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Prosecutors agree that UP leaders not sufficiently investigated in vote-buying

~ Appeal court ruling ~

PHILIPSBURG--The Public Prosecution services said on Wednesday that it shares the view of the Court that the role of United People's (UP) party leaders was "not sufficiently investigated" in the Masbangu vote-buying case, but said it had already made a statement in court.

The Prosecutor's Office has appealed the Court's decision to throw out the case. The Masbangu investigation surrounds the UP paying persons to vote for the party in the September 2010 elections.

The judge had declared the case inadmissible and held it against the Prosecutor's Office that it had decided to prosecute only five suspects, but had failed to investigate the roles of UP and its leadership in the scheme.

Prosecutor Tineke Kamps said in a press release on Wednesday that the prosecutor had explained during the August 4 hearing that the investigation could not have included the leadership of UP as well, "given the limited capacity of the Landsrecherche," the release said. "During the last election period, the Landsrecherche had only one or two detectives. The Prosecution considers that those considerations on capacity and feasibility justify that the Masbangu investigation was kept small. Furthermore, the Prosecution believes that the consequence of inadmissibility goes too far, bearing in mind the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court."

According to prosecutors, the formation of the Landsrecherche is now expanded. "This enables the Landsrecherche to carry out new and deeper investigations. However, the formation of the Landsrecherche is still not at full strength. Some cases, even today, are because of that still waiting [too – Ed.]) long to be investigated or have been investigated insufficiently," the release said. "The prosecutor has already brought the lack of capacity to the attention of the minister of justice."

According to the Court, the Prosecutor's Office had been in default. It had given the impression it was administering "class justice" in its decision to prosecute only the "vote-sellers," who had stated they had asked for money because they were in financial trouble.

In itself, the Judge considered it proven that suspects A.R.W.M. (43), C.J.L.C. (45) and R.C.H.J. (63) had sold their votes in exchange for money and that UP representative R.H. (60) had offered money in exchange for their votes.

The case against a fifth suspect, G.P.W. (50), was thrown out because she had passed away on June 13. Kamps said referring to the principle of equality and the prohibition of arbitrariness, the Court found that the prosecution lost its right to prosecute, since the role of the leadership of the UP was not sufficiently investigated.

Construction worker dies from fall in elevator shaft

page9c086~ Said to have been fleeing immigration ~

MAHO--The construction sector and Haitian community were plunged into mourning Wednesday when Haitian mason Dieucel Bosse (54) succumbed to injuries sustained when he toppled into an empty elevator shaft at the former Ocean Terrace building, currently under renovation at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort.

The body of Bosse, an S&R Construction worker, was discovered by another employee around 2:20pm yesterday. Widespread reports indicated that Bosse, who had been on duty at the facility, was one of several workers who had been fleeing from immigration officers in all directions, including in operational parts of the resort, during a joint raid on the premises earlier in the day.

Chief of Immigration Geronimo Juliet confirmed to this newspaper that a joint control, which included labour and immigration officers, was conducted at the site. Juliet said a number of workers started fleeing the scene when they saw officials approaching for the control. He, however, could not ascertain whether the death had been linked to the raid held during the morning hours. About nine workers were picked up in the raid and taken to Immigration for processing.

The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort told this newspaper in an invited comment that it was unclear how Bosse gained access to the sealed elevator shaft that had been "blocked off" as part of the resort's safety measures on site. However, at least two emergency personnel who had been involved in the removal of the body said the site had not been blocked off.

The resort said the body had been discovered by a worker passing by on the ground floor, who looked over a barrier and saw the body. "The time of the accident is presumed to be some time in the morning of August 27, 2014. During the morning, the victim was on duty working with one of the subcontractors. He was a mason," Maho said in response to several questions by this newspaper.

Neither Maho nor police spokesperson Inspector Ricardo Henson could say from which floor the worker fell. Someone familiar with the location told The Daily Herald that the worker must have fallen from either the fifth or sixth floor of the building, which is estimated to be around a 70-foot drop.

Maho said the former Ocean Terrace building, currently under renovation, and the area has safety barriers blocking access and only contractors and technicians have access. Maho said it "will continue to take all necessary precautions, as we have been doing thus far.

"We are devastated by the news that a worker subcontracted by a contractor of The Maho Group died today [Wednesday – Ed.]. It's a tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. We are continuing to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all workers during the construction of Sonesta Ocean Point," Maho said.

In a police press release issued last evening, Henson said community police officers responded to the scene and found the lifeless body of the man, who had been doing construction work at that hotel. "The body of this man was found at the bottom of an elevator shaft of a building under construction at this hotel," Henson said. Doctor Hidde Deketh from the Mullet Bay Clinic pronounced the victim dead. Paramedics and the Fire Department officials were on the scene to assist with the investigation.

"The investigation done by the investigating officers indicated that the victim had possibly fallen from one of the upper floors, but could, at the time, not determine which one. The investigating officers however, learnt that the Immigration Department were busy with controls at that hotel and that numerous persons, as they saw the immigration officers, took off running in different directions," Henson said in his report. "It could also not be determined if the victim was one of those persons that was fleeing from Immigration."

Asked if he thought the worker was running from immigration, President and CEO of the Maho Group Saro Spadaro had this to say: "We simply do not know if he was but it is plausible."

Henson said the Forensic Department and detectives were on the scene collecting evidence and questioning possible witnesses.

Building safety inspectors from the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI were also on the scene investigating. The body was confiscated and taken to the morgue as the investigation continues.

In the meantime, the scene at Maho following the incident was one of grief and shock. A woman said to be closely affiliated with the victim had been openly wailing over the tragic loss of her loved one.

The incident has sparked outrage amongst some sections of the community, some of whom condemned authorities for what they see as their insensitivity in this matter. One worker, a Dutch national, said it had been despicable for authorities to be "running behind" gainfully employed persons through a hotel property filled with guests.

"This looks bad on St. Maarten, to have people running all in the resort with immigration in pure black riot gear running behind them," the worker said. "People were running all over, even through the resort. You don't go to a hotel property and run people. I think that is ridiculous. These people were not making trouble; they are working and have a job."

St. Maarten restates objections to Rutte

THE HAGUE/PHILIPSBURG--The Government of St. Maarten has informed the Kingdom Council of Ministers that it will adopt many of the recommendations by the Wit-Samson Integrity Committee, but not without reiterating its objections to the way The Hague imposed an integrity audit via the governor of St. Maarten and the "continued blurring of norms on the Kingdom level."

In the letter dated August 21, 2014, St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson informed Chairman of the Kingdom Council of Ministers, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the position of the St. Maarten Council of Ministers on the report of the Wit-Samson Committee. The letter was also addressed to President of the Parliament of St. Maarten Gracita Arrindell and St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday.

Wescot-Williams and Richardson reiterated St. Maarten's position on the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to order an independent integrity audit by Kingdom Decree of September 30, 2013. According to Wescot-Williams and Richardson, that decision was "untimely, imprudent and disproportionate." The governor sent the audit report in question to the Kingdom government on Monday.

The chosen method to order this audit via the Regulation of the Governor was also "unconstitutional and illegitimate," stated Wescot-Williams and Richardson. The course of action remained regrettable since the governor of Aruba, in July this year, had to order an investigation of Aruba's 2014 budget via the "same illegitimate construction."

Wescot-Williams and Richardson stressed that, together with the Dutch Caribbean partners in the Kingdom, St. Maarten would keep trying to realise an independent form of dispute resolution within the Kingdom. So far, The Hague has not cooperated to realise such. The three Dutch Caribbean Parliaments recently agreed to join forces on this matter.

About the stance of The Hague, Wescot-Williams and Richardson stated: "This continued blurring of norms on Kingdom level has to stop to avert a possible complete hollowing out of the autonomy of the countries and the weakening of the solidarity of the countries in the Kingdom."

Wescot-Williams and Richardson warned that St. Maarten will appeal to the Governments of Aruba and Curaçao to object in any legal way against measures and decisions of the Kingdom government taken in an unlawful manner, and to declare these null and void as long as no dispute arrangement has been established.

The governors should not execute illegitimate decisions of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. "St. Maarten is willing to give the governors all support that they need and will appeal to [the Governments of – Ed.] Aruba and Curaçao to declare to do the same."

Regarding the report of the Wit-Samson Committee "Doing the Right Things Right," Wescot-Williams and Richardson announced that a plan of approach will be drafted to further work out and implement a number of recommendations of the committee. A progress committee will be established that will supervise the process and inform government.

In the letter, Wescot-Williams and Richardson elaborated on the lack of capacity at the National Detectives, which was one of the committee's findings. The committee pointed out that the support of The Hague in the further strengthening of the justice sector and help from outside was essential, but that this demanded a "positive attitude" of both St. Maarten and the Netherlands to cooperate.

"The Council of Ministers agrees with this and has already confirmed the partners in the Kingdom several times that this will for cooperation exists. The Council is thankful for the assistance from the Netherlands by the Royal Marechaussee and the assistance from Aruba for the National Detectives. The St. Maarten Police Force has assisted Saba and St. Eustatius several times in 2014."

Wescot-Williams and Richardson did call it "incomprehensible" that requests for operational assistance for the National Detectives and the Prosecutor's Office were dragged for a long time, especially in light of the critique of The Hague where it came to integrity.

The cooperation with the Netherlands in this aspect has not been flawless, stated the ministers. Requests for temporary additional personnel support for the operations of the National Detectives so far have not led to results. "This process has been ongoing for more than eight months – this in contrast to the immediate support that St. Maarten gave to the Caribbean Netherlands and Curaçao. Aruba has offered it immediate operational support where possible."

It was announced that the capacity of the National Detectives in St. Maarten would be strengthened with four additional detectives this year and another four next year, which would bring the capacity to 17 full-time units. The ideal capacity has been put at 20 full-time units.

US Party candidates call voters ‘to make a change’

page1a085CUL DE SAC--Voters were urged to head to the polls on Friday and make a change by voting for the United St. Maarten Party, headed by independent Member of Parliament Frans Richardson. The party leader and thirteen other candidates shared first final messages of campaign for Parliament at the party's final public meeting at the party's headquarters on Tuesday.

Richardson told supporters, "We are ready for change in this country." He called on voters "to send a message" to the "expired politicians" that the "time has come to get out of office."

He criticised the plans of the United People's (UP) party to build a new hospital as expensive and burdensome for the people as it will cost about US $300 million. It would be better to work with the existing hospital upgrading plans.

Voters should be weary of plans to dollarize the economy as indicated by UP and the Democratic Party (DP), because this will only increase cost of living further, Richardson.

He also called for better cooperation with the French side, saying that some of the politicians who have election posters on that side of the island are the very ones "who have been stopping progress" on the French side.

Other political parties are "going after the heads" of young St. Maarteners such as the heads of the Harbour Group of Companies, St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation and Postal Services St. Maarten, said Richardson. This will not be stand for by the US Party thus the needs for "a change" of the other parties from Parliament.

The party's number two candidate Leona Romeo-Marlin started her speech with a moment of silence as a stance "to end political victimization." She said many people are "scared to expressed who they want to back" fearing for their jobs. She called on them to "stand out and promote the people you want." Policy wise, she said US Party will change whole tax system to better the country.

Education is "an injustice" to the country's children, because it allows them to graduate too early and without being properly equipped for the world, said Anna Rabess-Richardson (#3). She is keen on tackling poverty, other social ills of the country and the establishment of a military academy, paid for by the Dutch Government, for youngsters. The US party, she said, is "the new opportunity for St. Maarten."

Rueben Thompson (#4) asked the voters to look around the country and take in the state of the roads, sewage running on the streets, the filling-in of Great Salt Pond and ever-growing landfill. With that picture is asked voters to question if they have "truly benefited from tourism-based economy." He said the present and past government have been destroying natural beauty of the country that tourists come to see.

Lisa Alexander (#5) said there is "massive corruption" in government caused by the way the Constitution is written. She plans to champion changes to the constitution. "The laws have failed us, time to rewrite them." She wants government-owned companies to be privatized and sold in shares to residents.

Harlec Doran (#6) said UP promised jobs and only delivered a bridge, "but people can't eat a bridge." US Party "guarantees" voters that government-owned companies will no longer "make millions on the back of the people."

Richinel Burg (#7) said the president government has "failed us, because of the people living in poverty" and no poverty line study has been executed to guide and fix the promises.

Fernando Clark (#8), who was also the meeting's master of ceremonies, said the UP leader "was condemned by court for wrongdoing" this week. He was referring to the so-called vote buying case that was thrown out by the court. He told supporter UP will approach them "to buy your vote" and they should not sell their vote. "UP leader is not a leader, he's a briber," Clark said.

Earl Duzong (#9) said there is a need for a "cultural arts facilities," sports facilities in every district and a new multi-purpose facility to boost sports tourism. He told supporters: "We need you, just like you need us."

Myrna Richardson (#10) said the pre-election polls are "only there to distract" voters and should not be paid attention. The US party has "been ready for four years" to govern the country. Her message to the people of Saba and St. Eustatius who can vote here was that if they didn't vote for the US Party, their "lives will not be good ... you will suffer."

Sergio Bryson (#11), said voters deserved a government who will listen to the people.

Curtis Thomas (#12) said people "can't afford bread, sardine or corned beef" in St. Maarten and people are in need of jobs.

Jeanine Espacia (#13) said job creation is a priority for the US Party as are a youth-to-employment programme, and the upgrade of educational level to make St. Maarten "the most educated country in the Caribbean."

Lloyd Paul (#15) said the party will ensure there is no tax levied on pensioners, will bring relief "to the lower class people," and tax breaks for small businesses.

Roberto Hunt (#14) was not at the public meeting. He had been missing from the candidates' line up for several meetings now. No mention was made at the meeting about the reason for his absence. There has been talk in the community about him leaving the party, but there has been no formal statement from Hunt and the talk of him abandoning the party has been dismissed by people close to the party.

Van Raak, Bosman shocked by ruling in vote-buying case

THE HAGUE--Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party and Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) said on Tuesday that they were shocked by the decision of the Court in St. Maarten's vote-buying case.

The Court of First Instance on Monday declared inadmissible the Prosecutor's Office's cases against five persons who were allegedly involved in the selling and buying of votes on behalf of the United People's (UP) party in the September 2010 election.

"I am truly shocked by the Court's decision," Van Raak told The Daily Herald in a reaction. "A shame for the Kingdom," responded Bosman. Van Raak has submitted written questions to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk in an effort to get clarity as to the non-prosecution of what he termed "mass election fraud" in St. Maarten.

Van Raak and Bosman were especially shocked by the Judge's finding that the Prosecutor's Office had decided to prosecute only five suspects and that it had failed to investigate the roles of UP and its leadership in the scheme. According to the Prosecution, the investigation had focused on the five suspects due to the National Detectives' lack of capacity.

"I find it incomprehensible that the Prosecutor's Office didn't carry out a broader investigation to include the UP top. Especially since the Judge found that the case file itself contained sufficient indications warranting such an investigation," said Bosman.

The Judge did consider it proven that four suspects had sold their votes in exchange for money and that the UP-representative had offered money in exchange for their votes. "The Judge was very clear on that aspect," said Bosman.

Both Bosman and Van Raak were concerned that the true culprits in this case would get away scot-free. "This is a high profile case covering four years and now it is slipping through our fingers because the Prosecution didn't do a proper job. This is a shame for the Kingdom," said Bosman.

"There are many plans and reports to improve integrity in St. Maarten, but in the meantime it appears that some politicians are getting away with everything. Theo Heyliger has also been mentioned in the Bada Bing bribery case. We should be careful that some people don't end up above the law," said Van Raak.

According to Van Raak, the Kingdom Government and by extension the Dutch Government has a responsibility to assist the St. Maarten justice sector in solving the problem of manpower. "If the Kingdom is responsible for good governance, than we should ensure sufficient capacity to make this happen. If we say that tackling corruption in St. Maarten is important, than we should also make sure that investigations can be duly carried out," he said.

In the written questions that he posed to Plasterk, Van Raak asked whether the minister agreed with the Judge in St. Maarten that the Prosecution was guilty of "class justice" for not investigating the top of the UP party.

Van Raak wanted to know whether it was correct that Heyliger had donated US $3 million to his party for the previous elections in 2010. "Is my calculation correct that with an electorate of some 20,000 persons, this reflects some 150 dollars per voter?"

The Member of Parliament (MP) further asked whether it was correct that in 2010 people were standing in line in front of UP's campaign building to receive money and that the party has its own registration system to check that people would indeed cast their vote.

"Do you share my concerns that this same Mr. Heyliger will be re-elected into the Parliament of St. Maarten this Friday without a proper investigation of election fraud having taken place?" Van Raak asked Plasterk.

Van Raak and Bosman are worried about the elections this Friday. "I hope that the people will think very hard when they make their choice," said Bosman, who added that he would keep the pressure on St. Maarten until issues like vote-buying and corruption had been properly tackled.

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