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5 political parties get voters’ endorsement

~ SRP out of race ~

POND ISLAND--It may be only five political parties contesting the August 29 Parliamentary Elections for the fifteen parliament seats. Five parties are said to have received the required number of signatures from eligible voters on Monday to make it to the ballot. The sixth, Social Reform Party (SRP), which hoped to continue in the elections race, came up short.

The Democratic Party (DP), National Alliance (NA) United People's (UP) party, United St. Maarten (US) party, and One St. Maarten People's Party (OSPP) confirmed that they had received the required 138 signatures and more to participate in the upcoming elections.

OSPP, led by former commissioner and NA candidate Lenny Priest, received the final signature minutes before the registry closed at 4:00pm. SRP was not so fortunate. It is said to have been short by some 50 signatures.

The official confirmation of the parties that have received the required number of signatures is to be given after the Central Voting Bureau meets on Thursday. At that time, the bureau also will ensure the candidate lists and supporting documents submitted by the parties on Nomination Day, July 11, are in order. The bureau will hold a public meeting to announce the results.

Political parties rallied their supporters go to the Civil Registry to queue up to endorse their lists as soon as the doors opened at 9:00am. By 10:15am, at least two political parties said they had received full endorsement. Two other parties were said to have joined the ranks by noon.

Voters still trickled in to the Civil Registry as the morning wore away. By early afternoon, fewer and fewer people were coming in.

As the only two parties that still needed the required number of signatures, OSPP and SRP representatives kicked into a high gear and started to call supporters who might not have made it yet to the Civil Registry to do so post-haste. They also courted the people heading into the registry if they were not known supporters.

Priest of OSPP told The Daily Herald, "We barely made it. We got the full endorsement. There is a lot of joy and thankfulness for this."

He said it was expected that the "major parties with larger support base" would have made it through the process earlier in the day while OSPP, as a new political party, had to push for its support.

Priest attributed the strenuous effort OSPP had to make to obtain the signatures to the 9:00am to 4:00pm time set for the endorsements. The opening hours posed a "dilemma" for workers. "Had the hours been different, say from 8:00am to later in the afternoon, it would have given people better opportunities to come out and support us. People would have come before going to work. It was also a challenge for people who work over the hill [on the Western side of the island – Ed.]."

SRP leader Mock said he did not want to make any statement about whether his party had received the needed signatures. "I prefer to wait for the official figures from the bureau," he told this newspaper.

Mock said he would not endorse any other political party or individual candidate if it turned out that SRP would not make it on the ballot. "I will wait for the next elections and hope that supporters will come out early so we don't have to drag through the whole day."

Closing off the day, the leaders of the five parties that from all indications will be on the August 29 ballot thanked their supporters for endorsing them.

The upcoming elections are the first parliamentary elections for St. Maarten after attaining country status within the Dutch Kingdom in October 2010. The elections in September 2010 were the last-ever Island Council elections. The number of seats was expanded from 11 to 15 and those elected to the Island Council transitioned to Members of Parliament (MPs) in October when the constitutional status changed from Island Territory of the Netherlands Antilles to country in the kingdom.

All the political parties needed to have their lists endorsed by one per cent of the number of voters who turned for the 2010 elections, amounting to 138 people, because this is the first parliamentary election. In the past, only parties without representation in the Island Council had to go through the endorsement process.

Eight parties registered with the Electoral Council for the upcoming elections. That number had dropped to six by Nomination Day. Concordia Political Alliance (CPA) and Citizens for Positive Change (CPC) announced on July 10 that they no longer would be in the race. The two CPA candidates joined NA and the top CPC candidate joined US.

The endorsement process went mostly smoothly, with the Civil Registry staff showing voters to the requested party's booths. Two signing booths were assigned to each of the six parties.

The only hiccup was when the registry staff informed a representative of one of the parties that they would stop accepting signatures for a party once it had received the required number of signatures, despite the endorsement time being until 4:00pm. However, this was not done after the party rep said the endorsement time had to be adhered to without an early cut-off time.

The atmosphere outside the Civil Registry was cordial and jovial with people greeting and chatting with each other across party lines, as has been the norm in St. Maarten.

Minister Plasterk does not make OLAF report public

THE HAGUE--Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations will not make public the so-called OLAF report into the alleged misappropriation of European subsidies in Bonaire, he informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.

Member of Parliament of centre-democrat D66 Wassila Hachchi had asked Minister Plasterk why the report of European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF concerning the alleged fraud with money from the European Development Fund (EDF) was not made public.

In his response, Plasterk stated that the report was made available to him by the European Commission on January 17, under the condition that its contents would be dealt with confidentially. The report was handed over to the Standing Committee for Kingdom Relations on February 17, Plasterk stated.

OLAF is investigating possible irregularities with financial management within Foundation Development Netherlands Antilles SONA since late last year. The foundation is carrying out European and Dutch development programmes.

The project under surveillance involves 34 million euros for a sewage system in Bonaire. The project was tendered by SONA in 2010, and awarded to MNO Vervat International.

Minister Plasterk said he declined to publish the OLAF report as this could hamper preliminary investigations by the Prosecutor's Office in Bonaire into potential crimes. He said that a copy of the report was made available to SONA in May.

Plasterk declined to provide any further information, for instance concerning why the alleged fraud had only come to light after a statement provided by a dismissed SONA team leader.

Eman says Minister Plasterk ‘has not kept our agreement’

THE HAGUE--Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk "has not kept our agreement," said Prime Minister Mike Eman during a press conference Monday about Aruba's protest and his hunger strike following a decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to have the Governor of Aruba carry out an investigation into the 2014 budget and the tenability of Aruba's government finances.

Several Members of the Dutch Parliament posed questions about the Council of Ministers' decision and Eman's hunger strike.

Aruba has a government debt of almost 1.5 billion euros, some 75 per cent of annual income. The Netherlands has ordered the island's Governor not to approve the finances pending further review.

"I want to convince you that Prime Minister Rutte and others made the wrong decision, not only in the relation with Aruba, but also in connection with the procedure. You should also be worried, as this affects the legal state," Eman told the media at Fort Zoutman.

Eman stressed that in times of crisis every country was making its own choices. "Some countries cut back on their budgets, sometimes almost obsessively. Other countries choose to stimulate the economy. Both models are applied the world over," he said.

He said Aruba always had sought the added value of the Kingdom in choosing cooperation. Therefore, he was surprised that the Dutch government now had chosen a "ramming course."

"Minister Plenipotentiary Alfonso Boekhoudt has asked for an internal appeal, which is no favour, but a right, but that was declined. It was also declined to submit the decision to the Council of State," Eman said.

Asked about what had gone wrong in the days after the first decision in which Aruba and the Netherlands both had agreed on an investigation by an independent committee, Eman said the Netherlands had not adhered to the arrangement that the committee would consist of members proposed by the Netherlands and Aruba.

Aruba preferred former State Secretary of Finance Frans Weekers and former Central Bank President Hassanali Mehranin. Minister Plasterk said later that the committee would be formed by members of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT, "but that was not the arrangement," Eman said.

Eman explained that it was not possible to challenge the decision in Court. By means of the hunger strike he is trying to put pressure on the Dutch government.

Asked whether he would be prepared to die for this cause, Eman replied with a simple "yes."

Dutch Members of Parliament (MPs) Alexander Pechtold and Wassila Hachchi of centre-democrat D66 and Christian Democrat MPs Sybrand van Haersma Buma and Madeleine van Toorenburg posed written questions to Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister Plasterk about Eman's hunger strike.

Among other questions, they wanted to know if it was not "damaging" that a Prime Minister of a Kingdom country saw no solution other than a hunger strike to protest against "illegitimate decisions" of the Kingdom Council of Ministers. The MPs also wanted to know how it could have come that far.

They also asked whether the decision was in violation of the so-called budget right of Aruba's Parliament.

The MPs want a response to the Second Chamber no later than today, Tuesday, at 12:00pm.

Eman said he had received many reactions from the Netherlands. "I know that emergency actions are being undertaken at this moment and I also received many phone calls from politicians, but not from Prime Minister Rutte. I think he will go quietly on vacation. I think that maybe this is also directly the big difference between us. The heart makes the difference in how we stand in life and in the community."

Ganja, gun found in Gibbs Drive raid

page3a047page3b047DUTCH QUARTER--Police discovered a "large marijuana plantation" with some 300 plants and a .22 calibre pistol during a raid on Gibbs Drive in Dutch Quarter around 10:00am Saturday.

Police were acting on information when they raided the home. A suspect already had fled the scene when officers arrived.

Several mobile phones and a .22 calibre revolver were discovered when police searched the home. These items were confiscated along with the marijuana plants for further investigation, police spokesperson Inspector Ricardo Henson said in a police press release.

Six party lists up for endorsement today

POND ISLAND--The six political parties hoping to contest the August 29 Parliamentary Elections must have their candidate lists endorsed by eligible voters today, Monday, or be denied the opportunity to vie for the fifteen parliamentary seats.

The lists will be available at the Civil Registry on Pond Island from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Lists can be endorsed only today during the given time based on the Electoral Law.

A voter can endorse only one party's list as stipulated in the Electoral Law. Voters must present a valid form of identification: ID card, Dutch passport or driver's licence.

Each list needs signatures of at least 138 eligible voters to make it onto the ballot of the country's upcoming first Parliamentary Elections. The number of signatures was determined by the Central Voting Bureau based on one per cent of the votes cast in the September 2010 early Island Council Elections.

The Central Voting Bureau has set up 14 booths at the Civil Registry to facilitate the list-endorsement procedure.

In a press release issued late last night, National Alliance leader William Marlin said he "wants to remind all supporters to be at the Census Office no later than 8:30am and remember to walk with a valid ID."

The parties that receive endorsement of their lists today will move to the next steps in the electoral process: the numbering of their lists and the awarding of the party colours by the Central Voting Bureau. The colours will be awarded based on what was requested by the parties.

The six political parties hoping to be in the elections, in order of submission of their lists to the bureau at the Government Administration Building on Nomination Day, Friday, are United People's (UP) party, One St. Maarten People's Party (OSPP), Social Reform Party (SRP), United St. Maarten (US) party, Democratic Party (DP) and National Alliance (NA). The six lists total 90 candidates for the 15 parliamentary seats.

OSPP led by former commissioner Lenny Priest, SRP led by businessman Jacinto Mock and US party headed by independent Member of Parliament (MP) Frans Richardson are hoping to contest an election for the first time.

MP Theo Heyliger's UP, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams' DP and MP William Marlin's NA contested the elections in 2010.

NA and UP issued press statements on Sunday calling on supporters to go to the Civil Registry as early as 8:30pm to queue up to sign their lists.

In party press statement issued early afternoon, UP leader Heyliger said: "We are looking at winning the August 29 election outright with 8+1=9 seats. The past four years of experience of coalition government have destabilised our democracy. The so-called Mexican standoff was the worst political experience ever displayed, bringing shame on our country."

In a press statement issued late last night, NA leader Marlin said an NA "victory" on August 29 would be "St. Maarten's best hope for political progress." He added that NA was "committed to a broad policy agenda" to ease the burden on low-income households, boost spending power, improve standard of living and enhance the St. Maarten experience for residents and visitors.

DP had full-page newspaper ads urging its supports to go to the Civil Registry to endorse its list.

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