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AIDS Foundation Youth Wing to hold info session

page5b133PHILIPSBURG--The Youth Wing of St. Maarten AIDS Foundation will hold an interactive information session for high school students at Philipsburg Jubilee Library today, Friday, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm.

The Youth Wing will present information about HIV/AIDS and illustrate through fun games how young people can stay healthy through abstinence and safe sex.

Attendees are encouraged to wear the colour Red.

“We hope to see new faces and enlarge the Youth Wing base,” said Franz Tapia Chaca, Youth Wing Vice President. “It’s a worthwhile cause through which we can make our peers think twice about acting on impulse, and hopefully will have an impact on staying healthy.”

“We welcome all teenagers on the island to come and learn about this very important topic,” said Angelo Arrindell, Young Wing Treasurer.

Those interested in joining the Youth Wing can contact AIDS Foundation on 553-2626 or message via Facebook (facebook.com/sxmaidsfoundation).

Youth Wing Board members involved in the event are Jantje Philips (Milton Peters College), Franz Tapia Chaca (St. Dominic High School), Angelo Arrindell (MPC), Donna He (Caribbean International Academy) and Luna Emogene (St. Dominic).

Gendarmes in shoot-out with Goldfinger robbers

page3b132~ Two suspects captured, a third on the run ~

MARIGOT--Goldfinger jewellery store on Rue de La République was victim of an armed robbery Wednesday morning when three thieves entered the store and held employees at gun point before smashing showcases and stealing jewellery. The manager of the store was taken hostage but later released unharmed.

A very quick response from Gendarmes, however, resulted in two of the suspects being caught, albeit after a shoot-out with the robbers, and stolen jewellery was recovered. A third suspect got away disappearing in the direction of Fort Louis.

Commandant Paul Betaille confirmed last night that the two suspects in custody are Venezuelans while the nationality of the third has not yet been determined.

"These were hardened criminals and very determined," he said. "Despite the manpower we had on the ground the third suspect got away on foot and we are actively looking for him."

It is thought that the thieves were granted entry through the double security doors of the store because they were dressed as genuine shoppers and did not have their faces covered.

Events unfolded at 10:50am when the thieves entered the store but were quickly challenged by Gendarmes while in the act of the robbery. Shots were fired by the robbers inside the store but no one was injured. In the exchange, the interior glass security door shattered from a bullet fired by one of the suspect's guns, the glass slightly injuring a Gendarme in the face.

The suspects exited the store, taking the manager with them as hostage. Witnesses said his hands were bound and a gun was pointed at his head. Shots were fired at Gendarmes as the suspects attempted to escape with a bag of stolen watches and jewellery in the direction of West Indies Mall and Fort Louis Marina.

Cell phone video from a witness showed a man in a blue shirt running with a limp towards Fort Louis Marina restaurant, firing shots, while a man dressed in black running behind with a black garbage bag, supposedly containing the jewellery, suddenly stops and leaves the bag on the ground before continuing.

The two men were arrested in the proximity of the marina but a third suspect managed to escape. At some point the hostage was released but details of that were not clear. One witness said the suspects attempted to get away in a car opposite the marina, pulling the unsuspecting owner out and throwing him to the ground, but this was not confirmed by the Gendarmerie.

Commandant Betaille confirmed nine shots were fired at Gendarmes outside as the thieves attempted to escape and at the time of the arrests Gendarmes fired five shots.

"No Gendarmes were injured (except for the one mentioned earlier), neither were the suspects, employees of the shop, the hostage, or members of the public hurt in the shooting," he said. "Two suspects are now in custody and the stolen jewellery was recovered."

Many shoppers on the street thought a movie was being filmed as the drama unfolded and tourists found they were prevented from walking past the crime scene. One shop owner on the street said the same suspects had entered his shop earlier and spoke Spanish.

"They came in to look around, two were quite well dressed and flashy, another was chubby, and they had shopping bags," he said. "I tried to speak to them and they replied 'no habla Ingles.'"

An employee from Goldfinger declined later to talk about the incident while the investigation is in progress. The owner of Goldfinger was not at the store at the time and making his report to the Gendarmerie.

Police officer convicted of sex with two minors

PHILIPSBURG--Community police officer Juan F.J. Statie (42) was sentenced to six months suspended, on three years' probation, and 120 hours community service, for having committed illicit sexual acts on two girls who were in his care.

During the Court hearing of this case, which took place on October 1, Youth Prosecutor Karola van Nie had requested a similar prison term but with 140 hours community service.

Statie had proclaimed his innocence and had stated that nothing of a sexual nature had happened between him and his under-aged step-daughter, nor with another girl, also a minor, who was put in the officer's care by her mother.

The crimes concerning the stepchild, who was born in August 1997, were committed between January 1, 2012, and January 31, 2014. The crimes against the other child, born in 1999, were allegedly committed in July 2013.

The defendant had denied the allegation that he had improperly touched his step-daughter in her room, on several occasions, or had attempted to take the other girl's clothes off after he found out she had a picture of a naked girl on her phone.

The Court, however, found the victims' statements "accurate, complete, consistent and elaborate," as well as supported by other witnesses.

This led the Judge to find the defendant guilty of "border-crossing" and "lecherous" behaviour towards his underage step-daughter and also towards a girl who was put in his care as a community police officer.

Considering the consequences of a conviction of crimes for the defendant's job as a police officer, the Court sentenced him to do unpaid work for the community in connection with a suspended prison sentence. The defendant has been held in pre-trial detention since February 24.

MPs unanimously reject instruction

~ Motion to be sent to UN Decolonisation Committee ~

PHILIPSBURG--Members of Parliament (MPs) unanimously adopted on Wednesday a motion rejecting the instruction handed down by the Kingdom Council of Ministers to Governor Eugene Holiday for the execution of a boundless and limitless investigation into the backgrounds of candidate ministers, their families, friends, business associates and others.

Parliament is not in agreement with the instruction from the Kingdom Council, because the screening of candidate ministers is "not flawed. It has been applied and worked during every formation of a new government," according to the motion.

The United Nations Decolonisation Committee was listed among governments, organisations and agencies to which the motion officially will be sent.

Aside from rejecting the instruction from the Kingdom Government, the unanimously adopted motion also instructs the St. Maarten Government to establish a committee that will study, evaluate and recommend an action plan based on the findings and recommendations of the integrity report from the General Audit Chamber, the "Doing the right things" report from the Wit-Samson Committee and the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report commissioned by Governor Holiday based on another instruction by the Kingdom Council that was issued last year.

The outgoing government has indicated interest in applying recommendations expressed in the PwC report, and the incoming government is expected to cooperate in carrying out recommendations made in PwC's and other similar reports, the motion stated. "Therefore, we object to said instruction [of the Kingdom Government – Ed]."

The motion, signed by Dr. Lloyd Richardson and MPs Cornelius de Weever and Leona Marlin-Romeo, calls for an action plan on the integrity reports that must include a budget and a timeline to implement the recommendations.

The motion adoption came after closed-door deliberations among MPs of the various political parties represented in Parliament. The original motion was presented by United People's (UP) party MP Dr. Richardson, who had requested a suspension of the meeting to caucus with other MPs who might want to give their input. This took place after some lengthy talks that saw the public plenary session open and suspended several times by President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams.

MPs rejected the instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers based on the country's already established National Ordinance to Promote Integrity in Public Functionaries as the guide in the screening of candidate ministers. That screening of ministers "has worked to the satisfaction" of Parliament and Government thus there is "no need to adjust or expand on said ordinance," the motion stated.

The Kingdom Government's resolution of October 17, issued as a measure of instruction to the Governor, seeks "to restrict" him "from executing his tasks in accordance with the applicable regulations of the country."

Independent MP Marlin-Romeo had presented a draft motion, which she later withdrew, that condemned the instruction by the Kingdom Government. Her motion also called for Parliament to take all necessary actions to take the Kingdom Government before the UN Decolonisation Committee and to inform regional bodies such as the Caribbean Community Caricom, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Latin American Parliament Parlatino.

Fourteen of the 15 MPs were present for the urgent plenary session of Parliament that started on Monday, but was suspended after the first round of debate. Only National Alliance (NA) Parliamentarian Silveria Jacobs was absent due to a medical issue.

Unity

The plenary session resumed on Wednesday, at the start of the second round of debate. MPs generally called for unity against the actions of the Kingdom Government.

MP Maurice Lake (UP) called on the people of the country "to stand against injustice" and to believe in the people they had elected.

MP Johan "Janchi" Leonard (UP) said St. Maarten was capable of conducting its own affairs: "We will do this on our own terms with our own people." He said the Dutch were focused on St. Maarten with the catch-phrase of integrity, but the Netherlands – based on a 2013 study – was the country in Europe where the people were most fed-up with politicians. It is also a country that has seen 216 major integrity cases between 1983 and 2013.

MP Silvio Matser (UP) said the instruction from the Kingdom Council showed St. Maarten was not an equal partner in the Kingdom. He noted that the Dutch could not bring solutions to St. Maarten "when they don't know the culture."

"We need to get back some of our autonomy," said MP George Pantophlet (NA). "There is always a bigger picture to be seen when such instructions are handed down."

MP Tamara Leonard (UP) said the instruction was "a direct violation of our country. ... The Dutch Government is so confident we can't stand together based on how we attack each other's character. ... Let us prove to St. Maarten, to the Caribbean that we are capable."

MP Christophe Emmanuel (NA) said the call for unity in Parliament, although good, did not extend to outside the hall. He cited that he had been attacked by UP on the Internet for statements he had made in the first round of the debate.

Independent MP De Weever said it was one thing for the country "to stumble" on its own as it built, but quite another for it "to be tripped" on its road to progress. He labelled the instruction "a distraction" put out by the Dutch Government in light of that country's pending elections.

MP Franklin Meyers (UP) said MPs were the guardians of the Constitution. He called on MPs and residents to put aside party colours and take up the red, white and blue of the St. Maarten flag. He said, "The illusion that we are Dutch is just that – an illusion."

"We need to protect St. Maarten," said United St. Maarten Party MP Frans Richardson. As long as the country's higher organs and laws are functioning, there is no need to impose any further rules, he noted.

MP William Marlin (NA) called the instruction "premature," because the country has a functioning screening procedure embedded in law. He questioned whether the instruction from the Kingdom Government was a motion of no confidence in Governor Holiday.

Three strikes

MP Theo Heyliger (UP) said this was just the beginning of "a wave of instructions" from the Dutch Government. The next one targeting the Justice System is anticipated on November 7, and yet another could be possible if Parliament does not start the process to approve the 2015 budget.

Similar to the "three strikes and you're out" rule in baseball, the trio of (possible) instructions would result in the Dutch Government having "taken out the St. Maarten Government" by controlling the Justice System, the country's finances and lately the government itself, Heyliger said.

The Dutch Government has "been putting for the past 30 years a bit of poison into the body every day" with their consistent moves to take over key areas of the country, he said.

Heyliger acknowledged that Curaçao's Parliament had been proactive in warning off the Dutch Government from even attempting to force any similar instruction on that Dutch Caribbean island.

President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams said just before closing the meeting that the Dutch Government was "misusing" the legal instrument regulating the governor's position by not using it for its true intended purpose.

Swimming prohibited at French-side beaches

MARIGOT--The ban on swimming and nautical activities at French-side beaches until further notice following the passing of Hurricane Gonzalo may be lifted at the end of this week if water tests taken by Agence Régional de Santé (ARS) show the water quality is good. The results are expected Friday.

The ban was imposed by the Collectivité immediately after the storm as a precaution in the interest of public health. Water quality can be polluted by a run-off of soil from hillsides caused by heavy rain, as well as debris, sewage and the opening of ponds to reduce water levels.

Water sports operators on Orient Beach have been frustrated by the time it is taking to get the results. All want to get their businesses up and running as quickly as possible. Another side effect of the ban was that water sports operators had organised activities for schools during the All Saints holiday, but these had to be cancelled.

Director General of Services (DGS) at the Collectivité Pascal Averne said the ban is a "normal procedure" after the passing of every hurricane to protect public health.

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