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Holland puts pressure on St Maarten

January 19, 2015
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Justice Minister Dennis Richardson poses for photo with his foot on the new police vehicles…. Photo Daily Herald

THE HAGUE–A serious conflict is brewing between the Netherlands and St. Maarten over the setting up of an Integrity Chamber for St. Maarten. According to St. Maarten Justice Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Dennis Richardson, The Hague is putting pressure on Philipsburg to agree with what he called a “draconic” proposal.

“St. Maarten wants to work together, but everything that we come up with is shot down. We can do nothing right by The Hague. There is a deep distrust towards St. Maarten,” Richardson told The Daily Herald in a combined interview with the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant at the end of his working visit to the Netherlands last week.

St. Maarten has been and remains a topic of discussion. The Hague is concerned about the level of integrity in government. Two recent integrity reports have shown that there is much room for improvement in this area. According to The Hague, St. Maarten has done insufficient to address the problem, as there was still no concrete plan of approach some five months after the integrity reports.

Richardson denied the accusations. He said that a plan of approach had been drafted, sent to The Hague, and that recommendations from the integrity reports of the Wit-Samson Committee and PricewaterhouseCoopers that were easy to implement have been executed. “We have embraced all recommendations.”

The biggest priority at this moment is the establishing of an Integrity Chamber, recommended by the Wit-Samson Committee. The draft national ordinance to establish this independent body, which will advise the Government of St. Maarten, invited and uninvited, on the general progress of integrity of the entire public sector as well as investigate integrity breaches, is ready.

Richardson said that he has sent a letter to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk regarding the Integrity Chamber and to also ask for Dutch assistance to man and financially support the secretariat of the Integrity Chamber. The Netherlands can appoint one member in the three-member Integrity Chamber as well as in the Progress Committee that will be monitoring the process to improve integrity in government.

According to Richardson, the Dutch Government has different ideas on how to go about this matter, and wants a bigger role for The Hague. He said that St. Maarten is being pressured to agree with a consensus General Measure of Government, a so-called Algemene Maatregel van Rijksbestuur AMvRB dictating the composition and tasks of the Integrity Chamber.

The Chairman of the Kingdom Council of Ministers Mark Rutte would appoint the Chairman of the Integrity Chamber, the Dutch Government would appoint one member and St. Maarten the third member, while the secretariat of the Integrity Chamber would be mainly Dutch.

The Hague has been stressing on three things where it comes to the Integrity Chamber. Firstly it wants a clear role for the Kingdom Council of Ministers in the set-up. Secondly, the Kingdom Council of Ministers wants to receive direct and frequent reports. And thirdly, The Hague wants the Integrity Chamber to have far-reaching authorities to prevent that it would become a toothless tiger.

Richardson said that the Kingdom Council of Ministers maintained that the Integrity Chamber would have to be based on a AMvRB. St. Maarten would have to cooperate and agree with the proposed plan in the form of a consensus AMvRB. If St. Maarten doesn’t agree an AMvRB would be imposed without consensus, based on higher supervision. “The Kingdom Council of Ministers has told us that we can either have a AMvrB based on consensus or it will impose it.”

Ultimatum

St. Maarten was given an ultimatum to agree by December 31, 2014. So far, St. Maarten hasn’t agreed, said Richardson. The reason for that is that the Council of Ministers cannot agree with the plans as they have been drafted by The Hague, which also dictate the screening of candidate ministers and civil servants.

Richardson explained that the screening of candidate ministers and civil servants is already arranged through local, St. Maarten laws. “The Council of Ministers cannot agree with something that violates our local regulations and put our Parliamentary democracy aside. We cannot act against our rule of law, the Council of Ministers doesn’t have that authority. I would rather resign than act as minister against our laws,” he said.

In the opinion of the Justice Minister, the Kingdom Government can only act when St. Maarten has offered no redress. The latter has not been the case, he said. “We are working on it and have a draft law ready that has been sent to The Hague for commentary.” He said that Minister Plasterk needed to keep his word, since he said after the publication of the integrity reports that it was first up to St. Maarten to address the integrity issue.

According to Richardson, there is a deep distrust in the Kingdom Council of Ministers where it comes to St. Maarten. “The distrust that seems to say that that no one in St. Maarten can be trusted is totally disproportionate. I am shocked by the absolute negative, one-sided across the board perception that they have of St. Maarten. It is devastating and deeply painful.”

Richardson said the Dutch Government has not reacted to St. Maarten’s proposal to participate in St. Maarten’s Integrity Chamber by national ordinance and to establish this body with the input of the Netherlands and (financial and technical) assistance for its secretariat. “Distrust is the reason that The Hague doesn’t want to do this together. My advice to Rutte and Plasterk: talk with us so we can find a solution that is durable,” he said.

“I hope that the visit of Minister Plasterk will lead to finding solutions based on the willingness to cooperate instead of to dictate. In the end it is St. Maarten and St. Maarteners who must embrace and sustain integrity. Those in St. Maarten who are pursuing this should get maximum support,” the minister said.

Sustainable

Richardson said his pleas to find joint solutions to strengthen the law enforcement chain in a way that they will strengthen the local law enforcement agencies in a sustainable fashion does not seem to resonate sufficiently in The Hague.

“We want to cooperate to strengthen the law enforcement chain. But in accordance with the current constitutional rules, therefore under the control of the Justice Minister who is accountable to Parliament. And, the assistance from the Netherlands has to make a true, lasting contribution to the sector. We can’t have everything regress or collapse once the Dutch assistance ends.”

The Hague on the other hand wants more control on law enforcement and even plans to send a special anti-crime unit to the island, Minister Plasterk announced in October 2014. During last week’s Judicial Four Party Consultation with the Justice Ministers of the four countries in the Kingdom it was decided to give the cooperation between the countries a more structural character and allow for tailor-made solutions per country. A plan to this extent will be drafted before March 1.

Minister Plasterk will be having talks with the new Gumbs cabinet in Philipsburg today, Monday. Integrity, government finances and law enforcement will be the main topics in this meeting. These issues are also bound to come up in a meeting that the minister will have with the St. Maarten Parliament on the same day.

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Man hit by car on LB Scott Road

January 17, 2015
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trafficPhoto shows: This man who is reportedly mentally unwell was apparently hit by a vehicle while crossing the L.B Scott road early Friday morning. Police officers tried to convince the man to get in the ambulance to take him to the SMMC but their efforts were unsuccessful as he continued to refuse. The driver remained on the scene for questioning by police. Photo Andrew Bishop – TODAY

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Police return Stolen jewelry to owners after 9 years

January 16, 2015
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PHILIPSBURG–On Wednesday, January 14, 2015, St. Maarten Police Force had the chance of making a 52-year old woman, whose house was burgled in June 2006, very happy.

An earring and a bracelet with great emotional value were returned to her. The return of the jewellery to its rightful owner, nine years after the offence, was in part due to the good description of the jewellery that the victim had given.

The burglary was committed in June 2006 in a house in Nazareth. The homeowners reported the burglary and gave a thorough description of the burglary that was stolen.

At a much later stage, a suspect was arrested for several burglaries and multiple pieces of jewellery were found in his possession. They were confiscated by the police.

When this happens, the police always try to find the rightful owner of the confiscated goods. Sometimes this is very difficult, because many people don’t provide the police with information that is detailed enough; for instance they report that “a ring” was stolen, but they cannot give a good description of the ring.

In a press release, the police sent out a message to the public to inform them of the importance, in case of a burglary or a robbery, to give a clear and explicit description of the stolen goods, because sometimes the goods do come back to the victim.

“Burglaries do happen, but to make the chances of getting stolen goods back where they belong, in your possession, it’s good to think about a way to describe the more expensive or valuable ones properly,” the press release stated.

“Write down brands, serial numbers and other specifics or, in case of jewellery or art projects, take pictures so the police can return the goods to their rightful owner when they are located. – The Daily Herald

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Local Teenager takes a stand against sex offences against children

January 16, 2015
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ST. PETERS–A sixteen-year-old girl, supported by her family and friends, has started an initiative to encourage government to take action to better protect children and young people from sexual predators.

The aim of her petition is for government to offer better protection of children and young people by taking a number of measures, including a publically-accessible sex offenders register.

“In St. Maarten, the rights of convicted sex offenders seem to take precedence over victims’ rights,” says the front sheet of the petition. “Unlike other parts of the world, communities in St. Maarten have no knowledge as to who they [convicted sex offenders – Ed.] are and where they are. A public register is a right and a national duty that is long overdue.”

The petition goes on to set out a list of demands, some of which are aimed of improving safety in public transport, such as a ban on tinted windows on buses and good lighting inside buses in the evenings.

Other measures are aimed at bringing awareness about child sexual abuse, addressing mental health and other social issues that can be linked to child sex offences, monitoring child pornography and stiffer penalties

The petitioners also demand the establishment of a sex offenders register in such a way that parents can become aware of the location of paedophiles and a more thorough screening system to which all people working with children must be subjected.

Mhakeda Shillingford, a promising young woman who is vice-president of the Youth Parliament of St. Maarten and a member of the Kingdom Youth Parliament, had a terrifying experience in December when a bus driver kept pestering her for her name and telephone number. He did not cease his behaviour when she told him she was only 16, and then refused to let her get off the bus unless she provided her details.

At some point, the driver even touched her, not in a particularly serious manner, but it was enough to scare the 16-year-old, whose phone call to a parent eventually made the driver stop.

When Mhadeka’s mother, Brenda Maynard, arrived, they waited for the bus to re-appear so they could identify the driver. The man, who was in his 30s, was arrested, but was released later and Mhakeda and her mother were informed that technically he had not acted in contravention of the law, as the touching could not be proven to be sexual.

“I have always told my children not to be a victim,” said Maynard, who has been guiding her daughter in the process of turning a bad experience into positive action. “At the time, someone said on Facebook, ‘They messed with the wrong child.’ But in a way, they messed with the right child,” said Maynard, referring to the positive outcome her daughter is aiming to achieve.

A victim, Mhakeda is not. The strong young woman reiterated, “My situation was minor in comparison to what others have been through. But when this type of thing happens, people feel that if they speak up, they will be victimised.”

It is important that this petition is not aimed in particular at the individual who harassed Mhakeda, Maynard stated. Rather, the petition is about general measures aimed at keeping all children safe. Mhakeda and her team aim to collect 10,000 signatures before the petition will be presented to Parliament.

Peggy Ann Dros, a friend of the family and a mother herself, supports the initiative. “I am a mother of three sons,” she said. “Recent developments have made it clear that paedophilia and sex offences are still on the rise. Something must be done to protect our youths. It is necessary that paedophiles are recognised and parents know where they live and work. The time to act is now.”

The petition can be signed at the Department of Labour between 8:00am and 5:00pm. Members of the Youth Parliament of St. Maarten also have copies available for signing. For more information, contact Maynard at

brendiva@hotmail.com or her daughter at

mhakeda-27@hotmail.com , – The Daily Herald

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St Maarten burgeler get 36 months

January 15, 2015
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GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance sentenced Gerard Alexander Richardson, known as Davis on the French side of the island, to 36 months of imprisonment for a series of burglaries he committed between March and August of last year, mainly in the Pelican area.

The 49-year-old defendant, a hardcore crack addict, came off lightly because prosecutor Nanouk Lemmers demanded 6 years of imprisonment with deduction of the 96 days he already spent in pretrial detention.

According to the prosecutor, there were more than twenty complaints about burglaries in the Pelican area Richardson is the main suspect in all these cases. He sneaked into houses where doors or windows were open, always at night. “He never damaged anything, but he made people afraid. This is not a nasty man and he says that he is not dangerous but when he stands next to your bed in the middle of the night you feel vulnerable.”

Lemmers said that she had charged Richardson with the cases for which there was the most evidence available and that the defendant has previous convictions for similar crimes. “Shortly after he was released from his last conviction, he started again.”

The prosecutor saw no point in sending Richardson to Turning Point because the last time he went there for treatment it did not end well – he walked out. “A stay at the Pointe Blanche prison will do just fine.”

Attorney Geert Hatzmann thought the demand of 6 years extremely high and he questioned the evidence for some of the charges. “A prison sentence apparently has no effect, so that is only a temporary solution. I propose an 18 month conditional sentence combined with intramural treatment, or extramural treatment combined with community service.”

Judge Paulides concluded that Richardson’s actions had grossly violated people’s feeling of safety and noted that he had previous convictions to his name. “A conditional sentence is now out of the question.” The judge showed some leniency though by cutting the prosecution’s demand in half.

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Tourist dies at orient beach in freak accident

January 15, 2015
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EMS officials attempt to resuscitate Cooke while a large circle, including the victim’s wife, look on. – Today

GREATBAY—A cruise passenger in his sixties– Howard Cook–who arrived on St. Maarten onboard the Oasis cruise ship yesterday lost his life in a freak accident at the Orient Beach near Kontiki bar and restaurant around midday yesterday.

Frank Bruney of S.E.L. Maduro said Cook had been accompanied on the cruise by his wife and some friends who had also visited the Orient Beach with him. At the time of the fatal accident Cook was reportedly paragliding and either dove or fell into the water which caused severe injuries.  The ambulance was contacted and on arrival attempts were made to resuscitate him but proved futile. He died from wounds he sustained to his head.

Cook’s body was taken to a French Morgue after he was pronounced dead and will remain there until the necessary arrangements have been made to have him returned to the United States. The family and friends of Cooke have been temporarily housed at a local hotel on Dutch St. Maarten courtesy of the cruise line and S.E.L. Maduro, who also arranged transportation for them from the scene of the accident to that hotel. – Today

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17 year old murder suspect stays at Ms Lalie youth care center in Cay Bay

January 15, 2015
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GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance adjourned the trial against 17-year-old Shimano G. yesterday to March 25. The boy shot 28-year-old Etienne Leblanc on October 9 of last year in his father’s Flex-DVD store on Front Street.

The adjournment is at the request of the prosecution and, according to youth prosecutor Karola van Nie, in the best interest of the young defendant who is currently one of the residents at the recently opened Ms. Lalie youth care center in Cay Bay.

Van Nie told the court that the defendant is in a somewhat diminished state of accountability and that it is important to keep him at the center for a longer period for observation. “That is necessary for a balanced judgment.”

Attorney Remco Stomp asked the court to lift or suspend his client’s pretrial detention. “He has been detained since the beginning of October. His father was being robbed and he stood up for him. This was a self-defense situation.”

Stomp said that his client had been accused of robbing a necklace from someone on the French side and that the victim had come to the store to reclaim it. “They came looking for him, they sought the confrontation,” he said. “It is unlikely that my client will receive an unconditional prison sentence.”

Prosecutor Van Nie objected to the young man’s release and noted that the victim had not come to the store with a weapon. “There is no support from witness statements for self-defense,” she said. The defendant shot his victim three times, once in his back.”

Van Nie added that the defendant’s initial statement to the police did not find support in the dossier. Confronted with the findings of the investigation, the defendant opted to exercise his right to remain silent. Yesterday Stomp said that his client was prepared “to tell the real story to the judge.”

The prosecutor was not buying it: “We are talking about murder or manslaughter here,” she said. “It is in his interest to adjourn the case. As a youth prosecutor, I want to consider his development. Otherwise he would be facing a long prison sentence and be heading for Pointe Blanche.”

Judge Paulides adjourned the case to March 25 and rejected the requests to lift or suspend the boy’s pretrial detention.

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St Maarten Stalker get ban from being close to ex girlfriend

January 15, 2015
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GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance imposed a contact ban and prohibited Ramon Decena Castillo to come within a radius of 100 meters of his now ex-girlfriend’s home and place of work. The court also sentenced the 36-year-old to 180 days of imprisonment of which 124 days are suspended. The remaining days the defendant already spent in pretrial detention.

The court found Castillo guilty of stalking his ex-girlfriend after she broke off the relationship and of hitting her on the head with a stone on one occasion, but it acquitted him of threatening the women when he allegedly drove by her home and waved a knife at her from his car.

The incidents mark a relationship that was troubled from the beginning. Castillo, who is married, maintained a relationship with the plaintiff for three years, but it ended sometime last summer. The stalking and the ill-treatment took place between January 1, 2012 and September 18, 2014.

The defendant told investigators that the real problems began in August of last year. He came to the woman’s house, peeped through her windows, called her and knocked on her door, even though she had told him not to come back.

Judge Maria Paulides noted, reading from the dossier, that the woman had ended the relationship because Castillo was extremely jealous and always wanted to know where she was.

Castillo admitted that he had gone to the woman’s house on August 31 of last year because she had to pay him $1,300 and that he would use this money to travel to the Dominican Republic. That night things got out of hand, whereby he hit the woman with a stone on her head, causing profusely bleeding wounds. The victim’s daughter saw it happened and learned from her mother’s phone that Castillo had called her ten times in a row.

The victim’s son described the defendant to investigators as “a nice man until he starts drinking.”

Castillo claimed in court that the head wound was the result of a push and shove party between him and the woman. He was released from pretrial detention in November – after that, there have been no more problems. “That is because you were in the Dominican Republic,” Judge Paulides observed.

Prosecutor Karola van Nie considered both the stalking and the ill-treatment proven. Witnesses, phone records and medical reports support the victim’s claims. For the threat with the knife, the prosecutor found insufficient evidence and she asked the court to acquit the defendant of this charge.

Castillo was detained from September 24 until November 19 of last year. Van Nie demanded a 6-month conditional prison sentence with 2 years of probation, 120 hours of community service and supervision by the rehabilitation bureau. She also demanded a contact ban.

Attorney Shaira Bommel concurred with the prosecution’s demand for an acquittal of the threat. She also noted that her client had not intentionally stalked the woman, saying that her client may have been overly concerned. “It was an on-and-off relationship and in every relationship there are troubles from time to time. Stalking was never the intention.”

Bommel furthermore pointed out that none of the witnesses had actually seen the ill-treatment with the stone. “Pushing does not fall under ill-treatment,” she said. “If this happened, then where is the stone he supposedly used? There should have been blood on it, but the stone has not been found and nobody saw my client walk away with something in his hand.”

The attorney concluded that there is insufficient evidence for a conviction and asked the court for an acquittal. Judge Paulides did not go along and sentenced Castillo for stalking and ill-treatment. “This type of behavior cannot be tolerated,” the judge said. “When it is over, it is over and you have to respect that.”

 

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Tuesday morning Shooting in Marigot leaves one man injured

January 14, 2015
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SHOOTING MARIGOT

MARIGOT–A 25-year-old man from Sandy Ground was shot at in Marigot on Tuesday around 10:30am in what appeared to be a settling of scores between two individuals. The shooter escaped despite Gendarmes cordoning off the streets and had not been apprehended up to press time last night.

The incident occurred on the corner of Rue de la République and Rue Victor Maurasse. Unconfirmed reports suggest the victim was struck by two bullets. Following emergency treatment at the scene he was transported to Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital, but the Gendarmerie indicated his life was not in danger.

Persons familiar with the victim referred to him by his nickname “Rol-X-King.”

Gendarmerie spokesman Capitaine Sylvain Jouault appealed for witnesses to the shooting to come forward with any information that would help the investigation by going to the La Savane headquarters or by calling the emergency number 17. Witnesses are guaranteed anonymity.

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Stabbing at MPC School – 1 student injured

January 14, 2015
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PHILISBURG–A seventeen-year-old high school student was arrested for stabbing a fellow student on Tuesday, January 12.

A press release from the police reports that around 1:15pm, several police patrols were sent to L.B. Scott Road. They attended a location between Milton Peters College (MPC) and St. Maarten Academy P.S.V.E. to investigate a stabbing. The boys involved did not attend either of those two schools.

On the scene, the investigating officers encountered the 17-year-old victim who had two superficial stab wounds to his upper chest from which he was bleeding. The suspect had fled the scene in the direction of MPC.

The victim was treated by the paramedics, after which he was taken to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for further treatment.

The suspect D.W. was located shortly after in the vicinity of MPC. During a search of the suspect, the knife that was used in the stabbing was found, along with 24 small plastic bags, each containing a small amount of marijuana prepared for distribution.

The suspect was arrested on the spot. The knife and drugs were confiscated for further investigation. – The Daily Herald

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