Tuesday, Mar 03rd

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Arnell: ‘Collectivité can only act as a mediator in Minville case’

MARIGOT--First Vice-President Guillaume Arnell said Monday the Collectivité cannot intervene in the Minville family land dispute as the land falls under private ownership and not under domain land that has been handed over to the Collectivité by the State.

"If it was Collectivité land this case would have already been sorted out by now," he said.

Given the recent court ruling and heavy fines, Arnell added the only option left for the family is to try and come to a "friendly agreement" with Société des Hôtels Caraïbes for a compromise on division of the land, acceptable to both parties, that would give the Minville family some peace of mind at least and in this regard he is willing to act as a mediator.

The land in question is that of Morne Rond, an area starting at the St. Martin Tourism Office and stretching down to the Sandy Ground Bridge. The disputed Minville land lies on the ocean side between Le Pirate and the bridge.

Arnell acknowledged he became aware of the Minville situation only on December 12, 2014, when they explained it to him at a number of meetings that followed. The case goes back as far as 1974 with the first court case held in 1983. His department is currently dealing with a number of domain land issues.

"Domain land concerns land that is owned by the Collectivité and persons who are occupying the land without ownership," he explained. "We are attempting to legalise those people. There are three aspects to the domain land issue: land that was partly sold years ago by the State which applies to some people, other people who have managed to get title or ownership by going through the "50 pas" agency in Guadeloupe before we became a Collectivité – the State started that process – and people who have been able to acquire domain land via the State recently.

"Now when we became a Collectivité the State turned over all the domain land to us and it is that land that we are trying to regulate. But when we looked at Morne Rond we found parcels of land where the Collectivité was not the owner and therefore as private properties they had to be excluded. The portion of Minville land does not concern the Collectivité; it's a dispute between two private parties, Minville and Société des Hôtels Caraïbes."

Arnell explained that he was told by the family that their lawyer did not defend them in the appeal court and the judgement was therefore upheld. The lawyer further advised against going to the Final Court of Appeal (Cour de Cassation) and instead to go to the European Court of Justice. However, it emerged that the European Court could not help the family as it had not used all three levels of the court system, i.e. Court of First instance, Appeal Court and Final Appeal Court beforehand.

"There isn't any doubt the Minville family was occupying the land before Société des Hôtels Caraïbes came into the picture but the Minville documents show there are inaccuracies over the description and measurement of the exact portion of land," continued Arnell. "But that doesn't mean the land did not belong to them."

He disclosed at one point during the long legal process Société des Hôtels Caraïbes proposed to make an amicable settlement with the family.

"The family refused the offer because they believed they were in the right from the beginning. I have told the family that I can try to mediate with the other owner to work something out. The other option was to bring in a national mediator appointed by the French Government, but we found out a national mediator can only assist when there have been no prior court cases.

"The family has asked me to see if the other party will be willing to reconsider the original friendly settlement offer made to the family some years ago. But now the challenge is to find the exact names of the correct people to negotiate with, as the documents just have hotel names that don't exist anymore. From what I understand from the family, they are willing to keep the portion of the land that has been constructed on and let the hotel society have the vacant part."

Arnell said it was highly unlikely Société des Hôtels Caraïbes would get to the point of demolishing buildings as this would cause massive social unrest in the community.

"The family is right to keep the population informed, that at least keeps Hôtels Caraïbes from thinking all is well. I understand the family's position, it's very unfortunate. They must either accept the judgement or go for the settlement. Our interest is to force Hôtels Caraïbes to come back to the negotiating table."

Fatal crash driver’s detention extended, suspect alcohol use

PHILIPSBURG--The driver of the vehicle who was arrested at the scene of the accident that cost the life of 46-year-old David Charles has had his pre-trial detention extended by eight days on the Prosecutor's authority.

Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Tineke Kamps has confirmed this and stated that the man, who was identified locally as A.D. from Suriname, would be brought before the judge of instruction today to have the legality of his arrest tested and his detention confirmed.

A.D. is under suspicion of manslaughter, contrary to articles 320 and 321a of the penal code. Manslaughter falls under Article 320, but Article 321a specifies that there is an aggravating factor if the suspect was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offence. It is suspected that A.D. was under the influence of alcohol when he caused the accident.

At the time of the offence, the suspect was driving a Nissan X-Trail on Bishop Hill Road at high speed when he lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle crashed into a stationary vehicle that was shoved into the victim, a pedestrian, who was thrown against an excavator and died of his injuries on Saturday, February 28.

Hassink: No extensions to pay motor vehicle tax

PHILIPSBURG--Motorists who have missed the February 28 deadline to pay their 2015 motor vehicle tax can be subjected to vehicle controls set to start after the Heineken Regatta.

Minister of Finance Martin Hassink said on Monday that government would not be granting any extension of the deadline to pay motor vehicle tax.

The deadline to pay motor vehicle tax was February 28 as stipulated in the law. Hassink said in a press release that the provision of licence plates and all related aspects were on schedule this year and therefore no extension was warranted.

Now that the deadline has passed, the Tax Administration will inform the Police Force and a date will be set for motor vehicle controls, Hassink said. This most likely will happen sometime after the Heineken Regatta, he added in a press release issued by the Press Secretariat. Persons who failed to pay their 2015 motor vehicle tax by February 28 could lose the right to their numbers.

A total of 31,028 number plates were ordered for this year. The new plates are orange in colour and bear the words "The Friendly Island" at the top and "St. Maarten" at the bottom, with a photo of the Coat of Arms and an outline of the island imprinted on them. A valid insurance and inspection card are needed for payment to be processed.

The price for the number plates is the same this year: NAf. 12.50 for all types of vehicles and NAf. 7.50 for motorbikes. Motorists with number plates M, P, SXM, MR (ministers), PAR (parliament) will pay NAf. 275 in motor vehicle tax for gas operated vehicles and NAf. 750 for diesel operated ones. Motorists with R plates will pay NAf. 300 for gas operated vehicles and NAf. 750 for diesel operated vehicles. Taxis, BUS, G (group), T (tour busses with 35 passengers or less) pay NAf. 275 for gasoline-operated vehicles and NAf. 550 for diesel-fuel-operated vehicles.

Vehicles with V and Z plates that weigh more than 3,500kg will pay NAf. 1,250 for gasoline- or diesel-fuel-operated vehicles. Vehicles with V plates that weigh less than 3,500kg will pay NAf. 275 for gasoline-operated vehicles and NAf. 750 for diesel-fuel- operated vehicles. Persons with MF (motorbike) plates will pay NAf. 200 and those with MF (mopeds) will pay NAf. 50 in motor vehicle tax.

Bush fire spreads to storage shed, Fire Department saves buildings

page3b239PHILIPSBURG--The Fire Department had to come to the rescue on Monday when a bush fire in a yard on Bush Road suddenly spread to a nearby building due to high winds.

The building was a storage shed in the yard of Ernest Hotel. The hotel is currently under restoration and the shed was believed to have contained items such as buckets of paint that potentially could cause hazardous gases in a fire.

Fire Officer Pauletta confirmed the incident. "Around 11:45am on March 2 the Fire Department received a call to a bush fire on Bush Road. A small unit arrived minutes after; however, at that time it became clear that a wooden storage unit had become engulfed in flames. The unit called for backup and by noon the fire was contained."

Pauletta said the hotel and other surrounding buildings never had been endangered, as the fire had been put out before it could put those buildings at risk.

The wooden shed was burned down. Pauletta could not confirm what exactly had been inside it, but said there had been small bottles of fuel inside that had aggravated the fire.

"Although the fire was contained at noon, some extra time was required to reduce the heat and the glowing, and to eliminate the risk of the fire reigniting," Pauletta explained.

Two units, eight fire fighters and a coordinator were at the scene. The Fire Department was ready to leave the scene around 2:00pm, leaving the owners to deal with cleaning up the debris.

Pauletta said: "Although there has been some rain lately, the area is still very dry. Anyone wanting to light a fire for any purpose is advised to take the proper precautions. If anyone has any questions about safety precautions, they are advised to call the Fire Department."

South Africa maul West Indies by 257 runs

AB de Villiers flayed West Indies with a brilliant unbeaten 162 from just 66 balls to drive South Africa to an imposing 408 for five.

AB de Villiers confirmed his status as the most destructive batsman in cricket with a magnificent unbeaten 162 from just 66 balls to lead South Africa to a record 257-run victory over West Indies in their ICC World Cup 2015 Pool B match on Friday.
  South Africa's tally of 408 for five was the second highest posted in a World Cup match and a shell-shocked West Indies could only manage 151 in reply, Chris Gayle backing up his record 215 against Zimbabwe on Tuesday with a paltry three.
  It was the joint fourth largest margin of victory by runs in an one-day international and also equalled the largest margin in a World Cup match, matching India's 257-run win over Bermuda in 2007.
  De Villiers earlier continued his one-man mission to redefine limited overs batting with the quickest century in one-day internationals on Australian soil (52 balls) and the fastest 150 ever in the 50-over format (64 balls).
  Utilising his full repertoire of strokes in an awesome display of batting, he flogged the West Indies bowlers with eight sixes and 17 fours in a 104-minute knock that will live long in the memory. His last 50 runs came off just 12 balls and brought the 23,612 crowd at a sun-bathed Sydney Cricket Ground to their feet chanting "AB!, AB!, AB!".
  South Africa were desperate to kickstart their campaign after their 130-run defeat to India in their last Pool B match and de Villiers ensured they would. The 31-year-old shared stands of 134 runs with Rilee Rossouw (61), 48 with David Miller (20) and an unbeaten 80 in 3.2 overs with Farhaan Behardien to turn around his country's innings after West Indies had made a promising start to the match.
  West Indies captain Jason Holder, who had bowled two maidens, taken one wicket and conceded nine runs in his first five overs, ended up with figures of 1/104 after giving up 64 runs in his last two overs.
  Caribbean hopes of any kind of riposte to the carnage wrought by de Villiers rested largely in the hands of Gayle, who had contributed to his side's good start by taking two wickets in the 30th over to reduce South Africa to 146/3. The 35-year-old opener had faced just three balls, however, when he took a huge swing at a Kyle Abbott delivery and lost his leg stump.
  The West Indies soon looked like the demoralised rabble that lost their
tournament opener to Ireland with only Dwayne Smith (31), Denesh Ramdin (22) and Holder (56), with his maiden ODI half century, offering more than token resistance.
  Spinner Imran Tahir finished with figures of 5/45 to become the first South African to take a five-wicket haul in a World Cup match.

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