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Friendly welcome for royal visitors

page1a145~ Crown Prince co-pilots plane into Juliana ~

By Alita Singh

AIRPORT/PHILIPSBURG--Crown Prince Willem Alexander co-piloted the private jet that brought him, his mother Queen Beatrix and his wife Princess Máxima to St. Maarten for a much anticipated one-day visit on Thursday.

Throughout the day, the royals were greeted by elated crowds. Their first taste of St. Maarten's enthusiasm and friendliness was just as the motorcade heading from the airport to Philipsburg entered the main drag of Simpson Bay.

Pupils of Sister Regina Primary School, their teachers, residents, workers and tourists gathered to wave Dutch and St. Maarten flags. The motorcade slowed for well wishers to get glimpses of the royal visitors. Residents and school children gathered in small and large groups intermittently throughout the route.

The white aeroplane with its orange and blue tail touched down at approximately 10:25am at Princess Juliana International Airport, named for the sovereign's late mother, and cruised up to the red carpet on which Governor Eugene Holiday, his wife Marie Louise and Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams waited to officially welcome the royal party.

The queen, wearing a blue and gold outfit and matching hat, was the first to exit and shake hands with the waiting local officials, followed by Princess Máxima in a coral and beige dress and matching hat, the crown prince, Dutch Minister for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner.

Walking to the end of the red carpet, the royals and local officials stopped as the Dutch military officers played the "Wilhelmus" the Dutch national anthem. The Philipsburg Community Brass Band then continued with the St. Maarten Song.

The queen then inspected the honour guard of the Dutch marines and Voluntary Corps St. Maarten officers. Upon her return to the red carpet, she and the princess received bouquets of flowers from Naomi Kemble of Oranje Primary School and Tyrese McBeneCourtar of St. Joseph Primary School.

Before leaving the airport tarmac, the royals were introduced to President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell, Chairman of the National Organising Committee for the Royal Visit Keith Franca and other officials.

Arriving in Philipsburg, the royals had a brief meeting with the governor in his office at Harbour View before heading to the Government Administration Building where they were again greeted by pupils of various primary schools who shouted "welcome royal visitors" and a large gathering of onlookers.

The always smiling queen, the crown prince and the princess waved to the well-wishers before going into the building with Wescot-Williams for a meeting with the Council of Ministers.

No royal visit is complete without a wave from a balcony and the Dutch royals did not disappoint when they appeared on the balcony of the administration building with local officials and the visiting Dutch minister. The pupils again raised their voice to wish the sovereign well. They cried out, "Long live the queen and the royal family."

The royals head to St. Eustatius today, Friday and to Saba on Saturday. They return to St. Maarten in the evening for a dinner hosted by Governor Holiday before returning home on Sunday.

Police arrest suspect in murder case, other man

BELVEDERE--Police arrested two men near the border at Belvedere around 4:00pm yesterday.

Reports reaching The Daily Herald last night said one of the men was believed to be a suspect in an open murder investigation.

Both men were taken to the police station in Philipsburg where they were processed and are being detained.

Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos declined to comment on the murder investigation and on why the one man was believed to be a suspect. Neither was information available about why the other man was arrested.

Police are currently working to solve a number of murders that happened this year. Of the 16 murder cases so far this year, police and Prosecutors have been able to officially close four.

Royals gets glimpse of country’s multi-talented, multi-ethnic core

page5i145~ Called a 'superb evening' by queen ~

CLEM LABEGA SQUARE--The multi-talented performers of Thursday's cultural manifestation themed, "Embracing St. Maarten's Traditions" entertained their royal guests with "the best of St. Maarten" in a "superb evening," in the words of Queen Beatrix, in an impromptu speech at the end of the event on Clem Labega Square.

The cultural evening, hosted by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, was put together especially for the one-day visit of Queen Beatrix, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima.

The queen was presented with an intricately carved vase with an engraving to commemorate the visit, by Wescot-Williams on behalf of the people. Three locally handmade dolls in traditional Creole dresses were given to the royal couple for their children.

At the end of the festivities, that featured performers from various ethnic backgrounds, the queen made her way to the stage and spoke to the gathering of residents who were clustered on the sides of the square, and invited guests under the large white tent.

She said that during the visit they had seen "totally different aspects" of the country and were "very grateful" for the experience.

The evening featured three segments that combined dance, music and poetry

The first segment, New Voices, saw new life breathed into folk songs of old with dancers for Motiance Dance School, Imbali Centre for Creative Movement and Dance Theatre of St. Maarten, also adding their voices to the mix. Rounding off the segment was a poem "My St. Maarten" by Andrew Peterson.

"Sankfa: Taking from the past to help the future" followed and included the Sweet Salt Chant and the Three-Step Polka to the music of Tanny and the Boys, and a steel pan medley by three generations of Yorks: Patriarch Chester York, son Isidore "Mighty Dow" York and grandson Jabari York.

"Tis vi own ting" brought the evening to a close with energetic performances of the country's national dance: the Ponum and Mr. Jambole, a poem "This is for St. Maarten" by Lucinda La Riche Audain and the St. Maarten Rhumba performed by Isidore York.

The lively rhumba even got the princess singing and the square in a festive mood. When York invited everyone to stand up and "jump" the prince and princess as well as the queen joined in to enjoy the music.

Wescot-Williams said at the start of the event that St. Maarten welcomed the royal guests into its midst to enjoy its culture. She added that throughout the day the meetings and visits would have given them an insight what the country has faced and faces.

The prime minister said the queen and royal family had been with the people of St. Maarten in "our proudest moments" and also when the country had been "reeling from disaster."

"The past year has been a hectic one, but step by step government is taking action to sustainable development of the country," said Wescot-Williams, listing the planned upgrade of the medical centre, the progress in compulsory education, the commissioned alternative energy study to help lower the high cost of electricity, and efforts to reduce the number of undocumented people.

As the just-over-a-year-old country within the Dutch Kingdom, St. Maarten is "getting its feet wet and getting acquainted with our new roles," said the prime minister.

The visit of the queen is "testimony" to the sovereign's interest in the well-being of all citizens of the kingdom, noted the prime minister. She said she hoped the House of Orange would continue to be strong as the future of the kingdom is examined again in the near future.

Gracita: Rules should not ‘choke’ normal management of country

PHILIPSBURG--Functioning of government should be functional, said President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell on Tuesday as she reiterated comments, made during Aruba's 25th anniversary of country status, about a need for some re-engineering of institutions and structures that carry out checks and balances.

"You shouldn't have too many rules and regulations that would choke or hamper the normal day to day management of government whether on the council of ministers side or parliament side," she stated during a press conference.

"Yes, we have these institutions, doesn't mean that they are a 'heilige koe' (holy cow)," Arrindell said. If things need to be reviewed, whether by this parliament or another, "to make the effective and efficient working of government in the interest of the people and not just for the sake of complying with a regulation, then it shouldn't be taboo not to scrutinize and re-discuss these issues."

There are some 13 entities, including the state councils, the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT and the media, that review the work of government and parliament. Some of these deliver monthly and quarterly reports which government and parliament must heed as well as be in conformity with the laws that already regulate their functioning. "Our actions are scrutinized by all of these entities," she pointed out.

"We are complying as much as we can, seeing that we have just started as a new country," Arrindell said, adding that for a small country like St. Maarten, keeping up with, and living up to expectations of all entities is "very difficult, but not impossible."

She said her comments had come with the backdrop of Aruba's celebrations of its country-hood and the fact that is has managed to survive well these past 25 years without some of the institutions "put into our laws" for checks and balances.

"We are doing very well as a new country against the light of the responsibilities of the institutions," she said.

As for the re-engineering of the checks and balances, Arrindell said there is no plan formulated as yet for this. "That does not mean we should not start looking and thinking about it. It's food for thought and perhaps the institutions themselves would say 'we never looked at it from that side.'"

The president recalled that in the early 1970s the Netherlands had "a huge impetus" to deregulate many laws that were "stifling" the functioning of government and other institutions.

Students accuse S4 of burdening them with fines due to ‘shoddy administration’

~ Say insurance issues still persist ~

THE NETHERLANDS--Students in the Netherlands are collectively decrying the functioning of Student Support Services St. Maarten (S4) and accuse the foundation of burdening students with heavy fines that were incurred when S4 botched its responsibilities concerning their insurance coverage in Holland.

The students say S4, as a result of no checks by government and shoddy administration, is a foundation that is running amok and should be held responsible for causing students unnecessary worry while exams approach, due to its "lack of attention to details."

In response, S4 Director Marva Richardson said much effort has been undertaken by S4 to inform the students and their parents regarding insurance matters. In addition to the various information campaigns carried out on St. Maarten, all students studying in the Netherlands were duly informed through various channels (see related story).

In providing a detailed account of their trouble with insurance in Holland, the students explained that in early 2011 some students had been informed that their insurance policies were being switched over and that a new broker was being introduced, without further consultation with them.

Prior to this announcement, students had been insured with VPZ Assuradeuren, via their intermediary Boogard Assurantien B.V. VPZ was taken over by a larger insurance provider, Aevitae. "When changes such as this are made, their sheer impact on individual and company-wide insurance policies is significant, thus requiring early notification of the alteration. Those of us with a Human Resource background can attest to that," the students said.

"So it is safe to say that S4 received notification of the corporate takeover at or around the time that it was made public knowledge. In fact, after conducting some simple research of our own, it is clear to see that the PUBLIC announcement of the Aevitae take-over of VPZ was made on May 27, 2010. Officially, the take-over occurred in January 2010; the closing of the deal was finalized that May. There was no time for concerns to be aired, as the letter from S4 seemed to be merely a formality and "your insurance has been cancelled" letters soon began arriving in mailboxes across the country," they added.

The students added that at varying times after the announcement was received (and subsequently spread to those who for some reason had never received the official S4 communication), some of them received three items "in sporadic succession:" a letter stating that their insurance policy had been cancelled by S4, a letter from their new broker, Noord-Nederlandse Assurantiemakelaars B.V. (NNAM) stating that their "inboedel" (furniture, etc) was now insured via them, and finally, a new poliskaart (policy card) from VPZ with their 'new' student insurance policy. "No further information from S4 was provided, and thus it was believed that the issue had been handled accordingly," the students said.

Knowing that Dutch insurance laws do not account for the fact that there are Dutch citizens residing in countries overseas, the students stressed the need to check on the employment status of St. Maarten students before switching their insurance policy for one very important reason: "Because of this loophole in the insurance law, we can receive the otherwise non-existent 'studentenverzekering' (student insurance, which is not actively sold to the Dutch students because they were born and bred in the Netherlands), as long as we do not work.

"To this day, we have not received a policy description of exactly what is covered by this 'student insurance.' All we have been told is that it requires us not to have employment. The instant we obtain employment, our policy agreement is null and void and we have to request an actual basisverzekering (basic insurance). CVZ (College Voor Zorgverzekering) then takes notice that there is a 'foreign national' working under an insurance policy that is developed for just that: foreign nationals, who come to study and then leave. Not live, work, and grow here in this country," they said.

They said what followed next could simply be described as "panic and pandemonium." Several students living in Den Haag/The Hague received notices and warnings from CVZ that they were uninsured. The letters also stated that if they did not rectify this matter within three months, they would be faced with a fine of up to 350 euros.

"Slightly panicked, we called S4 and were told that the situation was under control, and to forward our CVZ letters to them. But students talk. We have known each other from MPC/Academy/St. Dominic days, and there is always Facebook. Soon it was all anyone could talk about: the insurance switch had been botched, and many of us were now walking liabilities. The usual S4 first-aid kit came out to placate the masses, and one or two students mentioned receiving a promise of reimbursement once they had paid the fine. Others were informed that S4 would "regel" (handle) everything, and the situation would be rectified. Again, silence swept over the masses and, since the letters stopped, we stopped as well," they said.

They continued: "However, we now come to November 2011, when, not surprisingly, the letters have started again. This time, however, CVZ is further empowered by the threat of the Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau, under the command of the Ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie. Those of us who recalled the promises made by S4 that the situation had been dealt with placed angry calls to the foundation, only to be referred to Noord-Nederlandse Assurantiemakelaars B.V. (NNAM).

"NNAM, in no uncertain terms, informed us that we had to pay the fine, and then referred us to S4 for further clarification. Naturally, the foundation agreed that we had to pay the fine (for those that received a response; some are still waiting), because we 'shouldn't have been working' anyway.

"The thing that S4 neglects to remember is that as recently as this year, throughout the VOBAS course and upon our arrival, they were encouraging us to find jobs to supplement our income. How ironic then that as soon as the fines began rolling in, they would change their tune and blame us for having the very jobs they encouraged us to get. The difficulty here is that in the Netherlands, you cannot alter any insurance plan until January of the following year. Many of us have started paying the fines, if only to stay on the right side of the Dutch bureaucratic machine."

They also asked why, just three days after they had met with Vice Minister Plenipotentiary Richard Panneflek about the current insurance issues, a news bulletin about their insurance was sent out by S4.

"Even more miraculous is that students who never received the initial warning about the insurance issues found that their e-mail addresses had magically reappeared in S4's database, just for this news bulletin. By their own admission in this news bulletin and via telephone conversations, the new addition of "Geen ZVW" on our insurance cards "betekent dus niet dat je niet verzekerd bent, maar, kort gezegd, dat je geen basisverzekering hebt." For those who do not speak Dutch, that means that we are insured...but we don't have a basic insurance package, which means we are not insured according to AWBZ regulations. Funny, in a country where every Dutch citizen is required to hold a basisverzekering, we have no basisverzekering."

"How is it possible that those with the power and influence to negotiate on our behalf, so that we are indeed recognized as Dutch citizens coming to this country to study, live and work, did not do so?"

The students had a few suggestions for S4 and government to avoid the situation in the future. Firstly, they said, S4 should conduct a simple data collection exercise and this time ensure that it truly captures the data requested. "We should not have to send you our information three times before you finally log it.

"Secondly, mobilize with the SSC (Curaçao) and the Aruba House to "do what you were put there to do": approach CVZ, AWBZ and SVB collectively, and inform them that the students are Dutch citizens. Fight against the fines that you helped invite with shoddy administration and disregard for the fact that we are not viewed as Dutch citizens by the deciding bodies of the Netherlands' insurance structure. Once you've done this, appeal to the government that you're meant to report to and advise them to work together with the Netherlands to add exceptions to their insurance law and thus recognize us as the Dutch citizens we are.

"It may sound as if we are giving you orders; if that is the way it must be taken for there to be some action, then so be it, as this insurance mess has dragged on since February. We have realized that, if left to the foundation, chaos would reign, and when we bring our concerns, we are told that we're spoiled. We do not think that the desire to be able to sleep peacefully at night with the knowledge that we are properly insured means that we are spoiled. We are not spoiled for wanting the 'new era of student support' promised to us at the time of S4's inception by then-Commissioner of Education and now Prime Minister, Mrs. Sarah Wescot-Williams. This 'new era' has strongly resembled the Dark Ages, and we are quite tired of it.

"We were raised to question everything around us, and yet when we voiced our concerns in the past, we were berated, both privately and publicly, by those who claim they have our best interest at heart (yes, we're referring to that radio interview some years ago with the former director of S4, in which she publicly berated a student who had made what she claimed were "false complaints"). And we believe the time has come for us to unite for the change we want to see in not just S4, but on our island's mentality towards us on a whole. All we want is to be insured according to the law, as our citizenship accords us."

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