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Parliament to co-sign letter on shelving of dispute regulation

PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Parliament will be a co-signer along with the legislatures of Curaçao and Aruba on a letter to the First and Second Chambers of the Dutch Parliament, seeking that body’s position on the Dutch Government in effect shelving the establishment of a dispute regulation, and a related body for the kingdom.

The letter, drafted by the Curaçao Parliament, came after last month’s Kingdom Conference -a meeting of the countries of the kingdom- saw the Dutch Government putting up a road block on the issue. The four governments were mandated by their Members of Parliament following the May Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation IPKO to establish the regulation.

The decision to sign the letter proposed by Curaçao, was made in a meeting of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Inter-Parliamentary Affairs and Kingdom Relations on Thursday in Parliament House. The meeting was held in the annual July recess to give the Curaçao Parliament an answer as soon as possible. Aruba has already agreed to the letter.

Committee Chairwoman MP Sarah Wescot-Williams (Democratic Party) said the letter calls on the Second Chamber to give its position on the Dutch Government’s “unwillingness” to come to a decision on the dispute regulation.

She said the matter comes down to how Parliaments should view decisions and directives to their government. In this particular case, it concerns a “shared directive” from the four parliaments on the dispute regulation that will give all countries an independent body to solicit solutions to inter-country grievances.

National Alliance MP William Marlin said, “The letter does not have sufficient teeth” and pointed out that any government can “ignore [its] parliament,” but that move should come with consequences. As such, it is the Second Chamber that “needs to decide what to do with the government.”
He said asking the Second Chamber for its “take” on the Dutch Government’s position can very well be meant with the Chamber saying it agrees with its government, despite the IPKO decision. “They can say we agree [with the Dutch Government] and boom it is over.”

It would appear that the Second Chamber is “going along” with the position of the Dutch Government, considering that there has been no reaction since the expressed failure to reach an agreement on the dispute regulation at the Kingdom Conference of mid-June, he said.

“When something happens down here [in St. Maarten-Ed.], they are quick to react,” but when the Dutch Government “slaps” them in the face, there is no reaction or outcry, said Marlin.  

Responding to Marlin’s queries about the value of the letter, Wescot-Williams said MPs “might think we know where they [the Second Chamber-Ed.] stand, but need to ask” for a formal position.

Co-signing the letter was supported by independent MPs Leona Marlin-Romeo and Cornelius de Weever.

   He called for the letter, which is written on the letterhead to the Curaçao Parliament, to be placed on a “neutral” letterhead or “one should be fabricated for the three parliaments” before it is sent out with signatures of the three legislatures.  

Also attending Thursday’s meeting were MPs Christopher Emmanuel (National Alliance) and Dr. Lloyd Richardson (United People’s party).

Early-release request filed under new Criminal Code

PHILIPSBURG--The Joint Court of Justice dealt with a request for conditional release of an inmate of Pointe Blanche Prison on Wednesday under the new Criminal Code, which came into effect on June 1.

The new law also includes changes to the rules concerning early release, to which convicts are entitled after they have spent two-thirds of their sentence in jail.

Under the previous Criminal Code conditional release was considered a favour to be granted by the Minister of Justice to convicts with exemplary behaviour within the prison’s confines. This was changed under the new law, which gives inmates the right to conditional release, unless there are reasons not to grant it.

Attorney-at-law Shaira Bommel claimed that the Ministry of Justice has not changed its policy according to the new law and is still using the old criteria for early release, among which is good behaviour.

According to Bommel, her client Rignald Richardson would be entitled to conditional release as per June 1, but the request for his early release was turned down, as there had been several incidents concerning his behaviour in prison.

Richardson was a member of the notorious “Scary Movie” gang, which wreaked havoc in 2005 robbing a number of casinos, jewellery stores and other businesses. For his role in these crimes, Richardson was sentenced in 2005 to five years and four months. He was released in March 2009.

In 2010, he was sentenced to seven years, for having committed three violent thefts in November 2009. He was found guilty of having taken part in raids on security guards at Ruby Labega School and St. Dominic High School and at Shell gas station on L.B. Scott Road.

Bommel said her client was entitled to early release as per June 1, however, based on the advice of the Prison Director, the Central Board of Probation had issued a negative advice and had stated that a decision on conditional release should be postponed by six months. The lawyer called the decision “utterly incomprehensible.”

She said her client had displayed a “positive attitude” for two years, which was reflected by the fact that he was allowed to work outside of prison.

She contested that her client had misbehaved and accused the Minister of Justice of displaying a “vacillating policy.”

According to the lawyer, the objections against her client were either incorrect or irrelevant. He was accused of possession of several bags of marijuana and a cigar and of having declined a urine test.

“There are no serious objections against my client,” the lawyer concluded in calling upon the Court to declare the minister’s decision null and void. “My client regrets the crimes he has committed and is highly motived to stay on the right path and is open to guidance,” the lawyer said in calling for her client’s immediate release.

Solicitor-General Taco Stein said the Probation Board had found several grounds to turn down the convict’s request, among which were possession of illegal goods, refusal to undergo a drug test and refusal to obey orders from security guards.

Therefore, the Parole Board’s advice was not incomprehensible and the Minister’s decision not incorrect, the Solicitor-General concluded. The Court will give its decision on July 29.

Manek hit-and-run case before judge in October

PHILIPSBURG--The man who is held responsible for the hit-and-run accident that cost the life of entrepreneur and former Rotary president Ramesh Manek on April 16 will be standing trial on October 7, it was announced Wednesday in a preliminary hearing.

Manek was jogging on Airport Boulevard near Thrifty car rental around 7:00am when he was struck by a black Hummer that drove off at speed after hitting him. Bystanders came to his assistance and paramedics attended, but nothing could be done to save him. He left behind a wife and three children.

Suspect K.M.C. (31) turned himself in to authorities one day after the incident and was arrested immediately and taken into custody.

Prosecutor Nanouk Lemmers announced Wednesday that C. would be charged with manslaughter and the lesser count of wrongful death while driving under the influence.

The hearing was postponed on the request of attorney-at-law Eldon Sulvaran. As he is currently in Germany, his associate at Sulvaran and Peterson law office Paula Janssen filed several requests on behalf of the defence.

One of these requests concerned the return of the vehicle that was involved in the accident. The black Hummer, which was damaged in the front, is the property of the suspect’s father, who is the owner of Platinum Room in Maho. The vehicle had been confiscated for further investigation.

The Prosecutor’s Office objected to returning the vehicle to its owner, as it is considered a murder weapon. The Judge said a decision would not be made until October.

Janssen further indicated that the defence would be contesting that the defendant had been under the influence. She requested the hearing of several Platinum Room employees and their employer to testify that drinking at the workplace is not allowed in the establishment. The suspect worked there the night before the incident.

As intoxication is an aggravating circumstance, the defence also requested additional investigations by Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) concerning the suspect’s blood-alcohol level.

Janssen also sought access to video-camera images taken by car rental surveillance cameras along Airport Boulevard that could shed more light on the circumstances of the accident and, for instance, the speed with which the vehicle had been moving.

The defence also wanted the court to survey the scene of the incident, but the Judge did not deem this necessary, as the magistrate resides on the island and therefore is very well aware of the local situation.

The Prosecutor announced that the victim’s family wanted to address the court concerning their loss. The defence made objections, but the judge said she might allow such a statement as long as it did not include remarks concerning the suspect or the punishment.

The suspect currently is not held in pre-trial detention, but has to adhere to several requirements, such as reporting to the Parole Board, Turning Point rehabilitation centre and Mental Health Foundation.

Attorney Janssen stated that her client also had been seeing a psychologist since the incident. She informed the court that she would submit a report of the psychologist’s findings.

SHTA applauds new governing programme

~ But has doubts on certain aspects ~

PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), the largest private business representative on the island, says it applauds the drafting of the recently-released governing programme, but also is expressing reservations on the proposed handling of a number of topics.

SHTA said it applauded "the efforts of the coalition supporting Government in drafting a governing programme. We fully support many of the initiatives listed in the programme. However, we would like to draw the coalition's attention to the existing financial problems of the country, none of which appear to be addressed within this programme."

SHTA said it also was somewhat dismayed by the fact that the programme "does not include any inkling of an idea of where the funding is coming from. Unless there is a major tax hike, which we would strongly oppose.

"We would like to establish the fact that there is a compulsory retirement system in place. However, if this is a person's only pension (in the event that they have not personally invested in additional pension-financing programmes) the benefits can be considered insufficient."

As part of the Tripartite Committee and Social Economic Council SER, SHTA has proposed in the past that adjustments to the retirement system be made to improve it. These adjustments have yet to be adopted.

SHTA "has never condoned bad business practice; however, rewriting existing laws to combat the proverbial 'one bad apple in the bunch' while legislation already exists, but apparently just lacks enforcement, appears to be a waste of public funds and is counterproductive."

SHTA's position on the counterpart policy and the civil code adjustments of the labour laws is well known, and it said it would continue to battle against their implementation.

"If the direction of the country of St. Maarten is to re-privatise many of the now public services, one can wonder if that was the mandate of the people and that it will require a significant slimming down within government. As we continue perusing the document, more comments will be forthcoming," SHTA concluded.

Six mix their way in finals of Angostura Challenge

page5c057PELICAN--Six bartenders tasted the sweetness of mixing their way into the finals of the St. Maarten/St. Martin leg of the House of Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge after hours of competition on Wednesday. The six will compete for the title of best bartender in St. Maarten at The Red Piano in Pelican today, Thursday. Mix-off starts at 2:00pm.

The judges, who included a House of Angostura resident mixologist from Trinidad, said "bottoms up" to the cocktails of the finalists: defending champion Paul Peterson of Temptation restaurant, Dastas Mickael (Bamboo Bernie's restaurant), Jordon Cohen (Sky Beach), Raymond Rivera (The Red Piano), Marcel Szekfu (Dirty Sancchez Bar in Simpson Bay) and private bartender Latchman Chintaman.

The six bartenders were selected from a pool of 15 who all competed in The Red Piano on Wednesday afternoon. Each one presented for judging a rum cocktail and a freestyle drink. All creations made use of the House of Angostura line of products and were made at the bar before the judges.

The competition not only brought out the best cocktail concoctions and inventions from the bartenders, it also spotlighted how the world of bartending is still very much a male-dominated field. Only two women bartenders were in the challenge – Lauren Bevington (Dirty Sancchez Bar in Philipsburg) and Ana Morgan Pomero (Karakter lounge and restaurant). Neither placed in the finals.

The winner of the St. Maarten leg of the challenge will represent the island in the regional competition. He will have home-court advantage, as the regional finals of the House of Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge will be held in St. Maarten on October 25. Some six Caribbean countries will be represented in that leg.

The best mixologist for the region will head to the global challenge in Trinidad in February 2016.

The local leg of the competition was coordinated by Antillean Liquors, the local authorised distributor of all House of Angostura products.

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