Saturday, January 23, 2021

January 12, 2021  PHILIPSBURG - “A new beginning for the Netherlands and St. Maarten” was the description used by Prime Minister (PM) Silveria Jacobs to describe talks held with Dutch State Secretary for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops and his delegation last Thursday, January 7. Jacobs, the Minister of General Affairs, Finance Minister Ardwell Irion, Justice Minister Anna Richardson and Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Minister Egbert Doran and their support staff met with Knops and his delegation in a series of meetings at the Government Administration Building to update and follow-up on agreements made prior to the end of 2020.

The Dutch delegation consisted of Dutch Representative Chris Johnson, Country Director-General of Kingdom Relations Saskia de Reuver and Acting Program Manager for St. Maarten Sanne Kouwenhoven, who are appointed to the Temporary Working Organization (TWO) of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK awaiting the establishment of the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development COHO.

Both delegations were able to convey their support and eagerness to begin this process while emphasizing the long and challenging road ahead to realize the ambitious country reform package, Jacobs said in a press release on Friday. The ministers specifically took the opportunity to highlight areas of importance, for which work and collaboration are immediately needed, as well as to outline their hopes and intentions for the many projects that can be implemented under the umbrella of the country packages.

During the working visit, Knops and his delegation were also introduced to the government’s newly implemented and approved structure for the discussions regarding the country package. The structure consisting of a Monitoring Committee and Secretaries-General Platform/Consultation was explained, giving an indication of communication lines with counterparts in the TWO established by the Dutch.

“The government of St. Maarten, including ministers, secretaries-general, department heads and civil servants, will all play a major role in the planning and execution of the reforms, ensuring that the subsequent program and projects have the interest of St. Maarten and its people first and foremost, and have our input from the beginning,” Jacobs said in the release.

As such, the St. Maarten government representatives were set to start meetings with the Dutch TWO on a technical level, scheduled for last Friday and continuing today and tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday, to deal with the most urgent matters with upcoming deadlines.

During the first meeting, Jacobs and Irion were able to provide Knops and his delegation with an update on meeting the conditions for the second and third tranches of liquidity support. Furthermore, the reconstruction via the Trust Fund was discussed, along with progress and challenges.

Jacobs also highlighted gratitude to the Dutch government for the areas of collaboration in the matters related to public health and the coronavirus COVID-19 response, as well as challenges that still exist in relation to needed personnel and the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination strategy of the kingdom and St. Maarten. These topics will be further elaborated on in the technical meetings.

Knops provided an update on the status of the COHO draft legislation law, upon the query of the prime minister, which is still at the Kingdom Council of State, and confirmed that St. Maarten’s questions were added to those of the other Caribbean kingdom partners. The timeline moving forward was also briefly discussed, including the trajectory for the draft law to be handled in all the parliaments in the kingdom after the Council of State has rendered its advice.

Throughout the negotiation process, Jacobs sent all documents pertaining to St. Maarten’s country reform package to Parliament and has also kept Members of Parliament (MPs) updated on a regular basis about the conditions agreed upon for the second and third tranches of liquidity support.

In subsequent meetings held, Doran highlighted several matters in relation to the Trust Fund’s Emergency Debris Management Project (EDMP). Solid waste management, challenges at the landfill, as well as the challenges being faced with the resettlement of residents living near the landfill, were among the issues discussed.

Challenges experienced with the World Bank regulations and the necessity of awaiting their input and approval to be able to proceed in areas needing immediate attention require real collaborative effort on all sides to get this project moving, considering the three years that have already elapsed.

In the meeting related to pending justice matters, Richardson discussed matters in relation to the working relationship with UNOPS which is the organization proposed to build and manage the new prison. Richardson also discussed the collaboration of our law enforcement and immigration matters and there was agreement that much of the follow-up would be done in the upcoming kingdom ministerial consultation in the Judicial Four-Party Consultation JVO meetings.

“This marks a new beginning for the Netherlands and St. Maarten as we embark together on this mutual agreement. The government of St. Maarten identifies and acknowledges the opportunity to make St. Maarten resilient through structural reforms. As such, we are developing our implementation strategy for the package of reforms which is to be complementary to the projects and initiatives already in place via the Trust Fund and World Bank,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

January 16, 2021   LOS ANGELES (AP) — True to form, Betty White has something impish to say about her birthday Sunday. “Since I am turning 99, I can stay up as late as I want without asking permission!” she told The Associated Press in an email. White’s low-key plans include feeding a pair of ducks that regularly visit her Los Angeles-area home. Her birthday meal will be a hot dog and French fries brought in — along with a bouquet of roses — by her longtime friend and agent, Jeff Witjas. The actor’s TV credits stretch from 1949’s “Hollywood on Television” to a 2019 voice role in “Forky Asks a Question,” with “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” among the enduring highlights.

January 15, 2021   NEW YORK (AP) — Philip J. Smith, who rose from box office treasurer at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway to chairman and co-CEO of the theatrical giant Shubert Organization, has died from complications from COVID-19, according to his daughters. He was 89. In a career that spanned 63 years, Smith worked in every department of the Shubert Organization and was named general manager of all Shubert Theatres in 1964. The Shubert Organization owns and operates 17 Broadway theatres and six off-Broadway venues. Smith “influenced every aspect of the professional theater and earned the respect and admiration of everyone from the stage doormen to the greatest performers and creative talents of our time,” Robert E. Wankel, chairman and CEO of The Shubert Organization, said in a statement.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Peter Mark Richman, a character actor who appeared in hundreds of television episodes and had recurring roles on “Three’s Company” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” has died. He was 93. Richman died Thursday at his home in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles of natural causes, publicist Harlan Boll announced. Born in Philadelphia, Richman was a pharmacist but turned to acting. He joined the Actors Studio and in 1953 he starred on stage in the play “End as a Man.” He appeared on Broadway in “A Hatful of Rain” and “Masquerade.” He also portrayed Jerry in more than 400 New York performances of Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story,” Boll said.

January 14, 2021  -Joanne Rogers, an accomplished concert pianist who celebrated and protected the legacy of her husband, the beloved children’s TV host Mister Rogers, has died in Pittsburgh. She was 92. Rogers died Thursday, according to the Fred Rogers Center. No cause of death was given. The center called her “a joyful and tender-hearted spirit, whose heart and wisdom have guided our work in service of Fred’s enduring legacy.” Joanne and Fred Rogers were married for more than 50 years, spanning the launch and end of the low-key, low-tech “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which presented Fred Rogers as one adult in a busy world who always had time to listen to children. His pull as America’s favorite neighbor never seemed to wane before his death in 2003.