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Coalition loses majority in Senate by two seats

page5a009THE HAGUE--As expected, the Dutch coalition cabinet has lost its majority in the Dutch Parliament's First Chamber, forcing it to look outside the three friendly opposition parties for support.

The 570 members of the 12 provincial councils in the Netherlands cast their votes for the First Chamber on Tuesday, meaning the make-up of the First Chamber reflects the results of March's provincial vote.

After the vote, the ruling conservative VVD remains the biggest party in the 75-member Senate with 13 seats, a loss of three compared with four years ago.

Centre-democrat D66 is second with 10 seats after this party doubled its 2011 total.

The anti-immigration Party for Freedom PVV and the Socialist Party (SP) now both have nine seats, while junior coalition partner Labour PvdA has eight seats after its loss of six.

The minor religious parties ChristenUnie and SGP, which together with D66 prop up the coalition in the First Chamber, respectively won three and two seats. This means the coalition and the so-called "friendly opposition" can only count on 36 of the 75 seats in the First Chamber.

In total, there are 12 parties represented in the Senate, four of which only have one or two members.

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said the fact that his party has doubled its support will significantly increase its influence. "And that is needed to finally get this cabinet to start creating jobs and cutting taxes," he said.

Charlotte Brookson Academy to relocate from USM year end

~ LaBega saddened by MP's remarks ~

PHILIPSBURG--Charlotte Brookson Academy (CBA) of the Performance Arts will be relocating from its current home at the University of St. Martin (USM) to another location at the end of the year.

USM Dean of Academics and Interim President Dr. Francio Guadeloupe said the contract between CBA and USM ends in June and the tertiary institution has given CBA until December to find another suitable location.

CBA has been occupying classrooms at USM since it first opened its doors almost three years ago to provide education for students with a strong interest in the arts and with a strong focus on academics.

A source close to CBA said the intention was never for the school to be permanently housed at USM. The institution had been expecting to receive a plot of land measuring 5,000 square metres at Emilio Wilson Park, to construct a building to house its school. Henri Brookson had intended to donate the land to the school which was named after his mother the late Charlotte Brookson.

However, the sitting government at the time did not go along with this proposal, leaving no land for the institution. CBA had sent correspondence to interim VROMI Minister Marcel Gumbs seeking an audience with him to discuss the issue and possibly an alternative to the land issue. However, the minister did not respond to CBA's invitation for a meeting.

In a letter published in the Opinion pages of this newspaper on Tuesday, Brookson said a "meetbrief" was already prepared to transfer the 5,000m2 of land behind Emilio Wilson Estate to the CBA, but said former VROMI Minister Maurice Lake instead "peddled off the 5000 m2 fast to RFT (Rainforest Adventures)."

CBA has 115 students in its first to third forms. The school occupies nine to ten rooms on the ground floor of USM, which are used as classrooms and several rooms on the upper floor which are used as administrative rooms.

Since the school was asked to move CBA has been looking for alternative, appropriate accommodation elsewhere. The school's management has looked at several locations and is in negotiations with a prospective landlord.

According to a source close to the school, Charlotte Brookson would prefer to have its own land and build its own facility.

There have been cases in the past where government stood as guarantor for institutions that took out loans to upgrade or even build schools, but in those cases the institutions had collateral in the form of land. CBA presently has no collateral.

In an invited comment about the matter CBA Director Claudette LaBega confirmed that the school will be moving. She said comments made in Parliament last week that it "does not look good" for CBA to be housed in the same building as the university, had a negative impact on students and cast a bad light on the institution which has an exemplary track record and an excellent working relationship with USM.

She said the comments, which were heard by students, were not taken well by the student body. She suggested that Members of Parliament (MPs) who want correct information about the institution just ask and are welcomed to visit CBA's Open House on June 20, to see first-hand the work being done at the school.

Labega stated CBA had existed peacefully at USM during the three years it had been located there. The time had been incident free with no negative occurrences amongst students.

Space needed

In the meantime, Guadeloupe said CBA has displayed excellent qualities during its tenure at the university. "I have seen that most of the students are well behaved. We have never had any kind of altercations such as fights [among students – Ed.] where police had to be called. This has never taken place. The issue is that CBA is growing and USM is growing."

Guadeloupe said the boards of USM and CBA met "a few weeks ago." During that time the decision to not extend the contract this year had been communicated to CBA. He said it was decided to end the relationship with CBA because USM is seeking accreditation and due to its collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) starting soon, USM would also need the space.

CBA, he added, is also growing and would need additional space, hence the decision to give CBA six months to find alternative accommodation.

Save our School

In the meantime, CBA will be embarking on a "Save our school campaign" to raise funds to offset expenses that will be incurred from its relocation. The campaign will start with an open house on June 20, from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Entrance fee will be US $5 per person. The open house will feature exhibitions with some of the work done by students. There will also be food and snacks on sale.

St. Maarten Parliament annoyed over protocol

THE HAGUE--The days of St. Maarten’s Justice Minister Dennis Richardson may very well be numbered now that he has signed a protocol with the Dutch Government to establish an independent Integrity Chamber for St. Maarten and to strengthen the island’s law enforcement sector. Members of the St. Maarten Parliament are not accepting that Parliament is being sidetracked in the protocol.

The protocol Minister Richardson and Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk signed on Saturday states that the St. Maarten Parliament has to approve the National Integrity Chamber Law preferably by the end of May, with a deadline of July 31 (see related article).

The St. Maarten Council of Ministers also may not cooperate with any changes to the ordinance without consulting the Dutch Government. This means the St. Maarten Parliament in fact has been sidelined and has to accept the draft ordinance as is, much to the anger of its members.

United St. Maarten (US) party leader Member of Parliament (MP) Frans Richardson’s first response was that he could not comment on a document that the minister, who sits in government on behalf of his party, “didn’t see it fit” to send to him. “I only got the protocol second-hand,” said Richardson. He called it “unfortunate” that the protocol takes away the responsibility of Parliament.

National Alliance leader MP William Marlin called the move by Dennis Richardson “unacceptable” and said the Parliament not only had been sidelined, but also silenced by a minister “who claimed to defend his country.”

“It is unbelievable” that the same minister who vehemently objected to the Dutch Government transgressing the St. Maarten Constitution using authority it does not have to impose measures, now signs an agreement with the Dutch Government, Marlin told The Daily Herald on Tuesday.

“This protocol is degrading and insulting and is relegating the Parliament to a mere rubber stamp. I hope the minister realises the consequences of the decision he has taken, unless he has done so in consultation with the majority in Parliament, because if Parliament rejects the national ordinance on the Integrity Chamber, there is no opportunity to bring about change to it. It is take it or leave it. The minister should realise that this means the Council of Ministers should also take it or leave it,” said Marlin.

MP Sarah Wescot-Williams of the Democratic Party (DP) said her party was not against the establishing of an Integrity Chamber. However, she objects to the way the agreement between St. Maarten and the Netherlands has been reached.

Wescot-Williams said that during the recent debate in Parliament on the Integrity Chamber, Government had made it seem as though it needed time to come back to Parliament on the matter and to possibly include the comments and recommendations of Parliament.

“Now we learn of this agreement. That is not the way to go. It is obvious that this Government has no regard for Parliament. Parliament has been sidelined and that is not acceptable. Government has some serious explaining to do,” said Wescot-Williams.

Frans Richardson said Parliament should never be used as a rubber stamp by Government to sign any agreement. “The people of St. Maarten voted for us to serve them. As such, agreements must have prior approval of the Parliament. The protocol is basically saying ‘take it or leave it’ and that is unacceptable to us,” he said.

According to Richardson, St. Maarten already has enough laws that deal with integrity in government on every aspect. He mentioned that integrity was arranged through article 36 of the St. Maarten Constitution, the LMA law that governs the civil service, the Kingdom Police Law and the St. Maarten Penal Code.

“Yes, we do need help in certain areas of law enforcement, but not the kind of help where we are put aside and things are run by the Netherlands. We should be given the opportunity to remain in charge of our own affairs,” said Richardson, who objected to St. Maarten being used as a “whipping stick” by The Hague.

MP Johan Leonard of United People’s (UP) party didn’t want to comment on the protocol on Tuesday. He said he first wanted to get back to his party on the matter.

The MPs did not say whether there would be consequences for Minister Richardson’s action, but reliable sources said his days were numbered.

Agreement reached on Integrity Chamber

~ St. Maarten law enforcement sector to be strengthened ~

THE HAGUE--The Governments of St. Maarten and the Netherlands reached an agreement over the weekend on the establishing of an independent Integrity Chamber for St. Maarten and the strengthening of the island's law enforcement sector.

St. Maarten's Justice Minister Dennis Richardson and Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk signed a protocol in The Hague on Saturday, that effectively forces the St. Maarten Parliament to approve the National Integrity Chamber Ordinance by the end of this month, and no later than June 30. Members of Parliament who are in The Hague for talks were not amused when they received the news second-hand (see related story).

The protocol on the establishing, format, functioning and cost of the Integrity Chamber is based on a mutual regulation and cooperation defined in article 38 of the Kingdom Charter. As a result, the imposing of a General Measure of the Kingdom Government (Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur AMvRB) to establish the Integrity Chamber, currently at the Council of State for advice, is off the books for now.

The protocol not only restricts the authority of the St. Maarten Parliament, but also that of the St. Maarten Council of Ministers. The latter may not cooperate with any changes to the National Integrity Chamber Ordinance without first consulting the Dutch Government. The establishing of the Integrity Chamber is in line with the recommendations of the integrity audits that were completed last year.

The Integrity Chamber will have the independent authority to investigate possible integrity violations and to report its findings to the Prosecutor's Office. The Chamber also may give advice and recommendations to the governments on integrity issues.

The Integrity Chamber will report to the St. Maarten Government and Parliament, and to the Kingdom Council of Ministers. The protocol states that the Netherlands will appoint a quartermaster before July 1. The Dutch quartermaster will work together with the already-appointed St. Maarten quartermaster.

As the Integrity Chamber and the law enforcement sector are "inseparable," as Minister Plasterk put it in his letter to the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday, it was agreed to strengthen the St. Maarten Police Force, the National Detectives (Landsrecherche), the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST, the Prosecutor's Office and the Joint Court of Justice. Further strengthening will take place at the Royal Netherlands Marechaussees.

The strengthening concentrates on combating high-impact crimes, border-transgressing and -undermining crime, and human trafficking and trade. There will be special attention to strengthening the cooperation between the local law enforcement entities. The Marechaussees will, in light of their core business, be in special charge of combating human trafficking/trade and border-related and -undermining crime.

A steering group will be established under the responsibility of the St. Maarten Justice Minister to guide and supervise the process to strengthen the St. Maarten Police Force. The Netherlands will make experts and capacity available for the process.

The participation of the St. Maarten Police Force in the RST will be intensified, while the RST will assist the detective unit of the Police Force where necessary. The Dutch Government will make capacity, means and expertise available for the RST, so the latter will be able to carry out multiple undermining-crime-related investigations at the same time. The Prosecutor's Office will make special capacity available to St. Maarten.

Also, the cooperation with French St. Martin, surrounding countries and the United States will be intensified. The National Detectives will be strengthened to investigate integrity violations and crimes committed by members of Government and civil servants.

Richardson and Plasterk were both "very satisfied" with the fact that the countries together arrived at "this important agreement," it was stated in a Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK press release Tuesday morning.

The bulk of the cost of the Integrity Chamber and the strengthening of the law enforcement sector for the period 2015-2018 will be carried by the BZK. The St. Maarten Government also will contribute financially.

Revenge attacks feared after deadly Texas biker gang shootout

rWACO, Texas--Police worried about retaliation attacks after 170 people were charged on Monday in connection with Sunday's shootout between motorcycle gangs that left nine dead and 18 wounded at a Waco, Texas, restaurant turned into a blood-soaked shambles.
  Bikers from at least five rival gangs attacked each other with guns, knives, brass knuckles, clubs and motorcycle chains at a Twin Peaks Sports Bar and Grill in the central Texas city. No bystanders or police were injured, police said.
  When the bikers began shooting, officers moved in, some of them also firing their weapons. When the shooting ended, bodies were scattered in the restaurant and across two parking lots.
  "I will tell you that we have had threats against law enforcement officers throughout the night," Waco Police Sergeant Patrick Swanton told a news briefing, adding that hospital staff have also been threatened and bikers were reported to be traveling to the city following the shooting.
  "Yesterday's events was bad guys on bad guys. When our officers arrived, those bad guys turned their guns on our officers," he added.
  About 100 weapons were recovered from the crime scene strewn with shell casings, police said. They originally said 192 people had been arrested.
  Police would not immediately release information about how they were holding the massive group, out of security concerns. Those taken into custody were charged with engaging in organized crime for capital murder and likely will face charges related to the bloodshed after an investigation of the sprawling crime scene that is expected to be lengthy, police said.
  "Some of those may have been witnesses, many of those are going to be individuals involved in the shooting, and criminal charges may be applicable for that," Swanton said.
  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission closed Twin Peaks, located at a shopping mall by a busy highway, for at least seven days "due to the ongoing danger it presents to our community," police said.
  Twin Peaks is a chain restaurant known for scantily clad waitresses serving bar food and large mugs of beer. The Waco restaurant had been used as a meeting place for motorcycle gangs for the past few months, police said. They had asked the restaurant's managers to put a halt to the meetings but said they did not heed the requests.
  Twin Peaks on Monday revoked the franchise rights to the Dallas-based company that ran the Waco restaurant for not doing enough to ensure security. "Unfortunately the management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company, and did not uphold the high security standards we have in place to ensure everyone is safe at our restaurants," the company said in a statement.
  Among the gangs involved in the shooting were the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, which the U.S. Justice Department says has between 2,000 to 2,500 members in the United States and 13 other countries. It is the one of the biggest motorcycle gangs and a rival to the better-known Hells Angels.
  "The Bandidos are involved in transporting and distributing cocaine and marijuana and are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of methamphetamine," according to a Justice Department fact sheet.
  The gangs try to keep under the radar as much as possible to avoid attention for their criminal activities, law enforcement officials said. But the tension between the Bandidos and at least four rival groups in Texas, including the Cossacks, came to a head at the gang meeting in Waco, where about 200 people were present.
  The fight appeared to have started with a shove or two in a restroom that moved into the restaurant and then spilled out into parking lots, where police had positioned themselves in anticipation of trouble.
  "(It) quickly escalated into a fist fight, which turned into a knife fight,
which immediately turned into a gun fight," Swanton said.


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