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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.





Whale migration causes regatta course change

MARIGOT--Last minute course changes at the North of the island have been made
for today's Heineken Regatta around-the-island race due to Réserve Naturelle's
concerns about the regatta fleet disturbing the seasonal whale migration, it
emerged Thursday.
Réserve Naturelle's demands, prompted by a letter to the Heineken Regatta from
the Préfet of Guadeloupe for boats to stay 300 metres away from the whale area,
initially caused tension between regatta organisers and the Réserve, as any
major disruption to courses could have disastrous consequences for the regatta.
However, Regatta Director Michele Korteweg assured that the matter now had been
resolved following negotiations with the Réserve.
"Basically we will be sailing around the Réserve markers, meaning everyone will
be going around Tintamarre, and that meant we had to come up with an amendment
with additional courses," said Korteweg.
"I think the only mistake we made was not getting in touch with the Réserve
earlier in the year to discuss it, but it is not as though we have hundreds of
boats with engines. I could understand if they said we could not have media
boats in the area."
Despite rumours, Korteweg did not believe the Réserve's stance was payback for
the cancellation of the Marigot party.
"I think it's more to do with the Réserve being upset that we didn't consult
them sooner and that we expect the Réserve to automatically tell us, 'Yes, go
for it.' They wanted us to know that they have authority and we must play by the
rules," Korteweg said.
Réserve Director Nicolas Maslach was in meetings Thursday and could not be
reached to comment.Islands

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.

Council of State requests a stay on voting on Integrity Chamber

PHILIPSBURG--The Kingdom Council of State has requested a stay on the voting by St. Maarten's Parliament on the national ordinance establishing an Integrity Chamber for St. Maarten. This was the word from Deputy Prime Minister/Justice Minister Dennis Richardson.

Richardson said at a press conference with Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs in Dr. A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall that the request had come from the Council of State vice-chairman last week Thursday. Based on that request, he said he was not worried about appearing before the Council in The Hague on Monday afternoon along with Dutch Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk.

Asked whether he could trust the request from the Council to hold off on the reading of the draft law and subsequent voting on the law in a plenary session of Parliament, Richardson said if the just, independent and non-political Kingdom Council of State played games with St. Maarten, the country was "really in the pit of the kingdom."

If the Council appears to be manipulated by the Dutch Kingdom Government then "it is high time to put an integrity chamber in the Netherlands," Richardson said.

The minister was asked by the press whether he trusted the request of the Council of State based on his comments last week that a similar request from the Dutch Kingdom Government for St. Maarten to hold off on tabling its law to establish the Integrity Chamber while a mutual agreement was reached had turned out to be a "play for time."

Richardson believes the request to hold off on voting on the law has more to do with the Council of State wanting to seek an agreement between St. Maarten and the Dutch Kingdom Government than a stalling tactic that could be to the detriment of St. Maarten, which is still in its infancy as a country within the kingdom.

Gumbs explained that Richardson's appearance before the Council of State had to do with a change in approach by the Dutch Government. This approach calls for a kingdom measure to bring into force an integrity chamber dominated by Dutch Government appointees and civil servants. This approach has to be put before the Council of State; thus Monday's hearing at 5:00pm Dutch time.

This approach of the Dutch could well be one where they want "to stack" the Integrity Chamber with the Dutch "secret service." This way the Dutch can "do a criminal witch hunt."

The Dutch Government, in its draft on the Integrity Chamber, wants the Chamber to screen all parliamentarians, ministers and civil servants.

Richardson said he hoped the Dutch realised that the members of the Kingdom Cooperation Team RST and the Prosecutor's Office were "also civil servants."

Should it come to pass that the Dutch only want St. Maarteners to be screened by the Chamber "it will be quite a thing on St. Maarten," he said as a warning to the Dutch Government.


Speaking of the heated and often emotional debates in the Central Committee of Parliament last week and earlier this week about the draft law prepared and tabled by the Gumbs Cabinet, Richardson said it was "quite understandable for MPs [Members of Parliament – Ed.] to question the law in depth."

That questioning comes more into focus with the fact that no such law exists anywhere else in the kingdom, let alone the Netherlands, he said. With that in mind, any law on integrity should be "balanced."

The St. Maarten draft law differs significantly from the Dutch Government version, as it offers protection to people who are subjects of an integrity investigation. Richardson believes the Dutch Government version cannot receive the nod from the Council of State, as it clearly ignores human rights in the event of an investigation.

"The law, in my opinion, cannot be upheld" by the Council of State, Richardson said.

"We believe we will be able to convince our Parliament that this is a good thing," Richardson said, pointing out that it was a known fact that St. Maarten's weakness was "compliance" and not the lack of legislation.

That is the gap the Integrity Chamber is meant to fill – establishing where policies and regulations are lacking and investigating integrity breaches, he said.

There is still "some confusion" about the role of the Integrity Chamber, with some people thinking it will be charged with investigating criminal cases. This is not so, said Richardson. He explained that the Chamber would concern itself only with integrity breaches and should any breach cross into the realm of criminal activity it would be reported to the Prosecutor's Office.


Both Richardson and Gumbs are at a loss about the Dutch Government's tying together of the Integrity Chamber with its offer of Justice System assistance to St. Maarten as well as Curaçao and Aruba. The Justice assistance that should come only on the request of one of the Dutch Caribbean Justice Ministers "has been put on the tail of the integrity issue," said Gumbs.

"Why the two issues are tagged is a mystery to me," added Richardson. "It is a complete riddle to me and all our lawyers."

St. Maarten officials have been open to compromise "to try to prevent a confrontation" or "a constitutional crisis" with the Dutch Government. But, now in a push to get its way, the Dutch Government has come up with what can be termed as "two new law enforcement agencies" instead of the agreed-on assistance when requested by a justice minister.

That move by the Dutch Government to further infringe on the autonomy of the country is tantamount "to cursing in the church of constitutional law."

By forcing to get its way on Justice matters, the Dutch Government is creating a severe breach of integrity and wants to pull St. Maarten along with it on this unlawful path, said Richardson. If the Dutch believe St. Maarten will go along silently with this plan, Richardson said, "You have to be a joker ... you have to be loco."

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