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Justice Minister, Préfet to meet on officers carrying guns cross-border

SIMPSON BAY--Two out of a group of four Police Aux Frontiers (PAF) officers from French St. Martin were asked by police officers of St. Maarten Police Force to go back to French St. Martin after they were found to have firearms in their possession at SXM Princess Juliana International Airport on Wednesday morning.

The French officers were at the airport in the process of having someone deported. They were asked if they had any permission through the Ministry of Justice to carry their weapons on the Dutch Side. The officers immediately denied having any permission and decided to immediately return to the French side with their weapons, because they did not have the necessary clearance to have their weapons on the Dutch Side.

After finalising the deportation process of the person they brought to the airport, the investigating officers escorted the French officers to their vehicles, which were parked in front of the terminal building.

They noticed that during their absence unknown people had punctured one of the tires of each of the vehicles they were driving. The detectives were immediately informed and arrived at the scene to investigate the situation. After having the tires replaced the officers were escorted the border.

Police officers of either side of the island can only take their firearms to the other side of the island if that has been approved in advance. That was not the case with the PAF officers. The incident was resolved in a friendly manner and the officers left without further problems, Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson stated in an invited comment.

Richardson stated that he didn’t want the incident to be pulled out of proportion and said he had requested a meeting with the Préfet later this week to have a discussion, to ensure that the situation does not escalate.

Police chief Peter de Witte was also aware of the situation. “There have been a few small incidents recently, including the incident on St. Maarten Day,” he said. “They were minor incidents. On the whole, we have a very good working relationship with the French authorities. On police level, we will also have a meeting to ensure that both sides are aware of the rules that apply. I am sure that will resolve the matter, and we can continue our good working relationship as we have done before.”

FirstCaribbean reassures clients that information will be protected

PHILIPSBURG--Country Manager of CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank St. Maarten Robert Judd reassured customers on Wednesday, that it will maintain a zero tolerance for negligence in handling customer information as the institution moves to outsource certain functions.

“We understand some of our customers may have concerns about the letter as it involves a change. We have been managing customers’ concerns in our branches and through our call centres and we remain accessible to speak with our customers as they contact us,” Judd said in response to several questions from The Daily Herald on Wednesday.

 “We’d like to re-emphasise that the letter was not about a fee increase – any changes to fees have to be approved by our regulators and we must give our customers appropriate notice.”

He said the language contained in the agreement, which is similar to other financial institutions in the region, is designed to bring old customer (pre-2007) agreements up-to-date. “If a customer opened any products with the bank post 2007, they have already agreed to the new agreement. We have always abided by the terms of any agreements between the bank and its customers, and have always given the required 30 days’ notice of any change. This will continue. Any contract between our customers and the bank resides in the jurisdiction in which that contract has been signed and is subject to the laws of that jurisdiction. This also will not change,” he said.

Judd said CIBC FirstCaribbean is made up of a number of legal entities in 17 countries with over 200 years of history in the Caribbean. “The change to the account mandates is simply to update them to allow our individual companies, some of which are located in the same countries as our processing centres, to work together in serving our customers. All customer information will be processed by employees within the group. CIBC FirstCaribbean has always had zero tolerance for any wilful misconduct or negligence in handling customer information - and this will continue,” he stressed.

“As one of the region’s largest employers, CIBC FirstCaribbean remains committed to the Caribbean, as evidenced by our continued investment in the region.”

It is unclear whether the move will result in redundancy of positions in St. Maarten. Regionally, CIBC FirstCaribbean clients have received notice of outsourcing of particular functions and changes to conditions. An article by Nation News dated November 14, said the bank was “about to hit thousands of its customers with a dramatic change in their relationship.” Customers reportedly received notice that the bank would “outsource all lending, account and client information from all its banks in the region to third parties in another country, who will now be processing it.”

In addition, the bank said it wanted to change all the contractual arrangements that clients originally had signed to allow the bank to “unilaterally change any of the terms of [your] account opening agreement or any other of its agreement with [you] applicable to interest rates, fees, charges, or overdraft limits at any time in the future; and such changes will be deemed to have been unequivocally accepted by [you].”

The article further quoted a letter concerning fees signed by Managing Director for Retail, Wealth, Business and International Banking Mark St. Hill: “The bank may change applicable fees, charges, overdraft limits at any time in the future and notify [you] by any means of public or private notification.” After 30 days, changes will have been deemed “unequivocally accepted” by customers.

Jean Rostand class wins overseas competition

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 Jean Rostand School and Hervé Williams 1 pupils were presented with awards for the “Les Petites Artistes de la Memoire” competition from President François Hollande at the Élysee Palace on November 11

 

MARIGOT--The Jean Rostand Primary School CM2 class recently celebrated winning the regional category of the overseas territories competition “Les Petites Artistes de la Memoire.”

The eighth edition of the competition consisted of portraying a local veteran of World War I from a child’s perspective. The class chose George Richardson and researched this local hero for an entire school year, compiling archive material and photos of him to chronicle his journey.

Their work was sent to the National Veterans Association jury, which declared it the “Coup de Coeur” of the competition.

Ambassadors Mariama Tyson from St. Martin and her former teacher Audrey Kooi were privileged to receive the first place award on behalf of the school from President François Hollande himself in the Elysée Palace on Tuesday, November 11.

In addition they each received a personal invitation to the memorial at the Arc de Triomphe and to the inauguration of the international memorial of Notre Dame de Lorette.

Second place went to the Hervé Williams School 1 CM1A class, which received an honourable artistic mention. All their work and literature will be donated to St. Martin’s Veterans Association and the public library.

The Jean Rostand class visited the Collectivité’s registry to see George Richardson’s original birth paper and contacted his family that lives in New York for firsthand information, to prepare their project.

Their work was compiled in a book, with the first and second pages handwritten and illustrated by Mariama. In it are illustrations of Richardson’s parents, his departure for war and how they lived during the war in the trenches. The class also discovered the song “l’Hymn Creole” that cheered on the French Caribbean soldiers.

This book will be scanned into the archives of the National Veterans Association before returning to St Martin. The class was glad to have participated in such an experience and to have won!
Mariama, describing her trip to meet the President, said: “It was like a dream. I met François Hollande who greeted me personally. From there we visited Le Musée des Invalides to view the tomb of Napoleon. It was fun.”

Both schools have displayed their work in the lobby of Hotel de La Collectivité for the observance of Armistice Day.

Tourists targeted by robbers in Maho area

MAHO--Two days after the attempted robbery in Atlantis Casino, where a security guard was shot, robbers targeted tourists in two robbery-related offences in the same area on Tuesday, just after midnight.

The quick-thinking actions of a taxi driver saved him, as well as the passenger he was carrying in his taxi, when he was driving from the airport towards Cupecoy. He was near Atlantis Casino when he was overtaken by a black Kia.

The driver then described how three men, dressed in black clothes and with masks, jumped out of the car and pointed guns at his car. They were only three feet away from him.

The driver kept his cool. "I immediately reversed my van away from the men. I managed to turn it and sped off back in the direction of Atlantis Casino. I called the police, who came to the casino to speak to us."

The quick-thinking actions of the driver prevented a robbery from taking place and led both him and his passenger to escape unharmed.

The incident happened minutes after a tourist was the victim of a robbery in the car park of the Caravanserai resort. The victim, an Italian man in his 50s, was hit over the head with a firearm and had to be transported to St. Maarten Medical Center for treatment.

Uniformed police and detectives attended the scene to investigate. A police press release, about the robbery on the Italian man, stated that officers were called out to the victim, who was bleeding from a wound to his head. The victim had stated that he and his female companion had just left the Atlantis Casino to go to their room at the Caravanserai Hotel.

"When reaching the hotel premises they were attacked by two unknown men who stepped out of a small white car and attempted to steal his companion's bag," the press release reads. "Both men were armed with a handgun. When he went to defend his companion, one of the suspects struck him in his head with the gun. The suspects, realising that they were not successful, stepped back into the small white car and drove off," the press release continues.

The Special Robbery Unit is investigating both cases. Anyone with any information is requested to inform the detectives at Philipsburg Police Station, or to call the anonymous tip line on #9300.

St. Maarten again absent from Dutch Vacation Fair

UTRECHT--For the second year in a row, St. Maarten will not be represented at the Vacation Fair (Vakantiebeurs) in Utrecht, the Netherlands, January 14-18, 2015. St. Maarten no longer has had an official tourist office in the Netherlands since July this year.

The absence of St. Maarten from the Vacation Fair, the largest of its kind in Europe, is extra-painful because Curaçao will be a co-host country of the fair. The other host country will be Spain.

Curaçao has been a growing destination for Dutch tourists. In fact, it is one of the few destinations with a growing number of visitors and more direct flights from the Netherlands, according to Curaçao Tourist Bureau Europe Director Edward Suares.

"You have to make use of the momentum. That is why we are a host country at the Vacation Fair. Sometimes you have to pull out all the plugs and not be too modest," he said in a recent press release issued by the Vacation Fair.

St. Maarten, on the other hand, will be missing the boat again because it will not be present at the Vacation Fair. The other five Dutch Caribbean islands, including St. Eustatius and Saba, will be there as usual. Also present will be Marlon Beauperthuy of Le Beau Reizen with a stand at the Visit USA pavilion.

St. Maarten was not present at the annual fair in January 2014 either. St. Maarten's absence from the Vacation Fair and from other Dutch trade shows is attributed to the hesitancy of St. Maarten's government when it comes to decision-taking on marketing funds. The elections and caretaker-status of government have not contributed to a swift solution to the lack of representation in the Netherlands either.

Promotion of St. Maarten was stopped after St. Maarten's Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Ted Richardson informed Interreps in early October 2013 that its contract would be terminated prematurely per November 2013 due to a "change in our tourism marketing philosophy."

That decision was withdrawn a few weeks afterward and Interreps Director Lydia Haveman and her team continued to work on St. Maarten's promotion for another six months. Haveman assisted in securing the recent start-up of Thomas Cook Nordic's charter flight from Sweden to St. Maarten.

Interreps no longer represents St. Maarten as its tourist bureau in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, as of July 1 this year. The two-year contract with Interreps, which had represented St. Maarten since 2008, was not renewed.

Meanwhile, Curaçao is determined to make its role as a host country at this year's Vacation Fair a grand success through cooking workshops with authentic Curaçao tastings, dance workshops, music and entertainment.

"We want to bring a little piece of Curaçao to the visitors of the Vacation Fair by triggering their senses. We do this by letting them taste, hear, feel, smell and experience what the real Curaçao has in store for them," said Suares.

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