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Handling of treaty amendments put off yet again by Parliament

~ Despite MPs having documents since November 2013 ~

PHILIPSBURG--The Central Committee of Parliament was unable to deal with several treaty amendments and adjustments to kingdom regulations, because several Members of Parliament said they wanted to err on the side of caution by first getting an expert on the issues to better explain the topics to them. President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell adjourned the multi-pointed debate on Tuesday, when dealing with the second agenda point on establishing the fishing zones of the Kingdom in the Caribbean.

In response to calls by MPs for more information and explanation, Arrindell pointed out several times that MPs have been in possession of the package of documents on the amendments to the treaties and regulations since November 2013. The topics were all discussed in Parliament's Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations and Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, a committee opened to all MPs, she noted.

Arrindell also told MPs that they have to be conscious that changes to treaties and other related regulations sent to Parliament by the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, has a deadline for completion is attached to them, and if Parliament did not make its input by the deadline, the changes will be made by the Kingdom with St. Maarten appearing to have no objections.

She will review the deadlines for all the pending agenda points and work out with Kingdom Relations Committee Chairman MP Roy Marlin (Democratic Party) and Parliament General Secretary Jozef Semeleer on how to get the experts needed to Parliament, so the deadlines can be met by Parliament.

The meeting will resume, once the necessary experts are lined up to give MPs an overview of the information they were given in the documents and to answer any questions they may have. One of the experts is expected to be former Lt. Governor Attorney Ralph Richardson, who has assisted Parliament in the past.

The expert(s) will discuss in depth the adjustment of the Kingdom's fishing zones in the Caribbean, the withdrawal of a section of the convention dealing with economic, social and cultural rights and similar changes to the related European Union charter, and changes to the Kingdom Law on Dutch Citizenship. The latter had to do with the increase of the number of years, from five to seven, for people who want to become naturalized Dutch citizens.

Prior to the adjournment, MPs approved changes to the international treaty signed in Beijing, China, on aviation, particularly to combat criminality in the field of aviation and the illegal use of aeroplanes.

When MPs got to the handling of the redrawing of the fishing zones among St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius, to reflect the constitutional changes since 10-10-10, independent (former National Alliance) MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson said he wanted to know how the Coast Guard will handle the fishing zones adjustment and what were the distinctions from the present circumstance to what the changes will bring into force. He specifically asked for the nautical coordinates that reflect the pending changes, because he felt this was important for the Harbour Group of Companies to know.

MP Leroy de Weever (DP) said he wanted to know how the changes will impact St. Maarten fishermen and leisure boaters. He pointed out that the reassigning of the fishing zones will mean the rules of the Netherlands will apply for Saba and St. Eustatius. Fishermen and boaters will have to deal with regulations applicable in the North Sea.

MP Louie Laveist (NA) said MPs had to be "careful that nothing comes back to haunt us" as the approval of the National Ordinance on the registration and financing of political parties, which MPs, in a meeting with the Electoral Council on Monday, admitted was approved hastily in 2010. "I don't want us to have a deadline that will come back to haunt us."

Tuesday's Central Committee meeting had started on March 19, and was adjourned after MPs agreed to establish an ad hoc committee to plan for a new parliament building, as well as the establishment of the President of Parliament Excellence Award. It was decided on Tuesday that those two agenda points will be sent on to a plenary session of Parliament for finalization, instead of having them further delayed by the other incomplete agenda points.

The reason for that adjournment was the absence of Democratic Party (DP) MP Roy Marlin, who heads the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations and Inter-Parliamentary Affairs. MPs present had argued that Marlin should have been present for the March 19th meeting to give an overview of the treaty amendments and the changes to the kingdom regulations.

Marlin was absent with notice from Tuesday's meeting due to illness.

Marlin: Theo out to fool the people again

PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) leader William Marlin says statements made by United People's (UP) party leader Theo Heyliger about keeping the coalition together, while Heyliger himself has attempted blatantly to break the coalition multiple times in recent weeks, is not just laughable, but a vain attempt to fool the people yet again.

Marlin said it was no secret that Heyliger had been trying for several months now to break the coalition to force early elections.

It was Heyliger who first said he was prepared to break the coalition if members of the Central Bank board were removed, Marlin said in a press release on Tuesday evening. When this did not work, he then said he wanted early elections because of the hurricane season.

When this too failed, it was the same Heyliger who, for a third time, said he was prepared to break the coalition – this time after the UP congress, saying that the congress had given him a resounding mandate to break the government and go for early elections, Marlin said. "He even started using a 'We ready' campaign as a clear indication that he is ready to break the government."

Marlin said Heyliger's "childish rants show the immaturity that some will resort to for their own personal interests and gains – interests that do not involve the wellbeing and welfare of the people of this country. It is actions like these, where personal interests are put above that of the country, that St. Maarten can do without at this stage in its development."

Marlin also alluded to statements made in a letter published in a local newspaper suggesting there is a plan to remove VROMI Minister Maurice Lake to bring "Marlin" in as Minister. But this is absolutely not so, Marlin said, adding that he had no desire to become minister ahead of the upcoming election, where the people of St. Maarten would speak loud and clear at the polls.

He said NA had requested a meeting to deal with the purchase of Emilio Wilson Estate and would table a motion against Minister Maurice Lake, who he said had been lying to Parliament repeatedly.

Marlin said it appeared that the UP leader had gotten wind that his coalition partner the Democratic Party (DP) intends to support the motion and suddenly he is now committed to stability in government and loyalty to the coalition, after his repeated public attempts to break the coalition for his personal interests.

Marlin said Heyliger's latest statements about keeping the coalition together had been made only to appease his coalition partners in the face of a motion of no confidence against Lake "who continues to concoct stories to feed the country's highest legislative body and by extension the people of this country."

Marlin said NA would table its motion against Lake whenever the Parliament meeting was re-convened. "It is unacceptable that a minister makes a habit to lie to Parliament and nothing is done about it. The people of this country deserve better," Marlin said.

Hundreds say last goodbyes at Calypso Barbara’s funeral

page1b280PHILIPSBURG--Hundreds of people gathered in Celebration Palace yesterday to pay their respects at the funeral of cultural icon Barbara Althea Nesbitt, aka Calypso Barbara.

Many local celebrities were present, including musicians and politicians, such as Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Minister Maurice Lake, who reminisced about the influence Barbara had on young children in the area of St. Peters, including himself when he was a young boy.

Philosopher of Humour Fernando Clark was master of ceremonies at the funeral which started with a viewing and a number of tributes. Eleanor Letang made the hairs on many people's arms stand up with a beautiful rendition. Monique Lake and Valerie Carter also gave musical tributes during the event, which can best be described as a celebration of Calypso Barbara's life.

Many people passed by Barbara's coffin during the musical tributes to say their last goodbyes to their mother, grandmother, godmother, auntie, fellow Calypsonian and friend.

The service itself started with opening remarks and a prayer by Pastor Philbert, followed by a congregational song, and tributes by the Philipsburg Community Brass Band, which added to the serene atmosphere of gratitude for Calypso Barbara's life.

A Eulogy was said by Clara James, followed by a memorable tribute of Barbara's fellow Calypsonians who sang for her together. As Fernando Clark said, Calypso Barbara achieved something in death that many people could not achieve during their lives: to get the great Calypsonians to sing together, joined by Fernando Clark.

It was not just the Calypsonians who came together. It was also the visitors at the funeral who experienced a moment of togetherness in remembering Calypso Barbara by experiencing a moment of beauty in music.

The crowd was invited to sing along, leading to people standing up, clapping and singing, many with a smile on their faces and tears in their eyes. Calypso Barbara would have been proud, just as her family and friends were of her.

The Mighty Dow, who had also joined in the Calypsonians' tribute, followed with a tribute of his own, after which there was more congregational singing. A message was given by Pastor Philbert, followed by a last tribute by Barbara's fellow Calypsonians and a recessional song.

The time finally came for Calypso Barbara to be accompanied to her last resting place at Cul de Sac cemetery. It was the conclusion of a fitting and inspiring goodbye to a cultural icon of St. Maarten.

Heyliger: UP remains committed to current coalition until election

PHILIPSBURG--The United People's (UP) party remains committed to the current governing coalition and will remain focused on taking care of the people of St. Maarten, said UP leader, Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger in a press statement on Monday.

"The people have, unfortunately, come to expect some sort of coup at Carnival time. UP is about continued stability in governance for St. Maarten. We have been working together to better our country and her people. Our goal has been and will always remain stability for the country first and foremost, because without a stable and continuous government progress is stagnant," Heyliger said.

"Some, especially those in opposition, may wonder or even question why I have chosen to make a statement about UP remaining committed to the coalition. They may even question if this is a way to keep UP's coalition partners close. Let me make it abundantly clear; UP is and will continue to be a party of the people. It takes more than just saying you are a party of the people; you have to also prove it.

"As such I am assuring the people of St. Maarten that heading into this Carnival season that they can rest easy. UP has zero reason to break away from the coalition or be part of any Carnival coup to scrabble to form a new, short-term government for the country with any other partner(s) with just months to go before elections," Heyliger said.

UP is ready for the election and for the campaign to intensify. "UP's elected representatives and ministers are working and will continue to work on the business of governing the country. Elections are contested for the right to govern, therefore, that right must be taken seriously when given. So we will, together with our coalition partner, keep St. Maarten moving up and progress on the road to elections and thereafter," Heyliger said.

Election fraud case to be heard on August 4

PHILIPSBURG--The hearing of suspects in the so-called "Masbangu" case involving election fraud will take place on August 4, Judge Coen Luijks decided Monday.

This case concerns possible irregularities during the first general election in Country St. Maarten, which was held September 17, 2010.

Former officials of the then Police Force of St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba R.C.H.J. (62), C.C. (45) and A.R.W.M. (43) are suspected of voting for United People's (UP) party in exchange for money. Their colleague G.P.W. (49) is suspected of attempting to receive money for her vote, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

UP party representative R.H. (60) is accused of giving money to the police officials in exchange for their votes.

During a preliminary hearing, held February 17, the judge had ordered the Prosecutor's Office to reopen the investigations where the involvement of UP party leadership was concerned, for instance by hearing more witnesses.

According to the judge, the case file contained contradictory statements where UP's involvement in the alleged fraud was concerned.

The Prosecutor's Office had stated it could not be established that the UP party had bribed or attempted to bribe persons; however, suspect R.H., who was not present at Monday's hearing, had said he had acted on the orders of UP party leader Theo Heyliger.

The judge said the Prosecutor's Office had stated it could not be established that UP had committed punishable acts, whereas it had filed charges against party representative R.H. This constituted a serious contradiction, according to the judge.

The additional investigations led attorney-at-law Cor Merx to file a recusal request against the judge, which was declined by the Joint Court of Justice in a separate procedure.

During Monday's proceedings, it was established that neither the Prosecutor's Office nor the suspects and their attorneys deemed it necessary to hear three members of the UP party leadership.

The names of Theo Heyliger, Hannibal Gumbs and Ludwig Ouenniche were mentioned as possible witnesses, but after a 40-minute recess, the judge said he had decided to continue the case without hearing these witnesses.

"The Court still sees an apparent contradiction, but I expect little from additional questioning," Judge Luijks said in explaining his decision.

Monday's proceedings concerned a preliminary hearing, during which the suspects' lawyers could submit requests for the hearing of witnesses and other additional investigations.

In the meantime, the Prosecutor's Office added several documents to the case files, among which was an explanation of the Attorney General as to why it took three years and five months before this case was brought to Court.

The Chief of Police and Chief Prosecutor requested the Attorney General's approval of an investigation on October 28, 2010. The request was granted in November 2010, "but only on August 6, 2012, the Chief Prosecutor asked the Attorney General's permission for a criminal investigation. This time-frame raises questions," said Judge Luijks in February.

The National Detectives (Landsrecherche) completed the investigation in this case on February 14, 2013, but the suspects were not summoned until one year later. This may have implications for the so-called reasonability of the time-frame permitted by law between the date of the alleged crime and the actual court hearing.

The Court case is to resume after the summer recess, on August 4. Most likely, proceedings would continue that day with attorney Merx presenting preliminary pleadings on behalf of his client C.J.L.C.

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