19 May 2011

Anguilla - Sint Maarten begin functional cooperation

~ Governments agree to meet quarterly ~

PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten and Anguilla have agreed to what Anguilla's Chief Minister Hubert Hughes calls a "functional cooperation" between the two territories, similar to the kind of cooperation that exists among the Scandinavian countries.

(OTR Note: A formal functional cooperation mechanism between the elected governments of the neighboring British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands, known as the Inter Virgin Islands Council, was established in 1994 as a successor organisation to the Inter Virgin Islands Conference, itself created in 1990.) 

Hughes stressed the long-standing relationship between the two islands and the strong family ties that bind them together during a meeting in Anguilla on May 13, with a high-powered St. Maarten delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Theo Heyliger, which included Justice Minister Roland Duncan.

"These are indeed reasons for us to have a stronger and more structural relationship," Heyliger said. "There are many areas in which we can make our cooperation more functional and meaningful," he added, pointing to Princess Juliana International Airport as a sub-regional hub. Other areas include the possibility of joint marketing activities and the Tourism Statistical Information System (TSIS).

The St. Maarten delegation, which also comprised Angelique Roumou who represented Tourism Minister Franklyn Meyers, Director of Tourism Regina LaBega, and officials of St. Maarten Tourist Bureau as well as Peter Mazereeuw, gave a presentation on TSIS to the Anguillan authorities who were reportedly "very excited" about it.

"TSIS offers the opportunity to obtain psychographic information about visitors, which means not just their profiles, but also their behaviour patterns," explained LaBega. "There is an opportunity to build on the system and add Anguilla's inventory to it, thus being able to provide valuable information about visitors going to Anguilla from St. Maarten, information that would be important in attracting visitors by air as well as strengthening the hub facilities."

Providing residents and visitors of Anguilla "smoother entry" into St. Maarten was another major point of discussion at the talks. It was agreed that the process for visitors to Anguilla via St. Maarten needs to be simplified, and service needs to be improved.

St. Maarten needs to facilitate the immigration processing of in-transit visitors to Anguilla, which, according to the authorities of that island, sometimes takes visitors up to five hours waiting time. It was suggested that an in-transit line and an information desk could hasten the process.

Duncan mentioned the strategy of the immigration office at the Simpson Bay bridge staying open late to accommodate visitors heading to Anguilla via St. Maarten. The Justice Minister also revealed that the immigration process is already being worked on to allow, for example, Guyanese legal residents of Anguilla to travel to St. Maarten to shop, since St. Maarten is viewed as a shopping mall for Anguilla residents.

Another area of cooperation that was discussed was cooperative marketing, in particular, a US$ 90,000 joint venture with St. Maarten and COPA airlines to attract visitors from South America.

Furthermore, Anguilla demonstrated initial interest in cooperating with WestJet and Jet Blue from Puerto Rico in view of the loss of the American Eagle flight from the said market. However, it was noted that the increase of flights by Jet Blue should take the transfer in and out of Anguilla into consideration.

Also, the Anguilla government and private sector indicated their commitment to attending the 10th anniversary of St. Maarten Annual Regional Trade Show, SMART. This would be an opportunity for Anguilla to learn first-hand about the TSIS system and how it can enhance their individual products, Anguilla, and the sub-region, in general.

"I am very happy at the outcome of the meeting," Heyliger said. "Although we met on Friday the 13th, there was nothing scary or superstitious about the talks," he mused, adding that these were overdue and would be structured into a periodic consultation between the governments of these islands.

Heyliger had led a St. Maarten delegation to St. Barths on a similar mission a week earlier and explained that these meetings formed part of the government policy to establish a closer working relationship with our immediate neighbours, which would be beneficial to all parties. The Anguillan authorities applauded the initiative taken by St. Maarten and expressed confidence that it would yield concrete, positive results for both parties.

OTR Note: Anguilla is a Caribbean territory under the administration of nthe United Kingdom whilst Sint Maarten is a an autonomous country in association with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


Inter Virgin Islands Council Convenes to Discuss inter-territorial cooperation


 First Meeting of the Council since 2006

Virgin Islands Government Press Release
Virgin Islands London Office

Thursday’s meeting marked the first time Premier O’Neal and Governor de Jongh met in this forum. It created an open dialogue for both leaders and their senior government officials to share concerns and gain common ground in key areas confronting both territories including law enforcement, disaster preparedness, tourism, pleasure boating and sports fishing, cooperation on inter-island transportation of cargo and the commissioning of the new incinerator at Pockwood Pond.

Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE and United States Virgin Islands (USVI) Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. both dubbed the Fourth Meeting of the Inter-Virgin Islands Council (IVIC) held yesterday a cooperative and collaborative success.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Premier O’Neal explained the relationship and ongoing dialogue between the territories signalled the unity of both governments and its people.

“I am pleased to welcome the USVI delegation, our good neighbours, and to have this important dialogue on issues that would make these two Virgin Islands a better place for all of us to enjoy,” he said. “With our cooperative willingness to work together, we can achieve much more.”

Governor de Jongh said the forum provides a tremendous opportunity for both counterparts to jointly determine the shared experiences, interests, challenges and commonalities of both territories and its people.

He said, “We are charged with building an economy that gives hope to our young people, comfort to our seniors, while providing tremendous opportunities that grow our two economies.”

Governor de Jongh added that creating unified strategic partnerships to attract larger communities is crucial for ensuring quality of life for all people in both territories.

In a brief closing ceremony, Premier O’Neal and Governor de Jongh signed a Memorandum of Understanding for fingerprinting and ballistic to strengthen cooperation in the area of law enforcement. Now both territories can engage in further intelligence sharing and monitoring of firearms trafficking.

Officials from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the Virgin Islands Police Department said the relationships between both counterparts are “close” and “unshakeable”.

In closing Premier O’Neal said, “Today we have achieved something.” He added that reports from both sides have led to pledged cooperation and good friendship. “We have to make the Council work” so that people benefit from the collaborative decisions made, the Premier said. “He [Governor de Jongh] will push from his side, and I will push from mine.”

Both leaders shared that pooling resources, leveraging federal partnerships and formalising relations are important components for continued dialogue.

(Virgin Islands) Government’s delegation included officers from the Premier’s Office, Deputy Governor’s Office, Attorney General’s Chambers, Ministry of Health and Social Development, Solid Waste Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, Conservation and Fisheries Department, BVI Tourist Board, Immigration Department, Her Majesty’s Customs, Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, BVI Ports Authority and Department of Disaster Preparedness.

The USVI delegation included representatives from the Office of the Governor, Department of Justice, Virgin Islands Police Department, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, VI Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), Department of Tourism.

The Inter-Virgin Islands Council was established following the signing of a joint memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Virgin Islands and United States Virgin Islands in May 2004. The IVIC sets forth the framework for consultation and collective agreement between the territories. The fifth meeting is scheduled for May 2012 in the USVI.