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Police, protesters clash in Netherlands over death of Aruban man after arrest

page1a038AMSTERDAM--Violence broke out in The Hague on Monday as police clashed with protesters demonstrating against the death of a man from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba after he was arrested by police at a music festival.

About 200 people marched to a police station in the Schilderswijk neighbourhood on Monday night. The protesters threw rocks and police charged the crowd with truncheons. It was not immediately clear if there were injuries. Earlier, Dutch prosecutors launched an inquiry into the man's death.

Videos posted on social media showed him pinned to the ground by five white male Dutch officers, prompting comparisons with incidents in the United States that have led to protests and riots over police use of force against black suspects. Prosecutors initially said in a statement on Sunday the 42-year-old "became unwell on the way to jail" and was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

In the videos, one officer can be seen using choke-hold to subdue the man, identified by media in the Netherlands and Aruba as Mitch Henriquez. He appears to be unconscious before being loaded into a police van. One officer is seen checking for a pulse.

The protest on Monday night turned ugly after nine o'clock, when police refused to enter into a dialogue with the protesters outside the station. Protestors walked to the side of the police station and threatened a small group of officers. After that stones and other debris was thrown at the officers and the police station after which the riot police intervened. A water cannon and police dogs were deployed.

The protestors subsequently spread out over the neighbourhood. Incidents were reported till deep into the night.

Henriquez was visiting his family in the Netherlands. He fell severely ill after he was arrested Saturday night at the Night at the Park music festival in The Hague's Zuiderpark. He passed away at a hospital on Sunday evening. The National Detectives have initiated an investigation under the auspices of the Prosecutor's Office in The Hague to determine whether there is a relation between Henriquez's arrest and the handling of the police officers.

According to a press release of the Prosecutor's Office, the victim was arrested after he had shouted that he was carrying a weapon. This wasn't the case, it appeared after his arrest. "The man resisted arrest and that is why police used force to take him to the police station. What happened after that is being investigated," it was stated.

Stills of videos taken by witnesses show at least four police officers forcing the victim to the ground and cuffing him. Other photos taken of him at the hospital showed that the man had been dealt harsh blows, as his face was all swollen.

Two witnesses were seen on Monday placing a rose on the spot where Henriquez was arrested. "I saw how the man, who was already on his belly on the ground, was being hit on the head with a police bat, while five policemen were constraining him," one witness said.

The Prosecutor's Office initially stated on Sunday that Henriquez had become ill in the ambulance. On Monday, it was reported that this may not have been the case. The Prosecutor has decided to order an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, it was announced on Monday. The National Detectives are calling on witnesses to come forward with information. Henriquez's death was national news in the Netherlands on Monday.

The Hague Mayor Jozias van Aartsen said on Monday he wants a "careful, critical, but also speedy investigation, so it becomes clear within the shortest possible time what exactly happened." He has sent his condolences to the family and has offered to speak with them. "I will offer them all possible assistance," Van Aartsen said.

People were encouraged through social media to take part in a protest demonstration at a police station in The Hague on Monday evening. The group is demanding justice. "As you have heard, our brother Mitch Henriquez died during his vacation in the Netherlands due to violent behaviour of The Hague's Police Force. It is up to us citizens to make it known that we don't accept this," it was stated on Facebook.

About 200 people marched to the police station on Monday night. The protesters threw rocks and riot police charged the crowd with truncheons. It was not immediately clear if there were injuries.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk in the meantime has called Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman and Aruba Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague Alfonso Boekhoudt in relation to the incident.

"The Minister has assured the Minister Plenipotentiary that an independent investigation will be carried out by the National Detectives to shed light on what transpired. He hopes that clarity will be provided within short," it was stated in a brief press statement of Minister Plasterk.

The Aruba Government stated in a press release via the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary that it demanded an impartial investigation into the arrest and the force that was used to constrain Henriquez.

"The Cabinet doesn't have all details on what happened, but one thing is sure: all details must become known. The family of the victim has every right to know what happened and why," it was stated in a release.

Minister Boekhoudt has been in contact with the Prosecutor's Office in The Hague.

Prime Minister Eman and Boekhoudt have also been in constant touch since Sunday when they were informed of the incident to coordinate the contact with the authorities in the Netherlands and the victim's family.

According to Aruba's opposition party MEP, the incident has severely shocked the island community. The party sent a letter to the Dutch Government on Monday in which it demanded a thorough investigation.

USM observes silence

Locally, University of St. Martin (USM) faculty observed a moment of silence for Henriquez on Monday morning, and together reflected on the event. Students will be asked to do the same on Tuesday evening.

Dean of Academics/Interim President Dr. Francio Guadeloupe published a statement on social media Monday morning, announcing USM's intentions to hold a moment of silence and denouncing the incident.

He later told this newspaper that representatives of other Universities in the Netherlands, such as the major universities of Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Erasmus Rotterdam, Utrecht and Groningen also made public statements, and that he hopes the Universities of Aruba and Curaçao would do the same.

He holds the same hopes for the governments of St. Maarten, Aruba and Curaçao.

Dr. Guadeloupe said the main feeling the faculty had towards the incident was shock, both at the fact that it happened in the Netherlands and that the Prosecution tried to hide the story until footage posted on social media countered its version of events. In line with the widespread reaction, it was compared to the recent police brutality stories which have made headlines in the United States.

"This is not about privileging the nearby...for the less nearby..." his post read. "This is about institutions of education in this section of the human village taking responsibility for the terrain we can fully influence: the Kingdom of the Netherlands....

"...Next to Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic – the so-called 3 Rs, and encouraging students to graduate with honours – it is high time that educational institutions foreground the three Ds: Decolonisation, Decency and Democratic ethics geared towards respecting and enhancing human life."

Man kicks baby in attempted robbery

PHILIPSBURG--It appears not to have been enough for a would-be robber to just brandish his gun at a woman and a nine-month-old baby on Friday. The unknown man, who is still on the run, is said to have asserted himself by also kicking the baby who was in the house on Back Street into which he stormed. Luckily, the baby was not injured.

The armed and masked man entered the house and threatened the woman and her baby, according to police. The nature of the threat was not disclosed in Monday’s police report issued by police spokesperson Chief Inspector Ricardo Henson, but the incident was described as an attempted robbery.

The mother fought with the armed man to protect her child despite his brandishing a gun. The scuffle alerted another person in another room of the house to come to the rescue of the mother and child. This action foiled the robbery attempt.

Nobody was injured in the fight, according to police who were called to the scene. Investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Suriname's Bouterse on track for second presidential term

desiSuriname's President Desi Bouterse (C) of the ruling National Democratic Party and his wife Ingrid are mobbed by supporters after he cast his vote during parliamentary elections at in Paramaribo, Suriname, May 25, 2015.

PARAMARIBO--Suriname's President Desi Bouterse, a former military ruler convicted of drug trafficking in the Netherlands, looked on course for a second term after his party won a slim majority in parliamentary elections, according to first results on Tuesday.
  Based on an unofficial but widely accepted preliminary tally of votes around the nation, Bouterse's National Democratic Party (NDP) won 26 or 27 seats in the 51-member assembly.
  "The NDP has won the elections," said Ramon Abrahmas, the campaign leader for Bouterse, whose charismatic style and social welfare policies seem to have won over voters.
  The opposition coalition, on track to take 17 or 18 seats, accepted defeat. "We did not make it. That is a disappointment," said Chandrikapersad Santokhi, a former justice minister and police commissioner who leads the V7 opposition coalition and was Bouterse's main rival.
  Although Bouterse, 69, needs a two-thirds majority in parliament to guarantee a second five-year term, he seemed likely to get that via allies or a separate mechanism whereby a special expanded assembly votes for president. That process, however, could take months.
 The local election board was due to give final formal results of Monday's election within one or two weeks.
 Convicted in absentia of drug trafficking by a court in the Netherlands in 1999, Bouterse always has denied wrongdoing.
  He had also faced prosecution for the execution of 15 opponents in 1982 during his military rule, but the National Assembly passed an amnesty law in 2012 that gave him immunity. Santokhi, then police commissioner, had led the probe.
  Bouterse's son, Dino, was sentenced in March to 16-1/4 years in prison, after pleading guilty to U.S. charges that he tried to offer a base to the Lebanese paramilitary group Hezbollah.
  Bouterse, a former sergeant who took part in two coups in 1980 and 1990, said Suriname's 550,000 people had benefited economically in the last five years, especially from increased child education benefits and health care for all. His jokes and songs on the campaign trail also have gone down well with voters.
  "Bouterse is a people's leader ... someone who is presenting himself well both in words and in deeds," said NDP supporter and government employee Vanesse Wong A Ton, 40. "To realize all our plans, we need five terms, not only five years!"
  Opponents, though, accuse the president of cronyism and corruption.
  Suriname, perched on South America's northeastern shoulder, won independence from the Netherlands in 1975 and is now a gold and bauxite miner with a nascent oil industry.

Marlin and NA are ‘outraged’ at Govt. handling of GEBE meeting

PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) fraction leader Member of Parliament (MP) William Marlin says on behalf of NA that he is "outraged at the manner in which the Government is handling the request for a meeting" on utilities company GEBE.

His comments come on the same day that a plenary session of Parliament about the ongoing dispute between the GEBE Supervisory Board and Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Managing Director Romelio Maduro about his position at the company was supposed to take place, but instead was "postponed until further notice" to allow Prime Minister/Acting Infrastructure Minister Marcel Gumbs to gather all relevant information/documents requested.

"We had requested an urgent meeting ever since May 10," Marlin told The Daily Herald. "We were hoping, seeing the urgency of the matter, that it would have been convened within four days."

Instead, it was held on Friday, June 26. "The impression is that on Friday, the Prime Minister came totally unprepared for the matter. At one point he was claiming to be translating as he went along," Marlin said.

He recalled that Gumbs had not wanted the meeting to be open to the public. However, the vast majority of Parliament did not want the meeting to be closed-door.

In relation to the new postponement being justified by Gumbs' needing to get more documentation in order, Marlin said, "We don't believe that that is the case, because if the Prime Minister and Government had been dealing with the issue seriously, the information would have been readily available, probably even by last week Friday.

"It was nothing out of the impossible that we asked for; for example, cash flow statements. We asked questions which he should have had answers to, or which he should have been able to gather.

"We have no clue what documents he's referring to that he can't get. I believe the documents are available," but maybe "the Prime Minister provided the wrong information to Parliament and doesn't know how to face it."

Marlin said Gumbs had done it "knowing that Parliament is going into recess within the next couple of days. If there was any seriousness, a date would have been given to continue the meeting. What sort of Prime Minister would we have if he is afraid to incriminate himself?"

Marlin pointed to the fact that the Prime Minister had a legal team at the meeting. This, Marlin said, could have let Gumbs take time and then come back and say that he either would or would not provide the information.

"But it is clear that something is amiss, and I feel that he provided information on Friday that was incorrect, and that he is now trying to cover his tracks," Marlin said.

Scandinavian market surges while Canada overtakes USA

MARIGOT--The Scandinavian tourism market saw significant growth in the first four months of 2015, increasing from 5 per cent in 2014 to 21 per cent in 2015, while the Canadian market has been getting increasingly stronger; 13 per cent growth compared to 10 per cent in 2014.

Brazil has consolidated its first place in the South American market since overtaking Argentina in 2012; 46.44 per cent compared to 40.52 per cent in 2014. Elsewhere, the principle markets of USA and France remained stable.

These were some of the figures produced at a St. Martin Tourism Office press conference.

From the hotel occupancy point of view, Secretary-General of the French-side Hoteliers Association Philippe Thévenet noted average room occupancy for 2014 was 54 per cent, compared to 53.06 per cent in 2013, with high season occupancy showing a slight increase, from 68.01 per cent to 70.06 per cent. But the slow season varied from 35 to 38 to 36 per cent occupancy.

The first quarter of 2015 indicated December, January, February and March were good months, occupancy increasing slightly from 72.19 per cent to 73.82 per cent.

"The problem is, we have so many costs in low season that we cannot drop the rates as much as other islands can," explained Thévenet.

Asked what he thought about Cuba opening up and how St. Martin can prevent losing its share of the tourism market, he said: "We know it's going to be a big development. Americans will go there of course. But the American market is a very big one. St. Martin and Cuba are two completely different destinations, one big, one very small. Cuba will not suit everyone, so we have something unique which is the French touch, a little piece of Europe in the Caribbean. They (Americans) can come back to us.

"I think it will be a big attraction for three or four years, people will go there for curiosity and then the novelty will wear off. We must take care not to drop our guard and keep promoting our image. We must maintain and develop the French side and offer different experiences and intensify the marketing of the island."

Tourism Office Director Kate Richardson noted the office is committed to strengthening its ties with the hotels by taking their representatives to the trade shows.

"We realised that even with promoting the destination abroad, it's more effective, and people are more convinced, when they actually see the product i.e. the chef, the food, or a dancer, something authentic from the destination."

She added there's a lot to do on the American market with bridal shows and incentive shows, one of which is the big show in Las Vegas, the biggest incentive trade show in the USA.

"We were there for the last two years, and last year we made a lot more connections. Belmond La Samanna was also there and they confirmed it is great show bringing in a lot of business. And there are still other markets in the USA we haven't tapped into yet."

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