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AIDS Foundation mourns loss of AIDS advocates on MH17

PHILIPSBURG--The St. Maarten AIDS Foundation bemoaned the profound loss for the global AIDS community that resulted from the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that carried a great number of passengers en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Australia, a bi-annual event attended by leading AIDS experts around the world.

It is believed that more than 100 of the 298 passengers on board were medical researchers, health workers and activists whose single common aim was to further the cause against HIV/AIDS.

Among those on the plane was Dr. Joep Lange, a former president of the International AIDS Society from the Netherlands, who has been a leading expert in the field of HIV/AIDS since the 1980s.

Dr. Lange was also scheduled to visit St. Maarten in August, to be the keynote speaker at the 11th CCAS HIV International Workshop, on the theme of prevention benefits of antiretroviral therapy in Caribbean HIV patients.

"We lost many colleagues and like-minded advocates of the HIV/AIDS cause when their journey was cut short. It is with a heavy heart that we reiterate that our work to prevent new infections and to care for affected persons must continue, in memory of those that were so dedicated to this field," said Dr. Gerard van Osch, President of the AIDS Foundation.

Women majority of eligible voters

~ But under represented on ballot ~

By Alita Singh

PHILIPSBURG--Women account for the majority of eligible voters in St. Maarten for the August 29 Parliamentary Elections, yet are grossly underrepresented on the candidates' lists of the five political parties contesting the August 29 Parliamentary Elections.

A total of 11,090 women and 10,367 men are listed as eligible voters in the Voters Registry, according to numbers from the Civil Registry.

The Voters Registry stands at 21,457 registered voters. That represents a growth of 1,856 voters since the last elections in September 2010. Voters, who are all Dutch citizens through a parent option or naturalisation, were born in 111 former and present countries (including St. Maarten) and former and present territories from all corners of the world.

Despite the large number of women voters, only 28 of 89 candidates on the five political parties' slates, submitted on Nomination Day, July 11, are women.

Only one party, the Democratic Party (DP), is headed by a woman, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams. She won the third highest number of votes overall and had the highest number of votes among the 20 women who contested in September 2010. She garnered 1,368 votes, down from 2,188 in the Island Council elections of April 2007.

The women's vote has the potential to control almost eight seats in Parliament, based on a 100 per cent voter turnout and 100 per cent vote validity. The total number of votes needed for one parliament seat currently stands at 1,430. This number was not very different in September 2010, yet the results of that early Island Council Elections only saw four women elected as Island Councilwomen.

In the September 2010 elections, the voter turnout was 71 per cent, putting the votes needed for a seat at 912.

Of those four, only three became transition Members of Parliament and only two are still serving. Wescot-Williams opted to become a minister in 2010. This led to her parliamentary seat being allocated to MP Roy Marlin. DP candidate Maria Buncamper-Molanus was next in line for Wescot-Williams seat, but she also opted to become a minister. She resigned from office some two months later.

The other three women who became MPs are Gracita Arrindell, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce and Rhoda Arrindell of the United People's (UP) party. Rhoda Arrindell opted to serve as a minister and this made way for Dr. Ruth Douglass to entire Parliament. The minister left office with the collapse of the Wescot-Williams I Cabinet and Dr. Douglass resigned in 2013 making way for her party leader Theo Heyliger to enter Parliament. Today, only Gracita Arrindell, who serves as president of parliament, and Meyers-Olivacce are still MPs.

Wescot-Willams, Gracita Arrindell and Rhoda Arrindell are again candidates for the upcoming elections.

St. Maarten does not have a legislated quota for women on the electoral slates of political parties for general elections. No quota exists in the Dutch Kingdom. In the Netherlands, two parties – Labour Party PvdA and Groen Links (Green Left) – have adopted general voluntary quotas that also cover women, according to Quote Project, a collaborative effort of International IDEA, Inter-Parliamentary Union and Stockholm University.

Women on ballot

Millennium Development Goals project lists as its third goal to target the elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015. Increasing the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments worldwide forms an essential part of this goal.

UN Women reports that as of October 2013, women were 21.8 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses and 19.4 per cent of Senate or upper houses, up from 12 per cent and 10.1 per cent in January 1997, respectively. At the pace witnessed during the last 15 years, it will take nearly 40 years to reach the parity zone in parliaments.

Advancing women's political participation and leadership and economic empowerment are two of the central goals of UN Women.

According to the UN agency, in countries around the world, women in politics are strengthening the credibility of democracies through their participation, reinvigorating political accountability, and contributing to improved efficiency in policymaking through their diverse perspectives.

Kingdom connection

The total number of voters born in the Dutch Kingdom (the Netherlands, the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba) is 12,387, increased from 11,179 in September 2010.

Of the total voters, 9,070 were born outside the Dutch Kingdom, up from 8,422 in September 2010. These "foreign" voters include people who were born in former Dutch territories prior to independence. The Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, falls into this category with 11 registered voters being born there (a decrease from 13 some four years ago) as does Dutch New Guinea (now New Guinea) with one voter. Voters born in pre- and post-independence Suriname were listed together as 476 by the Civil Registry, an increase from 397.

The French

The largest number of foreign voters are French. This number totals 1,601, and of them 1,569 were born in Guadeloupe. That number also covers people born on French St. Martin to parents with Dutch nationality and those who opted for Dutch nationality claiming it through blood relations. Twenty-three of the French voters were born in France, seven in Martinique and one each in French Guiana and French Cameroons (now part of Cameroon).

Dominicanos and Kittitians

The next largest group was born in the Dominican Republic – 1,387 voters, down from 1,416. This group has seen gradual decrease in voters since January 2010 when the number stood at 1,423 for the last elections for the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles. The Dominican Republic number takes into account people born in that country to parents from St. Maarten and elsewhere in the Dutch Kingdom as well as naturalised Dutch citizens.

Other large blocks of "foreign" voters are from St. Kitts and Nevis (964, down from 995), Dominica (845, was 794), Haiti (536, was 538), Anguilla (469, was 502), British India/India (451, was 295), United States (409, was 345), British Guiana/Guyana (340, up from 269), Jamaica (231, was 176), St. Lucia (179, was 166), Trinidad and Tobago (133, was 119), China (112, was 110), US Virgin Islands (101, up from 97),

Other voters born outside the Dutch Kingdom are from Antigua and Barbuda (82, up from 79), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (81), Colombia (67, was 46), Grenada (65, was 74), Puerto Rico (46, was 33), Barbados (45, up from 43), Montserrat (39, was 41), Venezuela (30, was 28),Canada (23, was 26), Great Britain (27, was 26), Hong Kong (25), South Africa (25, was 19), Philippines (21, was 14), Jordan (17, was 13), Kuwait (15, was 12), Lebanon (12, was 13), and Pakistan (11, was 12).

Far flung corners

Nine voters each were born in Argentina, Germany, Israel and Nigeria; seven each in Italy and Mexico, and six each in Belgium and Morocco.

Five voters each were born in Australia, Indonesia, Federation of St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Four voters each were born in Cuba, Japan, Liberia, Peru, Soviet Union, Spain, and Sweden.

Three voters each were born in The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Ireland, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Tunisia.

Two voters each were born in West Germany, Brazil, British West Indies Federation, Denmark, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Yugoslavia, Nicaragua, Palestine, Singapore, Uruguay and Switzerland.

One voter each was born in Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Belize, Bolivia, Chagos Island (British Territory in Indian Ocean), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Finland, Malaysia, New Zeeland, Norway, Panama, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanganyika (now part of United Republic of Tanzania), Tanzania, Turkey, Zambia, and Southern Rhodesia (now part of Zimbabwe).

One woman is listed as birth place unknown – "Onbekend."

Eman ends his hunger strike

~ Says governor promised solution on Monday ~

ARUBA--Prime Minister Mike Eman (AVP) ended his hunger strike Thursday evening after seven days. He said Governor Fredis Refunjol had promised him a solution for the current impasse with the Netherlands regarding the adjusted 2014 budget on Monday.

At that time the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT will present its quick scan of the island's public finances to the governor. It is not clear whether he also will sign the budget, Eman's most important demand.

The Royal Decree by the Kingdom Government instructing the governor to order the CFT inquiry mentions that – based on the result – it will be up to Refunjol to decide whether to sign or ask the Aruban cabinet to make changes.

Eman told supporters that while he still believes in opportunities that the kingdom ties give the island, he has learned that much depends on what parties are in power in The Hague. "It's not a matter of breaking relations, but we need to be careful to protect what is ours."

Netherlands in mourning after 154 Dutch die in Ukraine crash

wreckageAMSTERDAM--The Dutch prime minister on Thursday ordered that flags fly at half mast at government buildings across the country after the death of at least 154 of his country's citizens in what he said might be the worst air disaster in the Netherlands' history.

The Dutch were among 295 passengers and crew, including three infants, aboard a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that crashed while crossing above the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting forces controlled by the government in the capital Kiev.

The United States believes a surface-to-air missile brought down the airliner, an incident that sharply raises the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels. One U.S. official said Washington strongly suspected the missile was fired by Ukrainian separatists backed by Moscow.

There is no evidence Ukrainian government forces fired a missile, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. A second U.S. official said the origin of the missile was unclear. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Detroit, said the passenger jet apparently was "blown out of the sky".

Ukraine accused pro-Moscow militants, aided by Russian military intelligence officers, of firing a long-range, Soviet-era SA-11 ground-to-air missile. Leaders of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic denied any involvement and said a Ukrainian air force jet had brought down the intercontinental flight.

Speaking at Schiphol Airport after interrupting his holiday in southern Germany on news of the crash, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was a "black day" for the Netherlands.

"The whole of the Netherlands is in mourning," he said. "This beautiful summer day has ended in the blackest possible way."

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was operating as a code-share flight with the Dutch flagship carrier KLM, was also carrying at least 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, six Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and one Canadian.

The 15 flight crew - two captains, two flight officers and 11 cabin crew - were all Malaysian citizens. The nationalities of a further 47 were as yet unknown.

Malaysia Airlines' Europe vice president Huib Gorter told reporters that relatives would be provided with support if they requested it and could be flown from Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur to Kiev if they so wished.

"You cannot imagine what's happening to these people right now," he said. "They are our main concern."

For more on this aviation disaster see pages 26-27.

St. Maarten celebrates 12th International Day of Justice

PHILIPSBURG--July 17 marked International Justice Day. The day, which is observed worldwide, celebrates justice. The day came in to existence twelve years ago, on the day that a treaty was signed for the instatement of the International Court of Justice, Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson explained.

A ceremony had been organised at short notice, however, members of the Ministry of Justice, who organised the event, were successful in putting together a parade followed by a dignified ceremony that brought across the value that St. Maarten places on the concept of justice.

The event started with a parade in which members of the St. Maarten Police Force, the Coast Guard, Customs and the Prison Service, including the new recruits who are still in training, marched from the Police Station through Back Street and Front Street to Captain Hodge Wharf, where the ceremony was held. The officers looked impeccable and drew admiring glances from many tourists.

A ceremony then started in the presence of Acting Governor Reinold Groeneveldt, President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell, Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson and other dignitaries such as Member of Parliament (MP) George Pantophlet, Minister Cornelius de Weever and chiefs or acting chiefs of the law enforcement services.

Master of Ceremony Kelly Busby of the Ministry of Justice invited all present to stand for the St. Maarten Song. Most of those present sang along, with some people singing in harmony, creating a stunning effect.

Pastor Illidge led opening prayers, with the central message that justice for all means peace, happiness and tranquillity for all.

He was followed by Detective Inspector Denise Jacobs of the St. Maarten Police Force, who acted as chief in the absence of Peter de Witte and Carl John, who were off-island. She stated that International Justice Day was a day to celebrate with joy, but also a day to reflect on what can be improved.

She stated that the police force was concerned about the current situation of crime, which appears to have spiked in the last weeks. However, she stated, police will continue to fight crime, and are committed to keeping St. Maarten safe. She reflected back to 10-10-10, where, she said, the police had some staff, some buildings and some funding, but no support.

Many projects were formulated, despite the fact that more people and more funding were not forthcoming. Creativity and hard work focusing on projects paid off. When work needs to be done, the people of St. Maarten show commitment and solidarity, she said. "We have the best forensics in the region, we have community policing and we are working towards intelligence-based policing."

Jacobs highlighted the need to have more structure in case of calamities, maintain and tighten relations with partner agencies, adhere to international standards and keep up with the changes around us.

"When it comes to the work, we are one," she concluded as she addressed all members of the law enforcement family.

Director of the Justice Cabinet Ron van der Veer said that the members of the justice family should be proud of what has been achieved so far. He reminded those present that we can celebrate this day because we live in a free and democratic society, where the rule of law is supreme.

Van der Veer mentioned the efforts of the St. Maarten Police Force and the National Detectives, the improvement of the Prison and Customs Services, the cooperation between the Court of Guardianship and the Parole Board, and the cooperation with the Coast Guard, the Royal Marechaussee and the Netherlands Royal Marines.

He mentioned that we have lived at peace with our French neighbours for four centuries, and work closely together with them in law enforcement. Despite everyone working together to ensure peace, safety and justice, there is always room for improvement. "We should be honest about our mistakes and try to improve ourselves."

Van der Veer reminded everyone that justice is not something that happens automatically, and must not be taken for granted. "We should always keep in mind how fragile justice is," he said. "You will not get it for free."

He finished his speech with a quote from The Bible: "When a man walks with integrity and justice, happy are his children after him."

Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson, aptly named "the gatekeeper of justice" according to Kelly Busby, wished everyone a happy Justice Day. He said he was made aware of the day just a week ago, and relied on his staff's talent of improvisation to organise an event at short notice. He said he remembered the improvisation skills of the people of St. Maarten after Hurricane Luis.

Richardson went on to explain the background of the celebration, and mentioned that there had been a spike in crime over the last few months. Crime begins at home, he said. "There are people who think this is an island of easy pickings, a push-over, with a lack of technology. That is not the case. St. Maarten is not a push-over."

Richardson referred to a number of successful arrests recently, including that of Romanian skimmers. He stated that people work many hours with a lot of commitment. "You can't predict when something will happen," he said. "But you can create an environment in which youths don't have to resort to crime."

Richardson mentioned that those in law enforcement have to work with limited resources. "I am appreciative of people working in law enforcement," he said, "I applaud you. The rule of law prevails." He then mentioned the situation in Aruba, where Prime Minister Mike Eman has to go to the ultimate to force the Kingdom Government to go by the rule of law, calling it a sad situation. "There is no excuse for the Kingdom Government not to abide by the law. Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten should join hands," he said.

He also applauded the public of St. Maarten for its cooperation with law enforcement, and urged them to keep coming forward with information.

The speeches were followed by a ceremony of recognition for people who celebrated jubilees within law enforcement. Certificates were given out to a large number of people who had served St. Maarten for 25, 30, 35 and even 40 years. Amongst the recipients were cousins Ademar Doran, chief of the National Detectives, and Anthony Doran, chief of Customs, with 25 years' service each, Police Inspector Rudolf Bloeiman with 30 years' service, and Head of the Mobile Unit of the Immigration Service Geronimo Juliet and Head of Operations of the Coast Guard Wendell Thode, with 35 years' service each. Sylvia Gibbs, Carlton Philips and Sheryl Peterson were awarded for 40 years' service.

A mention was made about a number of award recipients who were not present at the ceremony, as they were in the process of taking part in the police controls, which continued throughout the day, before the ceremony was concluded with a hot buffet lunch.

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