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Youth MPs trained by top debate expert

page3c274PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Youth Members of Parliament (YMPs) got somewhat of an advantage for the upcoming Kingdom Youth Parliament (KYP) when they received a two-hour interactive training on Tuesday, from top Dutch debate expert and KYP debate leader Roderik van Grieken.

The debate leader has only met with the Netherlands KYP team prior to meeting the St. Maarten team. He will not meet with the KYP teams from Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius.

Van Grieken was in St. Maarten for general preparation for the three days of youth debate in May. Former Queen, Princess Beatrix will be the guest of honour at the debate which forms part of the celebration of 200 years of the Dutch Kingdom.

Van Grieken told the youngsters that debate is a healthy way to spread ideas and ideas facing tough opposition are good for the proponents. The goal in political debate, the debate leader said, is not to convince the opposition but to get the support of the public.

KYP members from all teams will be mixed together over the three days of debate so at no time there will be a St. Maarten team confronting one of the six other teams. On each day of debate, the 50 YMPs will be split into three groups of about 17 YMPs to serve as proponents, opponents and judges. This setup will ensure that each YMP serves in all three roles and participates in two debates: one as proponent and another as opposition.

The practice session in Parliament House included a mock debate on the topic: "In the Kingdom, everyone should speak Dutch." The mock session was aimed at refining the skills of the debaters.

KYP Chairman Trumane Trotman, currently a student in the United States, was at home specially to be part of the training session. Trotman's St. Maarten teammates are Ember Samuel, Mhakeda Shillingford, Iris Hakkens, Dwayne Griffins, Daniella Maccow, Antoinette Joseph-Philips, Hailey Greaux, Murielle Jean-Michel and Shanna Vasilda.

The training session was also attended by St. Maarten Coach Franklyn Richards, Debate Project Leader Ron van der Veer and St. Maarten Youth Council Director Connie Francis-Gumbs.

Local Carnival legend Calypso Barbara dies

page1b273PHILIPSBURG--Local calypso legend Barbara Althea Nesbitt, better known on the island as Calypso Barbara, passed away in the morning of April 7.

Calypso Barbara was born on July 2, 1940, and had been ill for some time. She was a talented musician, singer and songwriter who had been involved in local Carnival celebrations for decades and was particularly involved in Youth Carnival programmes.

She supported local children who wished to participate in the musical side of the celebrations, teaching them music, song-writing, and even sewing their costumes, and up until last year she was herself a regular contestant in the Senior Calypso Competition.

Calypso Barbara was given homage by St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) President Michael Granger during Saturday night's Calypso Elimination and Junior Calypso and Road March Competition as an icon of the Youth Musical Carnival scene. Granger mentioned on that night that she was in poor health and could not be present to watch the performances, but that they were her legacy.

In an invited comment, Granger said: "The SCDF for weeks has been planning a tribute to Barbara. We are saddened by this news. We paid homage to her on Saturday night during a show she helped to develop in Carnival, the Junior Calypso Competition, and will do so again in the Calypso Finals on April 28. Her contribution to Carnival and calypso in St. Maarten will always be valued. We extend condolences to her family and friends and fans around the world."

Calypsonian Mighty Dow was saddened by the news. "Barbara was part of the lyrical content of my song "What's going on?" in 2005. My memories of that time were that she had the lyrics and she was hunting me down to come and listen. I did, I took them home and the next day I contacted her. I said, 'I love the lyrics, but I want to use my own melody.' At first she wasn't happy, but I said, 'Don't worry.' She said, 'Okay, no problem, I love my melody' but she was happy I accepted the lyrics."

Mighty Dow went on to use the majority of the lyrics written by Calypso Barbara and won the Senior Calypso Competition that year, with "What's going on" being one of his two songs for the finals.

"Barbara came up to me and said, 'Boy, you knew what you were doing.' I paid her some money for the lyrics, and she said, 'Mr. Dow, you are a true man, this is the first time someone paid me for a song.' She was so happy about that."

Mighty Dow said Calypso Barbara had called him earlier this year to offer him some lyrics for this year's competition, but he had to turn her down as he was not competing this year. "She wanted her lyrics to be used in the competition," he said.

"I had a pretty good relationship with Barbara. She wasn't an easy person to deal with, but she is the one who started and pushed the Junior Calypso Competition for a number of years. She was put aside, this happened many years ago. It's not right; she should have at least been kept on as a consultant or something. It happens too often that someone starts something really good and is then put aside."

Calypso Barbara dedicated her skills and much of her time to children, particularly from the St. Peters and South Reward areas, to prepare them for talent shows and competitions, especially for Carnival events. Her work over the decades will never be forgotten by Carnival enthusiasts in St. Maarten.

Council of State calls for conciliation arrangement

THE HAGUE--The Council of State has emphasised once again the need for a conciliation regulation for the countries of the Dutch Kingdom. The advisory body wrote this in its annual report for 2013, the publication of which coincidentally follows the Kingdom Conference in Aruba where no firm agreements on this matter were made.

That a conciliation arrangement is necessary appeared last year with a request for information from St. Maarten's Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges that was described by the Council of State as "unprecedented." On behalf of the government in Philipsburg the minister based in The Hague inquired about the legal basis for the instruction by the Kingdom Council of Ministers to investigate the integrity of governance on the island.

The Council of State noted that in principle it regarded a dispute between the Kingdom Government and a country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

"So far an arrangement has not been made to handle disputes between the Kingdom and the individual countries, although the Kingdom Charter compels this. Providing information cannot be an alternative for settling disputes. Based on that motivation the Advisory Department had not responded to a request regarding content for information on the instruction," the Council of State said.

The conciliation arrangement is a recurring item on the agenda of the Kingdom Conference in which delegations of the four governments participate and the Inter-parliamentary Deliberations Kingdom Relations IPKO where delegates of the four Parliaments discuss matters of common interest. Especially the three Caribbean countries advocate an independent conciliation board that can give its opinion, for example, when countries have a different interpretation of the stipulations in the charter.

In its annual report the Council of State describes the collaboration with Curaçao, St. Maarten and Aruba as "good." That cooperation consists, among other things, of an option for jurists from the Advisory Councils of the three countries to train at the Council of State, a possibility of which St. Maarten made use in 2013.

The bonds with Aruba were strengthened last year by the appointment of former Antillean and Curaçao governor Frits Goedgedrag as state councillor on the Council of State, considering he is also a member of the Advisory Council of Aruba.

The Council of State, the highest authority for governmental justice, also mentioned the collaboration with the Joint Court of Justice. "This means a productive exchange of knowledge and experience involves administrative justice within the Kingdom. There is even more reason for such now since October 10, 2010, with the Joint Court occupying the function for the Caribbean Netherlands that the Section Governmental Justice holds in the Netherlands."

Chemo treatment to be available in St. Martin

page12a173MARIGOT--Gynaecologist Dr. Louis Jeffry said Monday chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients could be available in St. Martin in a year or so, dispensing with the inconvenience of patients having to travel regularly to Guadeloupe or France.

"We are looking forward to having a team and the equipment, a complete unit, to propose to patients in St. Martin," said Jeffry. "It is currently a priority for the Agence Regional de Santé (ARS) and is something we are working on now. In fact it has already been in the plans for five years now."

Jeffry was talking following the second edition of the health fair that took place on the Marigot waterfront on Saturday for which he was a co-organiser with the Lions Club Oualichi. The awareness day sought to provide as much information as possible on the major types of cancers and the ways to prevent cancers developing.

Several associations, including those from Guadeloupe, had set up information stands under a tent. There was quite some emphasis on diet, healthy eating, and exercise as a preventative measure against cancer. Jeffry noted the event attracted more partners than the year before.

Despite the gravity of the subject many persons came out to browse the stands. One lady even gave some moving testimony about losing a child to cancer. By contrast to lighten the mood demonstrations of Tae Bo, Salsa, Zumba, and Capoeira were given during the day. The Red Cross was also on hand to give demonstrations of first aid.

Throughout the morning various doctors who were specialists in their particular fields talked about cancer and answered questions.

The Cancer League of Guadeloupe, whose mission is to support families stricken by cancer, announced they plan to open a branch in St. Martin in the next few months.

Jeffry described the day as "informative and entertaining."

"We have to think about how we can attract more public attention to cancer, to encourage the population to be more present at these events," he said. "It's challenging but I think we are on the right track. People don't like to talk about cancer so we have to present an event that is attractive and optimistic."

The fair was opened by President of Lions Club Oualichi Veronique Paul and welcoming remarks were made by Préfet Philippe Chopin, MP Daniel Gibbs, and Vice-President Ramona Connor. Also present was Lions Club Past-Governor of Antilles-Guiana Felicien Maccow.

An earlier misunderstanding over the tent which delayed the start fortunately had no bearing on the success of the event. Apparently the Lions Club was asked by Service Techniques to pay 1,000 euros for the rental and 800 euros to take it down but according to Lions Club member Angèle Dormoy the tent had been arranged since November and all permits obtained.

"This is a public event organised to benefit the community, it is not to make money," she said.

It was not clear why the misunderstanding occurred. A Collectivité spokesperson later indicated the Lions Club would not have to pay.

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."

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