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Gendarmerie calls for witnesses to shooting

MARIGOT--The Gendarmerie appealed on Thursday for witnesses to the Popular Supermarket shooting in Concordia on Wednesday to come forward with any information that might be helpful to its current investigation.

A cashier at the supermarket was shot fatally and another employee was shot reportedly in the arm and leg during the daylight armed robbery.

In its appeal Thursday the Gendarmerie stressed that information about the incident could be given anonymously and in strict confidence. Witnesses can call (0590) 52.30.00 or the emergency number 17.

Agreement reached on plans of approach and assets division

page4d040WILLEMSTAD--Another hurdle in the bumpy road to country-within-the-Dutch-Kingdom status for St. Maarten and Curaçao was cleared in Curaçao's World Trade Centre on Thursday afternoon with the signing of an agreement on the Plans of Approach for areas for which the new countries will not be fully able to assume responsibility from the Central Government.

But the battle is not over. Yet another hurdle in the process looms just days away. The Dutch Senate will begin on July 6 to handle the package of Consensus Kingdom Laws that includes changes to the Kingdom Charter that will provide for the birthing of the new countries. A delegation from the Central Government, St. Maarten and Curaçao heads to The Hague on Sunday to defend the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles and the build-up of the new Countries St. Maarten and Curaçao.

Signing the agreement that also covered the percentages for the division of assets of the Netherlands Antilles (see related story ) were Dutch caretaker State Secretary Ank Bijleveld-Schouten, Antillean Prime Minister Emily de Jongh-Elhage, and Constitutional Affairs Commissioners William Marlin (St. Maarten) and Zita Jesus-Leito (Curaçao).

The Police Force, Federal Detectives, the Prison, Immigration and the Census Office will be monitored via General Measures of the Kingdom Government (Algemene Maatregelen van Rijksbestuur) for St. Maarten, and the Police Force and Bon Futuro Prison for Curaçao.

Plans of Approach to build up the island territories' ability to take over these tasks have been drafted and in some instances, such as the restructuring of the Police Force and Justice system in St. Maarten, are already being implemented. Commissioner Marlin explained that the reason St. Maarten had more plans of approach was that Curaçao would inherit the Central Government structure, but St. Maarten had to develop its own.

The plans are to span a two-year period and implementation will be overseen by the Dutch Minister of Kingdom Relations and the relevant minister of St. Maarten or Curaçao. Parties stressed in the press conference following the signing that this would be a mutual working partnership – a cooperation – and the Dutch Government would not dictate to the new countries how things must be carried out.

Plans of Approach for Legal Affairs, Physical Planning and Environment DROB, and Foreign Affairs will not fall under the General Measures of the Kingdom Government. St. Maarten has presented its own plan to build up and strengthen these areas, but it must begin implementation now for the plan to be deemed workable by September when the Vetting Roundtable Conference V-RTC is held to review Curaçao's and St. Maarten's preparedness to become countries.

Thursday's meeting, a continuation of the Kingdom Political Steering Group (PSG) session that started on June 21, lasted less than three hours, a marked change from the days when negotiations stretched into the wee hours of the morning as parties grappled to obtain what was best for their people.

Commissioner Marlin said it was yet another "historic day," as another hurdle had been cleared en route to country status, but "we are not there yet," as there were still "bigger battles to fight."

"We have cleared another hurdle, but there is one more, two more or three more to go before we are confident we will attain 10-10-10," Marlin said.

He added that St. Maarten might have had to "wander the proverbial Antillean desert for another 40 years" had a date not been set last year for the attainment of country status, or the island territory would have had to wait "an eternity" to become 100 per cent ready for country status, because it was a continuous fight against deadlines.

"St. Maarten has lagged behind in its development," Marlin said, adding that the island would need more time to build up its structure, because it would not inherit much of the Central Government's apparatus, as Curaçao would. "There is still a lot of work to be done to become country like the Dutch want to see."

As for the hurdle of the Dutch Senate, Marlin hopes good sense will prevail, because to stop or turn back the process now makes no sense. "We have already come this far. ... We have begun to take over responsibilities. Personnel have been hired."

St. Maarten has abided by all decisions and agreements made since the process started with the June 23, 2000, referendum in which the people voted for country-within-the-Kingdom status. And now, Marlin stated, it has been agreed to have Plans of Approach in place, so not much has been left undone.

Opposition Democratic Party (DP) leader Island Councilwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams, who was part of the local delegation, said the meeting had gone "as expected," based on the discussions of June 21. She said the Plans of Approach could be explained better as implementation plans that would prepare the island territory for its responsibilities as it continued to develop as a country.

A hallmark of the meeting was finding ways to incorporate Dutch Parliamentarian John Leerdam's motion that called for the possibility of extending the Plans of Approach for another two years, and yet again, if the islands needed time to adjust and build up.

Wescot-Williams and Marlin thanked the advisors who had worked tirelessly "day and night" to prepare the plans for the meeting.

Curaçao Commissioner Jesus-Leito said her island would work to ensure that the Plans of Approach were fully implemented within the two years for which they were valid. The plans can be renewed for another two years to give the islands sufficient time to build up the departments, but Curaçao is aiming for no renewal.

She said the focus last year had been on setting a date for country status. Now it is on getting ready, she said, and if the islands fall short of being ready, the Plans of Approach are there.

Prime Minister de Jongh-Elhage said it was a "big day" for the process of constitutional change that would ultimately see the Netherlands Antilles disappear and two new countries within the Dutch Kingdom emerge on 10-10-10. Everything is now in place for the V-RTC in September.

De Jongh-Elhage commended Bijleveld-Schouten for her involvement in pushing constitutional change for the island territories. "She understands the need of the people and their thinking."

She chided the Curaçao opposition for labelling the agreements for Plans of Approach and the process as "back to colonisation by the Dutch" to some extent. They also decried the signing of the agreement on Emancipation Day, July 1. "It's not about colonisation. It's about cooperation. Some people don't take the time to read the documents," because these clearly show that the new status is about working together with the Dutch Government, not being dictated to by it.

Bijleveld-Schouten echoed the sentiments of all four signatories when she said, "We are not there yet," as there is still much work to be done. She compared the process to ironing clothes, saying that as you get closer to finishing with the garment, the smoother it becomes. She is counting on that smoothness to prevent the Dutch Senate from being overly critical when it meets on July 6. "But the game is not over until the referee blows the whistle."

She noted that the agreement and Plans of Approach were solid and anyone looking closely at them would realise that they were to the benefit of the people of the island territories. "When you see what is being done for the people [through the constitutional change], no one can be against [it]."

She said a lot of work had been carried out since the process had started, and as a realist, she was well aware that there was still more to come in the lead-up to 10-10-10.

Cashier shot dead in supermarket robbery

Page1A039MARIGOT--A Chinese national working as a cashier at Popular Supermarket on Rue Antoine Lake, Concordia, was shot fatally during a daylight armed robbery on Wednesday.
A second supermarket employee also was shot, reportedly in the arm and leg, and is in the French-side hospital being treated for his injuries.
The latest death takes the number of murders on the French side since the beginning of the year up to four. According to neighbours, this was the second fatal shooting at the supermarket in 10 years.
Distraught employees on the scene named the deceased cashier as Ying (32), single and without children, but with relatives on the island, and the injured employee as Eric (37), said to be the manager.
Gendarmerie Deputy Commandant Stéphane Aurousseau confirmed the death of the female employee. He said an investigation was underway to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting which took place around 1:30pm.
Gendarmes, detectives, and a special criminal investigation unit with a forensics team responded to the incident. Territorial Police also assisted and the entire area around the supermarket was cordoned off. It was assumed the robbers had been after the money in the till, but it was not known how much had been stolen.
A fellow cashier said she had been working in the back of the store and had not seen what happened. Another employee said he also had been in the back of the store unpacking cases and had only heard gunshots.
Page8B039They said the supermarket had a surveillance camera which hopefully will help to identify the suspects.
Regular customers of the supermarket were in shock as they watched the proceedings among a crowd of onlookers.
"This is terrible, so sad. I hope the Gendarmes catch the killers today and hang them up," said one customer. "It's too much. Every day I go there to shop. They were such nice people in the supermarket, always helpful and hard-working. Take the money, take everything out of the shop, but don't kill the people."
The owner of the supermarket, who also has a supermarket on the Dutch side, drove over to Concordia as soon as he heard the news.
"We need more police, more Gendarmes," he said. "St. Martin isn't safe."
The Gendarmerie had indicated during the past week that three armed robberies had taken place at public establishments in Marigot and French Quarter, either in the evening or during the night.

University awards five scholarships

page3a039~ Total value put at US $60,000 ~

PHILIPSBURG--Five persons received full scholarships with a total value of US $60,000 to pursue studies at University of St. Martin (USM) on Wednesday.
Four of the recipients received their scholarships directly from USM, and one, Cassandra Richardson, received the President's Scholarship from USM President Josianne Fleming-Artsen. Three of the recipients are pursuing their Bachelor of Arts degrees in Education and two their Associate of Arts degrees in Business.
Receiving scholarships were Ramzan Juman and Liesel Toss, both studying education, Paul Wilson, who will be studying business, and Hadassah Arrindell, who will be studying business with a concentration on accounting. Richardson will also be studying education.
Wilson and Toss had to work and were unable to be present at the presentation ceremony on Wednesday.
Fleming-Artsen said the scholarships would cover the full tuition of the recipients. However, students who fail to maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 will lose their scholarships. USM will conduct a review at the end of each year, she said.
The recipients were selected based on several factors, including their grade point average, their contribution to St. Maarten society, their potential, their resilience, and whether there was a financial need.
Six scholarships applications were received in all.

Parliament moves on with BES fiscal laws

page7b039THE HAGUE--To accommodate Curaçao and St. Maarten, the Dutch Parliament's Second Chamber is willing to handle the fiscal laws for the BES islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba right after the summer recess.
Socialist Party (SP) and Party for Freedom PVV are no longer protesting the handling of the Tax, Customs and Excise, and BES Fiscal System Implementation Laws. Both parties indicated during Wednesday's meeting of the Second Chamber's Permanent Committee for Antillean and Aruban Affairs NAAZ that they were ready to handle the law proposals after the summer recess, which ends late August.
Members of Parliament (MPs) Eric Lucassen (PVV) – who takes the place of Hero Brinkman in the NAAZ Committee – and Ronald van Raak (SP) agreed that enough preparatory work had been done. "Many questions have been posed and many answers given. The laws have been amply discussed," said Van Raak.
MP Coskun Çörüz of the Christian Democrat Party CDA agreed that a plenary debate should be scheduled soon. Çörüz is temporarily occupying the seat of Bas Jan van Bochove, who lost his seat in Parliament after the June 9 elections. Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party PvdA, who replaces John Leerdam, said that speed was important. "We are ready for the handling," she said.
There is no great rush to handle the law proposals, as the new fiscal system for the BES islands will only go into effect per January 1, 2011, months after they have become part of the Netherlands as "public entities," per October 10, 2010.
However, handling the BES fiscal laws is important for the future Countries Curaçao and St. Maarten, said Van Raak. The latter two need clarity about the fiscal system of the neighbouring BES islands so they can proceed to build and synchronise their own fiscal system.
Curaçao is willing to eliminate its free-zone areas, but only if the Netherlands deviates from its original plan to abolish profit tax on the BES islands. Curaçao fears competition from Bonaire if the latter has a more attractive investment climate with lower taxes.
Van Raak announced that he would submit an amendment, during the handling of the BES tax laws in September, to introduce a profit tax of 15 per cent on the BES islands. SP will most probably receive support from other parties in the Second Chamber.
But as long as there is no clarity on the level of profit tax on the BES islands, Curaçao will not take a decision on its free zones, Antillean Finance Minister Ersilia "Zus" de Lannooy stated in a recent letter to Van Raak. The current profit tax rate in Curaçao is 34 per cent.
During Wednesday's meeting, NAAZ Chairman Willibrord van Beek of the liberal democratic VVD party proposed first having a legislation consultation, followed a few days later by a shorter, plenary session. The successive meetings will take place early September. A definite date still has to be set.
The VVD party has also announced that it will submit an amendment to the BES Tax Law. It doesn't agree with a flat 30-per-cent income tax rate, but wants a 38-per-cent income tax rate for the higher income brackets. This amendment too seems to have the support of the Second Chamber.

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