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Letter to the Editor: Urgent Call for Environmental Leadership in Sint Maarten's Upcoming Snap Elections.

Dear Editor,

With the snap elections set for August 19th, 2024, it is crucial for the residents of Sint Maarten to thoroughly evaluate the candidates and political parties vying for our votes. Our island’s future depends on the decisions we make today, especially regarding environmental sustainability and sustainable development.
So far, very little candidates have shown a clear focus on sustainable development and environmental conservation. There is a concerning lack of a climate change resilience and adaptation plan for Sint Maarten, including a structured proposal for sustainable energy using renewable resources, which is critical given the current energy crisis. Additionally, there are no clear strategies for how we will become resilient to climate change through a National Climate Change Adaptation and Response Plan. This is especially worrying considering the impacts of unprecedented hurricanes like Beryl in the Caribbean and the anticipation of a long, difficult hurricane season.
We need to look beyond just individual candidates and focus on the platforms and track records of the political parties they represent. It is essential to prioritize those committed to sustainable development and nature conservation, focusing on long-term benefits rather than short-term, unsustainable gains. Sint Maarten is one of the few islands in the Caribbean without protected nature areas on land. Establishing these protected areas is vital to preserving our unique biodiversity and boost sustainable development for our country.
Similarly, compared to other Caribbean islands, Sint Maarten is lagging in implementing Environmental and Social Impact Assessment laws. Our current focus on building unsustainable structures without considering environmental and social impacts is causing us to fall behind in valuing and preserving our natural resources for economic development.
Unrestrained, unsustainable development is also negatively impacting our communities, affecting not only our energy grid and natural environment but also our traditional communities. Just ask the residents of Simpson Bay village about the impacts they are currently facing, considering how permits for large-scale developments have been issued without any social or environmental impact assessments to identify the impacts on residents who often struggle to make a living. This lack of foresight is eroding the very fabric of our communities.
Candidates and parties advocating for Blue and Green Economies, which emphasize sustainable development and nature conservation while integrating our cultural heritage for the orange economy, deserve our serious consideration. We must support leaders who recognize the threats posed by climate change and are committed to developing a resilient strategy for Sint Maarten, protecting our way of life as Caribbean people.
We need to shift our tourism focus towards eco-tourism rather than solely increasing cruise ship passengers or airlift. Electing leaders who understand the importance of green spaces for local flora and fauna and their contributions to our well-being is essential for the island's long-term sustainability.
I urge everyone to carefully examine party manifestos and governing programs, prioritizing candidates that champion nature conservation, sustainable development, green, blue, and orange economies, regional integration, climate change adaptation, and sustainable tourism. Our votes should support those who prioritize people and the planet over personal or private profit, recognizing the importance of conservation and cultural development.
Transforming the Beach Policy and the Hillside Policy into enforceable laws is also critical to ensure the sustainable management of these ecosystems, protecting us from flooding, landslides, and restricted access to our beaches, which are our most vital natural resources.
As we approach the elections, let us vote for parties and candidates who prioritize the environment and people over personal gain or empty political rhetoric. We need leaders committed to shaping our country sustainably, protecting our land, and fostering development that benefits all. Let us ensure that Sint Maarten remains a beautiful and thriving home for future generations.

Tadzio Bervoets
+1 721 5864588

A Caribbean hurricane protection matter.

by Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

The risk of an explosion of hurricane damage claims may quickly bury insurance companies' profits. It has led to something of an insurance exodus in Florida in the past couple of years. Homeowners in Florida are struggling with skyrocketing home insurance premiums. Several insurers operating in Florida have cut coverage in some of the areas that are most vulnerable to natural disasters or have withdrawn from the state entirely.

It is also high time in the Caribbean to think about what is or maybe happening to be or not to be protected by insurance or otherwise in the future. Returning to what may be considered ‘normal’ is not an option but rather a mediocratic restauration. Hurricane preparedness including having bottled water, batteries, getting any lose items out of the way, etc. is a minimal precaution. What about buildings and construction?

Some buildings remain almost miraculously untouched after a weather disaster. Many others may lose their roofs, windows or doors. Residents, not knowing what to do or what may be next. And tremendous piles of sheet metal. sit in front of what once was their beloved home, and their damaged furniture and belongings is in the yard or on the street in front of them.

A serious advisory is needed that focusses on building hurricane resistant structures or reconstruct them to such. It may sound like a building code, but it should not be a government regulation or requirement although it could be encouraged by a government. It should not take away or limit anyone’s rights. It is a stern advisory. Yet, it may have implications. And if not initiated or implanted by a government who will?

An independent Caribbean Research and Development Institute for Architecture and Construction should be founded. The Institute should be supported by the Insurance and the Building Industries. The activities of the institute should be carried out in cooperation with reputable international universities such as for instance the Technical University Delft - Netherlands, Technical University Zurich – Switzerland, MIT - USA. No political involvement; an absolutely independent and impartial organization.

Why the insurance industry? When it comes to big dollars and cents, whose profits suffered the most after the hurricanes? They should have a vested interest in any practical and realistic solution that reduces risks; after all, believe it or not, it is a risk adverse industry. Mind that if major insurance companies withdraw their coverage, as it is the case in Florida, then local insurance brokers have less to insure which may reduce their revenue.

Why the building/construction industry? They should be interested in developing materials and methods that resist any challenging situation. Their financial support and investment should pay off well for them in return.

Why the international universities? That should not need much explanation. They are reputable, and insurance, building/construction industries will trust them. Any government may lack that kind of credibility.

The institute should independently do its research and development to establish a building code for hurricane stealth and resisting construction. It may even have a wind tunnel available to test structure models in extreme high wind circumstances. In addition, the institute should be the preferred independent international organization that can certify whether design, construction or materials are appropriate. Therefore, it will have inspectors and adjusters. Again, no government or political involvement.

The insurance industry from its side might determine that that any new commercial building that is not hurricane certified can only be insured at higher premiums, get limited coverage, or in the worst case it may not be considered at all for insurance coverage. The building suppliers could proudly show the certificate or seal of approval on their products. Investors in new projects may also applaud to see a certification.

The mission of the institute is not to police or regulate, but rather be an undertaking to prevent and protect buildings and its owners against hurricane damages of an extraordinary proportion that we have seen recently, and which actually may return at any time in the future. It is not the aim to take authority away from local governments. Although, it could become a matter of lead, follow, or get out of the way of the institution. The wisest option for all would be to cooperate with this new credible organization all the way and establishing and accepting a positive standard for all.

The institute will inform general audiences about how to protect their dwellings from hurricane impact. It can do so through publication of documentation, presentations on the media or at locally organized meetings. There are many benefits that come out of this solution.

But there is more. The lucky island that will be selected as the location of choice, may now have landed an institute of higher learning that is internationally accredited, affiliated and respected. Which means new employment in the non-academic segments of the institution on location. It may mean conferences to be held on the island and an opportunity to develop unique science tourism.

For young people in the region, it may be an option to study in an alternative academic direction that they don’t have to go abroad for. Because it is Caribbean related, it may be an opportunity for them to find well paid employment in the region afterwards or even set up their own specialized business. Current and hurricane damage of the past has proven that it all makes sense. Just food for thought.



Dear Editor,

We would like to know where the police unions are. What are they doing?
Is it because the Minister of Justice is intimidating them? Or is it because they are afraid of him?
Or is it because he promised the union leader, M., the position of head of our customs department and also promised the treasurer of the NAPB Union, Miss J. P., that he would give her a scale of 10 or 11?
When our Minister of Justice Ana Richardson was there, they always were quick to chant touch one, touch all.
However, this minister of Justice removed C.R. from his position at the already understaffed armed robbery department of the police force to have him transport prisoners, all because he said someone told him that C.R. said something about him being corrupt. Then we ask ourselves, who disrespects the Minister of Justice Ana Richardson more than Mr. Lewis himself openly? This is the same Minister who stated that he cannot be hearsay and that things are not factual, but how is the situation with C.R. factual?
What is the minister of justice using to measure with?
Then we have the case of Miss L.G. from the national detectives; the union again remained quiet. It became clearer from this that the union is not on the side of us, the members.
The Minister of Justice further weakens departments by placing his friends in places and giving them new scales. Crime is on the rise, and the Minister chose to remove someone from within the heavy crimes department within the police force, where it's very much needed now with all of these shootings, only to place her in a department where she was not needed. Still, because it's his best friend, he arranged it. He placed her in a department where she was exposed to a lot of information while she was on the board of the NOW party. So figure it out: if there is an investigation into anyone in that party, she will have that information firsthand.
Again, where is the Union in this matter? A sleep? If it were Minister A. Richardson, they would have already called for a strike, meeting, or even a go-slow.
Minister Lewis decided to bring some officers from KPSM back to work, which is good for some because it gives them a second chance. But what about Officer D., who admitted that he is a drug abuser, and yet the Minister brought him back? Now we understand that Union leader M received a voice note from D. indicating that he will come and shoot and kill high-ranking officers, who, at this moment, are now working from home for their own safety. Again, where is the Union in this matter?
Since the Minister took office, how many national decrees has he given out? He promised our unions that he would give out 50 per week, but we have not had any in months. All that was given was what Minister A. Richardson did. The promise was that everyone should have received their decree.
However, Minister Lewis ensured he received his decree and back pay without a national decree. He also made sure that his friends received their decrees.
What happened to the other civil servants that fall under his jurisdiction?

This Minister Lewis has not addressed our issues at the prison or the customs department. How is he the people's minister? He visited the prison, just too grandstand since his best friend returned to work after years of being out sick and is feeding him information about the prison's management team. Because she wants to be head of the prison.
Ask the minister of Justice what deal he made with O'Neil Arrindell, who just reported to prison, to sit out his 40-month prison sentence. Why did he promise 0? Arrindell that he would get him out of prison for his votes to get him elected again. Or is it because it's his family member?
Does the Minister of Justice know what he can or should not do?
What is going on with our function book? Is the police function book only important? What is going on at the customs department within the management team? Where is the acting head? When will these be heard? So many are out sick, and we are suffering silently.
I guess we will see the Minister of Justice come up with a next political stunt to try and save the day just to get votes. Be careful of the wolf in sheep's clothing; he is not who he pretends to be.

Signed, concerned prison guards/ customs officers/ CIVIL SERVANTS

Hurri-Cane – the living moving generator.

By ir. Damien Richardson

damienrichardson02072024Norway has innovated and created water tunnels, Elon Must has innovated and created reusable rocket boosters, the Netherlands has innovated and 98% of its country lives on dry land six meters below the water level. The Caribbean has innovated and created a shield that protects its islands and it absorbs the energy from hurricanes – living in that future potential is what makes this region special.

The reason hurricanes have names is to make sure there is no confusion when discussing them from regional context to regional context. Everyone knows what the power of a hurricane can do; just the name alone strikes fear in people anywhere. It is time for us as a region of nations to accept the opportunity that has been presented to us and consider our options. Hurricanes have one very important feature – WIND. Passive wind energy is a very well-known resource. Today, the question must be asked: why are we not storing this freely given resource as a reuseable alternative? Take note of the Chinese proverb that says, “There is nothing difficult in the world as long as you set your mind to it.”

Hurricane gets its name from the Taino people - Hurakan – “god of the storm”. Today, we have the distinct opportunity to change the idea of the name so that hurricanes can have a more proactive purpose. What if hurricanes could be viewed like living moving generators? Considering the alternative options, it is reasonable to begin researching and developing proactive toolkits to combat and totally protect and harvest the freely given wind power resource from our visiting friends, the hurricanes. A toolset of connected elements that can surround each island to protect the islands from the oncoming hurricane winds would be a priceless benefit and solution.

Hurricanes have been around for centuries. There are many books written about them. Let us write new books and new stories about how beautiful the experience was for the locals and the visiting families. Families would then be able to visit their island of choice. So that they could see and admire this once in a life time event; to see the way the island shield was absorbing the energy from the hurricane similar to watching the northern lights, but from an up close and personal perspective. This could be experienced from the convenience of their yacht, cruise ship becks or from their especially least villa or hotel accommodations. As they say “seeing is believing”.

This region has learnt all that it needs to learn from hurricanes; it is time to turn the page and close this book. Let us open this new book called the Hurricane Energy Region. Let us shake the global news broadcast syndicates with news of the record energy storage capacity highs freely given to us by hurricane X,Y and Z. Living is not dreaming. We are living in this real time where hurricane recovery has reached over tens of billions of dollars in lives lost and recovery aid. Let us open our book to being able to finally give back to the world by introducing our own living energy supply toolkit.

Dutch UN Mission Attempts to Block Bonaire Group from BAKU Initiative Conference; Dutch Government Abuse Complaint Sent to Dutch King.

Letter from James Finies to Your Highness Willem-Alexander and the new Prime Minister,

As the people of Bonaire continue to strive for our fundamental human rights under Article 73 of the UN Charter, I remind Your Highness of the promise made to me and the people of Bonaire during our meeting on November 16, 2013. Your assurance gave us hope, confirmed by a Dutch government letter dated January 8, 2014 from Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, that endorsed our right to self-determination: “That the people of Bonaire have the right to make their voices heard and right to self-determination is an attainment that is not up for discussion and is fully endorsed by the Cabinet.”
In line with this promise, I protested for 222 days in 2014, leading to a referendum on December 18, 2015, where 66% of Bonaire's electorate rejected the island's current status. Despite this, our Bonaire peoples decision was ignored, and our rights denied.
We turned to the UN, and on June 22, 2016, I addressed the Decolonization Committee, which recommended Bonaire be re-listed as a Non-Self-Governing Territory. Dutch legal experts confirmed our premature delisting in 1955 was erroneous.
During our discussion on November 16, 2013, I clarified I do not seek independence but only to restore our rights under Article 73 of the UN Charter. This is urgent as Bonaire's native population has dwindled to under 32% due to demographic changes since 2010.
We seek your cooperation to ensure our rights are respected. Unfortunately, recent actions by your Dutch government representatives undermine this effort:
- At the Small Island Developing States Conference in Antigua and Barbuda in May 2024, our colleague Davika Bissessar, President of Bonaire Human Rights Organization, faced racial intimidation and abuse from Saba Governor Johnson.
- Last week, June 20, 2024 the Dutch UN mission attempted to block our participation in a UN decolonization conference organized by Azerbaijan UN Mission at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Furthermore, we have disturbing indications of wiretapping by your intelligence service, which I requested to stop in my letter dated June 27, 2022. We have faced assassination attempts and unlawful arrests due to our advocacy.
I hold Your Highness's Kingdom Government responsible for any further threats to our safety. We trust you to address these issues and uphold our rights as promised.


With utmost trust,
James Finies

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