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Petition started against forming of new coalition

PHILIPSBURG--Although there already is a new majority coalition formed in parliament since Wednesday, an online petition has been started “against the formation of a new coalition” in the country.

The petition was started by “Voice of SXM” and up to early last night had amassed a total of 60 supporters. The target is 10,000. The petition reads: “We, the people of St. Maarten, support the Prime Minister's decision to utilize article 59 of the country’s Constitution, which gives the Council of Ministers the right to dissolve the Parliament of St. Maarten and call for new elections. We, the people of St Maarten, are fed up with the current, unstable government and have no confidence in a new coalition that consists of the same unreliable and ineffective players. You have the power to create change. Start sharing and watch your impact grow.”

The new coalition was formed on Wednesday, and members signed a Governing Accord, which was presented to Governor Eugene Holiday on the same day. Portfolios have already been divided and most of the ministerial candidates for the seven ministries have been identified.

Sarah confirms she will assume Chairmanship of Parliament

PHILIPSBURG--Democratic Party (DP) leader Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams confirmed on Friday that she will be assuming the position of the new Chairperson of Parliament.

DP forms part of the new eight-seat-majority coalition in Parliament. According to the Governing Accord signed by members of the new majority coalition, DP will designate the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA and the new Chairperson of Parliament.

Wescot-Williams said there were many goals she would like to accomplish for the Parliament of St. Maarten as Chairperson of the legislative body. She said she would champion efficiency and would work towards a more independently-functioning Parliament. She said many issues that reached Parliament could be dealt with.

The current Chairman of Parliament is Dr. Lloyd Richardson of the United People’s (UP) party.

Wescot-Williams served as Chairperson of Parliament for a month and three days in 2014, after being appointed on October 10, 2014, and resigning in mid-November in reaction to UP leader and then-formateur of the now-outgoing cabinet Theo Heyliger sending the names of minister candidates submitted by former DP parliamentarian Cornelius de Weever (now an independent MP) for security and integrity screenings instead of the two names Wescot-Williams had submitted on behalf of DP.

Her decision to resign from her post was due to her no longer having the assurance of the support of the majority in Parliament.

The new coalition, which was formed this past Wednesday, comprises UP MPs Silvio Matser and Maurice Lake; National Alliance (NA) MPs William Marlin, Silveria Jacobs, Christophe Emmanuel and George Pantophlet; Wescot-Williams; and United St. Maarten Party (USP) MP Frans Richardson.

The new coalition was formed after the UP/USP/De Weever/Marlin-Romeo Government lost its majority on Wednesday when a surprise motion of no confidence was passed by the eight MPs who now form the majority coalition.

According to the Governing Accord, NA will designate three ministers in the new cabinet: the Prime Minister/Minister of General Affairs; the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education, Youth, Culture and Sports. NA also will designate the Minister Plenipotentiary.

USP will designate the Minister of Justice; MP Lake will designate the Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI and MP Matser will designate the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT).

National Detectives investigate beating of undocumented man

~ Man says officers threatened to shoot him ~

PHILIPSBURG--Justice Minister Dennis Richardson said an independent investigation by the National Detective Service has been ordered into the alleged beating of an undocumented immigrant, who was caught after a chase in an immigration raid on Thursday evening.

When asked for a comment on the matter, Richardson told The Daily Herald that he is unable to comment at this stage given the investigation. It could not be ascertained whether the officer has been or will be placed on inactive duty during the course of the investigation.

The undocumented immigrant, a Jamaican national with the initials G.P., told this newspaper on Friday that a young immigration officer who appeared to be in his twenties repeatedly punched him in the head. The undocumented immigrant said he had fallen, was injured and couldn’t move at the time he was beaten. The officer allegedly punched the man until another officer came up and urged him to stop.

P., who said he has been living in St. Maarten for more than a decade, and has a stepchild and four children born on the island, said he is a hard-working man, who holds two jobs to feed his family, who are dependent on his financial and emotional care. His young children are aged six, four, three and one and his stepchild turns nine years old today, Saturday.



The 29-year-old man said he had just finished working at one of his two jobs and had been standing with a friend having a discussion in the parking lot of Tropicana Casino around 7:00pm on Thursday evening, when a Coast Guard vehicle stopped and immigration officers began approaching him. The man said since he did not have any valid papers, he panicked and decided to run.

The man said a throng of officers, whom he believes were from Customs, Immigration and police, began to pursue him. He said he plunged into the Simpson Bay Lagoon and began to swim away. He said at one point officers told him they will shoot him if he didn’t stop. He said he yelled out that he had done nothing wrong, other than not having valid legal documentation for the island.

While in the lagoon, the man said an officer told him that if he had to take off his clothing to swim in the lagoon to catch him, he would regret it. The man said he was fearful of the threats and what the officers would do to him if they caught him and decided to continue fleeing. He said he came out of the lagoon and “hid in the bushes” nearby.

Officers were shining lights into the bushes and started to throw large rocks into the bushes hoping that he would make a sound if he was hit. He said rocks did hit him, but he did not make any sounds out of fear of being caught. He said he ran atop the roof of a nearby car rental and went onto the roof of Tropicana Casino, where he fell and hurt his ribs.

It was at this point that the man said the young immigration officer caught up with him and started pelting punches at him. The man said he attempted to move, but he couldn’t. “I thought my ribs were broken,” he said.

The man said although he was in severe pain, he was handcuffed and placed on a stretcher to be taken to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC). He said he begged the officers not to handcuff him since this made the pain more excruciating, but they refused to do so. He was taken to SMMC and checked.

It was only at SMMC that a senior immigration officer ordered the young officers there to remove the handcuffs. The immigrant said he later went to seek medical attention in French St. Martin. The man said he was asked to report to the immigration yesterday, Friday, but he said fear still gripped him. He is worried about his young children and who would feed and clothe them if he is deported.

The man said he plans to press charges against the officer that hit him. He said the officer in question is familiar with him and knew that he did not have valid residency papers for the island. He believes this is why he was specifically targeted. He said the immigration officer lives not too far from where he resides.

Up to the time when the man spoke to this newspaper, his feet were swollen and he was suffering from headaches. He said the police took his expired passport.



P. said he feels duped since he had applied for papers for the island under the Brooks Tower Accord, and had actually received a working permit, but his residence permit was denied on the grounds that something had been missing from his file. He returned to the Immigration Department earlier this year to enquire about his papers and he was told that his request was outdated and that he had to leave the island.

He is, however, fearful that his children will suffer and be left in the cold if he is not there to provide for them as he currently works two jobs to care for his family: construction in the day and in a kitchen at night.

Statia’s appeal against higher supervision heard

page13e117ST. EUSTATIUS--The appeal filed by the Executive Council against the decision of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations to impose higher supervision on St. Eustatius was heard Friday.

An advisory board of the Dutch government met with Commissioners Reginald Zaandam (United People’s Coalition, UPC) and Astrid McKenzie-Tatem (Progressive Labour Party, PLP) and ministry representatives in the conference room at Old Gin House.

Dutch Government Representative Gilbert Isabella and Hyden Gittens and Manus Twisk of Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT) were also called to be heard. Island Governor Gerald Berkel, Island Secretary Koos Bartelds, Island Council Members Richelline Leerdam and Clyde van Putten (both PLP) and Frini Adelka Spanner and Nicolaas Sneek (both Democratic Party, DP) were among the audience.

The Ministry’s standpoint is that the Executive Council is not admissible in the case since the instruction for the supervision was given to the Government Representative and the interests of the Executive Council are therefore not directly affected.

Commissioner McKenzie refuted this by pointing out that the letter was addressed directly to the Executive Council. A letter was sent separately to the Government Representative the day after. Moreover, the supervision means that all Executive Council decisions have to be shared with the Government Representative without delay, so the Council is directly affected.

McKenzie motivated the appeal in emphasizing that the consecutive phases of the procedure to come to an instruction like this were not followed by the Ministry. Instead, the supervision was imposed quite abruptly.

She also pointed at various inconsistencies in the Ministry’s motivation for the supervision on the basis of financial mismanagement. The appointment of a new investment officer without prior approval is an issue that the previous responsible Commissioner has already admitted was a result of misjudgement on his part. It can therefore not be used as justification for supervision, since it was not part of a pattern and did not happen again, according to McKenzie.

The appointment of her brother in another position did not go through, which McKenzie used to illustrate that the system of checks and balances actually works and does not require higher supervision.

Zaandam emphasized that no law was broken by any staff appointment and that if this turns out to be the case, the Governor and Government Representative are just as much to blame, because they were part of all procedures.

McKenzie concluded that the decision to impose supervision was based on arbitrary, subjective conclusions, while it makes it more difficult to actually remedy the situation.

Later, she also stated that there is no identification of what the actual problems are that need to be solved. “Is there a file? What are the points?" she asked.

She also stated there are solid agreements with CFT that work well. “So why is this supervision necessary? It is premature,” she maintained.


No boycott

The Ministry denied that the decision came out of the blue and stated that expertise and manpower had been offered to the Island Government on several occasions. It was said that there was no boycott of Statia, as McKenzie had mentioned, but “We do not feel to discuss other matters while the efficiency of the island’s administration is not in order,” said Director Kingdom Affairs at the Ministry of Home Affairs Erwin Arkenbout. The multi-annual plan, however, has been put on hold, he admitted.

He gave the high staff turnover and resulting lack of continuity as an explanation for the observed financial inefficiency and made a reference to the dismissal of the Head of the Finance Department. McKenzie explained that he was not sent away, but his contract had expired.

In summarizing, Arkenbout said the problems had grown so out of hand that these could not be solved without external assistance and concluded that imposing supervision was a matter of drawing the line. This far and no further,” he said.


Good governance

Chairman Spijk wanted to establish if the imposition of higher supervision was in keeping with the principles of good governance. He tried to establish if supervision had been imposed abruptly or whether the Ministry of Home Affairs had tried to warn the island and gave it the chance to avoid it.

Zaandam stated that the recent meeting with Secretary-General Richard van Zwol could not be described as a consultation, since Van Zwol simply announced what his advice to the Minister was going to be. Arkenbout denied that such was the nature of that meeting.

Spijk also wanted to know why the existing process with CFT had to be cut short by this wider, more general supervision and why a more limited, custom-made measure could not have been found. Arkenbout asserted that a “robust measure” was the only way out of the problems.

Isabella explained how a Steering Committee was put together as per Minister Plasterk’s instruction, with the Commissioners included as members. However, they refused to participate with only the Governor and Island Secretary attending meetings.

Zaandam explained that logic dictates that Commissioners cannot take part because the Steering Committee is the result of a decision they have appealed. “Participation would mean acknowledgement of its legitimacy,” Zaandam said.


Action plan

Isabella said an action plan has been put together and sent to the Minister. For the financial aspects an experts committee was created, which will submit a financial management plan next week. This plan will then be incorporated into the overall action plan. Plasterk has set January 1, 2018, as the date for completion of the action plan.

Spijk asked the CFT representatives why they did not take steps to get Statia’s financial situation improved, despite recognizing the signals that things were not going in the right direction.

Gittens replied that they did advise the Executive Council to put a ban on new financial obligations. He also stated that CFT had said that if there would be no balanced budget by July 18, they would “most probably” issue the advice to the minister to impose prior supervision.

Zaandam and McKenzie both said that when they asked the Ministry for consultation and support, they were consistently referred to Isabella, who then referred them on to the Steering Committee, which they both considered not very helpful or constructive.

McKenzie explained that a local financial committee had also been put in place to help with the budgets and financial reporting. The concept budget amendment will be ready next week, she added. “There obviously is progress,” Spijk concluded.

Strong earthquake rocked Trinidad

triniearthquakePORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad--A 4.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Trinidad and Tobago early Thursday morning, but there have been no reports of injuries or damage.
  The tremor occurred around 3:49 am to the northwest of Trinidad, at a depth of 136 kilometeres, and was felt widely across the country. The coordinates were latitude 11.17 Norht and longitude 61.97 West.
  Residents flooded the UWI Seismic Research Centre (SRC) Facebook page with posts indicating they felt the tremor, with some indicating it was so strong that it woke them from sleep.
  While the SRC put the magnitude at 4.8 in its report on the event, it indicated the results were preliminary and may vary when additional data is processed. Other seismic monitoring agencies put the strength of the quake at between 5.0 and 5.1.
  Between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday five earthquakes with magnitudes between 3.8 and 4.1  were recorded northeast of Barbados by the SRC, but went widely unnoticed by residents.

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