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Suriname to the polls today, Monday

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Roadside campaigning

 

By Marvin Hokstam

 

PARAMARIBO--Political parties in Suriname held their final rallies on Saturday night, ahead of the general elections on Monday, May 25. As things were left on the eve of the voting, President Desi Bouterse’s National Democratic Party (NDP) appears dead straight opposite the six opposition parties that formed the V7 coalition.

At the kick-off of the campaigns earlier this year, no fewer than 25 parties had signed up to compete in the elections. While coalitions have since been formed, splits and defections have also since occurred, leaving tomorrow’s election scene four parties that enter individually and six political combinations. Bouterse’s NDP is one of the individual contenders, facing the mammoth V7 coalition led by Chandrika Santokhi. Both political giants turned their closing rallies into huge parties Saturday night; both appeared sure of victory, but both nonetheless urged the electorate to come out and give them their votes.

 Five more

Bouterse said his party existed to serve. “We do not work for the NDP, but for the people,” Bouterse said. He said his party has grown into a movement that has shown so much prowess in the past five years of leading Government that it lured over members from opposing parties.

“It is a pleasure to work shoulder to shoulder with people who came from different ideologies. The past five years were not easy, but we stand here today, ready to serve five more years. We are servants of the people,” he said. NDP’s wrap-up rally was held at OCER, the party’s headquarters.

 Santokhi

Speaking at a rally at Grun Dyari, the headquarters of V7 member party NPS, Santokhi reached out to parents, urging them to not let their children make the mistake of voting for NDP. He said he wants a better Suriname for the people of tomorrow, the youth. “We promise that we will invest in human capital. We want a strong Government. We want strong leadership,” he said.

The former police commissioner who also served as Justice Minister said V7 is coming with hurricane-force winds. “You may check with the meteorological office; they’ll tell you that there’s a storm coming that will blow all the mess away. A new wind will blow in this country. Just give us the chance,” he said.

The opposition leader said the work that was put in during five years in the opposition benches should serve as proof that V7 will govern correctly. “We are ready to take over.”

 Here and now

More than 350,000 registered voters received their voting cards over the past months. Recent polls say that Bouterse, a former army sergeant who ruled as military leader after a coup d’état in 1980 and became president in 2010 after democratic elections, is favourite, especially amongst the young voters. This is notwithstanding an 11-year drug sentence he received in absentia from a Dutch court in 1999 and despite the fact that he is widely held responsible for the December 8, 1982, murders of 15 of his opponents.

A charismatic speaker, his popularity rose in his first term of Government, due to measures like doubling the old age pension and the Government child support. His Government also built several thousand affordable homes and introduced a free healthcare insurance scheme for children of 16 and up. Young voters queried by Dutch pollster Maurice de Hond indicated that they care less about his past than about the here and now.

But several of Bouterse’s opponents including Santokhi have expressed concern that Bouterse’s governing is steering the country toward a financial crisis. Anthony Caram, for instance, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Aruba who is now an economics professor at the Anton de Kom University of Suriname, hinted that Government expenditures have increased exponentially while there is not sufficient income to offset this. “The financial risks that these policies bring are too large. We can still turn the tide. If we wait too long we will have no other chance but to take drastic measures,” he said.

 Observers

At least four international organisations have confirmed their presence in the elections in Suriname. According to electoral authorities, the list of observers includes 11 members of the Caribbean Community, 20 from the Union of South American Nations, 24 from the Organization of American States and five from the European Union.

Polling stations open at 7:00am. There are 623 stations posted throughout the country. Voters can cast their ballots until 7:00pm. The Central Voting Bureau CHS has said that it expects to be able to announce preliminary results at 10:00pm. The winner will be declared by 3:00am Tuesday.

 

Danny weakens to Category 2

PHILIPSBURG--Hurricane Danny weakened to a Category 2 hurricane as of 11:00pm Friday. The storm is expected to continue weakening during the next few days, said the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) in its 11:00pm bulletin.

As Danny moves toward the local area, no coastal watches or warnings are yet in effect. Interests in the Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands should monitor Danny's progress, said NHC, because tropical storm watches may be required for portions of the Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands today, Saturday.

The centre of Hurricane Danny, at the time of the bulletin, was located near latitude 14.8 North, longitude 49.8 West, moving West-Northwest near 10mph (17km/h). An increase in forward speed is expected during the next couple of days, with a turn toward the West forecast tonight.

Maximum sustained winds had decreased to near 110mph (175km/h) with higher gusts. Additional weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours and Danny is expected to become a tropical storm on Sunday as it approaches the Leeward Islands.

Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicated at 2:00pm Friday that Danny remained "a very small tropical cyclone." Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the centre and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km).

The estimated minimum central pressure is 977mb (28.85 inches).

The next bulletin on the first hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season was at 5:00am today and is available at

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/#DANNY .

Euro zone strikes deal with Greece

20150713_8505722720150713092209BRUSSELS Euro zone leaders made Greece surrender much of its sovereignty to outside supervision on Monday in return for agreeing to talks on an 86 billion euros bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the single currency.
  The terms imposed by international lenders led by Germany in all-night talks at an emergency summit obliged leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to abandon promises of ending austerity and could fracture his government and cause an outcry in Greece. "Clearly the Europe of austerity has won," Greece's Reform Minister George Katrougalos said.
  "Either we are going to accept these draconian measures or it is the sudden death of our economy through the continuation of the closure of the banks. So it is an agreement that is practically forced upon us," he told BBC radio.
  If the summit had failed, Greece would have been staring into an economic abyss with its shuttered banks on the brink of collapse and the prospect of having to print a parallel currency and in time, exit the European monetary union.
 "The agreement was laborious, but it has been concluded. There is no Grexit," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference after 17 hours of bargaining.
  He dismissed suggestions that Tsipras had been humiliated even though the final euro summit statement insisted repeatedly that Greece must henceforth subject much of its public policy to prior agreement by bailout monitors.
  "In this compromise, there are no winners and no losers," Juncker said. "I don't think the Greek people have been humiliated, nor that the other Europeans have lost face. It is a typical European arrangement."
  Tsipras himself, elected five months ago to end five years of suffocating austerity, said he and his team had "fought a tough battle" and had to make difficult decisions. He said he had secured an improved promise of debt restructuring and "averted the plan for financial strangulation".
  Greece won conditional agreement to receive a possible 86 billion euros ($95 billion) over three years, along with an assurance that euro zone finance ministers would start within hours discussing ways to bridge a funding gap until a bailout - subject to parliamentary approvals - is finally ready.
  That will only happen if he can meet a tight timetable for enacting unpopular reforms of value added tax, pensions, quasi-automatic budget cuts if Greece misses fiscal targets, new bankruptcy rules and an EU banking law that could be used to make big depositors take losses.
  German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could recommend "with full confidence" that the Bundestag authorize the opening of loan negotiations with Athens once the Greek parliament has approved the entire program and passed the first laws.

Schools closed Monday due to Danny’s passing

PHILIPSBURG--Schools on the Dutch side have been ordered closed by Government on Monday "as a precaution" due to the passing of Hurricane Danny close to the country Sunday night into Monday.

Both Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs and Education Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs issued statements on Friday advising the community about the school closure.

Business closure will be decided on over the weekend, if this becomes necessary. "We have to review the latest weather reports that come in over the weekend to determine further actions," said Gumbs.

Gumbs, as Chairman of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), held a mini EOC meeting about preparations for the passing of the first hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season being overseen by National Disaster Coordinator/Fire Chief Clive Richardson and other key Emergency Support Functions.

In a radio address, the text of which was forwarded to the print media, Gumbs said, "Heavy rains can be expected with the passing of this weather system which can lead to street flooding and land slippages/mudslides."

Numerous trenches and drains have been cleared to allow the free flow of storm water. The pumps on Sucker Garden Road are operational and on standby, said Gumbs, who serves as ad interim Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI.

The overflows from the Fresh and Little Bay Ponds will be prepared by the ministry for a fast run-off of excess water.

A request for military assistance by the Dutch Royal Marines stationed in Marine Base Pointe Blanche has been sent by Gumbs in his capacity as Minister of General Affairs.

Residents are advised by government to take the necessary measures required to protect homes and businesses. "Use this time now to review your annual hurricane season kit," said Gumbs.

Residents will be informed continuously over the weekend about the hurricane and its impact via radio, the Government's website and Facebook page as the situation develops.

The hurricane shelters are New Testament Baptist Church (A.C. Cannegieter Street, Philipsburg), Sister Marie-Laurence Primary School (Ellis Drive 1, Middle Region), St. Maarten Academy (Cupper Drive, Cul de Sac), Milton Peters College (L.B. Scott Road, South Reward), Rupert I. Maynard Youth Community Centre (St. Peters Road, St. Peters), Leonard Connor School (Venus Drive, Cay Bay), Allan C. Halley Community Centre (Simpson Bay Road 27, Simpson Bay), the Salvation Army Building (Union Road 59, Cole Bay), and Christian Fellowship Church (Welfare Road 95, Cole Bay).

Utilities company GEBE has established a call centre for residents to use during and after the storm. Between 7:30am and 10:30pm, residents can call 546-1193, 546-1189 or 546-2283. GEBE'S existing emergency number 1-844-432-3213 also can be used.

GEBE said its restoration teams were "in full gear" to assist the public. The company requests that residents use e-mail address

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to send feedback and photos of GEBE-related issues in their areas.

Besides enough food, water, consideration for shelter and cleaning supplies for animals, pet owners also are advised to keep medications and medical records in a waterproof container and to have recent photos of pets with their owners, along with written descriptions of pets, to help other people identify them in case of separation and to prove they belong to the rightful owner.

Caravanserai owners to get their units back

~ Alegría bites dust in injunction ~

PHILIPSBURG--The Court of First Instance ruled in favour of Timeshare Owners at Caravanserai Association (TOCA) and seventeen individual owners of timeshare units at the beach resort owned by Alegría Real Estate B.V., on Friday.

After losing a previous injunction in November 2014, the association filed a new case in July in a renewed effort by timeshare owners to get their units back. This time, the Court ruled in the timeshare owners' favour, as it held their agreements closed with the resort's former owner Kildare, its subsidiary company Endless Vacation, or any other, to be rental agreements, which are protected by law.

The Court ordered Alegría to allow timeshare owners access to their properties within five days, providing they pay the required maintenance fees. In case of non-compliance, Alegría would have to pay a daily fine of US $1,000 per TOCA-member, to a maximum of $25,000 per member.

The resort owner also was ordered to pay each of the individual owners the amount of $27,589, with interest. Alegría also will have to pay the cost of the legal proceedings.

Alegría purchased the Beacon Hill resort in a public auction organised by Scotiabank on August 13, 2014, for $14 million. Alegría claimed it was not bound by any type of timeshare agreement.

The approximately 2,200 timeshare owners claiming timeshare rights at Caravanserai were informed by letter on September 30, 2014, that their previous ownership rights had been nullified and that Alegría would offer hotel units against payment instead.

As compensation, it offered a hotel room usage agreement that would allow usage of a hotel room and facilities at the resort against an annual fee to cover part of the resort's operational cost. Alegría wants to redevelop the resort into a five-star hotel property in two years.

TOCA was established in October 2014. Representing 62 of its members, who together claim to have lost $1.5 million in advance rent payments, TOCA called on the Court to grant its members access to their apartments.

TOCA deemed the immediate annulment of clients' timeshare agreements unjust, as these constituted a breach of contract. The association is of the opinion that timeshare agreements are, in fact, rental agreements that, as such, should be legally protected.

Weighing all aspects in this case, the Judge agreed that the agreements closed between the resort's previous owner and the timeshare clients should be considered rental agreements.

The Court stated that the timeshare agreements involve specific weeks and units at the resort, against daily rates of $118, or $2,490 per week, which was not deemed "unrealistic" compared with general rates for hotel and rentals in St. Maarten's short-term vacation rental sector.

The Court of First Instance had ruled in the November 2014 injunction that TOCA had no case against Alegría, because association members had not closed timeshare agreements with Alegría or with the former resort owner, but with Endless Vacation. Efforts to come to amiable solutions all proved futile.

Caravanserai timeshare owners vented their fury in the local media and in the United States, blaming St. Maarten for not protecting them and allowing them to be victims, as many of them had lost tens of thousands of dollars. Disappointed timeshare owners stated they would not return to St. Maarten and would spend their vacations elsewhere.

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