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Integrity Chamber draft law to Council of State

THE HAGUE--The Council of State has received a request for advice on the draft resolution to establish an Integrity Chamber for St. Maarten via a so-called General Measure of the Kingdom Government ("Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur" AMvRB).

The Council of State (Raad van State), which is the highest advisory organ of governments in the Dutch Kingdom, on Monday confirmed the receipt of the request for advice on the draft resolution regarding integrity of the St. Maarten Government. The draft resolution was stated on the list of requests for advice published on the Council's website Monday.

The Advisory Division of the Council of State for the Kingdom will be handling the request for advice. This process may take a maximum of three months, but in this case it is more likely that it will be around two months.

The Council of State for the Kingdom will make a policy analysis, look at legal issues and technical aspects when assessing the draft resolution. Questions that will be analysed usually include: can or should the problem be solved by legislation, will the proposed legislation be effective, efficient and balanced, is it compatible with higher law such as the Constitution, international treaties and European law, is it in accordance with the principles of democracy and the rule of law, and is it compatible with the principles of good legislation?

The advice will then go back to the Kingdom Council of Ministers for decision-taking. The minister who requested the advice, in this case the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, will publish the advice and the text of the decree in question at a later date.

A spokesman of Minister Ronald Plasterk confirmed that the draft decree has been sent to the Council of State for advice. "That is part of the procedure before the Kingdom Council of Ministers takes a decision," he stated. A General Decree of the Kingdom Government based on a consensus with the St. Maarten Government remained a possibility, he added.

Minister Plasterk has indicated on several occasions that he preferred a decision based on consensus above a unilateral decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. The latter decision, based on article 51 of the Kingdom Charter, the guarantee function of the Kingdom, essentially boils down to higher supervision.

High-level-talks between The Hague and Philipsburg to reach an agreement have been ongoing for weeks, but with little success thus far.

The Kingdom Council of Ministers took the decision on January 30 this year to start the procedure of a General Decree, or an AMvRB, to impose an AMvRB to establish an independent Integrity Chamber with the authority to investigate possible cases of integrity violations in the St. Maarten Government.

Early March, the AMvRB for St. Maarten was again on the agenda of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. Both The Hague and Philipsburg remained mum on what was decided at that meeting.

Teen, Senior Queen contestants vie for points in Speech, Cultural Wear

page10a256PHILIPSBURG--Twelve Teen and Senior Carnival Queen Pageant contestants modelled impressive custom cultural wear and motivated their opinions on independence and diversity in front of a jam-packed conference room at Sonesta Great Bay Resort on Sunday night.

The annual Speech and Cultural Wear competition proved a hit with the crowd, and was the first segment of the overall pageant. Points gained carry over to the main event at Carnival Village, so no winners were announced. Attendees will have to wait to see who the ultimate winners are, although they hold their opinions on what girls gained a leg-up in the running.

Judging by cheers of the crowd, Jondalin Brown delivered the most impactful speech of the show's first half, which featured the Teen Carnival Queen contestants speaking on "My Village of Diversity." Contestants were asked to described an imaginary village, diverse in terms of colour, religion, culture and sexual orientation, and to motivate their opinions on the pros and cons of this diversity.

"One thing that confuses me is that we do not embrace diversity," Brown said in rhyme at the beginning of her speech, in a more critical take than the other speeches. While some members of the audience seemed hesitant at first, they were won over by the end of the speech that challenged society in "St. Maartenburg" to wake up.

Fellow teen contestants Ishani Richardson, Samantha Williams, Adreeane Harrigan, Romaincia Fleming and Tsjaniqua Lake described primarily from a positive perspective how diversity makes a community stronger, praised embracing differences, including in sexual orientation and language, and lauded St. Maarten's multicultural society as a strength.

They spoke of different perspectives and skills being essential and how diversity made them grow and become better. "Diversity taught me to love and embrace," said Lake, who has local and Guyanese roots.

The Teen and Senior contestants modelled cultural wear designed and made by some of St. Maarten's best cultural artists and designers. No two outfits looked remotely similar, save for a few recurring patriotic colours of red, white and blue.

Outfits honoured or represented traditional ways of life or local flora, such as Senior contestant Mabel Arnaud's, which modelled a flamboyant tree. Damiana Blijden was dressed as a "cotton lady." Depictions of St. Maarten, country flags, sea shells, starfish, planes, flowers and monuments were some of the objects added to the outfits.

Senior contestants Blijden, Arnaud, Phausha Winklaar, Chalmarie Vlaun, Anttonet Baker and Sidneila Richardson delivered speeches on "Independence for St. Maarten: Destiny or Fantasy?"

"Destiny" was the resounding patriotic answer from the contestants, who motivated their opinions in a number of ways, but outlined what they envision as needing to happen before the goal becomes reality.

The task of summarising the country's problems and potential in five-minute speeches without notes was notably more difficult for the Senior contestants, who also had to pay attention to criteria such as eye contact, pace and audience engagement, but the crowd encouraged them by clapping whenever the contestants lost steam or stumbled.

St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) President Michael Granger said the challenges presented "the best of pageantry in one event" and gave insight into "what and how they feel, how they communicate, their dreams and aspirations for country."

The judging panel comprised Donovan Smith, Ashayna Nisbett and Zahira Hilliman for Speech, and Fabiana Arnell, Fabian Badejo and Marcellia Henry for Cultural Wear.

The evening was hosted by Fernando Clarke and co-hosted by reigning Carnival Queens D'Shnay York, Bria Sorton and Anna Rabess-Richardson.

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Rita Bourne-Gumbs was counted amongst special guests, along with other Carnival 2015 contestants.

St. Maarten to be featured on HGTV’s ‘Caribbean Life’

COLE BAY--St. Maarten/St. Martin again will be the featured destination on "Caribbean Life," a series on the popular North American Home and Garden Television (HGTV) on Sunday, March 29. The new episode premieres at 9:30pm and re-airs on Monday, March 30, at 12:30am.

St. Maartener and Island Real Estate Team owner Arun Jagtiani is the featured realtor, as in the previous episode. He will help a couple from Washington DC find a home and return to their roots in St. Martin to start a business and a new life. The couple, Tiana and Sega, have since set up their business Share X Mobility on the French side.

Tiana is the daughter of historian Daniella Jeffry. She attended Methodist Agogic Centre and St. Maarten Academy before she moved to the United States.

Jagtiani said in a press statement promoting the show that he had contacted his friend Erika Cannegieter, the late founder of Be The Change Foundation, to be on the show with him. She declined, but introduced him to her friends Tiana and Sega who are featured in the upcoming episode.

Cannegieter lost her battle with cancer before filming of the episode commenced. The people she brought together for the show have dedicated the episode to her memory.

This new episode is one of at least eight shows in different HGTV series showcasing St. Maarten. Aside from "Caribbean Life," St. Maarten has been the destination for several "House Hunters International" episodes.

Sunday's episode will mark Jagtiani's fifth appearance on an HGTV show.

"Shows like this are the most effective marketing tools for the island, as it costs the taxpayers nothing and it gives almost 30 minutes of exposure to our core target market for tourism," Jagtiani said.

Each HGTV show typically has an audience base of four to six million viewers in North America.

West Indies bundled out for 182 against India

Defending champions India were heading for the
quarter-finals of the World Cup after dismissing the West Indies for just 182
all out in their Pool B clash in Perth.
India, who'd won all three of their previous group games, ripped through the
West Indies' top order after losing the toss at the WACA ground.
The West Indies were bowled out for just 182 in their World Cup Pool B match
against India at the WACA Ground on Friday. AFPThe West Indies were in dire
straits at 85 for seven before a fighting 57 from captain Jason Holder - no
other batsman made more than 26 -- and some shoddy Indian fielding saw them
rally to score 182.
It didn’t look enough, but at least gave the West Indians bowlers a total to
Holder’s highest score in one-day internationals was just 22 until the West
Indies’ previous match against South Africa, but he posted consecutive
half-centuries with some clean hitting.
He was the last man to fall, caught at long-on by Virat Kohli off the bowling of
Ravindra Jadeja (two for 27), having faced 64 balls and hit four fours and three
Holder’s recovery mission was assisted by India also dropping four catches,
including two simple chances.
Opener Chris Gayle’s ugly innings of 21 at the top of the order set the tone for
a number of the West Indian batsmen, who were seemingly content to gift their
opponents cheap dismissals as India’s title defence continued to gather
Gayle appeared to hold the key to his side posting a big total against India,
and there were danger signs when he struggled to get bat on ball early, playing
and missing repeatedly against opening bowlers Umesh Yadav (two for 42) and
Mohammed Shami (three for 35).
Despite losing partner Dwayne Smith for just six, continuing his lean
tournament, Gayle reverted to type when he tried to hit his way out of trouble.
He played a couple of big shots, but was also dropped on the boundary twice in
quick succession.
Another near chance ended with the run out of non-striker Marlon Samuels (two),
after big left-hander Gayle didn’t respond to his partner’s call for a single.
Gayle’s own luck ran out when he lofted another shot high to the boundary, where
Mohit Sharma completed the catch from the bowling of the returning Shami.
His departure left the West Indies reeling at 35 for three and Denesh Ramdin was
bowled by Yadav from the very next ball.

Lake debunks talk about breaking UP

PHILIPSBURG--"Untrue and baseless" is how United People's (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Maurice Lake described rampant "rumours" in the community about him being "involved in a plot to throw down government and send home the Cabinet of Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs."

Since Friday, there has been persistent talk that spun into blogs about Lake breaking with this party over differences. The MP, who is off island on family business, issued a press statement on Sunday afternoon debunking the rumours.

He wanted to make it "very clear" that he did not have any discussions about a change in government with anyone. "Any issue that I have with my party, I discuss internally and try to seek solutions there. I won't go and throw down government to put the country in jeopardy just like that. My allegiance lay with the United People's party, the people of this country, and the coalition."

Lake said he is for the development of St. Maarten's people and the country. "That is my primary focus, economic development, job creation and building homes for our people, and continuing to raise the quality of life."

"We need the finalization of the two additional ministers to the cabinet. The execution of the governing programme also needs to move forward, because the people want to see things happening. I was elected to work in the interests of the small man, and I intend to fulfil that obligation," he said.

Pointing to the government changes in the past that occurred around Carnival time, Lake said, "I know its Carnival time, and the Carnival fever is getting hotter ... This is basically the start of fictional stories. Probably in the weeks to come you will hear more, which is unfortunate."

Lake reminded the community that no one is authorized to speak on his behalf other than himself. "If I have something to say, I will say it directly to the person. I do not know where this rumour started, or who started it, but it's the figment of somebody's imagination."

The use of social media and fake names "to write all kinds of untruths" was decried by Lake. Troublemakers use this method "to create hysteria amongst the population, which is very unfortunate and irresponsible."

Further, such rumour-mongering "creates uneasiness amongst the populace" and "is not good for our investment climate. Investors won't be interested in investing in a country that gives the perception of political instability," said Lake.

Based on Lake's statement and indications from other quarters, the ten-seat UP-led coalition appears to still be intact, in spite of persistent talk since last week about one or more members breaking away due to differences with UP leader Theo Heyliger.

Even if Lake had opted to leave the coalition, the UP-led coalition would still have a majority in Parliament with nine seats. It would take at least three MPs to break with the coalition to cause the government to fall and leave the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet without majority support in Parliament.

There has been talk of another UP parliamentarian wanting to break with UP. This is MP Silvio Matser.

Talks about Matser wanting to leave UP are not new. There were indications earlier this year of talks about breaking the coalition and forming a new government with opposition National Alliance (NA), Democratic Party and United St. Maarten Party (USP).

Matser is also off-island.

On January 14, UP leader MP Theo Heyliger had publically stated that Matser was being courted by NA officials to leave the coalition, while that party's board made a fervent call for Matser to resign immediately from Parliament.

The call for Matser's resignation came after his sentencing earlier in January by the Court of First Instance last week to 24 months, 18 of which were suspended, on three years' probation and 240 hours of community service, for tax evasion. Matser has appealed his sentence.

Following those "talks" in January, Heyliger brokered inclusion of USP leader MP Frans Richardson into the coalition, strengthening it to 10 seats. That inclusion makes the coalition more difficult to break, as three MPs must withdraw their support for the government to collapse.

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