligers Korps Sint Maarten (VKS) (Volunteer Corps of St. Maarten) drum band, and followed by the St. Joseph School's own drum band.

The decorated banners carried by each group named past principals all the way back to the school's establishment in 1890. The event also served to raise awareness for St. Maarten's oldest school's 125th anniversary, coming up in June.

Airport signs agreement with TLC to modernise FBO facility

SIMPSON BAY--Twenty-five years after the first call was made for a Fixed Based Operations (FBO) facility, the Princess Juliana International Airport SXM, and TLC (The Logical Choice aviation) signed an agreement that places the island on the threshold of building a modern, state-of-the-art Terminal for the General Aviation sector, a press release issued by the airport stated.

Speaking at the signing ceremony Thursday morning, Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director, stressed the importance of the new FBO facility.

"In 2013 and 2014, we had to turn away 67 and 58 requests respectively for parking of private jets. These aircrafts had to go to other airports, and it may become even more difficult to attract them to return to SXM if we do not modernize our FBO facility as soon as possible," LaBega said.

According to LaBega, the agreement "represents another major step in the realisation of the new FBO facility, which forms an important part of our Capital Improvement Programme for which the airport obtained financing on the international market.

"It means that the new facility is guaranteed of the continued services of the two major FBO operators at SXM Airport," LaBega continued, indicating that the airport recently signed a similar non-exclusive agreement with Arrindell by Signature to operate in the new facility.

Both operators, she said, will offer passenger, ground handling and into plane fuel services for General Aviation (GA) from the new FBO Terminal.

"This agreement also means that the SXM Management Team has done its part in an open, transparent and fair manner in accordance with all the standard integrity measures required of an international airport like ours," LaBega claimed, pointing to the fact that the bidding process started in December 2014.

Emphasising that the necessary "permits and authorisations" for the relocation of the Met Office as well as the Civil Aviation Authority of St. Maarten need to be granted "post haste so that this project can take off without any further delay," LaBega said.

"I know the FBO operators are eager to start building their lounges with additional services and amenities at the new facility as agreed. SXM Airport is also anxious to begin the construction of the new facility immediately so that within the next 16 months, the project can be completed as initially planned."

She praised the vision and efforts of TLC and Signature by Arrindell, the two main FBO operators who will continue to offer their services in the new facility and said both were responsible for the General Aviation sector's success, which has made the airport number two in the region, behind only the Bahamas.

"Growing a sector like General Aviation from scratch, through dint of hard work, professionalism, commitment and dedication is not easy in this very competitive industry where other destinations have the advantage of unreserved government support," LaBega remarked.

In an impromptu address, TLC managing director, Steve Kong gave a brief historical background of the development of the General Aviation sector on the island, going back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the new FBO facility was championed by Roy Mingo, now of Signature by Arrindell and TLC's Kenneth Kong. "Twenty-five years later, we will have a brand new FBO facility," Steve Kong said, adding: "If we get additional parking as has been promised," St. Maarten's competitive industry edge in the region will increase even more significantly.

Kong said that pilots especially love St. Maarten and advise their wealthy clients to come here even when they want to go elsewhere. "What we're going to build at the new FBO Terminal will make St. Maarten proud," he said.

Following the signing of the agreement, Gary Matser, chairman of the Supervisory Board of Directors of SXM Airport gave a brief toast and congratulated all those who made the agreement possible.

Teachers stand in solidarity with injured PWAS colleague

~ Want firm action against violence ~

MADAME ESTATE--Teachers who attended the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) emergency meeting Thursday evening stood firmly in solidarity with their injured Prins Willem Alexander School (PWAS) for Special Education colleague who was hit in the face with a stone by a teenage pupil on Wednesday.

The teachers, who say their cries over the years have been falling on deaf ears, want affirmative action taken against children who continue to commit violent acts against educators.

The teachers will await the outcome of a meeting between WITU and Education Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs today, Friday, before determining their next plan of action. The Daily Herald understands that if teachers are not satisfied with the outcome of the meeting they are willing to take further steps to express their concerns.

This newspaper understands that the 14-year-old special education pupil unexpectedly hit the teacher in the face with the stone after she moved a classroom table and chair to separate the young perpetrator from another pupil during a class break. The incident occurred at Dr. Alma Fleming-Rogers Educational Care Centre in Belvedere, which temporarily houses pupils relocated from PWAS in St. Peters.

The table and chair were moved while pupils were out of the classroom. When the perpetrator returned to the classroom he asked the teacher why she had moved the furniture and when she responded, he took the stone and smashed it into her face.

The pupil, who it is believed was prescribed medication for a condition he has, had other issues in school in the past. The pupils are reported to have told school authorities after the incident occurred that he does not like the teacher because she is from a particular Caribbean country and that he wanted her seriously hurt.

The public school teachers who attended last night's meeting were vociferous and expressed their frustrations with numerous past incidents in which pupils were violent against teachers. The PWAS incident was condemned. Several teachers spoke of incidents they had encountered or were aware of.

Elshot told this newspaper the teachers also had spoken of the lack of support they received from authorities when they reported incidents that occurred. At one point it was mentioned that teachers who had reported incidents of violence against them to authorities had been asked by an individual at the ministry responsible for these matters, "What do you want me to do about it?"

Elshot said the teachers believed they do not have any rights when it concerns violent acts committed against them and they want this to be addressed post-haste.

Attending last night's meeting were teachers from PWAS, Oranje School, M. Genevieve de Weever School, Charles Leopold Bell School, Ruby LaBega School and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School, amongst others.

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