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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.

 

Curacao ties, Aruba loses

cur-cubaPHILIPSBURG--Antigua and Barbuda were stunned by St Lucia in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Wednesday, while Patrick Kluivert's Curacao were held and Aruba lost at home.
  The third-highest ranked country involved in the second round of qualifying for Russia 2018, Antigua and Barbuda suffered a setback as they lost the first leg of their tie 3-1 to St Lucia in North Sound.
  The hosts at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium got off to the perfect start when Tevaughn Harriette struck in the 21st minute, but it was all downhill thereafter. St Lucia equalised five minutes later through Tremain Paul and they led just past the hour-mark when David Henry was on target.
  Substitute Troy Greenidge added a third in injury time to give St Lucia a healthy buffer ahead of the second leg at the same venue on Sunday.
  Antigua and Barbuda, ranked 104th in the FIFA standings, are among the best of the 20 teams involved in the second round, ranked lower than only El Salvador (89th) and Guatemala (93rd).
  Former Netherlands assistant Kluivert could not inspire Curacao to victory in Willemstad, as they were held 0-0 by Cuba.
  Forward Gianluca Maria was sent off late for Curacao, ruling him out of Sunday's return leg in Havana.
  Barbados are on track to progress after a 2-0 win over Aruba. Mario Harte and Emmerson Boyce scored for Barbados in Oranjestad, although they finished with 10 men after Akeene Brown was dismissed.
  Brown will miss the second leg at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex in Barbados on Sunday.
  

Danny dies en route to country, schools reopen

page7e084PHILIPSBURG--Tropical Storm Danny kept most of the country indoors Sunday night, but failed to deliver on the promise of much-needed rain to soak the drought-dry land Sunday night into Monday morning.

The storm system became a hurricane on Thursday, but then weakened into a tropical depression that is still expected to bring some rain – up to one inch, according to the Meteorological Department – into today, Tuesday. There is still the possibility of flooding.

All businesses were given the go-ahead to reopen on Monday afternoon at owners' discretion and availability of their staff by Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs, who had ordered Government services and all businesses, including restaurants and casinos, closed as of 10:00pm Sunday. He gave the "all clear" at noon on Monday after Danny was downgraded to just a trough of low pressure by the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) at 11:00am Monday.

All Government departments closed on Monday will resume operations and services to the public today.

All schools and day-care centres are open for regular operations today, Tuesday. All schools and day-cares were closed on Monday by an order issued by Education Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs on Friday.

All court cases postponed from Monday are to be held today.

The outpatient care clinic of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) is to resume normal operations today after Monday's storm-related closure. All appointments have been rescheduled by the clinic. Patients should contact SMMC for details.

In his address to the nation Gumbs thanked residents "for taking this weather event seriously. ... From what I have observed with this experience in the past days, I say: job well done." He reminded residents not to become complacent because all had been fine with the passage of Danny. "The next time things could be different," he said.

National preparations were carried out in "a timely manner rather than in a haphazard one," he said. All measures taken were "precautionary" to safeguard life and property in the event things changed.

"We made the correct call and we must thank the Almighty that so far everything turned out fine and that we wake up to a nice sunny day," Gumbs said.

Some residents and business owners were critical of Government's order to close down services on Sunday night. Others were in favour of the decision, remembering the rapid weather changes of Hurricane Gonzalo last October.

The country was placed under a tropical storm watch on Saturday morning and remained so until early Monday.

Due to what was described as the "unpredictable behaviour" of Danny, the Commander for the Dutch Caribbean deployed units of the Royal Dutch Navy, the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard and the Aruba Militia from Curaçao and Aruba to St. Maarten and Statia on Saturday. The permanent detachment stationed in St. Maarten was in a high alert status. Military personnel were prepared to deliver aid and assistance before and after Danny's passage.

Only one of the nine hurricane shelters was opened on Sunday night – Rupert I. Maynard Youth Community Centre in St. Peters. The Office of Disaster Management had announced on Thursday that shelters would open based on the severity and anticipated impact of any approaching storm.

With Danny now history, authorities and residents are keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Erika located about 950 miles East of the Eastern Caribbean.

A second system – a tropical wave and associated low pressure area located near the Cape Verde Islands – is accompanied by disorganised showers and thunderstorms. Environmental conditions are not expected to be conducive for significant development of this system while it moves Westward at 15-20 mph over the next few days.

Rain Forest seeks solution to minimize traffic issues

page6d084CUL DE SAC--Rain Forest Adventures is working with the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI to determine the best solution for the entrance to Plantation Industry and Golden Rock where a zip line and chairlift park is slated to be located.

The solution must minimize the effect of busses and mitigate existing traffic problems as much as possible, Rain Forest Chief Engineer John Dalton told The Daily Herald.

Financing of the project has been approved and due diligence is in process. Ground breaking date is dependent on completion of due diligence and receipt of the first disbursement from investors.

Rain Forest Adventure’s expert in rock excavation and tramway foundation construction was in the country last week for inspection and planning of the work at the top of Sentry Hill. Tadzio Bervoets of Nature Foundation joined the Rain Forest team for the hike to top of the highest point on the Dutch side of the island to discuss plans and construction procedures.

Dalton said the evacuation trail will be the first thing to be constructed on the hill and used for access to the top. No explosives will be used and steel mesh will be installed to protect against rock fall during excavation and construction.

With the exception of the helicopter, no heavy equipment will be used on the hill.

Rain Forest Adventures, the holder of the government long lease to the joint plantation shared its plans for the area commonly called Emilio Wilson Estate with members of the heritage, culture and environmental groups as well as other stakeholders in early June.

Dalton had said after that meeting Rainforest Adventures as a newcomer to the country needed the guidance and support of all stakeholders to tell the cultural and natural history story of St. Maarten.

The company has committed to create the "Rocklands Estate Foundation" upon the opening of the zip line and chairlift park. This foundation will be funded by US $1 from each non-resident park ticket sold. Funds will be used for an indigenous reforestation and crop planting programme, ongoing maintenance and upgrade of the Emilio Wilson Park, school participation and senior citizen visitation programmes.

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.

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