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~ Carrying a gun will not make this society a safer place ~

By Andrew Dick

PHILIPSBURG--Prosecutor Karola van Nie has been working in St. Maarten since 2013 and will be moving on with her career in the Netherlands. Besides being the Youth Prosecutor, Van Nie also held the position of Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson.

The Daily Herald sat down with the prosecutor and asked several questions regarding her function while working on the island.

What was your first impression when you arrived on the island?

“I arrived with my family at the end of December 2012. I remember being impressed by the beauty of the green lush mountains and the colours of the sky, the sea and the flamboyant tree. But I remember also that it was crowded and the traffic seemed chaotic.

“It wasn’t love at first sight, but during time St. Maarten grew on me and is now here to stay in my heart. I came during high season but, despite the heat and the hurricane threat, low season has become my favourite time of the year, when it’s quieter.”

What were some of the challenges you faced while on-island prosecuting (youth) crimes?

“The challenge is that our position as Prosecutor’s Office here in St. Maarten is a difficult one and that I can feel we often lack support from society. If we want to be more effective in combating crime our organisation needs to get more embedded. Only then there will be enough trust to share information with each other to set common goals and priorities.

“Prosecuting is much more than only leading the criminal investigation and taking a case successfully to court. We are always looking at the bigger picture, because our goal is to make society a safer place. That goal can never be reached by just prosecuting. We would like to see much more cooperation with local organisations and Governmental institutions, because we could use their expertise, knowledge and authority.

“Guus Schram, our Attorney General, said in the vision document on the fight against crime that the Prosecutor’s Office needs to reinvent itself. We need to be more open in our communication towards society and victims, we need to be more transparent, we need to constantly make sure that the level of our expertise is high.

“When it comes to dealing with youth crime I always tried to seek the cooperation with local partners, but I only succeeded partially. Yes, we have a Judicial Youth Committee to advise the Minister of Justice and there is good cooperation with Youth Affairs when it comes to setting a national protocol on child abuse, but the common approach towards prevention of youth crime needs to be much broader and stronger. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

What pattern, if any, have you noticed where youth-related crimes are concerned?

“I had a survey done about Youth Crime in St. Maarten (it was published on and this survey showed my view on youth crime.

“Almost half of the crimes that are being committed at schools (mostly abuse, threat, theft and drugs) don’t reach the police. Schools deal with those crimes themselves, most often by suspending the child. In some of those cases it will, however, lead to expulsion and the risk of then ‘losing’ the child to crime is high.

“If you want to be serious about fighting youth crime, you need to keep every child as long as possible within the school system, preferably in schools which also offer a great range of afterschool activities.

“Not every child can be helped by structure, though. Sometimes it needs a good psychological diagnosis or knowledge of the family situation to understand why a child is showing behavioural problems. But investing in a strong educational system where there is a place for every child is the key when it comes to building a strong and safe society.”

You prosecuted the Officer Benjamin murder case. Was it difficult for you to prosecute those persons responsible?

“At least by being one of the prosecutors leading the investigation and ultimately bringing the case to court, I could do something. I am very impressed with how the Special Robbery Unit of KPSM [the Police Force – Ed.] handled the investigation; they showed professionalism and determination to not leave a stone unturned.

“What was hard for me was the outcome of the case and the low prison sentences the two main suspects got. This was a disappointment for us. I appealed the verdicts and I hope the Court of Appeal will assess the case differently.”

Best memories while working on the island?

“I have very dear memories when I think of the working relation with so many professionals here on the island and especially some police officers and the cases we have solved.

“I can’t really explain what it’s like to get a phone call in the middle of the night, get in your car not knowing what to expect and arrive at a crime scene. While people are in shock a prosecutor has to make a quick assessment of the situation, for which we are highly dependent on the police team working on the case.

“A highlight is, of course, the opening of the Miss Lalie Centre (MLC) in December 2014. I was very fortunate that I could be a member of the project team working together with some very skilled people and getting the full support of the former Minister of Justice in developing this much-needed youth rehabilitation centre. I sincerely hope that the importance of the MLC will remain acknowledged and that the necessary funds will always be made available.

“It must not be forgotten that the MLC is a young and new institution for St. Maarten, facing many challenges, and that we need all the help we can get; for example, by the close cooperation with Stichting Horizon in the Netherlands. The wheel has not to be invented again, it just has to be adjusted to the St. Maarten situation.”

Since the change of the penal code, has it been more effective?

“The new penal code, among other things, meant a complete modernisation of the juvenile criminal law, which was very much needed. But if you talk about effectiveness, then this does not come from a new penal code alone. For example, abuse is punishable by law, which means I could prosecute every slap in the face if there is enough evidence. But it is not as simple as that.

“First of all, we would never have the capacity to deal with all of those cases, but much more interesting is what the society as a whole would think of that. I sometimes miss the discussion in politics about what the common norms and values are in this young country; for example, regarding child abuse, sexual abuse, prostitution or the possession of guns.

“When we had the ‘Stop, drop and Go campaign’ I was eagerly waiting for a discussion in Parliament about the liberal gun policy proposed earlier, but nothing happened. I considered that as a missed opportunity, because it could have set a great example and sent out a strong message that St. Maarten does not want to be a country in which people think they have the right to carry a gun for their protection.

“I strongly believe that carrying a gun for protection will not make this society a safer place. And don’t forget, every illegal gun has found its way to come to St. Maarten somehow. Besides having the police get the guns one by one off the streets, we should team up to see what can be done in order to stop the guns being shipped into St. Maarten.”

What would you miss the most about working on St. Maarten?

“I will miss the great working relations, the small scale of the island in every sense and the last-minute planning. I knew when I came that I would not be able to finish everything I want to do here, but I didn’t know it would be so hard to let go.”

What is next for Prosecutor van Nie?

“On August 16 I will start working in Utrecht as a prosecutor specialising in how to best deal with all the information/intelligence that there is about criminal and undermining activities. The challenge is how we can best use that information, because starting a criminal investigation is not always the most effective way. Sometimes it’s better to share the information – for example, with the administration – and get a licence revoked. I am looking forward to get to know this new way of dealing with undermining crime.

“For those times I will miss St. Maarten, I will at least have Hans Mos, our former chief prosecutor, as my direct colleague and I’m looking forward to working with him again.”

ROTTERDAM--Small Island Unity (SIU) is one of the 25 troupes from the Caribbean and other parts of the world that will be participating in this Saturday’s Rotterdam Summer Carnival. The grand parade with more than 2,500 revellers attracts some 750,000 spectators.

The long-awaited placement of surveillance cameras in Philipsburg (see related story) should please most law-abiding persons. After all, such systems have proven their worth in many cities around the world, allowing authorities to solve and even prevent crimes due to the availability of video images.

They therefore serve as a deterrent too, because by now the bad guys know footage of their illegal acts could easily land them behind bars. Robbers usually cover their faces, but pictures showing, for example, the direction in which they fled or what getaway vehicle was used also can go a long way in aiding the investigation.

While the system indeed needs to be monitored by police 24/7, it’s important to ensure no misuse is made of the recordings and that law enforcement authorities properly guard people’s right to privacy. Signage clearly indicating the presence of security cameras forms an essential part of that.

Some may wonder why no public bidding process was held, as phase one alone reportedly costs about two million guilders. TelEm is, of course, a logical choice not so much because it’s a Government-owned company, but primarily due to its existing local telecommunication infrastructure and expertise.

Still, other parties might have shown interest given the chance. On the French side, for example, a similar project was put on bid.

However, that was not the case either with the closed-circuit TV surveillance network being installed in Curaçao. Chinese provider Inspur reportedly had offered to do it there for free as a showcase to the region, but this was considered undesirable for geo-political and strategic reasons, taking into account the close ties with the Netherlands and the European Union (EU) as well as the USA.

The Finance Ministry in Willemstad then approved continuing with Inspur despite the lack of a bidding process. Justice Minister Nelson Navarro explained this also had to do with protecting sensitive information from ending up in the wrong hands.

For St. Maarten, the main thing is that the promised cameras are finally becoming a reality to enhance the sense of security first in the downtown shopping area and later – with phases 2 and 3 – at other locations on the Dutch side, including those frequented by visitors who drive the island’s tourism economy.

So yes, “big brother” will be watching, but if done right it’s in the public’s best interest.

A weather system coming off the West Coast of Africa is being monitored closely in the region. It’s still far East of the Cape Verde Islands so there is no reason for concern up to now.

Nevertheless, this might be a good occasion to ensure that preparations for the Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1 and ends November 30, are in order. That goes for households,

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados--Scientists have discovered a new specie of the vibrantly coloured scorpionfish in the Caribbean Sea.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad--A Muslim woman won a landmark judgment against a security firm on July 26, 2016 for discrimination on the basis of her religious beliefs.

NEW YORK--Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Inc, has become the world's third-richest person as of the market close for the first time, Forbes magazine said, passing Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

NEW YORK--Facebook Inc provided more evidence on Wednesday that it can turn eyeballs into profit as the maker of the world's most popular app and social website trounced Wall Street's estimates, sending its shares to an all-time high.

RIYADH--At a shopping mall in southern Riyadh, a woman shrouded in black robes and bulgy black coat throws snowballs at her young son, giggling underneath a face covering. The boy gleefully lobs snowy projectiles back in her direction.

NEW YORK--Move over, Spider-Man and Superman. Here comes Chalice, a transgender superhero hitting the comic-book world.

PHILADELPHIA--U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Thursday the challenges facing Americans demand steady leadership and a collective spirit, contrasting her character with what she described as a dangerous and volatile Donald Trump.
  In the biggest speech of her more than 25-year-old career in the public eye, Clinton accepted the Democratic presidential nomination for the Nov. 8 election with a promise to make the United States a country that worked for everyone. "We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid," she said.
  She presented a sharply more upbeat view of the country than her rival Trump did when he was formally nominated for president at last week's Republican convention, and even turned one of Republican hero Ronald Reagan's signature phrases against the real estate developer.
  "He's taken the Republican Party a long way, from 'Morning in America' to 'Midnight in America,'" Clinton said. "He wants to divide us - from the rest of the world, and from each other."
  She portrayed Trump as volatile, saying "a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons."
  While her speech lacked the electrifying qualities of President Barack Obama and a parade of other prominent Democratic speakers, Clinton spoke authoritatively and with self-assurance in her pitch to the American public. She acknowledged some people still do not know her well.
  "I get it that some people just don't know what to make of me. So let me tell you. The family I'm from, well no one had their name on big buildings," Clinton said in a reference to Trump. She said her family were builders of a better life and a better future for their children, using whatever tools they had and "whatever God gave them."
  As she prepared to deliver her speech, people familiar with the matter said the FBI is investigating a cyber attack against another Democratic Party group, which may be related to an earlier hack against the Democratic National Committee. The previously unreported incident at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, and its potential ties to Russian hackers, are likely to heighten accusations, so far unproven, that Moscow is trying to meddle in the U.S. election to help Trump.
  Clinton said it would be her "primary mission" to create more opportunities and more good jobs with rising wages, and to confront stark choices in battling determined enemies and "threats and turbulence" around the world and at home.
  "America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart," said Clinton, a former secretary of state. "No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance - looking for steady leadership."
  Clinton, who is vying to be the first woman elected U.S. president, called her nomination "a milestone."
  "When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. That's why when there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit," the 68-year-old Clinton said in a speech that capped the four-day nominating convention.
  The evening sounded at times more like a traditional Republican convention than a Democratic one. During retired General John Allen's remarks, chants of "USA!" filled the hall and large flags were brought in to be waved. Speakers, some of whom included military and police officers, made frequent mentions of religion and patriotism.
  "I certainly know that with her as our commander-in-chief, our foreign relations will not be reduced to a business transaction, I also know that our armed forces will not become an instrument of torture," said Allen.
  Clinton embraced her reputation as a policy wonk, offering a litany of proposals for tuition-free college, infrastructure investment, immigration reform, gun control, affordable child care, paid family leave and more. Clinton also reached out to Republicans and to followers of primary rival Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist U.S. senator from Vermont. His supporters chanted at times during her speech only to be drowned out by her supporters.
  "Your cause is our cause," she said.
  Trump, a 70-year-old reality TV show host who has never held political office, is running just ahead of Clinton in a RealClearPolitics average of recent national opinion polls. They both garner high "unpopularity" ratings.
  At a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Trump said he was being criticized at the Democratic convention by people who had been friendly to him before. "I think we'll stay here all night because I don't really want to go home and watch that crap," he said.
  Trump has portrayed the country as being under siege from illegal immigrants, crime and terrorism and as losing influence in the world. He has proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country and a wall along the border with Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.
  Khizr Kahn, a Muslim whose son was one of 14 Muslims killed while serving in the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, drew cheers when he pulled out a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution and said he wanted to show it to Trump. "Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son the best of America. If it was up to Donald Trump he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims," he said.
  U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio called Trump a hypocrite who talked about opposing free trade deals to protect American workers but had the products sold by his companies made overseas. "Now I've been fighting for a trade agenda for more than 20 years that puts American workers first and I can tell you that in all those years I've never ever seen Donald Trump," said Brown, one of the most liberal members of the Senate.
  "The only thing I've seen Donald Trump do when it comes to U.S. trade policy is run his mouth and line his pockets," Brown said.

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana--U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Loretta Lynch called for unity to honour three slain Louisiana police officers, speaking at a memorial service on Thursday in Baton Rouge where they were gunned down this month by a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

PARIS/SAINT-ETIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY, France--Police had been hunting the second teenager who killed a priest in a church in France this week after a foreign intelligence tipoff that a suspected jihadist might be preparing an attack, police and judicial sources said.

LIMA--Pedro Pablo Kuczynski took office as Peru's president on Thursday, asking the opposition-controlled Congress to help him fight income inequality and ensure all Peruvians have access to running water, health care and free primary education.

PHILIPSBURG--The St. Maarten Tae kwon do team under the leadership of Grand master Theo Liu returned home with two gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze medals.

TORONTO-- Swiss second seed Stan Wawrinka won a hard-hitting battle with American Jack Sock on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals at the Rogers Cup with a 7-6(3) 6-2 triumph.

Dear honourable Minister Ingrid Arrindell,

I, the undersigned driving instructor, am concerned about the lengthy time it takes for St. Maarten citizens who have signed up, to take the driving exam. Presently, it takes quite some time from the day the candidate signs up at the census office for the exam to the time the candidate actually writes the exam. As it stands, only five persons per day are allowed to take the exam, which has resulted in quite a backlog in persons waiting to do the exam.

In the past, the protocol was that when someone signed up for the driving licence exams that person was able to take the exams within two weeks. Last year (2015), the time was extended to five to six weeks. At present (now in 2016), it takes a lengthy eight weeks from the day the person signs up for the exam for that person to be able to take the exams.

Dear honourable minister, it is my fervent belief that if you do not step in and do something now, the time will increase to six months, then a year or even more. I am kindly asking you to please consider addressing this matter seriously and immediately so that we can have more licenced drivers on our roads and avoid more unlicensed persons driving on our roads and making the roads unsafe for us all.

In addition, let wisdom prevail so our country will not be missing out on the much needed funds that can be generated from the driving licence exams. Moreover, persons who hold a foreign driver’s licence will be eager to do their driving exams here, once they know that it would not take them a long time to process. More importantly, our roads will be much safer when we know that the majority of people driving on the road have studied, understood and can obey our driving regulations.

It is my hope that you, honourable minister, would regulate this situation as quickly as possible so that the citizens of this country would be able to do their driving exams in a shorter time, after they have completed their driving classes.

Paul Woods

Driving Instructor

Dear Queenie,

My husband and I got married quietly at the Census Office because we couldn’t afford a big wedding. Things are going better now and we are planning to have the wedding reception we couldn’t afford back then. We aren’t looking for gifts, we just want to celebrate our marriage.

Queenie, how do we get that message across without looking tactless?—Bride for a year now

Dear Bride,

Do not call your celebration a wedding reception; call it a “renewal of vows” or an “anniversary party” because that is really what it is. Even so, some of your guests will bring gifts or “hostess gifts,” so accept them with thanks and make sure everyone has a good time.

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