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William, Louie want campaign financing cap, limit to airtime

PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) leader Member of Parliament William Marlin and fellow MP Louie Laveist want the campaign funds to political parties to be capped as a means to level the playing field. They also want to limit the amount of radio and television airtime political parties can have for the same reason.

"We need a cap on spending," Laveist said. Neither he nor Marlin gave any indication about the amount where they want to see campaign financing capped.

Marlin said a limit on airtime during election campaign was needed, because a political party with more money can buy up more radio spots or commandeer private talk shows for the duration of the campaign due to the country's "open market." Without limitation, the elections campaign would be "lopsided" and would "create an unequal field." Given those factors, "democracy would not be served."

Commenting on the Democratic Party (DP) board's call for international election monitors for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Marlin said DP and its leader Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams need to give an explanation about why this is needed. "The public will really need to know."

He said the country has regulations and institutions to properly guide elections and instance of supposed breaches, such as the ongoing vote-buying case, related to the United People's (UP) party, are being dealt with.

Laveist concurred with Marlin, but pointed out that it was "a crying shame" that the vote buying case is ongoing since 2010.

Man fires shots, no one injured

SUCKER GARDEN-- Shots were fired outside of a house on Sucker Garden Road on Thursday morning, but no one was reported to be injured.

A woman called the police after hearing the gun shots. It transpired that the male resident of the house had an argument with two men, after which he had entered the house to collect a gun. He is then said to have fired into the air.

Bullet shells were found on the ground after the incident and the police attended. Two houses were searched and a number of Marijuana plants were found inside one of the dwellings. A witness gave a statement to police but was not arrested. An investigation into the incident is currently ongoing.

Ceremonial welcome of Zr. Ms. Zeeland to St. Maarten

page1b276FORT AMSTERDAM-- Members of the Netherlands Royal Marines Detachment, the Vrijwillers Korps St. Maarten (VKS, St. Maarten Volunteer Corps), invited guests including Governor Eugene Holiday and a handful of tourists were present at Fort Amsterdam yesterday to welcome the Dutch Navy ship Zr. Ms. Zeeland.

The VKS and the Netherlands Marines were in ceremonial uniforms to welcome the ship, which, in passing Fort Amsterdam, fired two traditional 21-shot salutes, one to the flag of the Kingdom, the second to the Governor of St. Maarten.

As the ship passed, officers saluted, with the governor and members of the rotational detachment standing to attention. The ceremony was a sight that didn't go unnoticed by a number of tourists who were present to watch.

Having been at sea for two weeks, the ship has a harbour visit to St. Maarten from yesterday until Sunday, April 13. On Saturday, April 12, the ship will be open to visitors.

It is expected that a lot of people will take the opportunity to see this state-of-the-art patrol vessel, which only came into use last year, and is considered by many to be the most technologically advanced naval ship in the world.

Commander Giel van Hoorn is the Captain of the Zr. Ms. Zeeland. He explained that the vessel is 108 metres tall and weighs 3750 tonnes. "She is the same size as an M-fregat," Van Hoorn explained, "but she has a lot of new technology. As a result, we only need some 50 staff to run the ship as opposed to around 140, which you often see on ships of that same size."

The ship carries 55 permanent staff. But it currently has an inspection team of six marines on board and a number of trainees. Additionally, the last two weeks six St. Maarten Coast Guard Officers have been on board with their captain, as well as two liaison officers from Anguilla and one from St. Kitts.

"We have had an excellent cooperation with the Coast Guard," Van Hoorn said. "We worked together intensively with the Coast Guard helicopter, which is currently on St. Maarten, and we have inspected quite a lot of ships. We also took part in a search and rescue mission where a diver had gone missing. Luckily, the diver was safe and had already swum to shore."

On Saturday, the Zr. Ms. Zeeland, with all its modern technology, its weapons and on board facilities opens its door to the public from 1:00pm until 4:00pm at the Cruise terminal in Phillipsburg, with its staff available to give explanations.

Decision on dollarization possibly in two months

PHILIPSBURG--The Council of Ministers will endeavour to make a decision on whether or not to pursue the dollarization of the St. Maarten economy in two months, said Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams on Wednesday.

She said at the council's press briefing that government will try to go to Parliament with a preliminary decision based on the research done so far. Government has been exploring the possibility of continuing with a joint currency with Curaçao or adopting the US dollar. The latter had been a preference of the first United People's (UP) party-led government of which Wescot-Williams' Democratic Party (DP) was also a partner.

This two-month period is not a firm deadline, rather it was given as a guide as to when government would "try to come" to a definite decision, the prime minister said. That timeline was given by Wescot-Williams and Finance Minister Martin Hassink in a meeting with the Curaçao government last week.

The Social Economic Council SER had urged government to speedily move to dollarization since last year. SER cited the growing current account debts that were primarily fuelled by Curaçao as one of its main reasons for the urgent call.

Sarah says Census cleaning up registry, no one being targeted

PHILIPSBURG--Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams says the Department of Civil Registry is undergoing a clean-up of its registry that started some two years ago and no one is being targeted in the process.

She was responding at the time to concerns raised by National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) George Pantophlet regarding the writing out of persons living in the United States from the Department of Civil Registry and the requirement for naturalised citizens who had renewed their Dutch passports multiple times in the past and now are being requested to again legalise their birth certificates in their countries of birth when applying for a passport renewal.

Wescot-Williams said Pantophlet had submitted several specific questions on his concerns and the Department of Civil Registry had been requested to provide information on the queries. The Prime Minister assured that "no specific group" was being targeted by the Department.

She said the Department of Civil Registry had embarked on cleaning up its registry, which she said had become necessary given the disparity in the last population census compared to information contained in the Civil Registry. Government believed the gap in the information was "too great" and had been an issue of concern. "So this cleanup is ongoing and that's one part of it."

Pantophlet had told reporters recently that he had received complaints from someone who had said they had received electronic correspondence indicating that persons who are living in the US would be written out of the civil registry and would not be able to vote in this year's Parliamentary elections.

On the issue of the passports, Wescot-Williams said there were certain requirements and documentation needed as it related to obtaining a Dutch passport. She said this process was very strict.

"In looking at and handling a request for a passport the Census Office has come up against different things; for example, ... the papers in the files not being there or if it could not be established that those were the original papers submitted whenever they were submitted. So those particular papers needed to be verified and persons are sometimes asked to get these verified papers."

She said persons whose files were found to be complete would not be asked to provide or verify certain documentation. "It all has to do with making sure that the information that the Civil Registry has is as accurate as possible," said Wescot-Williams, adding that an explanation would be outlined in a response to Pantophlet. The MP also will be told that the applicable laws are being followed.

The Prime Minister also said the Department of Civil Registry had embarked on an information campaign that included taking information into the various districts to enlighten the public about changes at the Department and to provide clarity on their questions.

Pantophlet had told reporters at an NA press conference recently that many persons had been complaining to him of late about this matter. He said the requirement to legalise one's birth certificate on a second occasion had been strange, as a first-time applicant for a Dutch passport is required to have his or her birth certificate legalised in the country of birth before the original application is even accepted.

"Many of these persons who called me are facing this situation where they have been here for the last 15 to 20 years and have renewed their passports three to four times," Pantophlet had said at the time. He said government needed to indicate what laws it was applying to request these persons to have their birth certificates authenticated for a second time when renewing their passports.

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