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French Quarter protest prompts immediate Gendarmerie patrols

page10d121MARIGOT--Extra Gendarmerie and Police patrols, both mobile and foot patrols, in the area of French Quarter where fires have been occurring for the past two months, will be implemented with immediate effect.

This was one of the measures taken at an hour-long emergency meeting between elected officials of the Collectivité, Social Services, Préfecture, Gendarmerie, Territorial Police and French Quarter District representatives during Wednesday’s protest over lack of security in the district.

District Representative Steven Patrick reported that the family of eight, evicted back in September, whose children were long suspected of causing the fires, was due to be relocated to French Cul-de-Sac Wednesday afternoon from temporary accommodation in French Quarter.

“I think by just getting this family out of the neighbourhood will calm a lot of nerves,” said Patrick.

The family that lost their house in Tuesday’s fire meanwhile are staying in a guest house organised by the Collectivité until alternative accommodation can be found.

The Vice-Prosecutor will also be reviewing the files of the suspects, mostly minors, to see if further action can be taken in terms of transferring them to special institutions or correctional facilities in Guadeloupe.

“We learnt that one of the kids admitted involvement in one of the fires, and his case comes up in November,” Patrick disclosed. “He is one of the kids from the family of eight. The other two suspects denied involvement and were released.

“The problem the Gendarmerie has is that it needs cooperation from the public. But nobody is volunteering information. With regard to those 13 fires, nobody reported seeing anything and that is disturbing. And this is why the investigation is dragging on.”

Patrick said the meeting produced sufficient answers to unblock the road and that was duly done at 12:15pm.

“It was a positive step forward. I wouldn’t say I was completely satisfied, but I was happy with the effort made. But if this family is not moved to Cul-de-Sac, and if these incidents occur again, then the road will be blocked again.”

Vice-President Wendel Cocks said the Gendarmerie patrols, while not on a 24-hour basis, will bring back tranquillity to the neighbourhood.

French Quarter residents block main road over lack of security

page10e121~ Nerves frayed after district suffers 13 fires in two months ~

MARIGOT--The main RN7 road just outside French Quarter at Angel's Insurance was blocked for nearly five hours Wednesday morning as residents demanded accountability from authorities over lack of security in the district following a series of 13 fires in the span of less than two months.

Long lines of cars built up as motorists from both directions were forced to turn around.

A phantom arsonist appears to be at work and the fact that no suspects have been positively identified as perpetrators of the crimes has left residents on tenterhooks, wondering who will be the next victim.

Tensions boiled over after a wooden house on Route de La Saline burnt down Tuesday afternoon, destroying three cars and leaving a family of six homeless. The house was located opposite the home of Marcel Glasgow which was featured in the news on September 11 after it sustained a number of small fires which subsequently led to the eviction of the tenant.

The road block commenced on Wednesday at 7:30am instead of 6:00am after heavy rainfall delayed the protest start. Gendarmes were soon on the scene but elected officials arrived two hours later.

"This latest victim is a young lady who has four kids and her brother was also living there with his kids, and they lost everything," disclosed French Quarter District Representative Stephen Patrick, who declined to speculate on who could be responsible. "Our concern is the light manner in which authorities are treating these incidents and not assuming responsibly for securing the district. There's only been a vague or poor attempt to address the issue," he noted.

"Meanwhile those responsible are still at large. 13 of the fires have affected five houses all in the same area. The only reason other houses survived was because they were concrete structures."

"We're saying enough is enough, it has to stop now," he pleaded. "If the government had taken these arsons seriously and put a plan in place, that young lady who lost her home yesterday would still be there. We are not living in Syria or Afghanistan. Residents should not feel they have to stand guard by their house day and night. Citizens have a right to be living in a safe environment," he said.

Commandant Sébastien Manzoni on the scene said suspects were arrested last week but were released after the Prosecutor found no proof to detain them further. The investigation into the fires continues.

Calypso singer Baker Junior whose sister and brother were the latest victims in Tuesday's fire said it was strange that nobody sees or says anything.

"I have to assume it's an evil spirit because normally the people around here see everything that is going on," he said.

"I cannot believe that after what we went through with my brother's house it is still continuing today," commented Daniella Chance Glasgow. "I cannot explain it, but I'm so glad the population came out to take a stand again. Who's next? That's what the population is fearful of. Is it a terrorist act or what? I have never seen this before in St. Martin. An investigation is ongoing but in broad daylight nobody sees anything. What is going on?"

Another resident remarked: "I'm so sorry to see what is happening. We need more security. We need to be at peace because we can't sleep not knowing who will be next."

President of the Chamber of Commerce Jean Arnell who was observing the scene said St. Martiners, as citizens, are not responsible for safety and security.

"Security is the responsibility of the State, that's what we pay taxes for. I understand that French Quarter basically feels isolated and left to fend for itself."

First Vice-President Guillaume Arnell explained he and Vice-Presidents Ramona Connor, Wendel Cocks and Rosette Gumbs-Lake were on the spot Tuesday to assist the family in distress after the fire and re-locate them.

"This problem of the fires is not the Collectivité's responsibility alone," he insisted. "The Gendarmerie has always been involved but all the partners have to get together to solve this. The justice system also has to give an answer to the population."

Arnell, Member of Parliament (MP) Daniel Gibbs, Vice-President Cocks, Chef de Cabinet Emmanuel Effantin from the Préfecture, French Quarter Representative Patrick, and Commandant Manzoni were among the officials holding an emergency meeting as the crowd waited outside for answers.

Casino robbed

rougePHILIPSBURG--An armed man robbed Rouge et Noir Casino on Front Street of an undisclosed sum of money around 8:55pm Wednesday.

  Police spokesperson Chief Inspector Ricardo Henson said the man had fled the establishment on foot after the robbery.  

  The calls made to the Police Central Dispatch about the incident indicated that someone possibly had been shot during the robbery. On the scene the investigating officers were informed that no one had been injured.

  According to witnesses in the casino, the lone gunman dressed completely in black or very dark clothing with his face covered had entered the casino, walked directly to the cashier’s booth and fired at least three shots at the glass of the booth. He then robbed the establishment of an unknown amount of cash and fled on foot.

  It is still unclear which direction the suspect fled after the robbery. The Forensic Department was on the scene to collect evidence while the Detectives were questioning witnesses to piece together exactly how the robbery had taken place. The Special Robbery Unit is investigating this incident.

William tells Dennis to ‘do the right thing,’ ‘lead by example’ and resign

page8a121~ Govt. holding country, Governor hostage ~


PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) leader Member of Parliament (MP) William Marlin issued a firm call to Justice Minister Dennis Richardson on Wednesday to “do the right thing” and “uphold the constitution” by resigning, given the no-confidence motion passed against the Council of Ministers.

Marlin also accused Government of staying in office and deliberately stalling the process to buy time to make deals and further plunder Government-owned companies such as utilities company GEBE and the Harbour and to “fix deals” about issues such as the waste-to-energy plant.

He said Ministers still were travelling and squandering the country’s money while they should have made their positions available to pave the way for a new cabinet. He called the situation that Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs is aiming to create as being “a European standoff,” as the PM “is calling on Europe for their opinion” in the country’s affairs.

Marlin told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday that of all the minsters, he expected more from Richardson. He said that based on Richardson’s background serving two terms as former Lt. Governor; as a member of the Council of State and his intimateinvolvement in the constitutional process leading up to 10/10/10, including serving as one of Marlin’s main advisors, Richardson should not be one to trample on the country’s constitution the way the current cabinet is doing.

Marlin accused the cabinet of holding the country and Governor Eugene Holiday “hostage” by refusing to make their positions available unless the Governor agrees with their unconstitutional position of dissolving Parliament and paving the way for new elections.

“You now have a Council of Ministers that is blatantly violating the constitution. … Dennis Richardson was in functions where he knows the importance of upholding the constitution. … Why is he putting the Governor in this awkward position?” Marlin asked. “You can’t hold a country hostage because of political difference between opposing parties.”

Marlin said he considered Richardson a friend whom he held in high esteem and saw as a shining star. He said he had held an hour-long phone conversation with Richardson on Wednesday in which he expressed his dissatisfaction with Richardson in particular for flouting the constitution, given his background.

He said Richardson had informed him during the phone call that the Cabinet would resign, but it first needed a guarantee from the Governor that Parliament would be dissolved.

Marlin calls this illegal. “This is not what the constitution says. … This is illegal and it is creating chaos. If Government can take the constitution and shove it in their back pocket, then what stops a youngster from … doing something illegal because Government is doing it themselves,” he said.

“I expected him [Richardson – Ed.] more than anyone to lead by example. I am making a public plea for [Richardson – Ed.] to lead by example. …

“You are a former Lt. Governor, a former member of the Council of State and you put the constitution aside to prolong the political wishes of some to stay in office long enough to fix deals for waste-to-energy, fix deals for [other issues – Ed.] and in defence say that they want to dissolve Parliament to avoid people getting into Government to do things that are not correct.”

Marlin questioned how Richardson could have supported a Government that “gave away” Emilio Wilson Estate to a developer for “far less” than a local would have paid for land in long lease knowing that the Estate had been purchased to be preserved for the people of St. Maarten.

He also questioned how Richardson could have supported a Government that had backed the Harbour paying a huge sum of funds for the right to develop a property and “when some deal went sour” the “people of St. Maarten had to fork out US $10 million to pay it off.”

“Dennis Richardson knows that what they [the Gumbs Cabinet – Ed.] are doing is wrong. If a minister has a vote of no confidence, you make your position available and the Governor decides whether to send you home or ask you to stay on,” Marlin said, adding that he “won’t argue” if, on their way out of office, the Ministers indicated that their last decision was to dissolve Parliament, as the Governor would make a pronouncement of the validity of this.

But as of now, he said, the Ministers should make their positions available “immediately” as stated in the explanatory notes of Article 3, Sub 3 of the constitution.


Dutch interference

Marlin also accused the Council of Ministers of double standards: telling the Dutch not to interfere in the affairs of the country, yet “inviting” them to interfere in this matter by seeking their opinion.

He said the opinion government had “requested” from Dutch persons on this issue did not matter, as it was the Governor who had the last say in the process of upholding the constitution.

Marlin said that when the Dutch had wanted to introduce new screening regulations in St. Maarten a strong message had been sent to the Dutch that they should have faith in the country’s institutions. Marlin said he believed that bringing an instruction for added screening was a motion of no confidence in the Governor.

As it relates to the Integrity Chamber, Marlin said Minister Richardson had “riled up” Parliament about Dutch interference “in our business.” He said the current political issue “is our [St. Maarten’s – Ed.] business. A democratically-elected group in Parliament, eight MPs, support a motion saying they have no confidence in Government and that Government is expected to hand in its resignation.”

“We will never grow as a people if we try to drag Holland into everything we do,” Marlin said.


Immediate resignation

Marlin said the constitution was clear when it came to motions of no confidence against a cabinet. “The constitution says under Article 3, Sub 3, that once a minister gets a vote of no confidence, that minister has to make his position available to the Governor. And the recent motion explicitly gives a nod of no confidence to the Gumbs Cabinet and mentions every one of the ministers by name.”

He said that, depending on the circumstances, the Governor could then ask the Ministers to stay on to keep the institution of Government running until a new Cabinet was in place or, if a Minister were accused of a crime such as embezzlement, allow the Minister to demit office immediately.

He alluded to 2013, when the then-NA fraction had lost its majority support and the Cabinet eventually tendered its resignation before a motion of no confidence was passed against the Ministers. “We did not have a vote of no confidence. When it was clear that a motion of no confidence was going to be tabled, we tendered our resignation,” he said.

The motion of no confidence against the current Cabinet was passed in an official “democratically held” meeting of Parliament in which all 15 MPs were present.

Marlin said this issue was not about NA being “afraid” of an election or about his wanting to be Prime Minister “or about anyone else wanting to get anything. … It’s about the democratic process in the Parliament of St. Maarten.”



Contrary to what Gumbs gives as justification for wanting to dissolve Parliament, Marlin said calling early elections would not stop the practice of ship-jumping amongst MPs.

Irrespective of when elections are held; it will not stop ship-jumping because those elected can engage in the same practice. If the system is broken, it needs to be fixed to curb the problem, Marlin maintained.

He said the new Government should be allowed to take office to ensure that “the system is fixed” in a year to prevent a recurrence. “If I become Prime Minister, this will be priority number one besides balancing the budget and other issues. We need to address these issues.

“What we have to do is deal with the laws that we have as is now and the constitution says a minister who gets a vote of no confidence, according to Article 3 Sub 3 of the constitution … he has to resign … and in the explanatory note it says immediately. Dissolving Parliament becomes secondary.”

Asked whether NA had sought or planned to seek the advice of any expert on the current situation, Marlin said it was not necessary to involve anyone in St. Maarten’s affairs because the Governor was there to uphold the constitution.

He said members of the minority were calling members of the just-formed majority coalition “morning, noon, and night.” He said one MP supporting the new coalition had been called and asked what the person wanted, to which the MP had replied that they needed nothing they did not already have.

He said too that the Dutch, throughout their political history, had been subjected to falling governments “more than 100 times,” noting that this was part of their culture.

French Quarter blockade over after immediate measures taken

FQblokkadeFRENCH QUARTER—A five-hour blockade of the RN7 in French Quarter ended at 12:15pm Wednesday following an hour-long emergency meeting on site between Gendarmerie, Collectivité and Préfecture officials, to address the issue of 13 fires occurring in French Quarter in the same area during the last two months.

Residents were protesting the lack of security in the district and demanded accountability and assurance that decisive action would be taken to prevent more incidents.

It was decided to implement extra Gendarmerie and Territorial Police patrols in the affected area immediately. It also emerged that one of three minors held recently as suspects, admitted to lighting one of the fires. Files of other suspects will be reviewed by the Prosecutor to see if their cases warrant transfer to juvenile correctional facilities.

French Quarter District representative Steven Patrick indicated the family who lost their home in the fire on Tuesday has been put up in a guest house by the Collectivité until alternative accommodation can be found.

The family of eight that was evicted on September 11 during the first demonstration about the fires is due to be re-located from their temporary accommodation in French Quarter to French Cul-de-Sac today Wednesday, Patrick said. According to Patrick, one of the children from this family is the minor that has been charged.

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