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Woman’s body found on Baie Nettle beach

MARIGOT--The dead body of a woman was found on a beach at Baie Nettle at 4:30pm Thursday, while a man was discovered a few metres away in a vegetative state, unconscious but alive, the Gendarmerie reported on Friday.

The man was taken immediately to hospital, where he is recovering.

Preliminary information obtained from the investigation undertaken by the Gendarmerie and Police aux Frontières (PAF) indicates the discovery of the two victims is linked to the arrival of a boat containing illegal immigrants earlier that morning.

No further information could be obtained from the Gendarmerie last night. A PAF spokesman said the release had been issued by the prosecutor on instruction not to give out any information until at least Monday.

Meanwhile, the Gendarmerie is appealing for any witnesses to come forward with information that could help the investigation. Persons should contact the Detective Department by calling the number "17" or (590) 52.30.10 or go in person to the Gendarmerie headquarters in La Savane.

Witnesses are guaranteed anonymity.

Troubled teens find redemption on the training vessel Salomon

page10a277By Robert Luckock

MARIGOT--Of the sail training vessels passing through the Caribbean, the topsail schooner Salomon is perhaps unique in that it serves as a floating reform school for young offenders where emphasis is on rehabilitation and changing behaviour as opposed to punishment for wrong-doing in the conventional sense of a correctional institution.

Built in 1910, Salomon left St. Martin Wednesday and sails year-round between Europe and the Caribbean, operating under the auspices of Foundation Youth Ships Switzerland. The vessel received its third refit in 2003 but at the end of its current trip it will be hauled out for major maintenance.

The programme, paid for partly by government, parents, and donations to the foundation, caters to a maximum of 15 male teenagers between the ages of 14-17, who stay on board for a year. The crew of 25, including a talking African Parrot, are predominantly Swiss or German nationals while teachers, social workers and psychologists work one-on-one with the youngsters. The days are mostly taken up with school work, cleaning and doing chores on the vessel.

Sailing the ship under the supervision of Captain Patrick Gränicher is a smaller part of the programme but as the foundation points out it’s another education in itself. The tasks and manoeuvres are all completed with teamwork and accomplishment generates a lot of satisfaction.

At the end of the year the youngsters receive certification that will help them re-integrate into society, find jobs, or return to school. The foundation continues to monitor their progress on land.

“These are kids, mostly from Switzerland, who have social problems or are depressed and have been in trouble with the law, usually for disobedience, petty crimes or drug-taking,” explains the foundation’s managing director Jonathan Reist. “Sometimes it’s the fault of their parents and upbringing, or because of disadvantaged circumstances. They are sent to us by the court; the judge will sometimes give them a choice of this ship or another reform facility, or no choice.”

“The boys have usually been kicked out of other institutions already but our concept works around the worse they behave, the longer they stay on the vessel. The bad behaviour usually occurs in the beginning because they are used to doing what they want and not used to respecting authority.”

A grading system of one to six regularly evaluates the performance of the youngsters while on board. A mark of one is bad and six is very good. The idea is that the better they behave and complete their tasks, the shorter the time they have to spend on board.

“A poor performance in one week means they have to repeat that week to our satisfaction,” Reist adds. “This is not a holiday or a time-out for them; they really have to make a big effort otherwise they have to stay longer on board which they don’t want to do. But the longer they stay the better they feel.”

Reist notes the small environment is conducive to building relationships which most of the kids have never had before. Looks can be deceiving and from the outside there is no knowing what is going on in their heads. Occasionally one tries to escape by jumping overboard during the night but they are quickly retrieved or swim back to the ship, or are later returned by the police.

“It’s important to make them realise that we like them and are trying to bring them forward in life. At first they don’t believe you and keep on testing you. But once you gain their trust, they start listening and then you can give them the advice they can take away.”

As one youngster completes his time, a new recruit will join the ship. A newcomer is helped by the others to settle in and this usually involves smoothing out the rough edges and attitude.

With an over 60 per cent success rate, the foundation is proud of its rehabilitation concept compared to a five per cent success rate at other institutions. Success means the kids don’t become criminals; they stay off drugs, and go back to school or find employment.

One of the young offenders called Jimmy (not his real name) who comes from St. Gallen, Switzerland said he had a history of disobedience at home, drug-taking and run-ins with the police. He’s been on the ship 42 weeks.

“I was at another institution before and was always in trouble but I prefer being on this ship because they take more time to help you, to listen to your problems,” said Jimmy (16). “We are a long way from home. I was very rude when I first joined the ship. But now it feels like a big family. They tell us when we do good and when we are bad.”

For more information about the programme visit

Kate Richardson named Tourism Office Director

MARIGOT--Kate Richardson was officially named Director of St. Martin Tourism Office as of April 1 at a press conference Friday afternoon. She had assumed the position of Interim Director since the departure of former director Silviane John.

President Jeanne Rogers-Vanterpool said she was very proud that an employee of the office has been promoted within.

"Kate has been part of the staff for seven years and has a lot of experience," Rogers-Vanterpool said. "In addition she has a Masters in Tourism Marketing. From the bottom of my heart I'm very happy for her and wish her the best."

Some 20 candidates applied for the position of Director. A pre-selection committee chose six from that number which was then reduced to three final candidates by the Comité de Direction.

Richardson (37) was formerly in charge of marketing and communications.

"I'm very happy to be at the head of a young team," she said. "There have been ups and downs in the past but everybody is motivated and keen to be moving forward. I have millions of ideas per day and I'm looking forward to pitching them to the President to bring something new to the destination."

"One of my aims, with the communications agency, is to reposition the destination and give it a new image. St. Martin is a positive country going forward and that's the impulse I want to give to the office. There are quite a few projects we have with the communications agency putting our campaign out there in the different markets in Brazil, Canada, South America, and France. Then there are other projects that have been on the back burner and I'm seriously ready to work on them now."

She noted the visitor demographic to St. Martin is 40-65 and current marketing is targeting the young, active vacationer with money to spend.

Despite a shortage of hotel rooms, generally there have been positive steps forwards such as the promotion and recent classification of the guest houses, and existence of small 20-room hotels. But where investment is concerned for major hotel projects this is hindered by the high cost of land, Rogers-Vanterpool explained.

"The land is usually private but whatever the Collectivité can do to alleviate the situation is better for us and for investment; this is one of my priorities to work on."

Carnival 2015 officially open

page1a276CARNIVAL VILLAGE--Carnival has started! The official opening by Minister of Culture Rita Bourne-Gumbs, who unlocked the door to the village with a large golden key, took place on Thursday evening.


A parade had led the way to the official opening, which saw hundreds of people in the streets of Philipsburg dance to the tunes of bands and deejays in the official opening Jump-up for the 46th St. Maarten Carnival.


The route of the jump-up was lined with people and near to Carnival Village a number of booths were selling snacks and drinks.


The jump-up arrived at the Village shortly before 11:30pm. Minister Bourne-Gumbs then performed the opening ceremony, joined by St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation President Michael Granger, a TelEm representative, Carnival Queens, Calypso Kings and, for the first time, King Momo himself was present.


The stream of people followed the trucks into the Carnival Village while the ceremony took place. The atmosphere was good with smiles all around, also on the faces of police officers and security guards present.


A large number of booths sold food and drinks, and the smells of barbecued chicken and ribs wafted through the village, whilst the opening group made their way to the stage where various selfies and group photographs were taken.


Granger then appeared, joined by his SCDF colleagues, the kings and queens, Minister Bourne-Gumbs, a TelEm representative and King Momo. Granger welcomed everyone and requested a big round of applause for the SCDF volunteers and the kings and queens.


A representative of main sponsor TelEm thanked SCDF, TelEm staff and government for supporting Carnival and said she was proud to have had help building the stage in red, referring to the large TelEm logo against a red background making the backdrop of the stage. She urged everyone to go back to the roots of Carnival by not constantly texting or being on the phone, but by eating johnnycakes, talking and dancing. Have a safe carnival, and have fun, she concluded.


Minister Bourne-Gumbs congratulated Granger and his team, and welcomed revellers and visitors alike. I’m going to keep this short: I want you to mingle, and enjoy, she said, but as you celebrate, remain safe.


She reminded the public to choose and be responsible for their choices, and parents to take responsibility for their children and to know where they are at all times. If you drink, drink responsibly, the minister said, adding that she too would be joining in the fun. There is no carnival like our Carnival. I wish you all a safe and happy Carnival, she concluded.


Granger then urged to crowd to come back to all the different events, to support the bands and the queens at the pageants. He acknowledged last year’s queens – D’Shnay York, Bria Sorton and Anna Rabess-Richardson – and wished everyone a safe and happy Carnival.


Selected booths were read out that will be competing in the Village Cook-Out this year: Booths 14, 15, 28, 56, 57 and 65 have been selected to show off their best salt fish, johnnycakes and other local delicacies this year. Revellers were entertained with music for the remainder of the night.





Possible delay handling of dispute arrangement

THE HAGUE--The joint delegation of the First and Second Chambers of the Dutch Parliament is considering deferring the handling of the agenda points on the dispute arrangement and the use of the Regulation of the Governor to a next Inter-Parliamentary Consultation for the Kingdom IPKO early 2016.

The main reason for the rescheduling of the agenda point on the dispute arrangement ("geschillenregeling") is the fact that the upcoming IPKO in The Hague from May 27 to 29, will take place before the Kingdom Conference in Curaçao, which is tentatively scheduled for June 16.

The decision taking at the IPKO on the dispute arrangement, and the form in which this body for mediating in conflicts between the Kingdom partners will be set up, greatly depends on the upcoming Kingdom Conference where government delegations of the four countries in the Kingdom meet on affairs of mutual interest.

The IPKO agenda point on the use of articles 15 and 21 of the Regulation of the Governor by the Kingdom Council of Ministers to issue an instruction to the Governor and the screening of candidate ministers through a mutual norm system would be deferred until the advice of the Council of State on this issue has been received.

The request for advice was recently sent to the Council of State. The Council of State needs about two months to prepare an advice and will most probably not be ready before the IPKO in late May.

The Committees for Kingdom Relations of the Dutch Parliament discusse the proposal to defer the two agenda points in question during a closed-door meeting this Tuesday. The issue will subsequently be deliberated during a video conference call on April 28, with the leaders of the delegations of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands.

A deferral would be disappointing news for Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten who have been clamouring to establish a dispute arrangement for the Kingdom. For Aruba and St. Maarten the issue of the Regulation of the Governor is important since this instrument was used to give the governor of the two countries an instruction. The IPKO usually takes place twice a year, in May/June and in January, which means that the agenda points in question would be postponed until early 2016.

At the IPKO of January 2015, held in Aruba, it was decided to put the establishing of a dispute arrangement and the debate on the use of the Regulation of the Governor by the Kingdom Council of Ministers on the agenda of the upcoming IPKO at the end of May.

At the time of January's IPKO it was still assumed that the Kingdom Conference would take place in April, ahead of the IPKO in May; however, the Kingdom Conference was postponed until June, on request of the host country Curaçao.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, on March 16, 2015, informed the Dutch Parliament that a working group had been installed to prepare the setting up of the dispute arrangement. He stated that negotiations would soon start. The work group will prepare a draft Kingdom Law, which will be presented at the Kingdom Conference in June.

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