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Eleven guns handed in to Stop, Drop and Go

page3a131PHILIPSBURG--Eleven illegal firearms were brought in to the Attorney General's Office in just one day, yesterday, Tuesday October 21.

"The Public Prosecution Service and the police are very satisfied with the cooperation of the people of St. Maarten," announced Prosecutor's Office spokesperson Tineke Kamps in relation to the successful day of the Stop, Drop, and Go campaign.

The firearms included revolvers and other pistols of various calibres. This brings the total number to 17 so far.

Kamps advised that persons wishing to submit a firearm should put said firearm into a brown paper bag and transport it in a plastic bag, with its bullets removed.

The campaign was created to encourage those in possessions of illegal firearms to turn them in to authorities voluntarily without fear of prosecution. It began Wednesday, October 15, and will continue until October 31.It is aimed at reducing the number of illegal firearms on the streets, thereby reducing gun crime.

Following the campaign, authorities on both sides of the island will clamp down on persons in possession of illegal firearms. Stiffer punishment also will be sought for persons found with illegal guns.

Illegal firearm holders can take in their weapons voluntarily to the Attorney General's Office on the third floor of Puerto del Sol building in Simpson Bay in Dutch St. Maarten or the Gendarmerie in French Quarter or Concordia in French St. Martin between 8:30am and 4:30pm during the campaign period.

MPs denounce Dutch gov’t instruction to Governor

page1a130~ Motion to be presented Wednesday ~

PHILIPSBURG--Members of Parliament (MPs) across party lines firmly denounced the Dutch government's instruction to Governor Eugene Holiday for a more thorough screening of incoming ministers from the United People's (UP) party-led government, during an urgent plenary session of Parliament on Monday.

A motion on this issue is expected to be presented when the meeting, which was adjourned Monday evening, reconvenes on Wednesday at 10:00am.

UP leader Theo Heyliger proposed that St. Maarten invite the various fractions in the Parliaments of Curaçao and Aruba to come to St. Maarten to discuss "what is happening in the Kingdom." He proposed that part of the Parlatino budget be used for this.

"What starts in St. Maarten does not end in St. Maarten. It will not end in St. Maarten, it will continue into the other islands of the Dutch Caribbean," Heyliger said as a basis of his proposal.

He said St. Maarten had been at the forefront of establishing rules and laws. The country was one of the first in the Kingdom to establish screening laws passed by Parliament. If there were no reasons for these laws to have been broken, why is there now an instruction to the governor? he asked.

Heyliger said St. Maarten's screening process had worked in the past with proposed candidate ministers being turned down. He said UP was not opposed to screening, as it had nothing to hide.

"You can take me through the wringer. My body is full of scars and bites, so a few more it isn't going to make a big difference to me, but those scars have been inflicted by my St. Maarten people and I have no problem with them being inflicted by my St. Maarten people," Heyliger said.

He added that he would have a problem with the violation of the current laws as the Dutch Government was attempting with this latest move. He started his presentation in Parliament by saying that this was how the process had started when his grandfather, the late Dr. Claude Wathey, had been incarcerated.

He said the additional screening process would mean that the Dutch could use "melee" to deny someone the opportunity to become a minister. He said if the screening to become a minister or Prime Minister would affect his socialising with persons in the community, he did not want the position.

Heyliger said he never had aspired to become a minister or Prime Minister growing up, so not having any of these positions was "no problem" for him. However, he said his parliamentary seat had been given to him by the persons who had voted for him.

Gave life

National Alliance (NA) leader MP William Marlin said it was persons in St. Maarten who "gave life" to the discussions in The Hague regarding integrity issues in the country.

He said it was former minister Roland Duncan who had accused "Heyliger of buying votes" in a media publication in September 2010 and that the Dutch had picked up on it a few days later, seeking clarity on vote-buying in St. Maarten.

"It's not a Dutch minister who said this. It was an Antillean minister who said this about St. Maarten and the Dutch picked it up," Marlin said.

He said too that it was a St. Maarten MP who had accused a political party of bribing him with US $250,000, then $300,000 for his parliamentary support which had led to a formal complaint being made to the prosecutor in 2013.

Marlin also alluded to the "Bada Bing tapes," noting that when the tapes had been released, the club owner had indicated that it was "the leader of a political party" who had approached him to record the tape to blackmail an MP into supporting his political party.

Marlin said these were not "Dutch stories made up in De Telegraaf, they were things said here by us about us. They were allegations made by people here; they were not stories fabricated in Holland."

Marlin said there was talk that democracy in St. Maarten was under siege, but democracy could be under siege only if in a democratic society where elections were supposed to be free they were not.

Regarding the screening process, Marlin said the process had worked in the past by failing candidate ministers and he was confident that if the same process was applied today, St. Maarten could take care of its own screening.

"It is only if Dutch MPs or the Kingdom Council of Ministers has information that we don't have that we can see a justifiable reason for them to bend the governor's hand behind his back," Marlin said.

He said he had his concerns about the process. He believes the Kingdom Government has instructed Holiday prematurely, because "if the system worked in 2010, 2012 and 2013 it can work now again."

Marlin said NA looked forward to the motion and, depending on how it was phrased, it would have the party's support.

Hidden agenda

UP MP Silvio Matser said it appeared as though Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman and Ronald van Raak had "the heat" for St. Maarten and this bothered him.

He said if these Dutch MPs were so concerned they should "write out of Holland and write in to St. Maarten," contest an election and see whether the electorate would endorse them.

He said Dutch MPs had "a lot of friends" in St. Maarten who were feeding them information about St. Maarten. Matser questioned whether some persons were "traitors." He alluded to a photo he had seen with former DP MP Roy Marlin with a Dutch MP and said he would not be captured in such a photo, as he only took such photos with friends.

Matser said it appeared as though there was some hidden agenda behind the instruction to Holiday and said while it was not known now, in time it would be revealed. He said he had received many calls from concerned persons after the instruction was issued.

He urged people not to be fearful, even though the Dutch could use "scare tactics" and threaten to put persons in the Pointe Blanche prison since they "control the justice system."

Unconstitutional

Former United St. Maarten (US) Party MP Leona Marlin-Romeo, who said Sunday that she would declare herself independent, said she found the instruction unconstitutional.

She said screening could not be done in a secretive manner without the candidate knowing the details. St. Maarten's constitution, she added, must be respected. No one is obligated by law to give permission to anyone to violate their fundamental right to privacy.

Heyliger becoming Prime Minister, she added, was miniscule in this process and there must be another agenda. According to her, the new government should be given an opportunity to work on recommendations.

She also questioned why the Netherlands was using two measuring sticks. She said she supported screening and vetting, but it must be conducted by competent professionals in St. Maarten. Romeo-Marlin said she would be submitting a motion in the second round.

Melee

UP MP Johan "Janchi" Leonard said the PricewaterhouseCoopers integrity report was based purely on "melee." Several other MPs alluded to the report being based on melee.

Distracted

However, in his remarks later in the meeting National Alliance (NA) MP Christopher Emmanuel said if the report had been based on "melee," why was St. Maarten so determined to execute its recommendations?

He said when the integrity report had been completed the Dutch Government had requested a response. The response bears the signature of Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson.

Emmanuel said St. Maarten had an integrity issue. He said, "We can go on and on and say what we want about the Dutch ..., but the issue is not the Dutch the issue is us – we. We have the problem. We created the problem, not the Dutch."

He said that with respect to the use of the term "mafia," as MP Theo Heyliger said he had been as called, former Island Council member Julian Rollocks, who ran on UP's slate in the August 29 election, was the one who had called Heyliger a mafia "trying to swindle the crane from us."

"No one from the Dutch voted for anyone in here, so don't divert the attention from the real issue," Emmanuel said, noting that when someone could not obtain a business licence or building permit it was not "the Dutch doing it, it's us doing it to ourselves. And here we are in the hall of the people and it's the Dutch. If the Harbour bidding is done like a cartel it's not the Dutch."

Emmanuel said if MPs did not like what was taking place they should "get out" from under the Netherlands. However, he said, many persons had been complaining, about the Dutch, but were "still holding on to the frock of the queen."

Already here

National Alliance (NA) MP George Pantophlet said St. Maarten was faced with many problems that it had brought upon itself. Pantophlet said he always had maintained as a former Island Council member that St. Maarten should not let "others" do things that it could do for itself.

He said he agreed with sentiments that the instruction placed Holiday in an awkward position, but Holiday had to decide for himself how he would handle the matter. He said while many were saying that the Dutch were coming, the Dutch were already here.

"Look at judicial system: they are here. Look at finances: they are here," Pantophlet said. "The issue now is how do we get them out of here?"

He said the Dutch seemed to be "hell-bent" on ensuring that the incoming government would not be installed and questioned whether they had an agenda. "They always have an agenda. They are businesspeople and they have a good nose for where money is."

He said St. Marten was in a precarious financial situation with many issues facing the people and questioned what MPs were doing as representatives to help the people.

Stand for something

UP MP Tamara Leonard aid the instruction was a direct violation of St. Maarten's constitution. She said if the country did not take a stand for something, it would fall for anything. St. Maarten, she noted, has a screening process that was used to approve and deny ministerial candidates in the past and she questioned what was wrong with the process now.

Pay

UP MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson questioned whether St. Maarten would have to pay for the instruction. He said St. Maarten was a young nation, just four years old, while the Netherlands was 200 years old. He said the parameters of the screening process were not known.

Separation of powers

United St. Maarten Party MP Frans Richardson said St. Maarten had urgent issues that needed to be addressed. He is concerned about the MPs who were sitting in Parliament while holding the function of ministers. He alluded to Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Ministers Cornelius de Weever and Maurice Lake, who were MPs and ministers at the same time.

"This can't continue," Richardson said, noting that there was supposed to be a clear separation of power between the executive and legislative branches of government. He questioned what would happen if he were to call one of the ministers with dual functions to Parliament.

As it related to the instruction, Richardson said Holiday had accepted the job and he had to execute what he thought was best. He said while he would support the still-to-be-presented UP motion, he would not be happy with a motion that had "no teeth." He also called for MPs to "stop bringing down" each other in public.

Beginning of the end

UP MP Maurice Lake urged MPs to take a stand against the instruction to Holiday, as it represented what he said was "the beginning of the end" of St. Maarten if allowed. If the instruction is accepted, the Dutch Government would be able at any time to instruct the governor against signing any other national decrees.

He said the country had reached a point where its autonomy was at stake. The vetting process for candidate ministers is regulated by law and changing this process goes against St. Maarten's constitution and rule of law, he said.

St. Maarten has capable people to perform screening, he said, adding that if there was corruption in the country the relevant laws could be used to investigate and prosecute.

"We have an independent legal system that can do it, but we want to come through the back door and break your own constitution, which is totally wrong."

He said Heyliger was "just an excuse for the Dutch to come in and take over St. Maarten." Lake said Holiday should not follow the instruction and that he should instead "be there for our people."

Violation

Democratic Party MP Cornelius de Weever said the instruction was unconstitutional and a human rights violation. He said while St Maarten had been battling Hurricane Gonzalo it appeared as though Holland had chosen to create its own storm. "But just like we were able to battle and weather the storm of Gonzalo we will weather this storm together as well," De Weever said.

Also speaking at the meeting was UP MP Franklin Meyers. NA MP Silveria Jacobs was unable to attend the meeting due to medical issues.

New President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams chaired the meeting.

CFT approves Statia budget

THE HAGUE--The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT recently endorsed the draft 2015 budget of the public entity St. Eustatius, which shows a positive balance of US $0.2 million.

In a letter dated October 15, 2014, published on the CFT website late last week, CFT Chairman Age Bakker informed Island Governor Gerald Berkel that the budget complied with the set criteria of the financial laws, including the requirement that it is balanced.

The 2015 draft budget has an expenditure side of US $14,090,000 and a revenue side of US $14,290,000. The surplus of US $200,000 will be used to pay off an interest-free loan of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science OCW for school buildings on the island.

The CFT lauded Statia's decision to be cautious where it came to the calculation of future contributions from the Dutch Government such as an adaptation of the free allowance.

The cost of personnel makes up about 36 per cent of the total expenditures and subsidies about 21 per cent. Aside from the regular expenditures, this means that fewer means are available for new policy, improving the cash flow position or the financial strength.

St. Eustatius had a positive cash flow position of more than US $4.3 million at the end of September. This cash flow position will be influenced somewhat because the public entity has to repay the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK.

The cash flow position is influenced by the amount of about US $1 million that St. Eustatius received from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment I&M for the waste management project.

The CFT noted that this amount could not be freely spent and that soon it would be influencing the cash flow position. The committee urged the local government to draft a cash-flow prognosis in order to monitor the revenues and expenditures.

Maintenance of government's capital goods, including schools, is important and St. Eustatius needs to dedicate more attention to this aspect as refraining to do so can result in "capital destruction," the CFT concluded. Government was unable to include the maintenance plans in the draft 2015 budget, but this should be realised in the course of next year. The CFT urged to have this done in the first quarter of 2015.

The CFT further urged Statia's government to tackle three other issues: draft an active land policy, eliminate the Road Fund and continue working on better financial management. The lack of a land policy and a maintenance plan for capital goods were two of the improvement points for 2014 in the area of financial management.

Insufficient progress has been made in financial management, according to the CFT. Almost all improvement points for 2014 were transferred to a later moment this year. St. Eustatius was also to work on a dividend policy this year, as well as a policy paper on risk management and arranging a new Harbour Ordinance.

St. Eustatius currently doesn't have an (active) land policy. As part of this policy, the rules of ground lease (erfpacht) have to be analysed. The local government already announced last year that it planned to discontinue the Foundation Road Fund (Stichting Wegenfonds) since it no longer served the purpose as an intermediary. "The CFT already indicated at an earlier stage that the discontinuation was desirable and requests the Executive Council to provide information," Bakker stated.

Christopher Emmanuel says he was offered US $2M for his seat

page1b130~ Lloyd, de Weever deny being paid ~

PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Christopher Emmanuel said on Monday that he had been offered US $2 million for his parliamentary support as he stressed the point that St. Maarten had an integrity issue.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Emmanuel said he had been offered $80,000 in 2010. He did not specify what the offer was for, but The Daily Herald was told that the offer was for him to run on the slate of another big political party, which he turned down.

Emmanuel told Parliament that "the stakes went up a little higher" in 2014 when he obtained a seat on the National Alliance slate during the August 29 elections and he was offered $400,000 to declare himself an independent MP, which he said went up to $2 million.

"This is not hearsay," Emmanuel said in Parliament. "We have an integrity problem in St. Maarten. Let's be real and admit it. We have now moved from buying votes to buying seats. We have a problem in the country and instead of doing as Michael Jackson said in his song to look at the man in the mirror, let's look at ourselves."

He said, "We can go on and on and say what we want about the Dutch..., but the issue is not the Dutch the issue is us – we. We have the problem. We created the problem, not the Dutch." He did not mention the names of any political party when he made his statement, but The Daily Herald was told that the offers had been made by a big political party.

Emmanuel, one of the new faces in the current Parliament, is not the first to make claims of having been offered money in exchange for their parliamentary support. Former United People's (UP) fraction leader and subsequent independent MP Romain Laville made similar claims in the past of being offered money from UP for his support, after he had severed ties with the party. He said the offer had gone up when he turned it down the first time.

Emmanuel's statement drew reactions from several MPs who either distanced themselves or made clear that they never had been paid for their parliamentary seat or support.

One MP said that if Emmanuel had been offered money, he should have recorded the discussion and taken it to the Prosecutor.

UP MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson, who was elected on the NA slate in 2010, but subsequently went independent and ran on the UP slate for the August 29, 2014, election, said he had not been paid for anything. "Nobody offered me money. I received no money from anyone to make any decision," Richardson said. "They could search all they want – everything that Lloyd spends he worked for."

Democratic Party (DP) MP Cornelius de Weever also said he had not been offered any money.

UP leader Theo Heyliger alluded to Emmanuel's statements when he addressed Parliament later in the meeting. Heyliger said that while some persons spoke about who was being bought, he had realised he could not be around persons other than family members without having two possible witnesses at all times, as "these stories can live a life of their own."

Heyliger said he had asked many media outlets where they had obtained their information. He said when all was done, St. Maarten's budget would not have money to pay for one to be in government.

Second Chamber backs St. Maarten instruction

page3a129~ A very necessary move, says majority ~

THE HAGUE--The liberal democratic VVD party, the Labour Party PvdA and Socialist Party (SP) representing a majority in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament fully support the decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers last week Friday to order a more thorough screening of St. Maarten's candidate ministers.

The instruction that the Kingdom government gave to St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday to hold off on the signing of the appointment of the members of the new Council of Ministers until an additional integrity screening has been completed with the assistance of Dutch experts, was "highly necessary," said Members of the Second Chamber André Bosman (VVD) and Ronald van Raak (PvdA).

Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar said that during the handling of the draft 2015 Kingdom Relations budget on October 1, he already called for an in-depth investigation of the indications of vote-buying in St. Maarten before the appointment of a new government. "The St. Maarten people need our help to promote integrity and to combat corruption," he said at the time.

"Integrity, or rather the lack of it, is a severe problem in St. Maarten. The recent integrity report showed that ministers have not acted in good faith. It should not be tolerated that people like that are automatically appointed. It is a good thing that additional requirements are being set," Van Laar told The Daily Herald on Sunday.

"The Kingdom Council of Ministers is protecting the interest of the Dutch taxpayer against the corrupt St. Maarten politicians. It has nothing to do with colonialism. Damage is being done to the Kingdom and it is our task to protect it. We will not tolerate that the Kingdom is hijacked by St. Maarten. The politicians should not be surprised that this instruction was given," said Bosman in an interview.

Van Raak said the strict screening of the candidate ministers was needed so St. Maarten would get a proper government. "You cannot leave the people to be governed by a team that has links with the mafia. We have to prevent St. Maarten from going down the drain. I want the people to have a future and that is not possible with a government that has been bought and with corrupt politicians," he said.

Bosman, Van Raak and Van Laar were not impressed by statements of caretaker Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and the United People's (UP) party that they would not cooperate with the instruction of the Kingdom government.

"If they don't cooperate, it means that it is time for a referendum so the people can express what they want and decisions can be taken how to proceed," said Van Raak. "Higher supervision is not far away; it can be arranged in a heartbeat," said Bosman.

"If St. Maarten doesn't cooperate, their ministers cannot be appointed. It is that simple. But we can't have a prime minister who has been accused of vote-buying. We need a new government with people who comply with the requirements of integrity and of whom it is certain that there are no conflicts of interest," said Van Laar.

The three Members of Parliament (MPs) said that the Kingdom government had every reason to intervene. The charter dictates that it is the responsibility of the Kingdom government to safeguard good governance in the Kingdom.

"We are not doing this for fun. The islands should comprehend for once and for all, whether it is Aruba, Curaçao or St. Maarten, that there are rules in the Kingdom that they have to stick to. St. Maarten wants to be part of the Kingdom, St. Maarten knows the responsibilities that it carries. They signed for it," said Bosman.

"Buying votes is apparently a normal thing in St. Maarten. There is a report that states that members of government are not taking integrity very seriously. We have to prevent this from happening again. These things are intolerable. St. Maarten has to acknowledge that integrity and good governance are a top priority and take serious action," said Van Laar.

"It is the task of the Kingdom government to intervene when things go wrong as long as St. Maarten is part of the Kingdom. The Hague is saying that a decent screening is needed. What we are saying is not that strange. It counts for every democracy," said Van Raak, who called the response of the UP on Friday "predictable." "They are moving towards independence with this attitude."

Bosman said the "tone" of the UP reaction showed that "they don't really comprehend the seriousness of the issue." He pointed out that there is no majority in the Second Chamber that wants to keep the islands in the Kingdom at all cost. "This is the Kingdom new style. If you think you can do all you want, then you can expect an instruction. If you want to be independent, then that is fine too. Then you can do your own thing."

Bosman and Van Raak submitted a position paper in July 2013 in which they made a case for a commonwealth construction in the Kingdom whereby the countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten would have looser ties with the Netherlands. A debate in the Second Chamber on this position paper is scheduled to take place on December 1, 2014.

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