Grid List

~ Organisers call for road block ~

ST. PETERS--On Sunday, July 23, the St. Peters community will once again get ready to embrace agriculture at its finest. Community organisation Spaceless Gardens will host its second Agricultural Festival and Community Market Day at Rupert I. Maynard Community Center from 11:00am to 11:00pm.

CAY HILL--Some fifty students of various high and primary schools in St. Maarten completed a two-week science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-based summer camp technology hackathon at National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA) in Cay Hill on Friday.

Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Christophe Emmanuel obviously means well with his intention to close the road along Maho Beach and reroute the entrance to Beacon Hill (see Thursday paper).

Health Minister Emil Lee put an old idea squarely back on the table during Wednesday’s press briefing. He said Government was looking into a so-called “sin tax” on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

While something similar has been proposed before, the Minister expressed a desire to add sugar soft drinks for obvious reasons. The revenues are to help finance the new National Health Insurance (NHI) and the idea fits into the policy of moving from direct to more indirect taxes.

In many countries these “bad” enjoyment products are the subject of excise levies. Objections to that scenario included affecting St. Maarten’s duty-free image and the country’s well-documented limited collection abilities. Also due to the lack of a closed cash register system such as in Curaçao enabling a comprehensive introduction of their OB sales tax, it was suggested to raise the existing ToT turnover tax for those particular goods.

In both cases enforcement and control might be a bit difficult, which means the measure’s effectiveness would depend largely on honesty and cooperation of the entrepreneurs involved. With general fiscal compliance known to be rather low, that sparks concerns.

Some also say these items are so popular among visitors that it could have a negative impact especially on cruise passengers and the destination is operating in a very competitive environment. However, even slightly going up in price would probably still keep them relatively inexpensive here compared to most of the island’s tourism source markets. Besides, a cocktail currently already goes for up to US $8 per glass in various bars and restaurants, so it’s not like going out for a drink is necessarily cheap.

Other alternatives include selling mandatory temporary local drivers’ licences to guests renting cars as they do elsewhere in the region. Adding a small real departure tax to the facility charge for travellers at Princess Juliana International Airport SXM could be considered as well, also because – unlike the harbour – the Airport doesn’t pay a concession fee to Government as a result of its expansion financing conditions.

The bottom line is that any drastic increase in the cost of visiting the island and/or doing business will face understandable opposition. That doesn’t necessarily mean nothing should be done, but it makes sense to proceed in a careful and modest manner.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana--Government will be moving to the National Assembly to seek supplementary financing likely to exceed GY $500 million in an effort to house prisoners, boost security at the existing prisons and deal with the fallout from the disastrous fire on July 9, that gutted the Camp Street prison.

This was disclosed during a press conference at the Ministry of Public Security on Friday afternoon. According to Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, his Ministry had come up with a fast-tracked plan pertaining to what temporary constructions would be erected.

“At least [for – Ed.] the purpose of building the prison and the tarmac area, the removal of debris, I haven’t gotten the final figure. The bill of quantities will be made final by tomorrow morning or later tonight. These contractors and quantity surveyors are working hard.”

“But by Monday certainly [we will have final figures – Ed.], because we have to go for the supplementary budgetary allocations by Tuesday or whenever the next parliamentary date. And it will be, as I’m being told, in excess of GY $500 million.”

He noted that this was to ensure that the prisoners being housed at Lusignan could be relocated to the remaining brick structure at Camp Street. According to Ramjattan, these constructions will be temporary.

“But we require, for the support of those prisoners, a kitchen be constructed, an admin building and infirmary to be constructed. And it will be quite costly though it will be temporary. All these major constructions that will make the place safe will cost a good set of money.”

“But the plans, in terms of what we have to construct and security systems have been designed, during the last 72 hours. Because that was [something – Ed.] we had to fast-track.”

Meanwhile, Ramjattan also spoke of other advances that Government has made, including the completion of a tarmac area for the displaced prisoners at Lusignan.

He said “at this stage the tarmac area at Lusignan has been completed and there have been some minor difficulties [that were – Ed.] corrected to the extent that at least 400 prisoners are now there in better conditions than in the swamp area they were in.”

According to the Public Security Minister “there are still [80 – Ed.] prisoners in the swamp area. We felt that it was necessary because we do not want them to contaminate the four hundred prisoners that are in the tarmac area. These are the real bad ones that have done a number of acts which make us believe that if they were to go into that tarmac area there would be real trouble.”

He noted that there are 151 prisoners in the actual prison at Lusignan. The Minister also reported that the charred debris from the Camp Street site has been removed. ~ iNews Guyana ~

PARAMARIBO--Anne van Leeuwen, the new Ambassador from the Netherlands for Suriname, is not welcome there local media reported on Thursday. According to news website Starnieuws.com, Government has revoked the approval of accreditation for the Ambassador who was supposed to start his tenure in Paramaribo next month.

LISBON--Portugal's government sees no need to further downsize the state sector and expects its plan of targeted investment and efficiency improvements there to reap more economic benefits than previous tougher but largely fruitless reform attempts.

WASHINGTON-- A group representing major technology companies has aligned itself against Qualcomm Inc in its legal dispute with Apple Inc by calling on regulators to reject Qualcomm's bid to ban the import of iPhones.
  A lobbying group that represents Alphabet Inc's Google , Amazon.com Inc, Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc filed comments with the U.S. International Trade Commission.

LONDON--Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate released a new official portrait of their son George on Friday to celebrate the young prince's upcoming fourth birthday.

LOS ANGELES--The creators of the new television drama "Confederate," set in an imaginary world where slavery still exists in the United States, defended their vision after the concept provoked outrage on social media this week.

WASHINGTON--White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned on Friday, ending a short and turbulent tenure that made him a household name and the butt of late-night television comedy lampoons, amid further upheaval within President Donald Trump's inner circle.

WASHINGTON--U.S. immigration agents are planning nationwide raids next week to arrest, among others, teenagers who entered the country without guardians and are suspected gang members, in a widening of President Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigrants.
  The raids are set to begin on Sunday and continue through Wednesday, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. The teenagers targeted will be 16- and 17-years-old.
  The raids represent a sharp departure from practices during the presidency of Barack Obama. Under Obama, minors could be targeted for deportation if they had been convicted of crimes, but were not arrested simply for suspected gang activity or membership.
  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that a person can be identified as a gang member if they meet two or more criteria, including having gang tattoos, frequenting an area notorious for gangs and wearing gang apparel. The agency said it does not comment on plans for future law enforcement operations, but that it focuses on individuals who pose a threat to national security and public safety.
  The memo instructing field offices to prepare for the raids was dated June 30. A Department of Homeland Security official speaking on background confirmed on Friday the raids were still scheduled to take place, though ICE could still change its plans.
  Trump, who campaigned on the promise of tough immigration enforcement, has made deporting gang members, especially those belonging to the El Salvador-based Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, a top priority.
  "You have a gang called MS-13. They don't like to shoot people. They like to cut people. They do things that nobody can believe," Trump said at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last month. In a May speech, the president promised the gang would be "gone from our streets very soon, believe me."
  Although children can be deported like adults, U.S. immigration law considers minors arriving at the border without a parent or guardian particularly vulnerable and gives them additional protections. Minors apprehended entering the country without a guardian are placed in custody arrangements by U.S. Health and Human Services, often with a family member living in the United States.
  Law enforcement agencies maintain databases of individuals suspected of having gang affiliations, but the lists have come under fire from civil rights groups. Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, said the databases often contain inaccurate information.
  "This is troubling on several levels," Hincapie said. "For one, the gang databases in places like California are rife with errors. We have seen babies labeled as potential gang members."
  Immigration lawyer David Leopold of Ulmer & Berne said innocent children could be swept up in the raids. "In many cases, children don’t freely decide to join a gang. They are threatened by older gang members and forced to get a gang tattoo if they live in a certain neighborhood," he said.

CARACAS--Venezuela's opposition-led congress on Friday appointed alternative judges to the country's Supreme Court, whose current pro-government members have been a bedrock of support for leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

CARACAS- - Many Venezuelan streets were barricaded and deserted on Thursday for a strike called by foes of President Nicolas Maduro to demand elections and the scrapping of plans for a new congress they fear will consolidate dictatorship in the OPEC country.

SALON-DE-PROVENCE, France- - Edvald Boasson Hagen proved that it's always better to do your homework thoroughly as he ended a six-year wait for another Tour de France stage victory on Friday.

BRIANCON, France- - Tour de France leader Chris Froome remained rock-solid on a thrilling Col d'Izoard climb won in audacious fashion by Warren Barguil on Thursday and now looks unstoppable in his bid to claim a fourth title in Paris.

Dear Queenie,

When we go to a restaurant that serves buffet-style my husband always takes extra food on purpose to take home with us.

He says it’s okay because we are paying for “all you can eat.” I say “all you eat” means “all you can eat while you are here (in the restaurant).”

Queenie, is he right or am I?—Buffet Etty Ket

Dear Etty Ket,

You are!

Dear Editor,
Why even bother at this time to write about the qualifications of a parliamentarian, when the next parliamentary election is all the way in 2020? Sadly, this has been the mentality in the past that has led us to vote for persons, based on friendship, family ties and family tradition, instead of looking at the qualifications, qualities and experience of the candidates.
One of the reasons we have not paid much attention to the qualifications of parliamentarians, is because during election time, our politicians campaign as if they were running to become ministers in government. However, they failed to point out the difference and the separation between parliament and government. To summarize, the people elect the parliamentarians, and the parliamentarians in turn appoint the ministers. Therefore, if we want a good Council of Ministers, we must vote for noble, qualified parliamentarians, who would ensure that we get a good government.
Besides the four criteria for parliamentarians listed in the Constitution, parties, as well as the people should hold candidates to a high standard. Article 49 of our Constitution states that to “be eligible for membership of Parliament, a person must be a resident of Sint Maarten, a Dutch national, have attained the age of eighteen years, and must not have been disqualified from voting”. As far as the age is concerned, a person can be on a party’s slate at age 17; as long as he/she turns 18 by the time the oath has to be taken.
Based on the Constitution, anyone with the Dutch nationality can become a parliamentarian in Sint Maarten. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the constitutions of neighbouring countries like St Kitts and Nevis, the Commonwealth of Dominica and the Territory of Anguilla clearly stipulate that to be elected, persons must be connected to the country or territory by birth or descent. If such a criterion were applied in Sint Maarten, many persons would not be eligible to become members of parliament, including myself, as well as several of our current MPs. Revising the nationality article will require a constitutional amendment, which needs the approval of the other countries of the kingdom.
The criterion “must not have been disqualified from voting” relates to the final verdict of a court of law. In other words, once the court case of a prospective parliamentarian is still in appeal he/she has all rights to join a party or to establish a party. The prospective parliamentarian also has the right to campaign, to be elected, to take the oath of office and to function as a member of parliament until he/she receives the final guilty verdict.
This is the reason MP Silvio Matser is still functioning as a Member of Parliament. Even though the Court in First Instance, as well as the Joint Court of Justice found him guilty of tax evasion, he has appealed the case at the High Court in The Hague and consequently has the right to function as a parliamentarian until he receives the final judgement from the latter court. We may not agree with the law, but we must abide by it.
In addition to the constitutional criteria mentioned earlier, it is important that we also evaluate prospective parliamentarians based on several other qualifications, such as love for Sint Maarten, Dutch language skills and integrity. If persons have a love for Sint Maarten, it will show in their involvement in the community. They will be engaged, in one way or another, in trying to better the society. Their motive for getting in politics would be for the sake and the good of the people, and not for personal gain. They should ascribe to, and live by, the principles of integrity, transparency, accountability, and love for the country.
How many of the 125 candidates who took part in the 2016 elections are still visible and active today? Even many of them, who have been elected to parliament, often do not see the need to represent us as we expect them to. One parliamentarian has not attended parliamentary meetings in months. At times, several of our parliamentarians have refused to attend meetings. Not too long ago, the minority faction in parliament even declined to represent us at a high-level kingdom meeting. This is really not the kind of representation we expect from our parliamentarians!
As far as Dutch language skills are concerned, it is important that prospective parliamentarians have at least a working knowledge of the Dutch language. It is interesting to note that the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica includes a language qualification stating that to be qualified to be elected, a person must be able to speak and read the English language. Admittedly, Sint Maarten’s constitutional and judicial systems are very much embedded in the Dutch system. It is obvious that Dutch supersedes the English language, when we read the disclaimer at the bottom of each page of a translated law: “No rights can be derived from the English translation”.
The SMCP believes that if voters take the additional qualifications into serious consideration when electing parliamentarians, Sint Maarten would have a stronger, better qualified, integrity-based parliament, which in turn would appoint ministers to the Council of Ministers, based on their professional, experiential and ethical qualifications.

Wycliffe Smith
Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party

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