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New Pelican Resort auction case in court

PHILIPSBURG--A first hearing in a new court case on the merits of the disputed Pelican Resort auction was postponed Thursday due to one of the attorneys being unavailable for medical reasons.

The latest case started in March, 2013, when Curaçao lawyer Gerrit van Giffen, representing the former owners of the Pelican Resort, now the Simpson Bay Resort challenged the legality of the auction of the Pelican Resort, which took place on December 16, 2010.

The auction was called after the owners of the resort fell behind with their mortgage payments and the lender, Quantum Investment Trust (QIT), auctioned off the resort in a public auction on which the lender submitted the winning bid and became the owner of the resort, after which QIT transferred ownership to Simpson Bay Resort, an affiliated company.

Transfer of ownership took place on January 26, 2011 by notary Henry Parisius, who is now retired and who, at the time, signed a document which read "I, civil law notary in whose presence the auction was held hereby declare that Buyer in the auction has paid the aforementioned purchase price on this date and that Buyer has complied with all other obligations deriving from the General and Special Conditions of the Auction."

The new court case revolves around the question whether all obligations deriving from the general and special conditions of the auction were indeed complied with. Van Giffen states that the purchase price of US $30,500.-- was never transferred to the notary. This is against the law applicable at the time, which states that a transfer of funds in this case must have gone through the notary. QIT is alleged to have written off the debt of the previous owners in lieu of payment when they took over the property.

There is also no proof of the existence of a document (Verklaring van Waardeloosheid) to show that the mortgage has been voided after the transfer of the property.

Van Giffen further states that other obligations from the general and special conditions of the auction were not met, and states that QIT was not acting with honest intentions at the time of the purchase.

The amount raised at auction was exceptionally low. The claimants state that this was the result of the fact that very little publicity was used to announce the auction, and that the advertisements placed were unclear, in that they did not state the fact that it was the entire resort that was for sale, resulting in very few interested parties attending. The claimants also accuse QIT of working together with the resort manager to create a financial situation that placed the former owners in a position that they could not afford a fee that was legally enforceable, resulting in the sale of the property.

The claimants believe that as a result of the conditions having been breached, and particularly the money transfer never taking place, the result of the auction should be declared null and void and leading to a dispute about the ownership of the resort. The case is supposed to continue in either the second or the third week of May.

Meanwhile, The Daily Herald understands that QIT have proposed an out of court settlement.

PAHO reps discuss strategic cooperation with St. Maarten

~ Stress importance of investing in health ~

PHILIPSBURG--A Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) delegation has been in St. Maarten over the past few days working on establishing a strategic agenda of cooperation with the country, amongst other things.

St. Maarten is currently an Associate Member of PAHO. The delegation, which held discussions with the Council of Ministers on Thursday, stressed to government the importance of investing in health.

"A healthy population is a productive population and it is a way to contribute to the tourism industry and to the economic development and wellbeing of the population," Director of PAHO's Venezuela Office and delegation leader Dr. Celia Riera told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

The visiting delegation is from PAHO Venezuela, Suriname and Washington DC.

Riera said the strategic cooperation with St. Maarten would be based on challenges in health that are to be identified. Challenges will be defined and a strategic agenda developed to cover the next five years, she said. Work will be done based on an operational plan.

"We are in the process of defining the challenges, but many of the potential challenges are very similar to the ones other countries face, where they still have a huge magnitude of communicable diseases," Riera said, adding that diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are on the rise.

She stressed that investing in prevention would be "much better" than having to cure health complications at a later time. Another aspect of the challenges, she noted, is the strengthening of the development of the human resources. She also underscored the importance of implementing mechanisms to support the political willingness to reform the health system for the benefit of the people's health.

Health Minister Cornelius de Weever said there were many benefits from being associated with PAHO. Part of the technical cooperation is bringing experts from PAHO to work with St. Maarten as a country.

There have been benefits in the area of mental health, St. Maarten's Health Information System, international health regulations, the expanded programme on immunisation, human resource capacity building, in-country training where PAHO provides workers to St. Maarten for train-the-trainers sessions and financial benefits through the collective purchase of vaccines.

De Weever said PAHO had been instrumental introducing the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine in St. Maarten. There is also assistance at the global level in the area of policy-making. PAHO also has supported St. Maarten in its anti-chikungunya campaign.

PAHO also has developed the first module of the country's first Health Information System, which will provide for health providers to report outbreaks.

Riera said PAHO is the oldest health organisation in the world – even older than the World Health Organisation (WHO). Riera is from PAHO's regional office for the Americas and the mission of that office is to cooperate with the member states.

Island Gems donates new art room sink to Sundial

page6b270PHILIPSBURG--Imagine working in a visual arts classroom with upwards of 15 children and having to use tiny hand wash basins to clean paint palettes and brushes, fill up containers for craft projects and to keep the classroom spic and span for the next batch of students.

This is the circumstance that Visual Arts and CAV teacher Silvia Carty of Sundial School has been working under for more than a decade. She recently got a large, professional double sink installed in the classroom thanks to a donation by the island's oldest charity foundation – Island Gems Charity Foundation. This is the second donation the all women's group has made to the school, especially the visual arts programme.

Island Gems' donation of the double sink was made even better thanks to a partnership with PDG Supplies St. Maarten. The restaurant supplies company donated the drain board for the sink and non-skid mats for in front of the sink.

Carty is very excited to have the double sink and has already planned to tackle a project she has been reluctant to engage the students in due to the amount of water and clean up involved – making papier mâché.

Island Gems Vice President Alita Singh and members Jody Rosen and Eleanore Miller recently visited Sundial School to see the students at work in the classroom. Carty welcomed them and told them about her projects.

Several engravers were donated to the school by Island Gems over a year ago. Carty showed the Gems some of the etchings the students created and shared her wish to see some of the items displayed in a shop for sale. This will give students confidence and show them that they have a marketable skill.

Island Gems raised money for the double sink and other community projects via its annual gala dinners. This year's dinner, themed "A Night in the Orient," will be held at Captain Oliver's restaurant on Saturday, April 12, starting at 7:00pm. A limited number of tickets, priced at US $125 each, are still available from Island Gems members.

Judge releases suspected money launderers on lack of prison care

PHILIPSBURG--Two men who had been in pre-trial detention were released with immediate effect yesterday because their detention in Philipsburg Police Station meant that they could not partake in the daily activity programme at Pointe Blanche Prison, due to a lack of transport facilities, Prosecutor Tineke Kamps confirmed.

The judge of instruction suspended their pre-trial detention with immediate effect. A number of cells in Philipsburg Police Station are used as detention centre cells due to renovations that are currently ongoing at Pointe Blanche Prison. However, detainees kept in those cells must have access to the same facilities as other detainees held in the detention centre at Pointe Blanche Prison, such as the day programme, the judge of instruction ruled.

The two men had been arrested at SXM Airport on March 19 for money laundering. A large amount of money and a small aircraft were seized as part of the investigation.

The men, who are believed to be foreigners, have not had their passports seized as this is not a legal possibility in cases where pre-trial detention is found to be unlawful.

Kamps said the Prosecutor's Office is currently studying the verdict to see which steps can be taken to resolve the situation and how future releases under similar circumstances can be prevented.

Council for Law Enforcement urges better police training

PHILIPSBURG--The Council for Law Enforcement is calling for better training of the Sint Maarten Police Force in a new report it presented to Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson on Monday, March 31.

"In spite of tight budgeting at the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles, the St. Maarten Police Force vigorously took up the training of its personnel by offering staff a great number of short-term trainings, courses and workshops in different areas. Additionally, 12 police trainees successfully completed Basic Police Training in 2013," the Council said in a press release announcing the new report.

However, where it concerns the more structural police training, the St. Maarten Police Force is facing a challenge, the Council stated. New employees need to follow basic police training within a short period, and it is necessary for more experienced employees to be given the possibility to catch up with years of backlog in training for management and secondary police functions.

The number of extraordinary police officers ("bavpollers") working for the Police Force clearly has led to more police officers on the streets. However, the Council stresses that the bavpollers' tasks should be limited to specific police tasks. Even though the bavpollers had a very short training and the legal selection standards were not always met, these bavpollers still were accepted in the Police Force and are not limited in their tasks and authorisations.

The Council for Law Enforcement considers it undesirable that this group is given tasks and authorities for which they have not been trained sufficiently. The Council thinks clear selection, education and training requirements should be formulated for the training for "buitengewone agenten van politie."

The Council notes that only NAf. 150,000 has been reserved for training of police on the budget of Country St. Maarten for 2014. The Council wonders whether this amount is sufficient.

The Council urges the Police Force to design a long-term training plan and the Minister of Justice to support the police training plans financially. Given the limited resources, cooperation with other countries – for example, Curaçao and the BES islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba – would be the most achievable option to provide new and existing police personnel with training.

In St. Maarten, the training possibilities for the police are insufficient. There is no police school in St. Maarten that offers, for example, basic police training. The Council recommends that a decision must be taken at the soonest opportunity concerning the necessity of a Police Training School. Furthermore, a part of the legislation applicable for police training must be implemented and modernised urgently, so that the requirements with which the training must comply are clear to everyone.

With this report the Council envisages providing an overview of the state of affairs with respect to police education in St. Maarten, contributing to quality improvement of police education and, by extension of this, the professionalism of police education in St. Maarten.

Pursuant to the Kingdom Act on the Council for Law Enforcement, the Minister will be given the opportunity to send the advice of the Council to Parliament within six weeks, along with his policy response. After six weeks the report will be available for publication and downloading at .

The Council for Law Enforcement was established by Kingdom Act in 2011. It is an inter-insular independent body, responsible for the inspection of the various organisations within the Justice System. The ultimate objective is to provide recommendations to the Ministers of Justice of the three countries of the Dutch Kingdom to correct shortcomings.

The Council consists of three members who are appointed by Royal Decree and represent respectively Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands for the islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The Council has a secretariat with offices in St. Maarten, Curaçao and Bonaire.

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