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Suriname elects strongman's party: partial results

AFP-Suriname has elected the party of strongman president Desi Bouterse, according to partial results early Tuesday from its general election.
 Voters gave Bouterse's National Democratic Party (NDP) 27 seats in the 51-member national assembly, the unofficial data said, enough to govern alone. Some votes have yet to be counted.
 The NDP asked the country's 350,000 registered voters to give it 26 seats in order to govern alone and 34 seats to re-elect 69-year-old Bouterse, a convicted drug trafficker who has ruled the country off and on since 1980. The president is chosen by a two-thirds majority of parliament.
  The party had formed a government following the last elections in 2010 by piecing together a broad coalition, returning Bouterse to power for the second time since his 1980-1987 military government.
  Watching the results as they came in, NDP members claimed victory and celebrated with fireworks and dancing. "This victory is based on our correct campaign and achievements," NDP official Andre Misiekaba told AFP.
  Misiekaba said if the official results follow the partial numbers it would resolve deadlock problems in parliament. "It can never happen again that we as lawmakers cannot hold a meeting for four months due to the quorum."
  The V7, a six-party opposition coalition, took 17 seats, the results said. A possible powerbroker group Alternative Combination took 5 seats.
  "We have campaigned to get a governable majority and we have not secured this, which to us is a disappointment. The voters have spoken and we have to respect that," said V7 leader Chan Santokhi.
  Dutch-speaking Suriname has a racially diverse population of about 500,000. It was colonized by the British and Dutch and gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975.
 

Suriname to the polls today, Monday

polls2

Roadside campaigning

 

By Marvin Hokstam

 

PARAMARIBO--Political parties in Suriname held their final rallies on Saturday night, ahead of the general elections on Monday, May 25. As things were left on the eve of the voting, President Desi Bouterse’s National Democratic Party (NDP) appears dead straight opposite the six opposition parties that formed the V7 coalition.

At the kick-off of the campaigns earlier this year, no fewer than 25 parties had signed up to compete in the elections. While coalitions have since been formed, splits and defections have also since occurred, leaving tomorrow’s election scene four parties that enter individually and six political combinations. Bouterse’s NDP is one of the individual contenders, facing the mammoth V7 coalition led by Chandrika Santokhi. Both political giants turned their closing rallies into huge parties Saturday night; both appeared sure of victory, but both nonetheless urged the electorate to come out and give them their votes.

 Five more

Bouterse said his party existed to serve. “We do not work for the NDP, but for the people,” Bouterse said. He said his party has grown into a movement that has shown so much prowess in the past five years of leading Government that it lured over members from opposing parties.

“It is a pleasure to work shoulder to shoulder with people who came from different ideologies. The past five years were not easy, but we stand here today, ready to serve five more years. We are servants of the people,” he said. NDP’s wrap-up rally was held at OCER, the party’s headquarters.

 Santokhi

Speaking at a rally at Grun Dyari, the headquarters of V7 member party NPS, Santokhi reached out to parents, urging them to not let their children make the mistake of voting for NDP. He said he wants a better Suriname for the people of tomorrow, the youth. “We promise that we will invest in human capital. We want a strong Government. We want strong leadership,” he said.

The former police commissioner who also served as Justice Minister said V7 is coming with hurricane-force winds. “You may check with the meteorological office; they’ll tell you that there’s a storm coming that will blow all the mess away. A new wind will blow in this country. Just give us the chance,” he said.

The opposition leader said the work that was put in during five years in the opposition benches should serve as proof that V7 will govern correctly. “We are ready to take over.”

 Here and now

More than 350,000 registered voters received their voting cards over the past months. Recent polls say that Bouterse, a former army sergeant who ruled as military leader after a coup d’état in 1980 and became president in 2010 after democratic elections, is favourite, especially amongst the young voters. This is notwithstanding an 11-year drug sentence he received in absentia from a Dutch court in 1999 and despite the fact that he is widely held responsible for the December 8, 1982, murders of 15 of his opponents.

A charismatic speaker, his popularity rose in his first term of Government, due to measures like doubling the old age pension and the Government child support. His Government also built several thousand affordable homes and introduced a free healthcare insurance scheme for children of 16 and up. Young voters queried by Dutch pollster Maurice de Hond indicated that they care less about his past than about the here and now.

But several of Bouterse’s opponents including Santokhi have expressed concern that Bouterse’s governing is steering the country toward a financial crisis. Anthony Caram, for instance, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Aruba who is now an economics professor at the Anton de Kom University of Suriname, hinted that Government expenditures have increased exponentially while there is not sufficient income to offset this. “The financial risks that these policies bring are too large. We can still turn the tide. If we wait too long we will have no other chance but to take drastic measures,” he said.

 Observers

At least four international organisations have confirmed their presence in the elections in Suriname. According to electoral authorities, the list of observers includes 11 members of the Caribbean Community, 20 from the Union of South American Nations, 24 from the Organization of American States and five from the European Union.

Polling stations open at 7:00am. There are 623 stations posted throughout the country. Voters can cast their ballots until 7:00pm. The Central Voting Bureau CHS has said that it expects to be able to announce preliminary results at 10:00pm. The winner will be declared by 3:00am Tuesday.

 

Texas governor declares states of emergency, more severe weather expected

TEXAS--The governor of Texas on Monday declared states of disaster in 24 counties, citing the severe weather and flash flooding that have killed at least two people.
  The state has been pounded by tornadoes, heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and flooding that forced evacuations and rooftop rescues and left thousands of residents without electrical power.
  In declaring the states of disaster in 24 counties, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said: "The State of Texas has taken brisk action in dispatching all available resources to aid those affected by this severe weather system. My thoughts and prayers are with all the communities that are suffering as a
result of this weather disaster, and I am grateful for the first responders who have worked tirelessly to provide shelter, care and resources to all impacted areas," he said.
  Widespread severe thunderstorms were forecast for Monday in north-central and northeast Texas and southern Oklahoma, likely bringing destructive winds, tornadoes and hail, the National Weather Service said. The Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm and flash-flood warnings as well as tornado watches throughout the region.
  The most intense storms threatening Texas and Oklahoma were likely to strike in the late afternoon and early evening, according to Accuweather.com meteorologist Brian Lada. "Damaging wind gusts and frequent lightning strikes can occur," he said.
  Parts of the area have received more than a foot and a half of rain since May 1, which is six times more than the area typically receives in all of May, Accuweather said.
  The governor's office said the severe weather could continue through the week. Meteorologists said soil was saturated from heavy rainfall over the past three weeks, leading to the dangerous flash floods.
  An unidentified man was found dead from the flooding in San Marcos, and in Oklahoma, a firefighter died when he was swept into a storm drain.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Richard Chang)


Seven Seas Water donates to next DigiKidz school

page6b008ST. PETERS--Helmich Snijders Campus of Hillside Christian Schools will now be the latest recipient of a donation of US $2,500 that Seven Seas Water made to Foresee Foundation last week towards the DigiKidz project.

Helmich Snijders will be the third school of the project to be outfitted with technology equipment and training, in line with the foundation’s aim to bring all primary schools on St. Maarten up-to-standard in “21st century learning.”

Its sister campus, Asha Stevens had been the first school to launch the programme, and Foresee Foundation committed itself to raising funds for another school after outfitting Seventh Day Adventist School as well.

Last week’s donation was presented at the Asha Stevens Campus during a visit by Seven Seas Water General Manager Franklyn Richards. The visit was a follow-up to the recently held DigiKidz Fundraising dinner at Moomba’s Restaurant, where he had pledged support for the third DigiKidz School.

Richards also visited the school to observe and experience the impact that the technology has in classrooms. He visited classrooms of teachers Nicole Fletcher and Angie Prince in Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 and was visibly impressed with the enthusiasm and engagement of both students and staff.

He praised their efforts and encouraged the schools and Foresee Foundation to “keep up the good work.”

Seeing the students and teachers at work in the Foundation Based Education (FBE) learning centres, with the digital board and laptops, he reiterated that “it is here where it starts. With the launch of the DigiKidz pilot, technology will bring us a step further for all schools on St. Maarten.

“Next to embedding technology in the classrooms, students are trained for careers in technology and will be well equipped for the future labour market of our island.

“With the increased opportunities of virtual labs and online resources teachers have another challenge to incorporate these new technologies in their daily teaching. It is exciting to see how the pilot schools use this way forward, to embrace technology in the different subject areas.”

Foresee Foundation expressed its appreciation to Seven Seas Water for the assistance granted in “this exciting next phase of its DigiKidz Project.” The foundation said it is looking forward to additional local and international support from the business community and charity foundations.

Officer arrested for murder relocated to prison in Aruba

PHILIPSBURG--Police officer R.Y. who was arrested on Sunday, May 17 in connection with the fatal shooting of Akeem Isidora (22) during an altercation in Happy Estate, Belvedere on March 4, has been transferred to a detention facility in Aruba.

Prosecutor Tineke Kamps told The Daily Herald on Monday that Y. has been sent to Aruba "because of safety risk in [the – Ed.] Pointe Blanche [Prison- Ed.]."

She did not indicate when he was transferred; which facility he was transferred to and what sort of threats he had been receiving in prison here, when asked by this newspaper.

Kamps said Y. will face trial in St. Maarten, but did not indicate when the trial will be and at what point he will be brought back to St. Maarten. Y. will be charged with manslaughter or murder.

Police spokesperson Inspector Ricardo Henson had said in a report after the shooting that witnesses had reported that the incident occurred after a very heated verbal confrontation between the off duty officer, who was at that time driving in his personal vehicle, and a group of men from the neighbourhood. At one point during this confrontation the situation escalated and got out of control, Henson had said at the time.

This is when, according to witnesses, shots were fired leaving Isidora dead on the street. The officer was suspended from his post after the incident.

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