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Ground broken for new SZV walkway

page1a105HARBOUR VIEW--Efforts to have a walkway bridge for pedestrians to have easier access to the Social and Health Care Insurances SZV compound at Harbour View came one step closer to reality on Wednesday, when the ground was broken for the new structure.

SZV Deputy Director Reginald Willemsberg and Health Minister Cornelius de Weever turned the sod to signal the official start of walkway's construction.

Willemsberg said the idea for the bridge had come about 18 months ago and the owners of the building, Independent Consulting Engineers (ICE) and ERPMG had been contacted to set the project in motion. He thanked SZV Facilities Officer Vanincia Walters for her dedication to this project.

The construction of the walkway began during the last week of August and is expected to be completed by the end of October. Wednesday was the official groundbreaking ceremony. De Weever thanked SZV and ERPMG workers for their involvement in this project.

The construction of the walkway bridge will give pedestrians easier access to the premises of the insurance service provider. The bridge is being constructed over Rolandus Kanaal straight into the SZV compound to facilitate clients who visit SZV in particular, as well as other persons who visit the Harbour View compound by foot.

The walkway's construction is a joint project being financed by SZV and property owner Jobco NV. Once finalised, the bridge will be turned over to government, as it is being built on public property.

Authorities crack down on prison breaches with multiple measures

~ Dennis: Guns in prison unacceptable ~

POINTE BLANCHE--Authorities are introducing a package of tough measures at the Pointe Blanche prison as part of efforts to crack down on security breaches there.

The measures were announced Wednesday by Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, who condemned the discovery of two firearms in the prison during searches last week.

"The finding of guns in the prison that seemed ... destined to settle scores with inmates is a breach too far. ... Those same guns could have been used just as easily and turned against guards themselves endangering their lives," Richardson said during the Council of Ministers press briefing. "This is absolutely not acceptable and justified."


The measures include increasing multiple random controls at the prison by a multidisciplinary team of persons from the police, Customs, Voluntary Corps VKS and prison guards. The Marechaussees and the marines also will be approached to join in the controls. Richardson said this was being done to have independent control of persons entering the prison, including staff, suppliers and visitors. Multiple controls of prison cells also will be conducted.

"Because the prison is understaffed, we cannot carry this out sufficiently and will make use of all law enforcement agencies to help with these controls. ... As the organisation and integrity of the prison increases then we can stop making use of the different law enforcement agencies, but now this is the only option that we have," Richardson said.

The National Detectives Unit also has launched a thorough investigation into the security breach at the prison. Richardson said the assistance of "other countries in the Caribbean" had been requested for this investigation. The person or persons who are found guilty of the security breach will be dealt with, as "this is not just a matter of administrative dismissal, I consider it a criminal act as well," Richardson said.

The security clearance of prison personnel by the National Security Service is another measure being pursued. The minister said this initiative had not been done in the past.

There also will be increased camera surveillance in and around the prison, as well as improvement of the physical barriers around the prison to prevent persons from "throwing objects" onto the prison grounds.

Additionally, authorities will improve the "jamming of mobile telecommunication systems" at the penal facility.

Authorities are also looking into the possibilities of moving "higher risk" inmates to the Netherlands. "If this is possible for Belgian and Scandinavian nations, it should definitely be possible for our country within the Kingdom," Richardson said. This will be paid for by the Justice Ministry budget.

An investigation will also be carried out into the high level of absenteeism among prison guards due to sickness (see related story).

A comprehensive and independent audit of the facility's security, security procedures and the actual functioning of the prison and security system also will be conducted and reviewed. The equipment used for security measures will be part of this review. Richardson said authorities expected concrete recommendations from this audit to improve the overall security at the prison.

"These are the first measures being taken based on the situation at the moment. Some can be taken immediately; some are short-term measures and are some long-term measures. The audit would probably give recommendations for further improvements of the security in the prison," he said at the press briefing.

He told reporters that one could not escape "the stark reality" that a serious breach of security had taken place at the prison, which he said conjured up images of breaches of integrity by some or someone with no thought about the safety of colleagues.

Lenient days are over

In a press release on the same subject issued just after midnight Tuesday, the minister said an emergency meeting on the situation had been held at the prison last week Thursday after an inmate was injured seriously and illegal items such as firearms, other weapons and mobile phones had been found. Richardson was quoted as saying these incidents "will not be tolerated. ... Nobody is above the law, so all persons will be checked thoroughly at all times when they enter the prison."

The release said several concrete actions, including the forming of a multidisciplinary team of different law enforcement agencies such as the Police Force, Customs, VKS and prison staff would be set up to perform frequent and unannounced checks of both cells and inmates to make sure weapons, phones and drugs no longer would be available inside the institution.

"To prevent weapons and other illegal goods coming into the prison, existing controls for all those who want to enter – visitors, guards and others – will become stricter," the release said.

The release also reported on a meeting held with the Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU) on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, it has become clear that some of the guards must be actively or passively helping the smuggling of arms and other stuff into the prison. In doing so, they endanger the lives of their colleagues and the inmates. This is crazy and will be stopped," Richardson said in the release.

"The National Detectives will do a large scale investigation into the recent incidents and I may even ask my colleagues in Oranjestad, Willemstad and The Hague for extra detectives to give assistance to that investigation. The Prosecutor's Office is looking into that right now."

He said measures would be implemented to check the guards who report ill all the time and therefore add to the problem of an understaffed prison facility. "Management perhaps has been lenient in the past, but those lenient days are over," he said in the release.

St. Maarten faces financial challenges, says Plasterk

THE HAGUE--St. Maarten will be facing several (financial) challenges in 2015 and the years after where it comes to measures to increase government's revenues and to lower expenditures, stated Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk in the draft 2015 Kingdom Relations budget.

Government will not only have to seek ways to raise the necessary revenues and to reduce expenditures, but it will also have to catch up on its arrears in payments and get its cash and capital position in order, according to Plasterk.

The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT has already stressed that these aspects will be essential for the committee to give a positive advice on the 2015 budget of Country St. Maarten, added the minister, who did indicate that St. Maarten had shown an improvement in its financial management in the last few years.

Plasterk was positive about the finances of the Curaçao Government, which he said had proven capable of implementing far-reaching measures and reforms to get its financial household in order. Curaçao has complied with all components of the 2012 instruction of the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

The minister was less positive about Aruba's government finances, which he stated, have "greatly deteriorated" in the past few years. "This is among others the result of policy- related decisions, declining income due to the closure of Valero Refinery and the stimulation policy that was applied to tackle the consequences of the economic crisis in Aruba," he stated.

However, the result of these factors is yearly-recurring deficits and a steadily increasing national debt. "It is important that all countries in the Kingdom strive for financial solidity and the related credit position," stated Plasterk, adding that all countries are responsible for tenable government finances.

The minister noted that on July 11, the Kingdom Council of Ministers decided to give the Governor of Aruba an instruction. A position will be drafted, based on the audit by the secretariat of CFT as to the "distance relating to sustainable tenable government finances."

In the Explanatory Note, Plasterk also referred to the integrity audit of St. Maarten's Government. The results of the audit, ordered by the Kingdom Council of Ministers through St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday, are related to the customary norms and values applicable in the area of integrity as included in treaties, guidelines and codes of various international organisations, including Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development OECD of the United Nations (UN), explained the minister.

"Based on the audit results and recommendations, the Government of St. Maarten may implement improvements in 2015, possibly in cooperation with the other countries of the Kingdom. Thus, an important step will be taken on the road to recovery of the trust that the interior and exterior should have in the proper functioning and integrity of St. Maarten's Government," Plasterk stated.

The minister further announced that he is developing a system to "clearly weigh and prioritise" the requests from the Dutch Caribbean governments for technical assistance in the area of maintenance of law. This exercise takes place in conjunction with the Ministries of Safety, Justice and Defence.

"Prerequisites to honour such requests will be agreements on financing, cooperation with the other countries in the Kingdom, the continuity of input of joint facilities, such as the Kingdom Cooperating Team RST, the Royal Dutch Marechaussee and the Coast Guard, and the realisation of an integral approach of organised crime, financial-economic crime, drug trafficking and human trafficking."

Topper’s owners arrested after loaded firearms found at restaurant, home

page1a104~ Stomp: Permits were requested, were for self-defence ~

SIMPSON BAY--The owners of Topper's Restaurant were arrested on Wednesday after police found a fully-loaded .22 calibre handgun and a box with 83 bullets at one of their restaurants and a fully-loaded .38 revolver at their home.

Confirming his clients' arrest, attorney-at-law Remco Stomp told The Daily Herald last night that permits had been requested for the firearms, which were in "properly locked vaults" and were kept for "self-defence," as his clients had received death threats and had been the victims of multiple assaults.

Police spokesperson Inspector Ricardo Henson said in a press release that a police search team had visited the "popular Topper's Restaurant" in Simpson Bay yesterday based on information received that the "popular island businessman" was in possession of one or more illegal firearms.

Henson said police had found a small fully-loaded .22 calibre handgun and a box containing 83 bullets of the same calibre in the office of the restaurant in Simpson Bay. H.A.D. (66) was arrested on the spot for possession of an illegal firearm. Henson said a second search had taken place at the owners' home where a fully loaded .38 revolver was found. D.'s wife M.R.D. (48) also was arrested.

Both firearms were confiscated for further investigation. Henson said both individuals were taken to the Philipsburg police station for questioning. The wife was released after questioning, while the husband remained in custody for further investigation.

Stomp said the guns had been acquired in conjunction with a long-pending request for a firearms licence. He said his client had been eligible to receive the requested permit as he had been the victim of multiple assaults on his businesses and personnel.

He said too that his client had received various death threats. "In addition, two of his most personal friends got murdered in cold blood on this island," Stomp said, alluding to the brutal slaying D.'s business partner Michael King and his wife Thelma in their Cupecoy condominium some time back.

"The business community on the island is suffering tremendously from the random assaults and robberies on their businesses. Local law enforcement has proven not to be able to stem the ever-increasing rate of assaults and armed robberies," Stomp said. "The detention of my client, who provides employment for many families on this island, will not improve the ever-increasing sense of insecurity within the business community and with the general public in St. Maarten."

‘Marlin Cabinet’ to be shaping up

PHILIPSBURG--While the leaders of the three political parties of the "Red, White and Blue Coalition" have been tight-lipped about the proposed candidates for ministers, a slate of names has been making the rounds in the community in the past days. Topping that list is National Alliance (NA) leader William Marlin as prime minister, which has been anticipated since the parties divided the portfolios of the ministers on August 31.

Marlin, whose party won four seats in the August 29 Parliamentary Elections, joined forces with the two seats of United St. Maarten Party (US Party) of fellow Member of Parliament Frans Richardson and the Democratic Party (DP) of outgoing Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams (also two seats) hours after the elections results were announced before dawn on August 30.

The speculated Marlin Cabinet has MP-Elect/former Minister Silveria Jacobs (NA) set to take up the post of Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports again, and former President of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel (NA) as Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI.

Marlin and Jacobs are MPs-elect. If indeed they become ministers, their vacant seats will go to outgoing MP Hyacinth Richardson and former minister Romeo Pantophlet.

Samuel was next in line for one of the seats vacated by Marlin and Jacobs, but as he is tipped to become a minister the seat will go to the next highest vote-getter on his party's slate, Hyacinth Richardson.

The Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague is said to be former Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary Henrietta Doran-York. It is also possible that current Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges will continue in The Hague, but in the deputy's post.

US Party leader MP Frans Richardson is said to be taking up the post of Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT). As an MP-elect, he will have to vacate his seat in Parliament, which will make way for environmentalist Rueben Thompson to join fellow US Party MP-elect Leona Marlin-Romeo. Marlin-Romeo is tipped to become first vice-president of Parliament, a post allocated to her party.

Current Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever (DP) is to continue in his post, according to people close to the issue. He is expected to be joined in the Council of Ministers by attorney-at-law Jeroen Veen as justice minister.

DP was allocated the deputy prime minister's post in the division of portfolios, but it is not clear whether De Weever or Veen will hold the post. Usually, the justice minister substitutes for the prime minister, but the coalition partner can decide to appoint a different minister as a substitute for the prime minister. In the Wescot-Williams I and II Cabinets the VROMI minister was the deputy prime minister. In the current Wescot-Williams III Cabinet, the justice minister is the deputy prime minister.

With De Weever said to have opted to stay a minister, his Parliament seat will go to former St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) President Emil Lee. Lee will join Wescot-Williams, who is expected to become president of Parliament, in the legislature.

The post of finance minister will remain with current Minister Martin Hassink. He and Veen are the two professional ministers in the Marlin Cabinet, meaning that they were not candidates on any party's slate.

Should all the candidate ministers pass their judicial screening and those who were elected MPs give up their seats, the composition of Parliament will see changes with re-elected MP George Pantophlet and MP-elect Christophe Emmanuel being joined in the NA benches by Richardson and Romeo.

Wescot-Williams and Lee will be the DP parliamentarians. Marlin-Romeo and Thompson will be MPs for US Party.

The only party in opposition, with seven seats, is the United People's (UP) party of MP Theo Heyliger. He will be joined in Parliament by UP MPs-elect former minister Franklin Meyers, businessman Silvio Matser, incumbent minister Maurice Lake, businesswoman Tamara Leonard, and incumbent MPs Dr. Lloyd Richardson and Johan "Janchi" Leonard.

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