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UN wants to scrub Black Pete’s face

page8a087AMSTERDAM--The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has released its report on discrimination in the Netherlands following a meeting with the Dutch delegation in Venice, Italy, last week. The committee highlighted a number of concerns and made recommendations regarding, among other things, Black Pete, ethnic profiling by the police, racist statements made by politicians, anti-Semitic chants during soccer games, the asylum policy and ethnic-bullying in schools.

"Considering that even a deeply rooted cultural tradition does not justify discriminatory practices and stereotypes, the Committee recommends that [the Netherlands – Ed.] actively promotes the elimination of those features of the character of Black Pete which reflect negative stereotypes and are experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery. The Committee recommends that the State find a reasonable balance, such as a different portrayal of Black Pete and ensure respect of human dignity and human rights of all inhabitants of the State," the Committee writes.

Black Pete, or "Zwarte Piet" in Dutch, helps the Dutch version of Santa Claus distribute presents every year in early December and is displayed as a silly, mischievous and indolent character, usually animated by an actor in blackface. In recent years, he has become a lightning rod for a cultural debate, and has even sparked violence.

During his weekly press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Black Pete was not a matter of state. "Beware of a country where the State decides what folk tradition should look like. I really think that is something for the people to decide and not a matter of politics," said Rutte.

The Black Pete issue was a small element of the report on the Netherlands which is produced every five years and looks at racism and discrimination in general.

The committee noted that not all Dutch municipalities have an anti-discrimination policy that is in line with the State's policy on anti-discrimination and added that it is the national government's responsibility to ensure that all cities comply.

They also expressed concerns about "incidents of racist and xenophobic hate speech emanating from a number of extremist political parties and politicians," the prevalence of "racist discourse in the media" and the increase of racist statements and threats on the Internet.

In this regard, the Committee is particularly concerned about the sharp increase in discrimination against members of Jewish and Muslim communities, including the reported increase in verbal abuse, harassment, and physical violence against Jewish and Muslim persons.

The fact that anti-Semitic chants are "commonplace at football stadiums" is also a big problem, the Committee stated.

The UN Committee recommends that the Netherlands "adopt a firm stand against the use of hate speech for political purposes, increase efforts to combat racially motivated hate speech and ensure that criminal acts perpetrated on grounds of 'intersectionality' between ethnic origin and religion are duly investigated and prosecuted."

The Committee also recommends that a national plan of action against racial discrimination be developed and adopted, especially given the fact of continuing racial profiling by the police which has "produced feelings of mistrust among minority groups and discourages them from accessing help when they are victims of crime or rights abuses."

According to the Committee, the current policy on migrant integration has shifted from the State to migrant communities. "This approach puts migrants in particularly vulnerable situations at risk of receiving insufficient attention and support, leaves them vulnerable to social exclusion and hampers their integration."

They are also concerned about the asylum policy stating that undocumented migrants only receive assistance if they comply with their own expulsion.

"The Committee reiterates its previous recommendations, and urges the State to ensure that its integration policies reflect the responsibilities of the State," the Committee said in its report.

The government should also ensure that undocumented migrants are provided with food and shelter in all circumstances prior to deportation and that they have access to healthcare in all parts of the Dutch Kingdom, which is currently not the case in Curaçao and Aruba.

The Netherlands has to report back to the Committee in 2019 on changes and improvements made.

Erika passes St. Maarten without major incident

 page6e086PHILIPSBURG--Tropical Storm Erika passed St. Maarten/St. Martin on Thursday without any major incident. There were some reports of minor wind damage. All government services and schools resume as of today after Thursday’s closure due to the passing of the storm.

St. Maarten was spared any damage to property or loss of life as the storm passed. However, the island of Dominica did not fare as well; that island sustained extensive property damage and the tragic loss of at least four lives in floodwaters accumulated from rain dumped by Erika on the very mountainous country.

Today, Friday, was deemed “a normal business day” by Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs when he gave the “all clear” for reopening on Thursday evening.

Princess Juliana International Airport SXM halted operations on Thursday because of the heavy winds and gusts. The airport is back in full operation today.

Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT), which connects St. Maarten with Dominica, announced that all fights into and out of that island have been cancelled until further notice due to flooding of the runway at Dominica’s Douglas-Charles Airport. All flights north of Antigua remained cancelled up to press time.

Affected passengers are asked by the airline to monitor its website

www.liat.com, Facebook and Twitter feeds for updated information.

Utilities company GEBE stayed true to its pledge to provide electricity and water throughout the passing of the storm. Up the press time, only sections of Middle Region appeared to have experienced power loss due to a downed high tension cable. The company’s crew worked on restoring power as soon as the gusty conditions calmed down.

St. Maarten/St. Martin remained under tropical storm warning up to 8:30pm on Thursday. However, Gumbs gave the all clear at 6:00pm for restaurants and casinos to reopen. Gumbs ordered all businesses in the country closed at midnight Thursday.

There was some confusion about the tropical storm warning late last night. The Miami-based National Hurricane Center stated in its 8:00pm bulletin that the Meteorological Service of St. Maarten (MDS) “has discontinued” the tropical storm warning for St. Maarten, while the MDS’ “Special Weather Bulletin” issued at 8:30pm was headlined “Tropical storm warning remains in effect for St. Maarten.”

Gumbs said in his 6:00pm Thursday press statement that the warning was still in place, because the country would continue to experience some gusty to near gale force winds from time to time. Erika was expected to produce some heavy rainfall last night into this morning. Hillside residents were told to exercise caution after heavy rainfall.

Gumbs called on residents to remain vigilant, because the hurricane season is not yet over, “We still have three more months to go through.”

He thanked residents, visitors, and the business community for their understanding and cooperation. “The measures that have been taken were of a precautionary nature in order to ensure the safety of the community and our visitors,” said Gumbs.

The Court of First Instance was closed on Thursday and will resume operations today. All court sessions scheduled for Thursday were postponed until further notice. Persons who require further information on their cases can call Shulaika Gustina at the Courthouse, tel. 546-6114 or fax 542-5451.

   Preparations for the passing of Erika led to the cancellation of an information session entitled “Breaking the Silence: Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect” that was scheduled in Belvedere Community Centre for Wednesday, August 26. The session will be rescheduled in the coming days.

The White and Yellow Cross Foundation is expected to resume its two-day care facilities – SBC Educational Facility and the Psychogeriatric day care – today, after Thursday’s closure.

St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) operating room, outpatient clinic, dialysis department and administrative department all reopen today.

Despite the closure on Thursday, dialysis patients scheduled for dialysis received treatment.



Man shot in stomach in robbery at Guana Bay

~ Second home robbed ~

GUANA BAY--A man was shot in his stomach during an armed robbery at his home on Pen Shell Road in Guana Bay in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

A second home in the area also was robbed around the same time. Prosecutor Karola van Nie confirmed that there had been two robberies in Guana Bay. She said a man had been shot during one robbery, but his condition was not life-threatening.

The Daily Herald understands that the man was shot in his stomach. The bullet is said to have gone straight through his stomach, but he is said to be in stable condition after undergoing an operation.

A relative told The Daily Herald that four to five men had forced their way into the man's home through a bathroom window around 3:00am Thursday. The robbers carted off several items, including all the phones in the home.

Two family members, one of whom had returned from competing in track and field in the Netherlands, were home at the time and witnessed what transpired.

Police told the family that two American tourists also had been robbed and beaten up badly that night. This newspaper understands that the second armed robbery took place in Guy Estate, Guana Bay, around the same time. It could not be ascertained whether the second robbery in Guana Bay was associated with the two American tourists who reportedly were beaten up.

Acting police spokesperson Inspector Steven Carty said when contacted on Thursday that he did not have any information on either robbery.

Van Nie said no one had been arrested so far for the robberies. She said any information from the public on these incidents would be welcome. She declined to say what the circumstances of the two robberies were, whether the same suspects were suspected of both robberies, how many suspects authorities were looking for, what had been stolen in the two robberies and whether anyone else had been injured.

St. Maarten, Netherlands vow to fight crime together

page3a086THE HAGUE--St. Maarten and the Netherlands, in The Hague on Wednesday evening, reconfirmed their wish to work together to fight organised, undermining crime on the island.

The meeting between St. Maarten Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur and his colleague of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk was deemed “constructive.” Richardson spoke of “open” talks during which parties were able to “speak their mind.”

“I think we can now proceed in a constructive manner,” stated Minister Plasterk.

The two countries committed to execute the May 24, 2015, protocol signed by Richardson and Plasterk to strengthen the law enforcement sector in St. Maarten jointly. In that protocol, the Netherlands pledged, among other things, its support to the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM.

Richardson said in an interview with The Daily Herald and Amigoe newspapers on Thursday that parties had been able to clarify their positions and explain their intentions during the meeting the evening before. “It seemed that our views weren’t that different. The air has been cleared in our view and we can now continue working out the details of the protocol,” he said.

The urgent meeting between Richardson, Plasterk and Van der Steur followed remarks by Dutch National Police Chief Gerard Bouman, who indicated to Richardson and St. Maarten Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs during his visit to St. Maarten in July that he did not wish to cooperate with the KPSM.

In Bouman’s view, the KPSM and the St. Maarten Government were corrupt and as such their cooperation was unnecessary when the Netherlands would send 55 Dutch policemen and detectives to the island in the near future. Bouman’s remarks caused uproar in St. Maarten and were published in the Dutch media.

Richardson said the meeting at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK on Wednesday evening had not been about Bouman and the latter had not been present at the meeting either. “Bouman has a right to his own opinion and vision, but we have a problem if his words reflect that of the Dutch ministers.”

Richardson said he did not worry too much about Bouman’s opinion, but found it much more important to focus on the cooperation with the Netherlands to strengthen the KPSM. He said better communication between the two countries would have prevented what had happened.

Better communication also would benefit the relations with Attorney-General of Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands Guus Schram, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting. The distance to Curaçao where Schram is located is an obstructive factor in the working relations and regular contact with the Attorney-General, said Richardson. He again emphasised that St. Maarten should have its own Attorney-General, just like Aruba and Anguilla.

Richardson said that when the Netherlands has actively given content to the earlier agreement to help strengthen the KPSM, and in anchoring cooperation between the law enforcement agencies and doing this based on cooperation and the sharing of human resources, then would he accommodate the setting up of a separate Criminal Intelligence Unit (CID) for St. Maarten.

“That will happen when the actual cooperation has been secured. That means, as an example, a Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST that consists of detectives of the KPSM and the Netherlands,” he said.

According Richardson, it is important to continue giving content to the May 2015 protocol between St. Maarten and the Netherlands to support the KPSM, amongst other things. He said it was up to the KPSM Police Chief Commissioner to indicate the desired assistance.

Agreements also should be made about the exchange of police personnel at the various departments. “Making people available for the RST, for example, will result in shortages in other departments which will need to be covered,” said Richardson.

In his opinion, the Netherlands should not only make people available for the RST, but also for the Police Force itself. The programme to deploy Dutch policemen to the KPSM, which ended early this year, was a success and should be continued pending the build-up of the capacity of KPSM itself.

Richardson hoped that The Hague would not maintain its focus on corruption and fraud solely, but also would see the need to tackle other forms of crime such as armed robberies and border-transgressing crime.

High impact crimes have a detrimental effect on the local community and could threaten St. Maarten’s main economic pillar, tourism. The signed protocol also allows for assistance in these areas.

In conclusion, Richardson said the St. Maarten Government would stand by its decision that it will receive on a ministerial level only Dutch civil servants who are part of the delegation of the Dutch minister.

Instead, Dutch top civil servants visiting without their minister will meet with their St. Maarten counterparts, as is customary in other countries around the world. He said the perception that St. Maarten would be blocking Dutch civil servants from entering the island was “absolutely incorrect.”

Govt drafts amendments to increase 2015 budget

PHILIPSBURG--Amendments to increase the 2015 budget by some NAf. 15 million, and to shift some budgetary allocations have been sent to Parliament by the Marcel Gumbs cabinet.

It is hoped by Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs that Parliament will deal with the amendments soon.

The 2015 budget, though passed by Parliament on January 29, has not yet been given the stamp of approval by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT.

Amendments to the budget were anticipated based on projected increases to government income and other complementing factors.

Referred to as a "skeleton budget" by Finance Minister Martin Hassink, the 2015 balanced budget stands at NAf. 445 million, some 19 million off the amount projected by CFT.

The growth of the budget by three per cent from 430 million last year can be credited to the country's economic growth, execution of a tax project/clearing up tax administration backlog, and "swift execution" of tax administration reorganisation, Hassink had said at the budget presentation to Parliament.

One budget-neutral amendment was made to the budget by Parliament before it was formally adopted. The amendment cut the allocation for New Works (infrastructure) from NAf. 33,950,000 to 25,650,000 and moved the subtracted 8.3 million to Domain Affairs for the completion of the purchase of the Vorst land in Cay Hill.

The draft 2016 budget is in the final preparation stages. Gumbs said in the Council of Ministers Press Briefing on Wednesday, that the cabinet had hoped to have had the draft budget already with Parliament. Now, the aim is to get it tabled for discussion by the opening of the new parliamentary year, which starts on October 10.

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