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Plasterk confirms going forward with Integrity Chamber measure

THE HAGUE--The Kingdom Council of Ministers decided on March 6 to proceed with the establishing of an integrity supervisory body for St. Maarten through a so-called General Measure of the Kingdom Government ("Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur"AMvRB).

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk confirmed in a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Monday, which was made public on Wednesday, that the draft resolution had been sent to the Council of State for the Kingdom for advice.

Plasterk stated that the consultations with St. Maarten in the past months to reach a consensus on a joint approach to address the integrity problem in government so far hadn't yielded any results. The Kingdom Council of Ministers decided late January this year that it would initiate the process of an AMvRB to establish an integrity watch dog.

"The St. Maarten Government has displayed insufficient willingness to reshape its plans to establish an Integrity Chamber, and move to a vigorous execution of such, in a way that safeguards the effective approach of the problem at hand," he stated.

The minister emphasized, as he has done on earlier occasions, that the Integrity Chamber, or Integrity Committee as it is being referred to, had to be able to operate fully independent, free of influence from government.

"The existing system of mutual support and dependencies, which exist in all layers of society and the public administration of St. Maarten, with all secondary integrity issues, requires an accurate and independent approach with sufficient capacity and means," Plasterk stated.

The minister stated that during the process of rendering advice of the Council of State and the imposing of an AMvRB, there always remained a possibility to reach a consensus with St. Maarten on the establishing of an Integrity Chamber.

In his letter, Plasterk further addressed the progress of talks between the four countries of the Kingdom to strengthen the law enforcement system in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. The four countries are still in the process of working out the details of a broad multi-annual plan to strengthen the law enforcement system in all of its aspects.

The intention is to strengthen the Public Prosecutor's Offices in the three overseas countries, the Detective Cooperation Team RST and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. Plasterk promised to provide more details on this plan, for which the initiative was taken during the so-called Judicial Four-party Consultation in January this year, in the second quarter of 2015.

The Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber will have a general debate with Plasterk next Tuesday about the state of governance of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.

St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation

page7d258The continuation of the plenary session of Parliament on developments at St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation will now take place on April 7. After the meeting opened on Tuesday afternoon, National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament William Marlin called for an adjournment to give ad interim housing minister Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs (second left) more time to gather necessary documents from the foundation requested by MPs since December 2014. Additionally, independent MP Leona Marlin-Romeo called for Gumbs to submit the foundation's financial statements from 2011, 2012, and 2013 to Parliament prior to the resumption of the meeting on April 7, at 2:00pm.

Kingdom delegation makes an impression at CSW59

NEW YORK--The Kingdom delegation to the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York struck a powerful image to many in attendance over the last two weeks.

CSW59, which ran from March 9 to March 20 and was themed, "Beijing+20", brought together country representatives and leaders of non-governmental, faith-based and civil society organisations to review the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, adopt a new political statement, share information on their countries advances and challenges and offer opportunities for discussions on how to further emancipate and empower women in the coming years.

The Kingdom delegation was led by Minister Jet Bussemaker of the Netherlands and also comprised ministers from each of the other countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Minister of Education, Family Policy and Lifelong Learning, Michelle Hooyboer-Winklaar represented Aruba, Minister of Social Development, Labour and Welfare, Ruthmilda Larmonie-Cecilia represented Curaçao and St. Maarten was represented by Minister Plenipotentiary Josianne Fleming-Artsen who attended on behalf of Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports and Public Health, Social Development and Labour, Rita Bourne-Gumbs.

During the CSW59 time was allotted for each country to present a seven minute statement to the General Assembly on its vision for women in the next decades. Minister Bussemaker presented this statement on behalf of the Netherlands with the three other ministers sitting beside her. She was clear that while she read the statement it was on behalf of the entire delegation and Kingdom.

"Mister/Madam Chair, the Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of four autonomous countries: Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands. It is therefore that we are proud to be here together at this CSW with four ministers from all our countries and I feel privileged that I can make this statement also on their behalf," Bussemaker read.

Bussemaker noted that whilst some advances had been made over the past years, there were still areas which needed considerable effort and collective input for improvements to be realised.

"Twenty years after Beijing we are forced to conclude that the position of women and girls around the world has improved only marginally.

"This shows that agreements on paper are not sufficient. We need to achieve more if we are to ensure that women and girls can actually go to school. Can be financially independent. Can be free of discrimination. And can feel safe.

"As a society, we have to take our responsibility. This applies across the board: from governments to schools, from sports clubs to the United Nations," she added.

"It's up to us to support the brave women around the world who dare to take a stand to improve the position of women. The support we are providing through inclusive finance is an excellent example. By providing micro loans to help women set up small businesses, we are helping them to become financially independent.

"Alongside the old boys' network, it's time to establish a great girls' network, and why not at a global level? Women need to help each other. Our generation stands on the shoulders of previous generations.

"It's our duty to stand strong and offer that same support to the generations to come. Change starts with you and with me, and with what we do when we leave this room. We cannot hide behind organisations and institutions, and we cannot look away from what is happening in our own back yard," the Minister read.

The Minister ended by acknowledging the "He4She" campaign, which she said has been one of the most effective campaigns concerning gender in United Nations history.

"This campaign emphasises that working towards equal rights is not simply a task for women. Men too can speak out in support of gender equality. One of many reasons why we should look to the future with hope," the minister concluded.

After the statement, many in attendance remarked that the presence of the four female ministers and their support staff struck a powerful chord with them, because the picture they presented illustrated exactly the kind of emancipation and empowerment of women that the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action spoke about some twenty years ago.

Throughout the conference each minister had the opportunity to speak at different events and each acknowledged that while the Kingdom of the Netherlands has been and continues to be a forerunner in the women's emancipation and empowerment movement there is still work to be done on all fronts in each of the four countries.

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.

Jamaica gay rights activist meets with Dutch Parliament

THE HAGUE--Jamaica-born Maurice Tomlinson, one of the world's most prominent Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights and HIV activists, met with Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday.

Tomlinson, along with Kenyan LGBT activists George Gachara, Jim Chuchu and Njoki Ngumi, was invited by Member of Parliament (MP) Sjoerd Sjoerdsma of the Democratic Party D66, on whose request the meeting of the Second Chamber's Permanent Committee for Foreign Affairs took place.

"All over the world we see growing anti-LGBT sentiments, from Russia to Uganda, and from Saudi-Arabia to Jamaica. LGBT Jamaicans live in constant fear. They are threatened, thrown out of their homes, or even worse: beaten or killed," said Sjoerdsma, who chaired Tuesday's meeting.

"D66 has invited Tomlinson to the Parliament to give our support to this prominent defender of LGBT rights in these difficult times and to assess whether the Netherlands can do more to sustain his case," Sjoerdsma said.

Sjoerdsma's two colleagues present at the meeting, Raymond Knops of the Christian Democratic Party CDA and Han ten Broeke of the liberal democratic VVD party, expressed deep appreciation for what they called the "brave work" of Tomlinson and Kenyan activists Gachara, Chuchu and Ngumi. Both pledged their support for the LGBT cause.

Tomlinson, who sought refuge in Canada after he received countless death threats following news of his marriage to another man, praised the proactive role of the Netherlands in supporting LGBT rights, also through the funding of various organisations that work in this field. He said the Netherlands has always welcomed LGBT's, also from other countries.

The Jamaican activist expressed his concerns about the VVD proposal to close the borders for asylum seekers. He said that LGBT's from the Caribbean who were not safe in their own country sometimes needed a safe haven abroad. "Sadly our people cannot go everywhere. The Netherlands and Europe have been welcoming for our people," he said.

One of Tomlinson's major challenges has been the deep-rooted homophobia in the Caribbean. He said that especially in Jamaica homophobia, hatred and violence against LGBT's was a huge problem. He criticised Jamaica dance hall artistes and religious fundamentalists in the United States for propagating homophobia.

Tomlinson has been contesting anti-sodomy and anti-gay laws in the Caribbean. Last week he challenged laws barring LGBT people from entering Belize and Trinidad and Tobago at the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice. He testified via video link so as not to break the country's immigration laws.

Encouraging authorities not to discriminate and use violence against LGBT's, the activist has also been instrumental in setting up sensitivity trainings for police. Training sessions already took place in Suriname and St. Lucia. Trainings are set for Barbados in May and St. Kitts in June this year.

Tomlinson participated at the Movies That Matter Festival in The Hague on Tuesday evening where he attended the screenings of 'The Abominable Crime,' a film that exposes the roots of homophobia in Jamaican society, reveals the deep psychological and social impacts of discrimination on the lives of gays and lesbians and the challenges of seeking asylum abroad.

The film captures the story of Tomlinson, a lawyer and lecturer of law in Toronto who received the David Kato Vision and Voice Award 2012 which recognises individuals defending LGBT rights around the world. At the Movies that Matter Festival, Tomlinson took part in discussions with the Dutch audience, stakeholders and politicians. (Suzanne Koelega)

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