Wednesday, Nov 26th

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PvdA proposes family allowance for islands

THE HAGUE--The Labour Party PvdA in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will present an amendment next week to introduce an allowance for families with children (kinderbijslag) in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba of US $38 per month per child.

The proposal to introduce a family allowance came from PvdA Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar, the party's spokesperson on Kingdom Relations. Van Laar's colleague Roos Vermeij will submit the amendment during the handling of the 2015 draft budget of Social Affairs and Labour next week.

The family allowance, if approved by the Second Chamber, would replace the current fiscal incentive for children which provides families a tax deduction of US $38 per child per month. However, the low income families don't benefit from this arrangement because they don't pay income tax.

With the PvdA proposal all families in the Caribbean Netherlands would receive a monthly contribution of US $38 per child. The allowance would cost the Dutch Government some 800,000 euros per year, to be funded through the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. The Netherlands already has an allowance for families with children.

Voting on the amendment would take place in two weeks, the week after it has been submitted. However, it remains to be seen whether the proposal will receive a majority support in the Parliament.

PvdA's governing partner, the liberal democratic VVD party, didn't respond too enthusiastic to the plan. "Saint Nicholas is in town again," stated VVD Member of the Second Chamber Anne Mulder in a reaction.

Member of the Second Chamber Gert-Jan Segers of the ChristianUnion (CU), a party that has been advocating to raise the level of social provisions on the islands for several years, said he was "very happy" to learn that the PvdA agreed that introducing an allowance for families with children was important.

"We have always said that all residents of the Netherlands, including the Caribbean Netherlands deserve a decent level of social provisions," Segers told The Daily Herald on Thursday. He said that the social ills that his predecessor Cynthia Ortega-Martijn had documented in the Caribbean Netherlands showed that tangible action is needed to fight poverty.

According to Van Laar, the allowance for children of low income families is direly needed so children don't end up being the victim of poverty. He pointed out that social provisions are much lower on the islands than in the Netherlands.

Van Laar and Segers also presented an amendment early October during the handling of the 2015 draft Kingdom Relations budget to make 3 million euros available to improve children's rights in the Caribbean Netherlands. This amendment, which will also be voted on in two weeks, is very likely to be carried.

The Caribbean Netherlands, but also the Dutch Caribbean countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, are facing serious poverty issues. An estimated 60 per cent of the families in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are living below the poverty line. According to 2011 figures, 20 per cent of families live below the poverty line in St. Maarten and 25 per cent in Curaçao.

Van Laar called on the Dutch Government to ensure that children's rights are duly lived up to in the Caribbean Netherlands, which are a responsibility of the Netherlands as Dutch public entities. He did so at Thursday's Children's Rights Summit of the United Nations Children Fund UNICEF Nederland in Leiden.

Fire destroys house in Sandy Ground

page3a156MARIGOT--A house on Rue Jack Fish, Sandy Ground, was completely destroyed by fire on Thursday afternoon and now leaves a family of four homeless. Despite some smoke inhalation, there were no reports of any injuries.

The fire started around 4:30pm at 10, Rue Jack Fish, and quickly consumed the wood and zinc sheet-roofed house. The house, already damaged from Hurricane Gonzalo, belonged to Karine Godet, who had been living there with her uncle, Mario Zabata, and two children for over 20 years.

A close friend of the victims said the fire started when the television suddenly exploded. A resident who also works for Erick Ambulance immediately called the fire brigade, which arrived with two fire trucks.

As is the case in this impoverished area of Sandy Ground, getting access to a house fire through the narrow alleys is not easy. One fire truck was positioned on Rue Lady Fish and the other approached up the alley as far as it could from the main road on the lower side. Several residents helped the firemen with their hoses.

The burning house was perilously close to other houses, but the firemen had the blaze under control, preventing the fire from spreading. It took about 45 minutes to completely extinguish the fire.

Territorial Police, who were also on the scene with Gendarmes, said the victims will stay with a relative tonight. The Collectivité will find alternative accommodation for them today, Friday. None of the family's possessions could be saved.

Representative of district six Georges Richardson said it was not the first time there has been a house fire in the area.

"When the Fire Department was moved out of Marigot to La Savane, I asked the Collectivité to have two electrical pumps for water, one from the ocean and the other on the lower side from the pond, for this same situation we are witnessing today. Sea water could have been used and pond water. But it didn't happen. Having those pumps working could have made a few minutes difference and saved a house from being destroyed.

"After this, I hope the administration will understand that we need clear access in case of fire, and for trucks not to be blocked by old cars. We need to revisit fire precautions here because lives are at stake."

The Gendarmerie is investigating the cause of the fire.

Plastkerk, Asjes discuss a dispute arrangement

WILLEMSTAD--It is the wish of both Curaçao Prime Minister Ivar Asjes and Dutch Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk to finally come to a dispute arrangement between the four kingdom partners.

The two men discussed the issue on Tuesday. “The last time we tried things didn’t work out because there were differing views on the content,” said Plasterk.

A procedure now has been agreed on to tackle the matter. “It could be that each country appoints someone to enter into discussions on their behalf. The Kingdom Charter says there should be a dispute regulation, but it doesn’t specify who has to establish one, where one must go in case of a dispute and how such an arrangement is to be given content,” Plasterk added.

He said one of dilemmas was that any regulation based on the number of inhabitants would make the Netherlands “a very big party,” but on the other hand, if the four countries were given equal weight the average European Dutchman would have far less to say. “You have to find a solution for that and we will look at it seriously.”

Plasterk recognised that the recent discussions with Aruba and St. Maarten on instructions had increased the urgency for a dispute arrangement. He hopes something will be on the table for the 2015 five-year Evaluation Conference agreed on when the constitutional reforms took effect on 10-10-10.

“It has been talked about for years already and I’m not saying it will work this time, but it’s not desirable that things remain unresolved. If the Kingdom Council of Ministers takes a decision and a country thinks it’s not lawful there must be a place to go,” the Dutch minister said.

Asked whether instructions like the ones for Aruba and St. Maarten did not put the governor in a difficult position, Plasterk answered that governors were people with backbone who were fully capable of carrying the responsibility that came with the office.

Justice Academy’s graduates sworn in


Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson (back row, 10th from left) stands proudly with the graduates.

PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson officiated the swearing in and graduation ceremonies of 13 Customs Officers, 15 Immigration and Border Protection Officers and six auxiliary officers from various governmental departments on Tuesday, November 18.

The ceremony was witnessed by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams; Attorney General Taco Stein; Interim Secretary General of Justice Udo Aron; department heads of the various justice departments, department heads of the graduating auxiliary officers, and friends and family members of the graduating class of 2014.

In his presentation, Richardson congratulated all graduates and admonished them to carry out their duties in honour and humility, while respecting the uniform.

The Minister further instructed them to carry out their duties in the service of the people of St. Maarten, and by extension the government and the Ministry of Justice, whilst reminding them to operate within the confines of the law, using persuasion and respectful approach.

He thanked Justice Academy for the successful training of, to date, 135 cadets within the justice chain of law enforcement. Since 10.10.10, the justice sector has been able to offer numerous job opportunities to the young people of St. Maarten.

The Academy was represented by board members Miguel de Weever and Ademar Doran, Coordinator of the Academy Richard Straker, staff members and several trainers.

During the ceremonies the art of self-defence was demonstrated by the cadets under supervision of instructor A. Bell. Swimming instructor Franklyn Carty was also in attendance.

Following the ceremony, all graduates were congratulated by those in attendance in an informal reception held at Belair Community Center.

Robbery foiled by guard, residents

OYSTER POND--A security guard and two residents of Oyster Bay Villas on Oyster Pond Hill foiled a robbery around 1:00am Saturday, a source stated.

The Villas, which have a private entrance with a security guard, are accessible only to residents and approved guests.

When one of the residents pulled up outside the barrier on Saturday morning, the security guard, who works for Aegis NV, came out to check on him. At the same time, a small motorbike pulled up next to the vehicle. As the security guard was checking the occupant of the car; the motorbike rider suddenly pulled out a firearm and shouted “Don’t move.” The security guard was made to kneel down.

The suspect then proceeded to take a laptop out of the resident’s vehicle. At that time, another resident’s car pulled up behind the victim’s vehicle. Two men inside that car saw what was going on, and came out of the car.

This caused the suspect to try to run away. The security guard and the two men who had just arrived tackled the suspect to the ground. The suspect managed to wrestle himself free and ran off, leaving behind his coat, his helmet and his motorbike. He took the firearm with him, but did not manage to take the victim’s property.

The police were called and the bike, helmet and coat were handed over to them. The police are investigating the incident.

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