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DP wants int’l monitors for upcoming elections

PHILIPSBURG--The Democratic Party (DP) board has requested its leader Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams (DP) consider the possibility of inviting international monitors to prepare a mission to observe the 2014 parliamentary elections, and for the monitoring agency to include locals in its team for them to gain experience in best practices for future elections.

DP Board President Michael Ferrier said an election monitoring mission should be broad in scope and not limited to the actual election day activities. The monitoring should commence "as soon as possible" to have the observers review and report on the preparations for the elections. "Optimally, the mission should be endorsed by St. Maarten's Parliament."

Based on recent statements by members/boards of National Alliance (NA) and the United People's (UP) party, Wescot-Williams "should expect, at the very least, to be supported by these two parties in her call for outside election monitors. She may even be hopeful to get unanimous support from all members of Parliament," Ferrier said in a press statement.

While government will decide on the international agency to use, DP suggested that this be an organisation such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a non-profit organisation that works with international and domestic election observers around the world, and has been involved in more than 150 international election observation missions.

DP, according to Ferrier, believes that time has come to improve the degree to which the public confidence in the election process is enhanced. "We believe we can increase the honesty of our electoral process by inviting monitors (observers) from internationally respected institutions. Moreover, external expertise can be helpful in terms of strengthening the process by identifying weak practices."

He added that given the current integrity environment in the country, monitoring can go a long way in terms of discouraging manipulation and fraud. "By removing the ability of a voter to prove for whom he/she voted, the economics of purchasing people's vote is fundamentally changed. This will eliminate pressure from (overly zealous, bordering on corrupt) politicians insisting on proof of voting."

DP's call for international monitoring stems from criminal investigations related to alleged election fraud during the 2010 elections and inquiries about alleged misconduct of some holders of public office.

Ferrier said on behalf of the DP board that given the fact that the 2014 vote is in fact the first general election for St. Maarten since becoming a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, "it is even more important that the process proceeds smoothly, i.e. in keeping with the requisite legislation related to the electoral process. Transparency and correctness of the preparation, execution and follow up to the electoral process is a priority."

Police shoot, kill assailant

WILLENSTAD--A Curaçao police officer who was attacked by a group of foreigners during a general control at a snack bar in Choloma late Friday night used a service weapon in defence, with fatal consequences.

A bullet hit the man, Sharlon Randy Mercelina of Trinidad, who died almost immediately as a result of his injuries. He was actually residing on the island legally, but during the operation seven other persons were detained pending deportation because they lacked the necessary permits.

Some had run away when the patrol showed up, while others became aggressive. When one of the officers spoke to the two women behind the counter one of the men had started yelling to leave them alone.

At that moment the group had attacked the officer. Bottles were thrown and a substance was also sprayed in the officer's face, who responded by firing a shot that hit Mercelina. The police doctor declared him dead at about 4:00am, Saturday morning.

Several members of the Vrijwilligers Korps Curaçao (VKC) (Voluntary Corps Curaçao), who were part of the patrol, had also been injured by among other things bottles flung at them. Two patrons of the snack bar were injured as well and taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

On location authorities confiscated a firearm, a machete, drugs and other items of interest to the investigation. Eight Jamaicans, five women and three men, were initially held for residing on the island illegally, but one of the men was able to produce the required papers and released afterwards at the police station.

Royal Kid, Lil Blossom retain Road March and Calypso titles

page1b272PHILIPSBURG--Royal Kid and Lil Blossom retained their titles as Junior Road March Monarch and Junior Calypso Monarch on Saturday night, after they performed in front of a crowd of people at Celebration Palace to compete for the Monarch Titles in the Junior Road March and Junior Calypso Competitions.

Judges Claudius Jones, Romez Fleming and Eric Taylor had the task of awarding points for the lyrics, melody, rendition, originality and presentation of the young contestants.

Rickyshio (14) performing as The Royal Kid defended his title from 2013. His victory did not come as a surprise, as he was the only contestant in the Road March Category. Nevertheless, his performance had a professional quality to it as he sang his song "Animal" painted as a tiger, accompanied by two young female dancers, and received loud applause and appreciation from the audience.

In the Junior Calypso competition, three contestants competed for the Junior Calypso Crown. First contestant Little Sunshine sang a song called "Lead by Example," in which she asked adults to show children the right thing to do.

Lil Niko sang "I singing for my future," a convincing performance, which was very well received by the crowd. Defending monarch Lil Blossom sang "Live your life," a song about acceptance in which she encouraged children to be who they really are.

All three children gave a professional performance and MC Fernando Clarke pointed out more than once that there would be a lot more eliminations amongst the adults in the senior competition, if the children had been singing amongst the seniors.

Lil Blossom took the title and retained her crown. There was some booing from the audience when Lil Niko was pronounced second runner-up, and it was clear that the crowd had a higher position in mind for him. Lil Sunshine came second.

The children were presented with trophies by Vincent Haatmat, on behalf of sponsor NAGICO, and also received a basket filled with goods. Winners Lil Blossom and Royal Kid received their gowns and were crowned by President of St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation, Michael Granger.

An appeal was made for everyone to assist the young Calypsonians and Road March singers, and special thanks went out to parents, educators, song writers and everyone else who works with these children to secure the future of St. Maarten Calypso and Road March.

Granger paid homage to Calypso Barbara, who is in poor health, and who has always worked with children. "Calypso is her legacy," Granger said. "But we need more help with the children. The Carnival Foundation is asking for help."

Islands get funds for nature projects

THE HAGUE--Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs Sharon Dijksma has made funds available for six nature projects in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, it was announced on Friday.

These are the first approved projects. The funds go towards projects that not only strengthen nature on the islands, but which also contribute to agriculture, tourism or local entrepreneurship. In total, the Dutch Government has made more than US $10 million available for nature projects.

"Our islands in the Caribbean Netherlands are a perfect example where ecology and economy can reinforce each other. A varied and properly maintained nature is attractive for residents, but also draws more tourists," stated Dijksma in a press release.

Dijksma has made more than US $800,000 available to restore nature in St. Eustatius. The funds make it possible for the St. Eustatius nature organisation Stenapa to set up trainings and to improve the management of nature areas.

Saba receives some US $680,000 to restore hiking paths through nature areas, which are one of the most important tourism attractions. About US $1.5 million has been made available for projects in Bonaire which include a better protection of the coral reefs. The issue of roaming goats will be addressed for these goats cause erosion which in turn threatens the coral.

Chikungunya permanent, say European authorities

THE HAGUE--European public health authorities anticipate that the outbreak of the viral disease chikungunya will expand in the Caribbean and permanently establish itself on the islands.

Because of the intensive traffic of persons between the Caribbean and Europe, authorities urge doctors to take the disease into account in case travellers display the symptoms of chikungunya.

This was stated in an article that was published in Eurosurveillance on Friday. The article was published with the assistance of the Dutch government institute for public health RIVM.

The first patients with chikungunya in the Caribbean were confirmed in December 2013. It concerned two patients in French St. Martin. Since then there have been more cases and the virus has spread to different islands in the Caribbean.

Considering the large area of presence of the mosquitoes that transfer the disease, European health authorities anticipate that the disease will further spread and that it will become a permanent illness.

It is very possible that the chikungunya virus will come to Europe via patients that have fallen ill during their stay on the islands. That is why the researchers of Eurosurveillance are advising doctors to also consider chikungunya aside from dengue when people come from the Caribbean with symptoms.

Chikungunya is an infectious disease causes by the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus that mostly bite during the day. The most common symptoms are high fever, severe muscle and joint pain, headache, sensitivity to light and a skin rash that can last several weeks to months.

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