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Police union says Dutch want St. Maarten to give up its rights

~Wants local politicians to react~

PHILIPSBURG--General Police Union NAPB says it is of the impression that Dutch authorities want St. Maarten to "give up its rights" and "its patriotism" with some of the things it wants to impose on the country.

Union President Ethelwoldus Josepha says local politicians should make their positions clear on the issues that have been developing lately and tell the people of St. Maarten how they plan to affirmatively address these issues.

Josepha said he has been privy to information recently which indicates that the marachaussee only want to perform certain tasks in St. Maarten such as human smuggling, immigration controls and all immigration tasks including at border points such as Princess Juliana International Airport SXM and the Harbour.

"Their idea is that St. Maarten should not have any immigration officers," Josepha told The Daily Herald on Wednesday. "They are of the opinion that none of these tasks should be in the hands of the local police and I have had enough. This will take St. Maarten back 60 years. We will be going backwards. I don't see the reason why they want to take over these things. This will mean that St. Maarten will give up its patriotism and the day that St. Maarten gives up its patriotism; then I don't want to be a St. Maartener anymore."

"Their position is that St. Maarten can't handle immigration. They don't want to be in the police force, they only want to handle the big cases and I want to know where they are getting this authority from. Who is backing them with this? NAPB wants to know the position of local politicians about this. If this is true, we want to know what the politicians think about it and what they will do about it."

Josepha said NAPB has about 20 members who are immigration officers, who are likely to be affected and the union wants answers.

The NAPB President was also concerned about the future screenings of civil servants according to the Dutch terms. He said this was "another game being played" by the Dutch.

"If you read the documentation of what they want, all civil servants from now on would not be able to get a job without first being screened by someone from the Netherlands. The Ministry of Justice will have nothing to do with this. The Dutch will be able to decide that they don't want someone to become a civil servant. I am a local guy and I don't want to give up certain rights. I feel that certain rights are being taken away from St. Maarten when this is done."

He said too that the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST are looking for reasons to stay and operate in St. Maarten, because they are backed by the Dutch.

He said there are about 25 to 35 local detectives working in the Detective Department in St. Maarten. "If you bring in 55 more people and put them in the Detective Department, you've just put the Detective Department in the hands of someone else. You can bring in 100 more persons, but as long as they follow our needs and not theirs, it will be ok. Our priority needs to come first, not theirs. The Ministry of Justice and local police's priorities needs to come first."

Although Justice Minister Dennis Richardson had said recently that the recent leaked document had been shelved, Josepha said he was "still hearing that things are happening in the background. And if we are talking about transparency let's do things transparent so everyone can know what's going on. If this is where they want to go, then make it clear and let everyone know. Let the St. Maarten people decide where they want to go with this. Sometime you should leave sleeping lions sleep."

The NAPB President said the recent moves by the Dutch will spark a reaction from the people of St. Maarten that not even the Dutch will expect. He did not go into details of the reaction to which he had been referring.

"The people of St. Maarten got the government they voted for. Democracy is important. I am asking the Dutch to at least respect who the people voted for. I am no politician and I don't care about the politics of it, but it will have an influence on the police and this is my concern. Give St. Maarten a chance to fix its own business. We need help, then help us, nothing more."

Josepha said he met with the president of the ABVO union earlier this week on these concerns. The two unions share the same opinion on these issues. They plan to meet with Justice Minister Dennis Richardson on these matters before deciding the next course of action.

Josepha said NAPB will also have a meeting with its membership on these concerns soon.

Dutch VVD MP steps down after corruption allegation

THE HAGUE--Dutch Member of Parliament for the VVD Mark Verheijen has temporarily stepped down, NOS reported. Verheijen was initially under investigation over wrongful financial declarations, to which he had responded that there were errors and that he would pay back the amount he wrongfully received.

Yesterday, however, an official allegation was made against him of corruption. This led to him stepping down indefinitely.

In a statement, he said, amongst other things: "I have requested Chairman of the faction Halbe Zeilstra for permission to suspend my duties as MP until the conclusion of the investigation of the integrity committee. If the verdict of the committee gives rise to this, I will of course adjust my actions in line with the consequences."

The Telegraaf reported that Limburg party centre Taurus was responsible for filing the police complaint against Verheijen. The allegation refers to the period that Verheijen was a councillor of the city council of Venlo.

Entrepreneur Wout Heijmans, owner of Taurus, is of the opinion that he was blocked by Verheijen when he attempted to build a cinema in Velden. By blocking the project, Verheijen is alleged to have benefitted Pieter van Pol, a competitor, who was in the process of building a cinema in Venlo, the police report reads.

Heijmans has been working on a project consisting of a cinema complex with eight cinema rooms in Velden. After recent, negative publicity about Verheijen, Heijmans says the context in which the events took place has become clear and he now views the proceedings in a new and different light.

According to his lawyer Richard Wagemans, Verheijen has given the wrong information to the city council of Venlo and has incapacitated the neighbouring municipality of Arcen and Velden, which was independent at the time, in regard to the decision-making process.

Dutch magazine Elsevier disclosed last year that Van Pol had made a donation towards the election campaign of Mark Verheijen. Van Pol's project of the cinema was one of the spearheads in Verheijen's political campaign.

"These proceedings cannot be interpreted in any other way than that Mr. Verheijen went very far in facilitating Pieter van Pol and companies linked to Van Pol. Verheijen has blocked Taurus' project for years on end, in favour of Van Pol's projects, in exchange for election-related gifts," the police report reads.

Van Pol is already in the process of being prosecuted for bribing former VVD councillor Jos van Rey of the city of Roermond.

Reporter of television programme Nieuwsuur (Newshour), Dominique van der Heijden, said the incident is damaging for the VVD, because VVD leader Rutte and Chairman Zijlstra supported Verheijen for a long time and did not take the allegations seriously.

"Finally, at the beginning of this week, an investigation started into the financial declarations of the MP and now, on top of that, this new allegation has been made. The VVD has allowed itself to be dragged along a bit in this situation," said Van der Heyde.

Schotte, Heyliger met with security service man in 2010

~ Ronald van Raak publishes online article ~

THE HAGUE--Secret documents, supplied to Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and published on Tuesday on the website ThePostOnline.nl, revealed a meeting on or around the 2010 elections in St. Maarten between a member of the Curaçao Security Agency VDC, candidate Curaçao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte, candidate minister George Jamaloodin and United People's Party Leader Theo Heyliger.

The meeting in St. Maarten was confirmed in a letter by then Antillean Minister of Justice Magali Jacoba on September 20, 2010, less than three weeks before the dismantling of the Country the Netherlands Antilles. The letter was addressed to the then Head of the Department of Internal and External Security of the VDC Lawrence Pietersz.

In the letter, which was based on a conversation between Jacoba and then Head of the VDC Edsel Gumbs, who was forbidden by Schotte to enter the VDC in the later part of October 2010, Pietersz was confronted with his unauthorised travel as VDC team chief to St. Maarten on September 16 and 17, 2010. Pietersz was offered a ticket to St. Maarten by a third person, presumably by Curaçao businessman George Jamaloodin who later became Finance Minister in the Schotte cabinet.

According to the letter, Pietersz was seen in the company of at least two Curaçao politicians of the MFK party of Gerrit Schotte. The letter doesn't mention names, but it is highly likely that the concerned politicians were Schotte and Jamaloodin.

Jacoba further informed Pietersz that he had met with Schotte, Jamaloodin and Heyliger at the headquarters of the UP party. The meeting was confirmed by Interim VDC Head Rudy St. Jago, who filed an official complaint against Pietersz in February 2011.

St. Jago stated in his declaration, which was published in Van Raak's article on ThePostOnline website along with various other sensitive internal documents, that Pietersz was seen in the company of Schotte and other politicians during the 2010 elections in St. Maarten.

According to St. Jago, Pietersz's behaviour infringed on the Intelligence Service Curaçao VDC regulations which state that members of the agency may not publically get involved in politics. St. Jago said Pietersz violated several other regulations and requested initiating a criminal investigation.

Minister Jacoba confirmed that Pietersz's behaviour could not be tolerated and that it had discredited the independent position of the VDC. The minister forbade Pietersz entry of the VDC office and ordered an investigation by a committee.

A few months after taking office in October 2010, Schotte ordered the reinstatement of Pietersz, reconfirmed in a decision of the Curaçao Council of Ministers. Gumbs and St. Jago refused to follow Schotte's order to allow Pietersz back at the VDC. The Supervisory Committee of the VDC deemed Schotte's order in violation of the objectives of the VDC. The committee recommended to dismiss Pietersz.

Pietersz' work mobile telephone, which was analysed as part of the investigation, showed various SMS messages to Jamaloodin. Pietersz asked Jamaloodin for NAf. 15,000 to pay off debts. Jamaloodin agreed and even offered to give him more money.

Van Raak mentioned in his article that this handling violated Pietersz's function as VDC employee and made him susceptible to be bribed. Van Raak pointed out that Jamaloodin had "close ties" with the gambling industry.

Van Raak's article, headlined "Secret documents-How the Curaçao gambling mafia bought a security service," also referred to the theft of information at the VDC late October 2011. VDC information, which Van Raak said included material of the Dutch intelligence and security agency AIVD and the American Central Intelligence Agency CIA, was copied, destroyed or removed.

According to a VDC informant, the theft was ordered by Schotte and carried out under pressure of some Colombians together with a few "Dutch persons" working for a private company at the VDC offices. "All information of the server was copied. There is now an exact copy of all data of the security service since the start-up of the department [in 1963 – Ed.] and also data of other security services in the world are now in the hands of private persons," the informant stated in a declaration.

The direct cause of the information robbery was reportedly the negative screening report of the VDC on a number of candidate ministers of the Schotte cabinet.

Van Raak said that since the "mass theft" at the VDC, he has repeatedly asked the Dutch Government for a clarification. Early February 2015 Van Raak again submitted written questions to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk after the Court in Curaçao ruled the honourable discharge of Gumbs in November 2013 unlawful.

"The reply by Minister Plasterk was shocking. The Dutch Government keeps looking away," said Van Raak, who hoped to make this case known in the Netherlands through his article and the publication of the internal documents.

"And now I want a debate with Minister Plasterk about the links between the upper world and underworld in Curaçao and St. Maarten. Our government has a responsibility in this. Because probably AIVD information ended up in the wrong hands, but also because we cannot hand over the people on this island to the mafia," Van Raak concluded his contribution.

Man acquitted of violent robbery

PHILIPSBURG--A 32-year-old man who was sentenced in August 2014 to four years for infliction of severe bodily harm during an armed robbery was fully acquitted by the Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Eddie Zinhagel appealed his conviction successfully, as the Court did not consider it proven that he had been involved in attempted manslaughter and armed robbery in a crime allegedly committed on March 5, 2014.

Acting Solicitor-General Dounia Benammar had requested the Court to confirm the verdict of the Court of First Instance. The Prosecutor's Office considered attempted manslaughter proven in the incident, during which the victim's neck was slashed with a knife.

The Prosecutor initially had requested a sentence of eight years for Zinhagel for this crime and for a case of theft with violence committed on April 1, 2014, during which an iPhone was stolen.

The current owner of a construction company denied he had been one of the two armed men who had attacked his former co-worker at Menzies Aviation outside his home.

The victim had provided the police with a very accurate description of Zinhagel, who he said had put a revolver against his head. He had tried to fight off his attackers, who had asked him for money.

The victim sustained several deep cuts to his neck and lost a lot of blood, which could have cost him his life. According to the victim, Zinhagel held him responsible for losing his job at Princess Juliana International Airport SXM after his security badge was taken away from him.

However, Zinhagel denied all allegations, including involvement in the second robbery.

The Court of Appeals stated Wednesday it did not find it legally and convincingly proven that Zinhagel had committed the alleged crimes.

The Court did not consider the victim's statements, in which he had pointed at the defendant as one of his attackers, as sufficiently reliable. There also was no additional evidence of Zinhagel's involvement to be found in the case file, nor had any proof been provided during the retrial hearing, it was added.

It also was taken into account that the suspect had denied vehemently that he had been among the victim's attackers and had contested statements that he had held it against the victim that he had lost his job.

Ash Wednesday in St. Maarten

page5c229PHILIPSBURG--The Catholic community of St. Maarten attended the St. Martin of Tours church on Front Street on Wednesday, to observe Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, is the first day of Lent which occurs 46 days before Easter during which people fast for 40 days. The six Sundays before Easter are excluded and Ash Wednesday can fall as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.

Ash Wednesday is observed by many Western Christians, including Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and Presbyterians.

Wikipedia explains how, according to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan.

Lent originated as a mirror of this event, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Every Sunday was seen as a commemoration of the Sunday of Christ's resurrection and so as a feast day on which fasting was inappropriate.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year's Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

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