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MPs concerned about TelEm-Digicel accord

PHILIPSBURG--Members of Parliament (MPs) have expressed concern about the signing of a financial information sharing contract between the St. Maarten Telephone Group of Companies TelEm and regional telecom company Digicel.

Democratic Party (DP), National Alliance (NA) and Independent MPs Frans Richardson and Patrick Illidge expressed concerns during a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament on Friday, to handle amendments to the 2014 budget.

Neither United People's (UP) party MPs nor independent MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson were present at the meeting, which was chaired by Deputy President of Parliament, independent MP Romain Laville. Two of the five UP MPs (Gracita Arrindell and Silvia Meyers-Olivacci) submitted notices of absence.

Laville said a letter will be sent to the Council of Ministers and to TelEm shareholders to explain exactly what is happening to Parliament. Laville echoed sentiments expressed by other MPs that Parliament had passed a motion earlier this month to avoid a situation such as this one from occurring.

The motion in question had restricted outgoing ministers from making any long-term policy, financial and/or decisions of such a nature as granting lands in long lease, bus and taxi licences, concessions, hiring and placement of personnel in crucial functions.

DP MP Roy Marlin said the outgoing government should respect the incoming government and not do anything that would harm the functioning of the new administration. He said this seem to not be the case, particularly when it comes to the agreement TelEm has inked with Digicel. "Something like this could have waited until the new government came in," Marlin said, noting that the motion Parliament passed earlier this month was necessary, as experience had shown that in the past when there is a change of government and a minister "wants to do something fast" it can be present a challenge.

He called for a review of all decisions made by outgoing ministers and those that "can't see the light of day" should be reversed. He said the onus should remain on the minister who took a questionable decision to challenge the annulment in court. Marlin said jurisprudence has shown, as had occurred in Curaçao, that annulment of such decisions can be upheld in court.

Independent MP Frans Richardson said there were "a number of things" taking place and several "quick decisions" were being made by sitting ministers that would have serious consequences for the country.

He accused a minister of being busy "peddling off" land in Fort Willem that had been earmarked for a basketball court for the area to someone else. Another MP later referred to the same matter saying that the land was being given to someone for a cemetery.

"We are hearing all sorts of issues taking place," Richardson said noting that Parliament's earlier motion seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. The MP called for a serious investigation into the actions of the current government over the past weeks. "I will be holding all those responsible for these decisions being taken. I will not sit in government and let things pass by and no one is held accountable for them... If we don't bring these matters to the attention of the public then we are just as bad as those taking the decisions," he said.

The independent MP stressed that those who fail to adhere to motions and legislation passed by Parliament should be "dealt with seriously" because "it would be the public who would have to pay for their wrong."

Several other MPs including Independent MP Patrick Illidge and NA MPs George Pantophlet and Hyacinth Richardson registered concerns about the TelEm-Digicel accord. DP MP Leroy de Weever was not present at yesterday's meeting.

In the meantime, the status of talks between TelEm and United Telecommunication Services (UTS) could not be ascertained. St. Maarten is entitled to between 12 and 25 per cent of UTS' operation as a result of the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams is the shareholder representative for TelEm, while the minister responsible for telecommunications is Ted Richardson, who had been appointed by Laville.

High school students clash outside schools Thurs, Fri

~ MPC suspends two students ~

SOUTH REWARD--An undisclosed number of students had to be taken to the Philipsburg police station and reprimanded for engaging in fights in the vicinity of their school on Thursday.

Police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson said police had to intervene in at least three "big fights" amongst high school students on Thursday and Friday, noting that fracas are "again becoming an issue of concern."

Information gathered by investigating officers and the community police officer for that district indicated that a St. Maarten Vocational Training School (SMVTS) student confronted a Milton Peters College (MPC) student because the latter student "looked at him" with "a screw face."

This led to a fight between SMVTS and MPC students. SMVTS students fled the scene when police arrived. MPC students who remained on the scene were taken to Philipsburg Police Station where they were reprimanded and remained until their parents picked them up. Henson said the parents were apprised of the situation and urged to have "a serious talk" with their children.

The fight amongst the students continued on Friday morning in front of MPC and SMVTS causing what Henson said had been "major disruption." When the situation was brought under control, students and their parents were sent to the Police Juvenile Department to file an official report. "Because of these unnecessary fights and police [being – Ed] called to restore order, the focus of the police on other important issues was taken away," Henson said in a police press release.

The incident led to an urgent meeting amongst MPC management, Education Department representatives, Prosecutor's Office and the community police officer for that area on Friday. During the meeting parties discussed how best to tackle this situation before it gets worse.

In an invited comment on the matter, MPC General Director Wim de Visser said MPC decided to suspend two of its students for two to five days for fighting. He said MPC together with authorities will decide on a more definitive course of action. "Expulsion might be the follow up as we do not tolerate in any sense violence in and around our schools," De Visser said.

"We are in a process of further developing the quality of education. We offer a lot of extracurricular programmes; we have an intensive tutoring policy. We keep a close eye on to our students, we have a safety programme."

He said MPC needs the support of families in raising their children with good and positive support, morals and values. "This morning relatives of a student came to school and were about to fight outside the school. Fortunately, we could separate them and immediately afterwards the police took them to the police station. Another family went to the police station to report on the incident," De Visser said.

"This morning [Friday – Ed.], I invited the school managers, the police officer, truancy and probation to sit and discuss our policy regarding this incident. We all agreed that a firm statement must be made with expulsion as our ultimate decision.

"The next step in this matter is that the two students will be referred to probation and they will have a policy/treatment for both the students and their families. We will not accept the students back to our school, as our first and foremost importance is the safety of our students and staff," he said.

De Visser advised students to focus on the positive aspects of learning and studying and see the great opportunities education brings. "Another thing we need to do as a community (government, foundations, schools, churches) is to have an intense dialogue on the values and morals in raising children. Get this sensible subject on the table. Why is there so much (domestic) violence? Do we need to sort out discussions and differences in opinion in a fight? Why can't we as humans respect each other, meaning without getting straight into a fight? Why do many people think that violence is a solution for a difference of opinion? Bring this to the table and join forces as schools, police, government, foundations and churches. Say all together we cannot tolerate this and yes, we all, including families of youngsters, will take care for that," he said.

In the event of a fight, De Visser urged students to stay away from it instead of running towards it. "

The fewer spectators, the less it will evolve into something bigger. We have security that can deal with a situation like that. The more crowded the place is, the less overview they have. Do not encourage the incident while standing around. Violence is never beautiful, it is despicable," De Visser said. "Our schools are safe schools because we will never tolerate violence, whatsoever. The consequences will be for the violators," he said.

Financial supervision continues, says Rutte

THE HAGUE--Financial supervision for Curaçao and St. Maarten will remain in place, at least until the 2015 evaluation of the Kingdom Laws has been completed, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.

Rutte mentioned higher supervision in his written answers to questions posed by the party leaders during the general debate on the Dutch Government's 2015 draft budget.

ChristianUnion (CU) leader Arie Slob had inquired about the relations in the Kingdom, but did not specifically ask about financial supervision. Nevertheless, Rutte addressed the matter in his reply. "The supervision on the countries based on the Kingdom Law on Financial Supervision will be maintained," he stated.

Slob had asked whether the Dutch cabinet shared the view that the representation of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in the constellation of the Kingdom is still not ideal. Also, he wanted to know the cabinet's position on the "malfunctioning place" of the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in the Dutch constellation.

Slob further inquired about the upcoming evaluation of the constitutional relations that went into effect on October 10, 2010, when Curaçao and St. Maarten attained country status and Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became Dutch public entities. "Does the cabinet see the need to work on equal relations between the countries in this important evaluation year that will be closed off on October 10, 2015?"

Rutte replied: "The constitutional reform of the Kingdom was realised in 2010. The relations between the parts of the Kingdom have their own character, guaranteed by the Charter. The various Kingdom Laws established in 2010 contain evaluation stipulations of which the execution is currently being prepared in consultation with the involved Caribbean parts of the Kingdom. The position of the public entities also will be part of the evaluation."

Financial supervision will be the main topic of a general debate of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber with Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk next week Thursday.

Discussed will be, among other things, the reports of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT for Curaçao and St. Maarten, and for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba of the first six months of 2014; the interim report of the audit of Aruba's financial position carried out by CFT's secretariat; and the report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of its consultation regarding Curaçao and St. Maarten.

The Second Chamber will have a separate debate with Minister Plasterk on November 6 on the CFT's control tasks for Curaçao and St. Maarten. This debate was requested by Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party.

‘Champions of Peace’ march through town

page1a106PHILIPSBURG--A rally dubbed "Champions of Peace" was held on the afternoon of September 19. Participants marched through the streets of Philipsburg and held a small presentation at Clem Labega Square, which served as the beginning and ending point.

Students of various schools participated in the rally. Still dressed in uniform, they formed small groups holding banners for the march.

Offering kind words and touching on the significance of acting as "champions of peace," Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams addressed the crowd briefly, as did Jorien Wuite on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Affairs and Marcellia Henry on behalf of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Addressing the crowd, Henry shared a poem called "I dream of a world of peace" by a Nepalese high school student before sharing a reflection on whether peace is really possible or an ideal concept. She also shared a UNESCO slogan: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed."

Although the turnout was less than hoped for, organisers said it was about the quality rather than only the quantity. The route of the march also was shortened, with participants skipping a planned stop at the peace monument at Philipsburg Jubilee Library.

The rally was organised by the partnership to encourage acceptance, caring and empowerment in schools PEACE IS Foundation in collaboration with the St. Maarten Youth Council Association. The objective was to encourage St. Maarten's young people, as well as the young at heart, to be champions of peace and to encourage others to do the same by advocating harmony.

Stabbed inmate moved from hospital to ‘another place’

CAY HILL--The inmate who was seriously injured when he was stabbed during a brawl at the Pointe Blanche prison last week Thursday has been moved from St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) to "another place."

Prison Director Edward Rohan confirmed that the inmate had been moved from SMMC and taken to a place where his safety is secured. He declined to specify whether the other location referred to was the prison.

"He has been moved from the hospital. He is not critical anymore, so the prison doctor and nurse will continue his care," Rohan said Thursday. "We have found another place for him in the meantime."

Rohan said tensions were still high at the prison and inmates were still in lockdown since last week's violent incident.

The inmate in question was injured when he was stabbed with a machete. Two firearms subsequently were found in the facility, leading to cries amongst prison guards about concerns for their safety and security.

Justice Minister Dennis Richardson announced on Wednesday a number of strict measures that will be introduced at the facility to address the security breaches that resulted in the guns being smuggled into the prison.

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