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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.

23 cases of child abuse reported from Jan. to Aug

~10 alleged sexual abuse ~

PHILIPSBURG—Twenty-three cases of child abuse have been reported to the Court of Guardianship's Child Abuse Reporting Centre between January to August this year.

The figures were described as "scary" by Court of Guardianship Director Richelda Rodriguez-Emmanuel. Of the total number of cases reported, 10 were alleged sexual abuse of minors. Without divulging too many details, Rodriguez-Emmanuel said the reports ranged from sexual abuse and corporal punishment to physical abuse, neglect and mental abuse. The youngest alleged victim is five-years-old and the oldest age 14.

"It is scary the number of things that are coming out," Rodriguez-Emmanuel said, noting that it is very important that cases are reported in the interest of minors involved.

Rodriguez-Emmanuel, a social worker by profession, said the large number of cases being reported could be due to the fact that there is now more awareness in the community about the issue of abuse of minors. Efforts have been made to sensitize schools and the community about the existence of the Child Abuse Reporting Centre and the fact that the centre is the central point to file reports of abuse of minors.

Before the Child Abuse Reporting Centre, child abuse cases were reported to several places; however, all cases should now be channelled via the centre and this would be followed up with the relevant authorities. While it is not a necessity, Rodriguez-Emmanuel said persons making reports can walk with any form of evidence. In the case of physical abuse of a minor, for example, pictures can be provided as this will help with the process of investigation.

Once a report is made at the centre it is forwarded to the necessary authority. If it is a case of alleged child abuse at an institution such as a playschool, for example, the information would be passed on to the Inspectorate of Playschools for a formal investigation to be conducted.

If evidence if found of abuse after an investigation, the Child Abuse Reporting Centre would follow up with the parents/guardians of the minor(s) involved to file an official report at the police station for further action to be taken. The Child Abuse Reporting Centre also has the legal authority to advise a judge and prosecutor on an appropriate course of action.

"Since our campaign, the number of reports has been increasing; it went up because more people are reporting. It's not necessarily that there are more cases in the community," she said. "We talk about corporal punishment. Many people did not see this as child abuse, but this is child abuse in our system." She said neglect of a minor is also a form of abuse.

In the meantime, the centre is busy with a national outline on reporting for child abuse that would lead to a protocol with the various stakeholders. The national outline is a collaborative effort amongst the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs and Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs.

One line about islands in Speech from the Throne

page11a103THE HAGUE--King Willem-Alexander dedicated one line to the Dutch Caribbean in his traditional "Speech from the Throne" during Budget Day, the third Tuesday of September. It was the 200th time that the so-called Prinsjesdag (Princes' Day) was held in The Hague.

The reference to the Dutch Caribbean was related to a previous line in the Speech from the Throne regarding the importance of healthy government's finances, an equable division of income, a maintainable system of social and old age facilities, a well-functioning labour market and housing market, a future-focused educational system, and affordable and accessible healthcare to realise a structural recovery and growth of the economy.

"In this sense the eye of government is also aimed at cooperation with the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom to promote a sustainable development of society there as well," read the King from the speech that was prepared by the Rutte-Samson government.

The king, with his wife Queen Máxima next to him, read the Speech from the Throne in the presence of several hundred invited guests, which included the Members of the First and Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, Members of the Council of Ministers, Ministers Plenipotentiary Marvelyne Wiels of Curaçao, Alfonso Boekhoudt of Aruba and Mathias Voges of St. Maarten, and Governors Lucille George-Wout of Curaçao and Eugene Holiday of St. Maarten.

The king and queen, as usual, arrived at the Ridderzaal on the Binnenhof in their golden carriage. Some 25,000 people lined the streets through which the Golden Carriage passed from Palace Noordeinde to the Binnenhof and back, to wave at the royal family and to take photos. The warm weather attracted a larger than usual number of spectators and in some areas people packed together in six or seven rows behind each other.

The crowd waved at the king and queen. The king's brother, Prince Constantijn and his wife Princess Laurentien rode in a separate carriage, which was black. They too received a warm welcome from the eager and happy spectators, many of whom had been waiting for several hours. Princess Beatrix also witnessed "Prinsjesdag," from the Cabinet of the King.

After their return to Palace Noordeinde, the King, Queen, Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien stood on the balcony for the traditional, so-called balcony scene, and waved to those spectators who were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Royal Family.

The Prinsjesdag scene then turned to the Second Chamber where shortly after Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem presented the 2015 budget to Parliament in the traditional briefcase. This year, Prinsjesdag, a day filled with traditions had an additional dimension as it was held for the 200th time.

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