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GEBE and SHTA meet to discuss utility prices

page4c295PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) met recently with representatives of utilities company GEBE to discuss the increasing price of electricity and water and to determine possible relief to businesses and residents.

The current economic environment, in combination with increasing costs of living, has many businesses and consumers struggling to make ends meet, SHTA said in a press release.

SHTA said it met with GEBE in the hopes of "finding a way to offer some relief to the people and businesses."

SHTA said during the meeting "it became clear that many of the issues that impact the cost of utilities, such as overall efficiency, subsidy of BES islands Saba and Statia, and tariff structure are political issues that will not be solved in time to offer the community substantial relief.

"According to GEBE, even the much-discussed new tariff structure will not reduce bills substantially. Instead the new tariff structure would make the bills more stable with gentler swings in pricing. While this measure would do little to reduce cost of utilities, it would allow residents and businesses to better plan and budget their utility costs."

SHTA proposed to GEBE to undertake a joint pilot project to conduct energy audits for a sampling of businesses and residents in the hopes of helping the community find ways to conserve energy, thereby reducing their bills.

Dump truck kills 12-year-old girl

page1a295SUCKER GARDEN--A twelve-year-old Genevieve de Weever School pupil died while crossing the street after exiting a school bus. A dump truck filled to its capacity with gravel ran over her, mutilating her body in the process.

The tragedy occurred at the top of Naked Boy Hill around 1:15pm on Friday. Silvia Lynch was hit when the dump truck reportedly failed to decrease speed moving downward on Naked Boy Hill. The truck caused extensive damage to her body to the point where one of her eyes had been expelled from her crushed skull and her body was twisted from the tumble that had occurred from being run over by the vehicle's tyres.

The driver reportedly stated that his brakes had failed. Witnesses on site claimed that the driver had made no attempt to slow down and that the school bus had been at a full stop when the dump truck attempted to pass it. The driver was taken to the police station for questioning after the police arrived at approximately 1:30pm.

Lynch's typical departure from the school bus involved reporting to a water distribution company located in the vicinity of the accident, where her family was mourning her loss on arrival of police, forensics and funeral home personnel. Roughly 300 people from all areas of St. Maarten went to the area of the accident.

Sylvia Lynch leaves to mourn her twin brother, older sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, and her caregiver residing in Belvedere, all of whom were present at the scene of the accident.

Rehabilitation centre officially opens Sunday

PHILIPSBURG--The Key to Freedom in-patient Christian-based rehabilitation centre will officially open its doors tomorrow Sunday, Director Elvison Adamus said on Friday.

The Centre, which operates out of a three-bedroom facility on King Cushion Cactus Drive # 17 in Sucker Garden, has been in operation since the start of this year.

Government and other officials have been invited to the opening ceremony. Founder of the centre Sharald Obispo from Curaçao is also expected to attend.

Adamus said eight clients are currently undergoing treatment at Key to Freedom which focuses on rehabilitating alcohol and drug addicts.

Adamus, an ex-preacher and electrician who was also hooked on drugs, but who kicked the habit in 2000, runs the facility with a team of volunteers.

A maximum of 10 patients can be admitted. The Foundation is not in a position to admit persons who are under psychiatric treatment and who are using certain medication because it is not equipped with a psychiatrist. The rehabilitation process for persons admitted can run for a maximum period of one year.

Those admitted will be evaluated every three months to determine their progress. Some persons can recover faster than others. Arrangements will be made with employers of persons who have jobs to see that the individual gets a chance to work on their addiction.

Key to Freedom's programme is mapped after a similar facility in Curaçao of which Adamus said he was Director for several years.

"The population of St. Maarten is growing and we can't have just one bank and one supermarket and if you look around there are more than one pharmacies and police stations. We already have Turning Point, but this is not enough for the drug addicts on the island. Even with these two it's not enough," Adamus had told this newspaper during an earlier interview.

Other members of the foundation are: President Pastor Norma Arrindell of the New Life Assembly Church in Sucker Garden and Sandy Ground and Secretary Efrich Lourens.

Key to Freedom is affiliated with the Yabi Di Libertad Korsow in Curaçao. Key to Freedom was first formed in Curaçao in October 1986. It closed in 1990 and reopened in October 2004. Adamus said since then the foundation has been "salvaging people who are on drugs and alcohol." On October 23, 2009, a similar foundation opened in Bonaire. The St. Maarten Foundation was established on December 13, 2010.

Adamus said he has also worked at Brasami rehabilitation centre in Curaçao as well as at the Victory Outreach as Director in Curaçao and Aruba.

Suicidal minor Jamaican, not stateless, will be released pending repatriation

PHILIPSBURG--The police asserted Thursday that the sixteen-year old who attempted to commit suicide by hanging in a police cell at the Philipsburg police station earlier this week is a Jamaican national and therefore is not stateless.

The minor, who was born in St. Maarten, has a Jamaican passport, has a history of drug use, "is no stranger to police because of his involvement in several criminal investigations," and has been abandoned by his family, according to police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson.

The police also announced Thursday that the youth, whose has been identified as M.R., will be released into the custody of a friend of his family "who will allow him to stay here until all arrangements have been made for him to travel to Jamaica where he will be in the custody of Children Services."

The statement issued by Inspector Henson contradicted much of the information provided to this newspaper Wednesday by the teenager's family members in the absence of official information from the police.

Henson, referring to the attempted suicide as "the recent unfortunate incident at the police headquarters in Philipsburg," said the incident had taken place on Wednesday, May 4, and that the young man was being held for Immigration purposes.

He said the police officers on duty had gone to the cell where the teenager was being held immediately after were alerted by other prisoners about what was going on, and had thwarted the suicide attempt.

"The paramedics were notified of the incident and arrived shortly after to give the victim the necessary medical attention," Henson reported.

Contending that M.R. is no stranger to police because of his involvement in several criminal investigations, Henson said M.R. had been arrested on October 30, 2010, as a suspect in an armed robbery. That arrest took place in an old shack on the dump on Pond Island where the suspect was residing alone.

Henson continued: "He was not convicted for this robbery case and was handed over to the Immigration Department due to the fact that he could not provide any sort of identification. Several attempts by local Immigration officials were made to have the family members of M.R. bring in proper identification; however, to no avail.

"The victim has been abandoned by his family because of his negative behaviour. In January 2011 through the intervention of the Court of Guardianship a caretaker was located where M.R. would be able to stay until his identification was properly established. He was then released into the hands of the caretaker.

"In February 2011 the caretaker informed Immigration officials that due to the uncontrollable and negative behaviour of M.R. he would not be able to stay [by her] any longer. The caretaker also stated that M.R. was involved in the excessive use of drugs and at one time pulled a knife on her and threatened to use it. The caretaker was forced to flee her home to avoid being injured.

"The Immigration officials were obligated to again place M.R. in custody because he seemingly became a threat to public safety."

Henson said there had been regular communication and consultation with the Jamaican High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago and with the British Consul and they also had been informed of this recent incident.

"Immigration officials have also received confirmation from the Jamaican High Commission that M.R., who has a Jamaican passport, will receive travel documents to travel to Jamaica after all necessary costs have been covered [and] these documents will be delivered to the Immigration Department in the coming days," Henson said.

Stressing, "M.R. is not stateless," Henson said the teenager was a Jamaican who had been taken from St. Maarten as an infant to live with his grandmother in Jamaica and had returned to St. Maarten in 2006.

He said M.R. had been subjected to a psychiatric evaluation conducted by Dr. Sachin Gondotra, who declared that he did not suffer from any mental defects.

Unions re-iterate call for an Emancipation Day holiday

~ To send letter to Govt ~

PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Chamber of Labour Unions WICLU has re-iterated its call for Emancipation Day, observed each year on July 1, to become a public holiday in St. Maarten.

WICLU President Theophilus Thompson said the Chamber would be sending a letter to government re-iterating its call this week.

Culture Minister Rhoda Arrindell as well as government officials in previous Executive Councils of the former Island Territory of St. Maarten had backed the idea of Emancipation Day becoming a public holiday.

Thompson: "We know already that the minister of culture and education earlier this year had said she supports Emancipation Day becoming a public holiday. It's nothing new coming from government, because before St. Maarten attained its new status, that was also talked about by previous Executive Councils at that time, but we would now like to see it become a reality this year.

"If it becomes an official holiday, then definitely July 1 would be celebrated as such and we will step into this reality."

Thompson said the Chamber of Unions had taken a decision to back Emancipation Day becoming a public holiday several years ago and sending a letter to government was just following up on that commitment.

The Chamber of Labour Unions comprises six unions: Windward Islands Federation of Labour (WIFOL), Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU), Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU), St. Maarten Communications Union, Windward Islands Health Care Union Association (WIHCUA) and the Association Staff Employees of GEBE.

Unions in St. Maarten have been lobbying for Emancipation Day to be declared a National Holiday for years, because of its historical significance.

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