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Progression Committee visits Netherlands Royal Marines

page5c061POINTE BLANCHE--On Tuesday, the Netherlands Royal Marines received a visit from the Progression Committee for St. Maarten. The visit was an introductory visit, in which the Marines and the Committee became better acquainted, and discussed further cooperation between the Marines and various partners on the island.

“The Netherlands Royal Marines are happy to assist St. Maarten by supporting our partners on the island,” said Major Patrick Wokke, commander of the Netherlands Royal Marines on the island.

At the end of the meeting, the committee members had the chance to experience some of the equipment available to the Marines, as they were taken on a ride of one of the FRISCs (Fast Raiding Intervention and Special Forces Craft).

The committee members were assisted into life vests before taking place in the vessel, and were taken on a fast boat ride by two marines, who demonstrated what the FRISCs are capable of.

The Progression Committee (Voortgangscommissie) was installed after 10-10-10 to report on the plans of approach put in place to satisfy the legal demands connected with the island’s status as independent country.

The committee consists of Chairman Ronald Bandell, former mayor of Dordrecht, former mayor of Alphen aan den Rijn Nico Schoof, former director of VPN Gert-Jan Stortelers, all from the Netherlands, and lawyer and businessman Richard Gibson of St. Maarten.

The committee visits the island every three months. During its visit, the committee meets with various departments on the island, such as the Director of Pointe Blanche Prison, the Attorney General, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Court of Guardianship, the Civil Registry Office and the police. Meetings are also planned with Finance Minister Martin Hassink and Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson.

Aside from speaking to the various stakeholders in St. Maarten, the committee also liaises with partners in the Netherlands, who can contribute to, or support country St. Maarten.

   Towards the end of the visit, the committee will report to Governor Eugene Holiday and Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams before an official report reflecting the progression and the execution of the plans of approach will be compiled and presented to the Prime Minister of St. Maarten and the Dutch Minister of Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations.

Mock protests against use of blue, but law only regulates ballot colour

PHILIPSBURG--The Electoral Law only regulates the use on the ballot of colours assigned to political parties, not in political paraphernalia. This has left Social Reform Party (SRP) leader Jacinto Mock in a bind with his assigned colour "blue."

Mock submitted to the Central Voting Bureau, Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, Sollicitor-General Taco Stein and Ombudsman Nilda Arduin on Monday letters protesting the use of blue by the United St. Maarten (US) party of independent Member of Parliament (MP) Frans Richardson.

SRP was awarded blue as its colour on the ballot for the August 29 Parliamentary Elections by the luck of the draw on Friday, because the US party also requested the same colour. The US party has been using blue as its signature colour since its launch in December 2013 and in its campaign materials since July 11. That party had to settle for cyan after its preferred blue went to SRP, which has no campaign material in public as yet.

Mock met with a representative of the Central Voting Bureau on Monday afternoon, who informed him that nothing could be done to persuade the US party to remove its posters and other materials, as the law only regulates the colour on the ballot and nowhere else.

Mock is of the opinion that when a party is awarded a colour such as blue, that party has the right to all the shades of blue in the spectrum. From that standpoint, he does not believe cyan should have been on the list of approved colours. Cyan is made by mixing equal amounts of green and blue light.

He also said the law should be amended to regulate the use of the colour not only on the ballot, but also in the public domain to avoid confusing voters.

By continuing to use its blue posters, US party is "deceiving the public," "causing chaos" and is "misrepresenting the meaning of the colour," said Mock, who is the lone candidate on his party's slate. Blue represents "the portfolio of health ... it is not just about Hollywood. They should stop using it."

Asked whether he had spoken to US party leader Frans Richardson, Mock said, "I did not get his number, so I could not talk to him."

Heyliger: UP not in violation of any campaign regulations

PHILIPSBURG--The United People's (UP) party is not in violation of any campaign regulation pertaining to the placement of posters and other campaign paraphernalia, UP Leader Member of Parliament Theo Heyliger said in a press statement Monday.

UP believes that several of the guidelines stipulated by Justice Minister Dennis Richardson are in contravention of the Constitution, the National Ordinance on Public Manifestations and International Treaty on Human Rights.

Heyliger said party representatives have met with Justice Minister Dennis Richardson about the general elections regulations and have filed an official written response on the subject to the minister.

UP's discussion with the minister centred on a gentlemen's agreement. "The other parties, not being ready, came up with all kinds of proposed rules that, in our opinion go against the freedom of expression and were geared mainly at putting down UP's campaign," Heyliger said.

Minister Richardson sent his traffic safety rules to political parties two days prior to Nomination Day, July 11.

"In the era of transparency and integrity, the minister/ministry, with all due respect, should have published rules at least six months prior to postulation day," Heyliger said. "Further, the very Electoral Council should have been in place two years prior to election. Yet another important mechanism in the process was left almost to the last minute.

"So stating that we have gone against the rules is not correct. What we are seeing here is a blatant attempt from the National Alliance Leader William Marlin to sidestep the real issues in our community and the crumbling of his leadership by pointing fingers, as usual, to someone else's perceived misconduct," Heyliger said about Marlin's press statement issued on Sunday.

"The UP campaign, unlike other parties, was planned a year ago, hence 'We Ready' slogan. UP even requested its public meeting permits way before postulation day. That's how ready we are," Heyliger said.

When reviewing the minister's memorandum, UP was "surprised at the blatant attempt" by the justice minister to infringe on the freedom of expression anchored in the Treaty for Human Rights, the Constitution and the National Ordinance on public manifestations.

"I am surprised that other political parties did not pick up on these violations and question the minister. Instead, parties chose to spend their energies attacking UP when the freedom of expression of all of us has been put in check. UP did not sit back and let the regulations sit, we voiced our concerns in a letter to the minister," Heyliger said.

UP informed the justice minister since May 29 that the introduction of his memorandum, titled "Rules of the Game for Election Campaign 2014," was "most surprising" as was the fact that the memorandum "seems to be driven by the request of diverse party leaders and consultations held with them."

At the time of the minister's memorandum (May 23), only two political parties legally and duly registered with the Electoral Council. As such, only two party leaders could have consulted with the minister, according to UP.

This action of the minister is deemed "premature" as most of the political parties have not yet registered and may not be considered as political parties in the sense of the Electoral law. Solely the opinions of registered and thus recognized political parties can be considered if at all, according to the UP's May 29 letter to the minister.

Heyliger nor the UP board were consulted prior to the issuance of the memorandum, according to the party.

It is clear that the undertaking by the minister was stirred by one party, thus one party leader. This, on its own, weakens the undertaking as this is a one-sided approach from a biased premise that serves the interest of one, the UP letter relayed to the justice minister.

"Now that same political party, to be blunt the Democratic Party, has more posters and campaign materials on light poles," Heyliger added on Monday.

The minister's memorandum stated that "all campaign activities will be allowed to start on postulation day, July 11th, 2014" and "campaign activities is understood, but not limited to these, amongst other things: public meetings, flagging, placing of billboards, signs, rallies, parades, motorcades, advertising on radio, television and in newspapers and such, as well as all manner of mass public relation activities in the public domain or for the general public accessible areas."

That section seems to suggest that there is a belief that the freedom of speech/expression, anchored in the Treaty for Human Rights, the Constitution and the National ordinance on public manifestations can be set aside, or restricted by a ministerial decision. Such an assumption has no legal bearing, and would result in a regulation which is null and void. A "further detailed response" from the minister was requested, but never received by UP.

The decision to determine when campaigning is to commence is "in direct violation with the right of political expression, which cannot be restricted in the pre-emptive manner suggested. The Criminal Code provides amply for instances in which such right of expression are conducted in a malicious or slanderous manner. A regulation such as proposed by this memorandum lacks a legal basis, and cannot be based on the regulation that permits actions in light of public order," UP states in its letter.

Utilization of wording such as "but not limited to these" suggests "a discretionary power which the Minister of Justice is not granted by any applicable law."

The National Ordinance on public manifestations dictates clearly in which instances the Minister of Justice may issue orders. Such orders are issued in the event a conflict occurs with public health, traffic, public unrest, the party says. "This ordinance clearly indicates that the orders may be issued in the event that such an event occurs, thus stipulating that orders may not be issued on a preventive basis, as is suggested hereby," the party said.

Richardson has "no legal authority" to determine by ministerial decision, where political gatherings may be conducted or to designate specific areas for this purpose. "This too is in violation of the rights granted and protected by the Constitution and the National ordinance of public manifestations."

The minister's attempt to regulate public meetings of political parties including taping of the public meetings by the police is an attempt at curtailing free speech, the party said. "The suggested censorship here is a poor attempt to affect the freedom of speech in St. Maarten. That such a regulation would be illegal is discernible."

The minister's guidelines for billboards, signs and banners also have "no legal basis. No applicable law provides the minister with the authority to determine and set the size of posters and billboards ... such a measure serves no public order objective and even if this was the case the Minister is not permitted to have a law of higher ranking derogate to his decision," said the party.

The minister called for all public political activities to cease as of Wednesday, August 27, 2014, to allow for calm reflection of the citizens on voting on Friday, August 29, 2014. UP states in its letter there is no applicable law that provides a basis for such a regulation to be established by the Minister.

Regulations for the polling stations set out by the minister; including police officers giving instruction have "no basis in the law. The Election Ordinance and the Election Decree already regulate the establishment and workings of polling stations."

The Election Ordinance "clearly dictates" that changes to the law or further measures required for the execution of the law must be established by National Decree containing general measures LBHAM. "The minister is not permitted to alter or otherwise determine the manner in which conditions set forth by law are to be executed, through a ministerial decree. Instructions by police officers as suggested herein have no legal basis within the framework of our laws."

The minister also stated in his memorandum that in the interest of discouraging vote buying and vote selling, the curtains will be removed from the voting booths and voters must refrain from registering their votes electronically. "Given the stipulations set forth in Article 12 of the Elections Decree, it must be clear that this proposal has no legal basis, UP stated in its letter to the minister.

Nadika Matthew-Gauthier crowned Miss St. Martin

page9a060MARIGOT--Nadika Matthew-Gauthier was crowned Miss St. Martin 2014 on Sunday night at the luxurious Villa Les Jardins de Bellevue, defeating seven other contestants to become only the second candidate of St. Martin since 2012 to represent the island at the prestigious Miss France election this coming December.

Sociology student Gauthier (19) was among five finalists to emerge as a result of the SMS voting. Three girls were eliminated; Manouska Minvil, Audrey Sabbatier and Dina Laurore, but still received prizes.

With the second, third and fourth runner-ups announced by President of the Jury Alex Pierre, the suspense was palpable as Gauthier and Lisandre Nicoise awaited their fate to see who would be winner and first runner-up.

The well-deserved first runner-up place went to Lisandre Nicoise, who had a tearful attack of nerves in the interview segment, but recovered well to get her message across and receive a big applause for her courage.

2012 winner Suzon Bonnet and the tall, elegant, Miss France 2014 Flora Coquerel on her first visit to St. Martin, assisted in transferring the crown and winner's sash to Gauthier.

Alizé Schiller was second runner-up, Gilda Parisot third runner-up and Yvonne Madramootoo fourth runner-up. All the contestants received prizes, bouquets of flowers and gift baskets by Frederic M.

Gauthier was also voted Miss Sympathy by the other contestants for her humble and friendly nature. Among her prizes she won a return ticket to Paris, a ticket to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in connection with the Miss France preparation, and a stay at the four-star Marquis Boutique Hotel and Spa with breakfast included. Similar prizes were awarded to the four runner-ups.

Dina Laurore won the Jury Prize and Yvonne Madromootoo the Committee Prize.

Earlier the eight beautiful contestants made three appearances in front of the jury around the swimming pool; in traditional Caribbean wear, Asian-themed swim wear, and evening wear with an Indian theme. Among the criteria, judges were looking for elegance, speech, suitability of the contestant to represent St. Martin, and cultural characteristics. The final segment was a one-question interview with each contestant. The question was for what reasons should the jury choose you to represent St. Martin at Miss France.

In between segments invited guests were treated to first-class musical entertainment. Performing throughout the evening was the excellent Akoustyle group playing popular contemporary hits. Other performers included Bee-Hype Dance Crew, singer Kenyo Baly, and a star in the making, 10-year-old Tamilia Chance, who sang twice in front of the audience, working the stage without a hint of shyness or stage fright.

Other personalities introduced during the evening included Miss France committee representative Olivier Noel, the 2014 Prom King and Queen of the Student Ball on the French side, and Junior Tourism Minister Adriane Sylvestre.

Of note watching the show was renowned artist Mounette Radot (82), who in her earlier life became a model for L'Oreal.

The evening was opened by First Vice-President Guillaume Arnell. Also present were Vice-President Ramona Connor, Independent Councillor Jules Charville, MP Daniel Gibbs and President of St. Martin Tourism Office Jeanne Rogers-Vanterpool.

The show was emceed by David Eugene and co-presenter Sarolia Ada provided English translation.

Venezuela diplomat held on Aruba freed

ARUBA--Venezuelan retired general Hugo Carvajal was released after being arrested in Aruba at the request of US authorities over drug trafficking accusations, when it turned out the Dutch Kingdom's Foreign Affairs Ministry recognised his diplomatic passport and thus his immunity.

"A plane is taking off at this moment ... to go and pick up our comrade Hugo Carvajal," Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said on state TV, hailing it as "a new victory" for Venezuela.

Carvajal, head of military intelligence from 2004 to 2008 during the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, was arrested on Wednesday after flying to the semi-autonomous island that is part of the kingdom of the Netherlands. Venezuela's socialist government called Carvajal's detention at Washington's behest an illegal "kidnapping" and threatened reprisals if he was not released.

Jaua said the Dutch Government had accepted Venezuela's argument that Carvajal should have diplomatic immunity because he had been nominated consul to Aruba. Washington wanted him extradited.

"The detention on July 23 was a violation of immunity. The kingdom will ensure he is liberated," said Jaua, reading what he described as an official communication from the Dutch Government at a congress of Venezuela's ruling party.

The news was confirmed by Aruba's acting Attorney General Peter Blanken. He said the arrest had been made on the presumption that Carvajal had not officially been appointed consul yet and did not enjoy diplomatic status in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The latter was also the basis for Friday's ruling by the Judge of Instruction that the detention had been lawful and the 60-day custody during which the US had to finalise a possible extradition could begin. However, new information csme from the Foreign Ministry in The Hague on Sunday that Carvajal had diplomatic status after all, so he was released.

Aruba's Justice Minister Arthur Dowers said Carvajal had been declared a "persona non grata" and asked to leave. The Venezuelan consulate was to see to that, he added.

Venezuelan opposition politicians said the Carvajal case was the tip of an iceberg in Venezuela after what they allege have been years of official connivance in the illegal drug trade and aid to Colombian guerrillas.

The US government put Carvajal on a blacklist in 2008, accusing him of protecting cocaine shipments from seizure by Venezuelan anti-narcotics authorities and providing weapons and shelter to Colombia's FARC rebels on the border. He denies those charges.

Carvajal's lawyer in Aruba Chris Lejuez, speaking to Reuters by telephone from Aruba, confirmed his client was about to be freed in a case that had threatened a new flare-up in ever-tense relations between Venezuela and the United States. "We are waiting for him to be released," he said.

Carvajal, who took part in the failed 1992 coup that lifted Chavez to political prominence, is considered one of the most powerful figures of the late president's 1999-2013 rule. Chavez died of cancer last year, and his vice president, Nicolas Maduro, won an election to replace him as president, keeping the ruling Socialist Party in power.

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