PHILIPSBURG — On the occasion of her selection by StMaartenNews.com as Person of the Year 2018, we interviewed Bibi Shaw at her private residence in French Quarter on Saint Martin. We got a first hand look at who Bibi Shaw really is and we heard her talk about her other activities besides writing for SMN-News.com. To find out what those activities are, read on. But first we talked with Bibi about her work as a journalist and her writings about politics on St. Maarten/Saint Martin.
Bibi first worked in the news industry on St. Maarten as a reporter at the Today newspaper for owner and publisher, Richard F. Gibson, Sr., after a short stint as a correspondent for The Daily Herald on the French side. Bibi, who hailed from Guyana at a time when many of the now well-known journalists on St. Maarten – also from Guyana – all started out at the Today newspaper company, also did television production work, including at AVS News and TV6, and had her own TV broadcast news show.
Forced to travel to France to assist her son with his medical situation, Bibi was compelled to stop her reporting and news broadcasting work. While in Paris, France, Bibi found that finding news about St. Maarten/Saint Martin was very difficult. That is when Bibi decided to start her own online website with news about St. Maarten/St. Martin. It was also a way to generate an income while she was away assisting her son with his medical situation.
Over the years the website had grown enormously in terms of visitor traffic. Readers from both Dutch and French St. Maarten/St. Martin and worldwide flocked to the website to keep up on the going-ons on the island. News about government, politics and the political situation on the island were the big attraction points for the website. Bibi developed a knack for being at the forefront of breaking news on St. Maarten. Her news was sometimes so fresh and hot, that even before a politically sensitive meeting was over, Bibi already had the news on website about what was discussed and decided in that meeting. Things even reached the point were people started distrusting and pointing fingers at each other as to who the mole could be that was feeding Bibi with the inside information.
Only just recently, Bibi broke the news on SMN-News.com that the Dutch government wanted to take over the management of PJIAE airport in exchange for a bridge loan. The news generated a firestorm on social media and government was quick to deny the news. However, two days later Bibi published a document containing a proposal from the Royal Schiphol Group outlining the offer to assist the PJIAE airport with its rebuilding efforts in exchange for a management contract.
This proposal was part of a package deal whereby the Dutch Government (through the World Bank) and the European Investment Bank wanted to finance the reconstruction of PJIAE to the tune of $100 million dollars, half as a grant and half as a soft loan, in exchange for positions on the supervisory and management boards and the airport being managed by the Royal Schiphol Group by means of an airport management contract. This was even confirmed by the World Bank in their own online publication.
Minister of TEATT Stuart Johnson became quite vocal on this issue and even termed the help in a press release as “‘a hostile takeover’ of our most valuable strategic asset”. According to Bibi, her sources have confirmed that Johnson had even voted against accepting the offer in the Council of Ministers’ meeting of Tuesday, January 8th, 2019, but was overruled as the other ministers voted in favor. Government made the announcement the following day in a press release with the headline “Council of Ministers supports airport financing through the World Bank and European Investment Bank“.
“The little business sense I have,” says Bibi, “besides my journalistic knowledge, tells me what sense does it make to accept the $100 millon dollars when the airport is in default and the bondholders still needs to be paid? What if they file for bankruptcy?”
According to Bibi the debt the bondholders are holding against the airport is some $100 million dollars as well, which could be less since some of the insurance money has been paid out. So with a debt of some $100M still on the table, there is no money left for the reconstruction.
“Plus,” Bibi continues. “where are they going to get the liquidity funds needed to cover the monthly operational expenditures of about 3 million guilder per month?” Bibi wonders if the government did any accounting for this and if they did come with any counter-proposal as the $100M financing will not be enough money to cover the debt to the bondholders and the monthly operational expenditures – which can quickly run up to over $40 million dollars over a 2-year period during the rebuilding phase.
“Where are we going? Bibi asks. “Because at the end of the day, the deal from the Dutch may be looking good on paper to some people, but is it good for St. Maarten?” Bibi has a valid point and there remain many questions about this airport financing deal proposed by the Dutch.
While talking about protecting her sources who disclose certain information and documents to her for fear that they would be victimized for exposing wrongdoings, Bibi also told us about her own forms of victimization that she had to endure over the years: from break-ins into her home, the stealing and destruction of her work equipment to the pulling of advertising contracts.
“A certain politician even went so far as to have his wife pull my advertising contract with a big advertiser.” Bibi explained. “I know they did that, they think I don’t know, but I know.”
Luckily, Bibi does not have to rely 100% on her income from advertising on her website. And here’s the reason why…
A Chef by Profession
As previously mentioned above, a surprising side of Bibi we did not know about is that she is a chef by profession. When she first came to St. Maarten, Bibi worked as a Sous Chef at the then Don Carlos Restaurant in Simpson Bay for about 3,5 years. Afterwards, she opened her own restaurant and cocktail lounge called ‘Bibi & Didi’, with her then-husband at the time.
“When people don’t see me much on the road,” Bibi explains. “I am home cooking and busy with my catering.” Her catering work provides her with the means to support herself and her family without having to rely solely on the advertising income from her website.
In French Quarter, Bibi is known to support the community with food and other forms of assistance, as was evident after the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria when she volunteered for her home to be used a distribution center for relief goods such as water for the neighborhood.
Bibi’s cooking has always been a source of sustenance for many of her colleagues, friends and family over the years. It is not only her love for her family and for taking care of everyone with her cooking, but it is also her love for the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin that drives her, motivates her and keeps her going.
Bibi considers the passing of hurricane Irma as a ‘wake up call’ for the people of St. Maarten. She bemoans the fact that despite the suffering and loss the people of Dutch St. Maarten incurred, during the snap elections, they still went and voted the same politicians back into power while only one man had the good of St. Maarten in his heart, according to her.
Editorial: “The thing about Bibi….”
Having visited Bibi a couple of times at her home and enjoyed her cooking and seen her work in the community of French Quarter, we have sees a side of Bibi people would not quickly think exist because of the fearlessness she displays in her journalistic work and writings on her SMN-News.com website. But the thing about Bibi is, whether you love her or hate her for what she does, as she may come over to many people as a hard-ass due to her pitbull character and her take-no-shit attitude, we have had to admit that her work in journalism on St. Maarten/Saint Martin has greatly influence the media landscape on the island and we hope that politicians, government officials and business people, who sit in backrooms cutting their shady deals, take into account that before they even walk out of the dark smokey backrooms, Bibi will have already ‘buss the pot‘ on them and have the story published on her website what they are up to. For that 5th-estate media watchdog role she fulfills, we commend her and select her as Person of the Year 2018.
Announcement: “Bibi Shaw is StMaartenNews.com’s Person of the Year 2018”
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