A large gathering reflected on this year’s theme “Supporting the future” at the annual St. Maarten AIDS Foundation and Helping Ourselves in a Positive Environment HOPE International Candlelight Memorial at Carl’s Unique Inn on Sunday. The event was attended by several government officials, including Health Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs and Member of Parliament Cornelius de Weever, donors, well-wishers and supporters from all walks of life. Outgoing foundation Executive Director Rae Merlet was honoured with the Elton Jones Memorial Award, which is bestowed annually to honour and thank persons who have shown dedication and exemplary work in the field of HIV in St. Maarten.
THE HAGUE--Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk will not initiate a separate investigation into the flow of money between the governments of Curaçao and St. Maarten and criminal organisations as was instructed through a motion adopted recently by the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.
The motion of Second Chamber members Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party instructed the Dutch Government to initiate a broad investigation, preferably with the input of Curaçao and St. Maarten, into the flow of money between the so-called upper- and underworld with special attention for the gambling industry on the islands.
However, Minister Plasterk wanted to await the results of the upcoming Judicial Four-Party Consultation JVO, the regular meeting of the justice ministers of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands, in St. Maarten on June 8.
Plasterk explained in a letter he sent to the Second Chamber on Friday that it had been decided in the previous JVO in January that the four countries would work jointly on a broad plan to strengthen the law enforcement sector structurally in the Dutch Caribbean.
"This joint approach will focus mainly on financial-economic crime and undermining crime, including an investigation of the flow of money between the under- and upper-world," stated Plasterk, who reconfirmed his commitment to this joint approach and the fact that all four countries would have to contribute financially to the execution of this plan.
Plasterk promised that he would keep the Second Chamber informed of the progress of the joint plan. The plan should have been ready by March, but the four countries are still negotiating the terms and the roles of the individual ministers of justice.
Plasterk further stated in his letter that the annual report of the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST already had been investigating "suspicious money flows." The Dutch Government also has supported financially the Duradero project in Curaçao to strengthen and expand local law enforcement capacity to fight financial-economic crime.
PHILIPSBURG--The confiscation of items such as computers and telephones was cited as one of the main bottlenecks for the Police Force in a Council for Law Enforcement report on the daily confiscation of items by the police.
The report was one of two the Council presented to Justice Minister Dennis Richardson on Friday. According to the report, these items “are not centrally managed or registered. With the absence of an administrator, there is no overview of such items and the storage is scattered.”
The report also said management safeguarded insufficiently the interests of security and transparency in the confiscation of these items. “This is an undesirable situation and needs to be addressed urgently.”
As it relates to facilities, the Council said an alternative had to be found for the storage of large vehicles and vessels, because St Maarten does not have an appropriate and secure storage location for these confiscated items.
Overall, the Council said there had been improvement in the area of confiscated items, especially with regard to high-risk items. To maintain progress and work towards integrated compliant procedures, the Council has made seven recommendations for improvement in its report.
For the report, the Council examined the procedures used for confiscation of items by the Police Force and the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST. The Council also looked into whether the competent authorities comply with applicable laws and regulations, whether there is sufficient knowledge among the staff and whether this is put in practice sufficiently in the workplace.
With regard to storage of items, the Council inspected the manner of storage and registration and surveyed the storage facilities. The Council also looked at the supervision by those ultimately responsible within the Police Force and the Prosecutor’s Office, and reviewed the risks associated with the management and control over the confiscation of items.
The Council said adhering to prescribed procedures “safeguards the limitation of infringement on private property rights, secured custody of materials of evidence and confiscated goods, while protecting society from harmful items.”
The Council said the Court Registrar is appointed by law as the custodian of confiscated items and therefore is charged with and responsible for the registration and storage of items.
The findings in the report indicate that these tasks presently are not performed in accordance with the legal obligations.
“Although there are explanations on reasons to do so, the Council concludes that as long as the law does not provide otherwise, those obligations must be fulfilled by the Court Registrar for the sake of compliance.
“In practice, the Police Force is disproportionately burdened by the consequences of the current situation regarding the Court Registrar’s role where it concerns handling of confiscated items. As a result, the police are now responsible for storage, registration and the handling of bottlenecks concerning these items.
“To counter criminal behaviour and rid the community of harmful items, a proper handling of high-risk items is paramount,” said the Council. “With the exception of some points of concern, the Police Force and the RST have implemented the required procedures.
“The registration, management and further handling of high-risk confiscated items such as money, weapons and narcotics are well in place at both the Police Force and the Detective Cooperation Team. From the inspection conducted by the Council, it appears that the Police Force has made progress in the area of confiscated items, since its transition period. The required know-how about the legal framework of the confiscation of items for investigations is sufficient among police officers.”
The Council also presented the minister with the report entitled “The security of public officials in St Maarten” on Friday, May 15. This report details findings of an inspection related to concerns regarding an increase of incidents in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.
The Council said in a press release that the report addressed to what extent the security of public figures and officials is regulated and organised in St. Maarten. The Council said public officials served for and by the sake of the democratic and legal order.
“It is thus expected that they must be able to execute their duties in an unobstructed manner. The security of public officials is, after all, essential to a well-functioning democratic legal order and society,” the release said.
The Council said this form of security was not addressed adequately on a formal basis. “The Council is of the opinion that there is need for a coherent policy and implementation based on regulation. Pursuant to the Police Kingdom Act, security tasks are assigned to the Police Force, as it is generally charged with the enforcement of the law and order,” the release said.
“The Council on Law Enforcement, furthermore, discovered a lack of consistency in the current practices of security of public figures and officials in St Maarten. The current situation is, above all, one of ad hoc performance, with many different players and missing structures of authority and accountability.”
The Council believes an integral system of security for St Maarten should be drafted. However, before this can be established, the Government of St Maarten needs to determine what security level is necessary for public figures, whilst also taking St Maarten’s budgetary constraints into account.
“In the view of the Council, the existing practices persisted because no serious incidents or concrete threat of significance have occurred in St Maarten. The Council considers that despite the perception of St Maarten being a Friendly Island, the protection of public figures should be established based on law and policy.”
According to the Council, the regulation of the security of public figures is on the agenda of both Minister of General Affairs Marcel Gumbs and Justice Minister Richardson.
“The Council is encouraged that both ministers have initiated concrete steps aimed at regulation. The key, now, is for both ministers to collaborate appropriately on the matter so as to adopt appropriate measures, rules and regulations for a professional approach, as well as a well-structured system of security for dignitaries. This, taking national security into account.”
The reports that were presented will be accessible online in six weeks on the Council on Law Enforcement website
Presenting the reports to Richardson were St. Maarten’s Council for Law Enforcement member Franklyn Richards and Council Secretariat Chief Inspector Gerard van Voorst.
MARIGOT--The volunteers of French-side sea rescue service SNSM savoured an uplifting moment Friday evening when their second-hand semi-rigid inflatable boat (RIB) was christened officially at a ceremony on the shore next to Marina Fort Louis in front of elected officials and many invited guests.
The yellow RIB came into view with its crew just before the ceremony began, followed by the lifeboats SNSM 269 from St. Barths and Rescue 2 from the St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation, both vessels sounding their horns for the celebratory occasion before tying up to the entrance dock.
The 12-metre-long 3.62-metre-wide RIB named Rescue Star is powered by two 275-horsepower outboard engines and in calm sea conditions can reach speeds of 35-40 knots. Thanks to its lightness and manoeuvrability it can access hard-to-reach areas more easily, something the heavy SNSM 129 Notre Dame de la Garoupe was unable to do.
The purchase of the RIB was made possible by funding from Rotary Club St. Martin Nord and the Chicago Rotary Club.
Since the SNSM 129 was badly damaged after Hurricane Gonzalo SNSM has not had any rescue vessel at its disposal to respond to some 30 missions, until now.
Following a benediction by Father Charles, SNSM President René-Jean Duret thanked all of the service clubs for their tireless efforts in raising funds during the SOS SNSM campaign for repairs immediately after Hurricane Gonzalo. Various companies also contributed. He also thanked the Collectivité for providing the station’s headquarters opposite O’ Plongeoir Restaurant for the past 14 years.
Territorial Council President Aline Hanson, who is the godmother of Rescue Star, said she was full of admiration for the bravery of sea rescue volunteers working with limited means, but assured that the Collectivité was always there for moral support even if it could not always provide financial support.
“I congratulate you for the work you do. We do need you,” she said. “The sea can be very attractive, but also very dangerous.”
She encouraged SNSM to train young St. Martiners in becoming volunteers and encouraged more people to join the association and companies to make donations.
Hanson and Senator Guillaume Arnell, who also spoke, both have made personal donations to SNSM. Arnell presented a cheque to René-Jean Duret
Opposition Councillor Dominique Aubert read a message of congratulations from MP Daniel Gibbs, who was in Paris. Gibbs donated 12,000 euros to SNSM through a Parliamentary reserve fund.
Préfet Philippe Chopin could not be present either, but Secretary-General Matthieu Doligez spoke on his behalf.
Father Charles, due to his reduced mobility, transferred the baptism duties to Aline Hanson, who also christened Rescue Star with a bottle of champagne. As the hull of the RIB is rubber, an anchor was set up on the dock with the champagne bottle suspended from a line. A good swing from Hanson and the bottle broke satisfyingly against the anchor.
A large number of guests attended the ceremony, including Vice-President Ramona Connor; Maritime Affairs, Marine Trades Association Metimer and Lions Club representatives; Port Director Albéric Ellis; Chamber of Commerce President Jean Arnell; former Territorial Council president Alain Richardson; Economic, Social and Cultural Council President Georges Gumbs; new Police aux Frontières (PAF) Commandant Jean-Luc Deras; and other persons from the nautical community.
The damaged SNSM 129 lifeboat will be readied for shipping back to SNSM workshops in France in July or August, including fabricating a cradle for the transportation. It will be taken by barge from Sandy Ground to the port in Philipsburg. From there it goes on a CMA-CGM ship to Pointe-à-Pitre before continuing on to Le Havre and finally St. Malo.
The replacement SNSM 121 lifeboat is due to arrive in St. Maarten in August, at which time the SNSM service will be back up to operational speed again with two working rescue vessels.
Duret estimated the transportation cost of the two vessels to be 24,000 euros. More expenses will be incurred for adapting the RIB for rescues, as it formerly was used as a dive boat. He said SNSM also would be organising a donation of lifejackets to the St. Martin Fishermen’s Association.
The service clubs are continuing to raise funds towards the cost of the extra equipment needed for the RIB and the cost associated with the transportation of SNSM 129 and 121. SNSM is also appealing to companies and the public to donate funds.
Donations to SNSM can be made by cheque deposited in the SNSM mailbox opposite Fort Louis Marina or by post to S.N.S.M. (station de St. Martin), 18 Boulevard de Hubert Petit, Marigot 97150.
HAMMOND, INDIANA--A Northwest Indiana woman has pleaded guilty to giving birth on Carnival Dream and leaving the baby girl to die under a bed.
The deceased infant was discovered in a guest cabin by a Carnival Dream employee while the ship was in port in St. Maarten on October 12, 2011. The cruise line informed authorities in St. Maarten about the incident. That same day Dutch authorities took custody of the infant's body and interviewed the mother. The mother, who remained in St. Maarten for a time, returned to the United States later.
Alicia Keir (24) of DeMotte, Indiana, entered a plea to an involuntary manslaughter charge earlier this week in a US federal court, the Associated Press (AP) reported earlier this week.
Court records show Keir gave birth in her stateroom in October 2011, wrapped the baby in a towel and hid her under the bed, The Times newspaper of Munster, Inidana, reported.
"She did not move. She did not make a sound," Keir told US District Judge Rudy Lozano, saying she had known the baby was born alive. "I should have gotten help," she said.
A cleaning crew found the baby dead the next day when the ship arrived at port in St. Maarten. Keir flew home from St. Maarten after the infant was discovered.
A doctor found that the baby had died from exposure and lack of care, US Attorney Randall Stewart said. Court records show the baby was born without any diseases or defects. Keir said she had known she was pregnant, but had not told her travel companions.
Federal prosecutors said they had jurisdiction in the case because of Keir's Indiana residency, even though the baby had died at sea. Keir faces up to eight years in prison and a fine of up to US $250,000 when she is sentenced August 20. Her plea agreement states that prosecutors and the defence can argue for what they believe is an appropriate sentence, the AP report said.
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