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MPs agree to motion on dispute committee

page4c078PHILIPSBURG--The tripartite meeting of Members of the Parliaments (MPs) of St. Maarten, Aruba and Curaçao to discuss a uniform stance on the installation of the kingdom dispute committee had a bit of a rocky start in St. Maarten Monday afternoon, but by early night the delegations had a draft motion worded the way they desired.

The motion and other related statements from the meeting are set to be signed at Parliament House this morning. More information about the content will be made public at that time. The opening of the meeting was public; afterward, the deliberations were held in camera.

Rene Herde, head of the Aruba Parliament Committee for Inter-Parliamentary Affairs and Kingdom Relations, said, "Solidarity was not enough. We need action." He said what had occurred in Aruba was "a symptom" of the growing issues in the kingdom. Those issues need to be worked out via "an independent organisation or institution" as provided for by the Statute of the Kingdom. MPs of the kingdom already have agreed to such a body, but it never has been executed.

A major hitch during the meeting was a request from the Curaçao delegation to change the wording of the meeting's agenda that dealt with the intervention of the Kingdom Government in the affairs of the Dutch Caribbean countries without proper basis.

This led to a suspension of the meeting by President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell, who chaired the opening session, before MP Roy Marlin (Democratic Party) took over in his position as chairman of the St. Maarten Parliament Committee for Inter-Parliamentary Affairs and Kingdom Relations.

The issues with the agenda were worked out and the meeting continued with another suspension of the session for about two hours to allow the delegations to review the text of the joint position they are expected to sign off on today and take back for the approval of their Parliaments. When that approval is given, the motion, which is expected to outline the way forward for the installation of a kingdom dispute committee or institution, will be sent to the Kingdom Government.

All three Presidents of Parliament expressed in the opening session that it was important for the countries to support each other, especially with two clear cases of the Kingdom Government compromising the countries' autonomy. Those cases are the instruction to the St. Maarten Governor to carry out an integrity investigation into government and an instruction to Aruba's Governor about that country's budget.

The Inter-Parliamentary Affairs and Kingdom Relations Committees of the three Dutch Caribbean countries came together for the urgent meeting in St. Maarten at the request of Aruba. The meeting originally was scheduled to start at 2:00pm, but flight delays hampered the arrival of some MPs, so the meeting started after 3:30pm.

North America, strong April result in 7.5 increase in 2014 arrivals thus far

PHILIPSBURG--Air arrivals at SXM Airport are up 7.5 per cent for the first five months of 2014 compared to the same period of 2013. The figures were provided by the St. Maarten Tourism Bureau. June's figures are not yet complete to give a half-year assessment of arrivals.

The figures lends credence to opinions of hoteliers that occupancy figures for 2014 are slightly better than 2013. Arrival figures increased every month and in every source market that the destination targets.

The 7.5 per cent increase in arrivals was buoyed by an 11 per cent increase in arrivals from the North American market, St. Maarten's primary source market for visitors. For the first five months of the year, arrivals from North America totalled 165,178 compared to 147,055 in 2013.

A very strong month of April also contributed to the 7.5 per cent increase. April 2014 saw a 12 per cent increase in arrivals compared to April 2013. Arrivals in this month increased from 48,743 in 2013 to 55,337 in 2014.

Much of this can be attributed to Carnival and substantiates claims by the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) that its new marketing efforts will in time result in more arrivals to the island. In fact, the SCDF announced last month that hotel occupancy in Philipsburg alone for Carnival was at 91 per cent in 2014, after coming in at 89 percent in 2013.

According to the figures, April did particularly well with Caribbean visitors, Carnival's primary source market. Arrivals from the Caribbean for April 2014 totalled 2,839 compared to 1,969 in 2013, an increase of 44 per cent.

As for the other regions, European arrivals were up 3 per cent compared to 2013 and South American arrivals were up 1.2 per cent. Brazil continues to be the country from which St. Maarten attracts most of its South American visitors. Arrivals were up 10.5 per cent from Brazil.

NA concerned about errors by notaries

PHILIPSBURG--The National Alliance has expressed concern about what appears to be a growing number of errors being made by notaries practising in the country.

Whether the errors were an oversight or were being done deliberately, they should not occur as they can have serious consequences National Alliance (NA) Leader Member of Parliament (MP) William Marlin said in a press release on Sunday.

Marlin alluded to two recent cases brought before the court which found that errors had been made by notaries in the respective sales of Caravanserai Resort and in the former Pelican Resort. In the latter case the Court of First Instance declared the sale of the former Pelican Resort null and void.

"In the Pelican case, the judge has ruled that the notary can be held liable for damages. What effects this decision will have on the (former Pelican) employees are unclear. Do they have to now make a claim against Pelican because the resort had originally contended that the workers had been employed by the new owner; but, now years later, a judge is saying that the sale and transfer never took place so this means that the original owners still own the property. What does this mean for these workers who have been struggling all these years, some of whom are still without jobs?" Marlin asked in the release.

Apparently the US $30.5 million purchase price of the property was never deposited with the notary, which is against the law. The law says that a transfer of funds on real estate must always proceed via a notary. The press had reported that lender Quantum Investment Trust (QIT) had attempted to write off the debt of the previous owners (Pelican Resort) in lieu of payment when it took over the property (now named Simpson Bay Resort). However, a settlement such as this is prohibited, the Judge ruled.

The court also says that now retired notary Henry Parisius had been at fault in acting in contravention of the Civil Code and was sentenced to pay damages.

The leader of the NA wants to know why the notary involved in this case made such a huge blunder. "Was it that the notary failed to follow proper procedures? Are we appointing the wrong people as notaries or are notaries ignoring the law and trying to do little quick fixes and only when there are court cases then it would come to light that mistakes are being made. The National Alliance is concerned about these matters," Marlin said in the release.

Notary faults were also cited in the Caravanserai case, which created problems even though this was a private transaction, Marlin said. The property had a mortgage on it from Scotiabank and the bank says several illegal transactions were done without its permission and approval. The court found that the Caravanserai owner had sold long-lease rights to third parties without Scotiabank's permission and, as a consequence, had seriously harmed the bank's interests.

Marlin pointed to the involvement of Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure VROMI Maurice Lake whom the court said signed a decree on June 27 and exorbitantly increased the land rent on Caravanserai owners from NAf. 0.01 to NAf. 8 per square metre. Marlin also questioned the involvement of VROMI in this matter and wondered whether the minister had been part of efforts to harm the bank.

Man killed in gunfight

page5a077PHILIPSBURG--A gunfight resulted in the death of a man in his early thirties. Junior Bertin Maurice, also known as "Juice Boy," was shot outside Roof Top Nightclub on A.Th. Illidge Road on Saturday shortly before 5:00am.

Bertin Maurice was an airbrush artist who ran an airbrush and sign shop near Grand Case, where he lived. He was father of two young daughters and a son.

He had been inside the nightclub when a woman allegedly called him outside. Gunfire erupted as he came out and a local source claims to have heard as many as 10 shots, leaving Bertin Maurice on the ground next to the laundry store by the nightclub with bullet shells scattered around his body.

Police found a white Ford Explorer with registration R1215 in Madame Estate later. The vehicle had a number of bullet holes and was believed to have been used as a getaway vehicle. Bullet marks on the outside of the vehicle showed that gunfire had been returned at the scene. The vehicle was seized by police.

A witness stated that three men and a woman had arrived in the Explorer, had parked the vehicle near Dr. Arrindell's office and then had left in a different vehicle.

The local source believed the murder was a gangland killing and said the suspects were known within the community. "There gonna be retaliation for this," the man said. "This ain't goin' unnoticed. A man died. They not gonna let that happen."

Police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson confirmed the incident. "The investigation was hampered by bad weather," he said. "It was raining a lot, so it took longer to complete a forensic investigation." As a result, the body was left in situ for longer than usual, which was distressing for the victim's many friends and relatives who were present at the crime scene.

Officers attending the killing had been on route to another unrelated firearms incident at Casa Blanca Adult Entertainment Club, where shots were said to have been fired in an incident involving twin men. This incident turned out to be less serious than expected and the officers were diverted to the shooting on A.Th. Illidge Road.

Number two candidates debate country matters

page10b077BELAIR--Coalition, government's essential duty to the people, reducing the country's debts, immigration and other topics were dealt with by the number two candidates on the slates of five parties contesting the August 29 Parliamentary Elections at the second Arts Video Studio (AVS) political debate in Belair Community Centre on Sunday evening.

Participating in the debate were Leona Marlin-Romeo (United St. Maarten (US) party), George Pantophlet (National Alliance (NA)), Cornelius de Weever (Democratic Party (DP)), Regina Janga (One St. Maarten People's Party (OSPP)) and Gracita Arrindell (United People's (UP) party). Debate moderator was Gina Bruney.

The first question to the candidates dealt with government's main duty to the people. Arrindell, who serves as President of the current Parliament, to whom the question was posed first, said safety and security and an effective education system were on top the list.

Janga, a first time candidate and a midwife, said the duty was first to the pregnant woman, then to education and safety via the police.

De Weever, who serves as Health and Labour Minister, said focus must be on good and transparent government, economic growth and providing opportunities for the people of the country.

Pantophlet, a current Member of Parliament, said that for the country to grow, residents must be protected and be provided with the tools and opportunities.

Marlin-Romeo said the duty of government to the people was straightforward and could be found in the Constitution.

To reduce the national debt, De Weever said simplification of the tax system was needed as well as ways of keeping corruption out of government.

Pantophlet said debt reduction was simple: government must pay its bills.

Marlin-Romeo said money could be generated by diversifying the economy, responsible spending and tax compliance.

Arrindell said the fat needed to be cut from government, dollarisation was needed and the asset division committee for the Netherlands Antilles needed to complete its task.

Janga said job creation was the key.

Regulating immigration is a must, but this cannot be done without inclusion of the French side, according to candidates.

Asked which party they would opt to join in a coalition if this became necessary after the elections, candidates generally said they hoped for the full mandate on August 29 and if a coalition were needed, that would be looked at after the results were in.

All candidates agreed that an increase in residents' standard of living and bettering of the education system were necessary and should be tackled by the incoming Parliament and Government. Asked whether their parties would opt to sell off unprofitable government-owned companies, candidates were generally in favour of seeking solutions to increase profitability.

Candidates tackled a number of other questions posed by the moderator before a live audience. Some questions were posed by audience members and some were sent in via e-mail from people viewing live on television or on the Internet.

The third and final debate will be on Sunday, August 24, with the leaders of the six political parties in the race for the 15 parliamentary seats.

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