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Illidge asks govt to buy Mary’s Fancy

PHILIPSBURG--Independent Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Illidge (independent) has called on government to look into the purchase of Mary's Fancy Estate. He believes the plantation house can be restored and the property can be transformed into a botanical garden.

Illidge said in Friday's Parliament meeting, dealing with government's decision to purchase Industry and Golden Rock Plantations (commonly called Emilio Wilson estate), that it was time to turn attention to the acquisition of Mary's Fancy Estate. "We could plant guava berries there."

The purchase of Mary's Fancy will cost government US $2 million. The property is owned by the heirs of the late animal and community activist Elizabeth Reitz.

Illidge also reiterated his call and proposal to government for job creation, especially for young single mothers.

His proposal, which will cost "a mere NAf. 10 million" is for the creation of several small light industry-based businesses, such as a sewing centre, a laundry, a call centre and a number plate/street signage company.

Illidge asked government to indicate its willingness to pursue his light industry business ideas, as well as the purchase of Mary's Fancy Plantation. He is particularly interested in knowing how government will fit this into the some NAf. 88 million it intends to pursue in capital projects this year.

The MP has to wait until Thursday, when the meeting resumes, to get answers from government.

No decision yet on more detectives for St. Maarten

THE HAGUE--Dutch Minister of Safety and Justice Ivo Opstelten has yet to decide on a request from St. Maarten Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson to supply additional detectives from the Netherlands.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated this in a letter that he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in response to written questions of Members of Parliament (MPs) Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA and André Bosman on the liberal democratic VVD party.

Van Laar and Bosman had inquired late January about the capacity of the detective department and the Public Prosecutor's Office in St. Maarten. The MPs worried that the reported lack of capacity would hamper the proper functioning of these two entities and the criminal investigations that they carry out.

Plasterk explained that Opstelten had received the request from his St. Maarten colleague and that he was looking into whether this request could be complied with considering the capacity of the detective departments in the Netherlands, ongoing investigations and financial aspects.

The Netherlands, but also the other countries in the Kingdom can supply additional detective capacity under certain circumstances when one country asks for such, stated Plasterk. The quality of law enforcement, criminal investigations, the prosecution of (border crossing) crime and the execution of the plans of approach for the judicial sector in St. Maarten are important to the Netherlands, clarified the minister.

"Law enforcement and legal security have to be preserved. I stated on earlier occasions that this is my input and that it will remain so in talks with the Government of St. Maarten," stated Plasterk, also on behalf of minister Opstelten.

The St. Maarten Public Prosecutor's Office resorts under the Kingdom Consensus Law Public Prosecutor's Offices of Curaçao, St. Maarten and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Law enforcement, including the Public Prosecutor's Office, is an autonomous responsibility of the countries in the Kingdom, explained Plasterk.

"This means that it is up to the St. Maarten Public Prosecutor's Office to determine priorities, carry out investigations and to determine whether and who should be prosecuted. The filling of the formation of the National Detectives is also a responsibility of the Country St. Maarten," stated Plasterk.

Responding to a question by Van Laar and Bosman as to whether the temporary expansion of the investigative capacity of the St. Maarten National Detectives was still in place, the minister noted that Minister Opstelten had indeed strengthened the investigative capacity at the National Detectives for a limited time in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation of a Member of the St. Maarten Parliament.

The temporary reinforcement, which had been supplied on the request of St. Maarten, was not in place anymore. Arrests have been made as a result of this detective work, stated Plasterk, who did not mention the name of the MP in question. It concerned MP Patrick Illidge in connection with the Bada Bing bribery case.

The minister said his earlier point of view that the St. Maarten Public Prosecutor's Office had sufficient capacity had not changed. He explained that in 2014, the structural occupancy of this office would be in accordance with the formation as calculated based on the expected work activities.

Hassink says pension awareness should be embedded in community

page1a277~ Large turnout at pension seminar ~

MAHO--Pension awareness should be embedded in the community just as much as sickness insurance.

This is the view of Finance Minister Martin Hassink, who delivered a thought-provoking presentation to the large gathering of seniors and other persons who attended the general pension fund APS' pension awareness seminar at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort on Friday.

"In general we make sure that we insure ourselves against the cost of sickness or car insurance against accidents and homeowners insurance against natural disasters or fires. However, the insurance necessary to cover the cost of our old age, we easily tend to postpone or ignore," Hassink told the large number of attendees – approximately 150 persons.

Dignitaries in attendance included Governor Eugene Holiday; Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams; Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Patricia Lourens-Philip; Ombudsman Nilda Arduin and Advisory Council Vice Chairperson Mavis Brooks-Salmon.

Hassink said some of the excuses persons make for not arranging a pension are that the pension premiums can be high; that the fund may be out of money by the time the person is able to collect their pension; that the person may be deceased before they are able to collect their pension; that they don't need a pension plan or that they will keep working until they die.

"There are many other excuses not to, or to not yet join a pension plan," Hassink said. He noted however, that "we should also realise that for many persons it is not just a choice. For many people the basic net income is just enough to maintain a very basic minimal quality level of life. For many people there is simply no room for saving money for the future or for paying premiums into a pension plan."

The minister said there is still quite a large segment of the business community that doesn't provide their employees with a pension plan. "During times of strong economic growth our population was young and old age hardly existed and not within eyesight. Time has changed, time progressed and slowly, but surely our population is getting older and more and more people feel the consequences of the excuses not to have saved or joined in a pension plan. It simply means in many cases creation of poverty," he said.

He said saving or paying pension premiums indeed means that one's current net spending power would reduce, however, "be aware that time goes faster than we realise and the prospect of living in poverty after years of hard work should support the discipline necessary to set aside funds for our old age."

He also said that the financial crisis has had a negative impact on the strength and durability of pension funds and may have led to doubts if the funds are able to pay one's pension when he or she reaches pensionable age. "Be aware that this is a legitimate thought and reason why we should make sure that the funds are properly managed with controlled risks, such as insuring that employers pay their premiums. Be aware that each pension fund is built on solidarity, this solidarity cannot be eliminated. I would even go further with stating that in a relatively small community like ours, solidarity should go much further. Luxurious pension plans should be scaled down in favour of a basic realistic pension plans for everyone. There is a wise saying 'If we just take what we need, there will be enough for everyone,'" he said.

The minister said that depending on one's children "is not a good pension plan."

"Be aware that your dependability may have a suffocating impact on your children and creates a vicious cycle where they later cannot afford to take care of themselves because they took care of you. It would be great if you could continue to work after the age of 60, or 62 or even 65. In fact, many of us do so. I can assure you as somebody in that age bracket, and maybe that is because of the job I have. You should be aware you should be looking forward to going on pension and enjoying the remaining part of your life comfortably without too many obligations," he said.

According to Hassink, pension awareness is growing with the average age of the population, which he said is a good sign. "A lot needs to be done however to make sure that all of us can spend our old age at an acceptable quality level of life, a broad reform is therefore needed. I'm convinced that the General Pension Fund can play a leading role in this."

Hassink lauded the initiative to hold the seminar.

He closed on a light note saying: "As the Minister of Finance and sometimes referred to as the Minister of golden oldies, I would like to recommend you to listen to the song of the Beatles from the Sergeant Peppers Longplay "when I'm sixty four."

The conference was aimed at raising awareness and disseminating information regarding pensions in general and aspects of the pension system. The conference was held under the theme: "Securing your pension makes cents."

APS had been charged with administering the pension of civil servants, teachers, and employees of other government-related organisations in St. Maarten since the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles on October 10, 2010.

APS had said previously that the conference comes at a time when it is essential that it informs and educates the community about pension-related matters. APS had expressed hope that the seminar would have triggered an exchange of ideas and dialogue on pension issues and promote transparency and open communication as basic principles of APS' operations.

William, Louie want campaign financing cap, limit to airtime

PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) leader Member of Parliament William Marlin and fellow MP Louie Laveist want the campaign funds to political parties to be capped as a means to level the playing field. They also want to limit the amount of radio and television airtime political parties can have for the same reason.

"We need a cap on spending," Laveist said. Neither he nor Marlin gave any indication about the amount where they want to see campaign financing capped.

Marlin said a limit on airtime during election campaign was needed, because a political party with more money can buy up more radio spots or commandeer private talk shows for the duration of the campaign due to the country's "open market." Without limitation, the elections campaign would be "lopsided" and would "create an unequal field." Given those factors, "democracy would not be served."

Commenting on the Democratic Party (DP) board's call for international election monitors for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Marlin said DP and its leader Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams need to give an explanation about why this is needed. "The public will really need to know."

He said the country has regulations and institutions to properly guide elections and instance of supposed breaches, such as the ongoing vote-buying case, related to the United People's (UP) party, are being dealt with.

Laveist concurred with Marlin, but pointed out that it was "a crying shame" that the vote buying case is ongoing since 2010.

Man fires shots, no one injured

SUCKER GARDEN-- Shots were fired outside of a house on Sucker Garden Road on Thursday morning, but no one was reported to be injured.

A woman called the police after hearing the gun shots. It transpired that the male resident of the house had an argument with two men, after which he had entered the house to collect a gun. He is then said to have fired into the air.

Bullet shells were found on the ground after the incident and the police attended. Two houses were searched and a number of Marijuana plants were found inside one of the dwellings. A witness gave a statement to police but was not arrested. An investigation into the incident is currently ongoing.

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