In The Spotlight
My husband and I have been married for almost 10 years and have a 2-year-old daughter. This is my husband’s second marriage and he has a son from that marriage who lives with the ex-wife.
My problem is that my mother-in-law keeps calling me by the first wife’s name. She helps us out by watching our daughter so it happens quite often. My husband thinks it’s not important and says I should just ignore it, but I can’t.
Queenie, is he right? If not, how should I handle it when it happens?—Second wife
Dear Second wife,
I disagree with your husband. I presume your mother-in-law also has contact with his ex-wife and her grandson, but she should be able to keep the two of you straight in her mind. If she does not take the trouble to do so, she is being downright rude to you. Make a point of correcting her – politely! – when she calls you by the wrong name.
And if it continues to happen, you might want to find out whether she also sometimes calls the ex by your name. If she truly cannot remember which of you is which, she may be having memory problems, a possible indication of approaching senility, in which case you should be careful about leaving a small child in her care and perhaps a complete check-up for your mother-in-law would be a good idea.
It is nine in the morning and a purple dawn is rising with difficulty in the east while a strong ice-wind is blowing over the cold North Sea to the west. It is February 2008 and I am standing with fifty of my fellow Master students at the Volgermeer Polder, a former toxic waste dump for the city of Amsterdam. In front of us two million square meters of garbage and dangerous chemicals are being transformed into a natural reserve by engineers contracted by the city of Amsterdam. My professor, Dr. Joyeeta Gupta – a Nobel Prize Laureate – lectures on the process of changing a national health hazard into a viable natural reserve.
While listening to Dr. Gupta speak I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Volgermeer and our Landfill back home on St. Maarten. The Volgermeer polder, which is approximately ten kilometres north of Amsterdam, is an area of land saturated with dykes and streams and lakes. It used to be a peat farm, the peat used to warm beautiful Amsterdam throughout its history. At about the turn of the last century the city decided to get rid of its garbage at the polder, ferrying in mass amounts of waste on garbage boats and dumping it in the lakes and bogs which dot the area.
As Amsterdam grew in size so did their garbage and soon the dump spread to immense dimensions. The area was plagued by fires caused by escaping gas and the residents in the area started to complain about their health; strange infections, respiratory problems and diseases caused by the lowering of their immune systems. All of this sounded eerily familiar.
The city of Amsterdam closed the area in the eighties and sent teams of scientist to monitor and take samples of the soil and water. They soon found that dangerous chemicals that leaked into the soil and groundwater, chemicals such as Agent Orange, famous for being used in the Vietnam war, and PCBs – a pesticide that causes deformities in both animals and humans.
As we started our tour of the area a representative of the company that was involved in the project started to explain the process by which a waste dump was transformed into a nature reserve. The streams and lakes that are a part of the polder were dredged and the silt used to cover the dump to about two meters high. The city of Amsterdam also provided soil from its various building projects to cover the dump and a special layer of plastic-like organic material was placed on top, a process called natural capping.
This material, which is widely used and quite inexpensive, allows for the gasses and fumes to escape while preventing further contamination to the area. On top of this layer peat moss and grasses were planted which eventually dissolved the garbage under it and in a few short years a viable ecosystem started to develop with clean water with fish and frogs and swans and ducks.
I started to think that perhaps this may be a solution for us here as well. Even with some of the advances that St. Maarten has had regarding conservation in the last four years there are still three issues which blemish our reputation in terms of environmental protection. One is the need for a terrestrial park to protect and conserve our land-based flora and fauna; the second is the continued challenges faced by our wetlands; and the third, and this is by far the issue of most concern both for the health of our environment and that of our population, is the Dump.
With the amount of chemicals and garbage entering into our soil, wetlands and into our lungs when the dump is on fire we need to address the issue of the landfill yesterday. The heavy metals and other pollutants present on the Dump and the surrounding area are a national health hazard. A waste-to-energy plant is good and very necessary to mine the current landfill. But why not make it better? A waste-to-energy plant combined with a complete rehabilitation of the area, including that of the Great Salt Pond, which is the reason why St. Maarten, our Soualiga, exists in the first place.
If the Pond is dredged and the silt used, if the tons of soil from all of the projects current and planned are used to realize a sustainable solution for one of the most embarrassing scars on our island, then yes we will be at the vanguard of forward green thinking in this region. For it is only when we solve the issue of a landfill in our capital and in our natural and national heritage, can we speak of sustainability.
I remember the tour being over and having to return to my tiny apartment in the city to prepare for the next day’s class. I remember how hard it was for me to focus because I couldn’t help but think how useful this would be for my home. Imagine a green park with paths and fountains and bird-watching blinds and swings for children where garbage once stank in the blazing sun and where flies and midges once made life miserable.
Imagine it being the centre of the capital of a new St. Maarten; the fact that it was a dump a vague and unpleasant memory, like the memory of the taste of aloes on our sucking-thumbs as children. Imagine the Salt Pond, the cradle of our society, gently lapping at clean green shores. Imagine our grandchildren, students at our university, being lectured on how a dump was turned into a natural reserve. Imagine the lecturer, one of our children, winning the Nobel Prize for Science. Anything is possible under the Caribbean sun.
For more information on the Volgermeer Polder please visit: http://www.rnw.org/archive/transforming-chemical-dump-nature-area
Sint Maarten Nature Foundation
Please allow me a few words to praise your recent post regarding posting early-warning flags at beaches to help avert future tragic loss of life, such as occurred recently at Mullet Bay.
Your plan is brilliant; in addition to creating local jobs for life guards, with minimal additional cost to the Government they could ask/require existing beach businesses to merely check to see which flag should be posted for the day as a Beach Danger Warning, and do so. I would suggest supplementing this plan with an additional flag being posted at each beach area. Please follow along with me.
I am not a resident, but a long-time visitor to your (my) island, having spent over 60 weeks on-island over these years. I am fully aware of online discussion boards, where the subject of beach water pollution surfaces regularly. These concerns are usually well founded, by personal reports and often with coverage from your newspaper, as you report Nature Foundation findings, or Government warnings, or even simple news stories of sewage running down streets or bubbling up on Backstreet.
Of course, you must continue to report such findings, but what is missing is any reported follow-up. Was that leak resolved? Was that problem solved? Was that finally flushed out to sea? Was the water re-tested? Is it now healthy? That is much harder to find.
As Government (hopefully) implements a Beach Danger Warning flag system, why not also push for a simple Beach Water Quality Warning, alongside the same flags?
Gary W. Taylor
I am married, but I decided to keep my maiden name for professional reasons. My husband has no problem with this, but our question is how should he (and other people) introduce me?
Queenie, should it be Miss or Mrs. Maiden-Name? Or what?—Introduction Etty Ket
Dear Etty Ket,
Your husband can say, “This is my wife First-Name Maiden-Name.”
Other people can say, “This Husband’s-Name’s wife First-Name Maiden-Name.”
Leave the “Miss” or “Mrs.” up to the person to whom you are introduced.
A special thanks to Saba people who all helped us three weeks ago Saturday, the 11th. I would like to say a very very thanks to him and his wife for helping us – Nicky Johnson leaving his table from eating to come and help us out at sea that day.
When I opened the engine room door and see it full up with water I almost lose it. When I looked around to see if land was close by or in sight and I didn’t see land I knew we was into problems so I ran to the VHF radio and made that frantic emergency call for help right away and give my position of where we were so if there was any boat nearby they would hear where we were so that they can come to help us too.
But there was no one close by on the area so help had to come from shore and it was Nicky Johnson who came to help us at sea and in the meantime I was bailing water out of the boat to keep us afloat until help got to us.
In the meantime I was bailing water out of the engine room and many things went throughout my mind, what will happen to us if help does not get to us on time? It was a bad feeling that came over me that day out at sea. I had a bad feeling that whole day that something bad was going to happen.
Anyway I did what I had to do in the engine room fixing the bilge pump that nearly took our lives and the boat’s life too. I did not know that we had passed Nicky out fishing because I was in the engine room. It was long after I knew that we had passed him 21 miles from shore, fishing, hauling his fish traps. I did not know that the same boat would be the boat to come and help us. It was a nice feeling to see someone close to you – that if something had to happen we would be safe.
Thank God for him coming back out to sea the second time to help us. When we got to shore he told me Bullo when he see the boat when it pass him he say to the rest of the guys on his boat, he turn and say to them he had a bad feeling that something is going to happen to the boat, nevertheless he went back to shore and while at home sitting eating he hear the call; he say to his wife: “My God that’s Bullo voice!” He say his wife never hear me like that. He say something is really wrong when he hear my voice like that.
So he came to the radio and answered it. I told him what was going on, on board, so he say “Okay Bulla I on my way.” It was very nice to hear that! You know I used to save people’s lives and their boats but never know I would have saved my own life and others on board the boat.
It was very hard for me to write this letter. I cry so much doing this. I will never forget this, my friend out at sea – sitting and watching the sun setting and dark setting in. God bless you Nicky Johnson and to the rest of the people who help and anyway God bless you all Sabans.
A special thanks to Nicky Johnson, Governor Johnson, Brandon Hassell, my girlfriend Marilynn Hassell, Luke Rolly, Bruce B, Roy and the man at the hotel and to Pualla and the lady who give me the cup of tea – thanks. Thanks to the rest of the office who helped. Thank you all.
Love you Saba.
Alex Velasquez and Captain and crew
Sometimes I will text a question to someone or leave a message on their voice mail and it will be hours or even a day or so before they get back to me.
Queenie, why are people so thoughtless?—Offended
If the person you call or text is at work or busy doing something they consider important or simply does not receive your message right away, it may be some time before they get back to you.
Why are you so thoughtless as to expect them to drop everything to reply to you immediately?
Global temperatures set yet another record last year and the world witnessed exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in its Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016, warning that the extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.
The extreme climate conditions also added to human suffering: 2016 saw severe droughts, affecting millions in southern and eastern African and Central American countries. For example in the Caribbean Hurricane Matthew – the first category 4 (CAT4) storm to make landfall since 1963 – tore a path of destruction in Haiti and inflicted significant economic losses in the Caribbean region.
At least three times so far this winter (2017), the Arctic saw what can be called the Polar equivalent of a heatwave, with powerful Atlantic storms driving an influx of warm, moist air, meaning that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days which were actually close to melting point due to warm temperatures in this part of the world.
Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years, and some areas, including Canada and much of the United States, were unusually balmy, whilst others, including parts of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, were unusually cold in early 2017.
St. Maarten, and the other islands of the Caribbean Basin also experienced unusually cool/chilly weather during the first two-months of 2017, a testament to ongoing global climate change now also at our doorstep.
In the United States (US) alone 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied in February, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the WMO.
The aforementioned might seem worlds apart from St. Maarten and our sphere of life, but it is as close as it gets as well – climate change.
“We are dealing with scientific facts, not politics, and the facts are clear; climate change is a direct threat in itself, and a multiplier of many other threats,” UN Secretary-General (SG) António Guterres recently told a General Assembly High-Level action event aimed at invigorating political momentum on climate change, highlighting its deep links to the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
UN SG Guterres said his messages to the meeting are simple: “First, climate change is an unprecedented and growing threat – to peace and prosperity and the same in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs – Ed.]. Second, addressing climate change is a massive opportunity that we cannot afford to miss,” he said.
Tackling climate change is a tremendous opportunity for Governments and business as there is no trade-off between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.
Our economy is based on tourism, a single pillar. This means that we have to be very conscious to protect what we have built over several decades. Our current economic base is facing many challenges, and growth has not been that positive for a number of years.
St. Maarten’s coral reefs according to the St. Maarten Nature Foundation contribute annually over US $66 million to our economy. The diving sector is one of our key areas just like cruise tourism, and the mega-yacht/yachting sector, but receives very little fanfare. The Nature Foundation carried out an Economic Valuation Study on St. Maarten’s coral reef ecosystems.
“The report highlights the economic contribution of healthy coral to the economy of St. Maarten, which was found to be US $66,606,042. This study is an update of the 2010 study which found that coral reefs contribute US $57,742,997 to the economy, and reflects the increase in coral reef associated values since the establishment of the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area.
“The results of this study show that Coral Reefs are one of the island’s most valuable resources and provide livelihoods through coral reef associated tourism as well as protection from large, damaging waves caused by hurricanes.
“The marine environment of St Maarten includes more than 16 square kilometres of globally threatened coral reef as well as seagrass and mangrove ecosystems. St. Maarten’s marine environment is a home and migratory stopover or breeding site for various endangered species and the beaches and waters attract approximately two million visitors a year, creating employment for 85 per cent of the island’s population both directly and indirectly. Tourism and the marine industry contribute significantly to the economy and both sectors depend on the health of St. Maarten’s marine resources,” according to the Nature Foundation.
The aforementioned presents additional opportunities for our country and economy. Additional protected areas should be introduced which would lead to new diving sites (e.g. manmade for the development of our ecosystem) that would further add to the protection of our coastal communities from storm surge; would provide new areas for coral reef growth and growth in fish populations; would create more employment opportunities for our youth as the dive sector grows.
Government and Parliament should work together with stakeholders in developing an “Integral Marine Protection-Dive/Fishery Sector Development Plan” that would nurture the aforementioned in a sustainable manner.
Our country’s underwater ecosystem is not protected from climate change. Reef systems across the globe have experienced “coral bleaching.” Coral bleaching is the dying of corals due to high water temperatures. Nature Foundation says while any stress can cause corals to bleach, high water temperature has been the major cause of coral bleaching events worldwide in recent decades. When corals bleach for a significant period of time they run the risk of dying all together. Our Nature Foundation has a “Coral Bleaching Response Plan” which was drafted back in 2010.
“Although the consensus is still out, the increased incidences of Coral Bleaching is more than likely caused by the heating up of the earth due to global warming. In the past decades the Caribbean in particular has seen an increased number of coral bleaching events with the last major bleaching occurring in 2005, where more than half of the Coral Reefs in the Caribbean, including St. Maarten, died,” our Nature Foundation reported.
Climate change is a scientific fact. Our underwater ecosystem is making a positive economic impact for the national economy, and can be further developed in a sustainable manner while at the same time mitigating the effects of climate change. In order to accomplish the aforementioned, the necessary urgency and attention of discussion along with resources must be provided.
Where is the country in preparing our readiness and resilience in a time of climate change for a healthy environment and a healthy economy?
When my son’s best friend is at our house for a meal he very often refuses to eat what we are serving. Our children know they are expected to eat whatever they are served, or at least some of it, and they don’t make a fuss about it, but this friend is something else.
Queenie, what is the best way to deal with this picky eater?—Not a caterer
It depends. If the child has food allergies, you want to be careful what you serve him, so check with his parents to find out whether there are foods he cannot eat and try to accommodate his needs.
But if the child is merely a picky eater, as you say, tell him – pleasantly! – that in your house everyone is expected to take at least a taste of whatever they are served and if they do not like it they do not have to eat all of it. Then serve him whatever everyone else is having, and if he does not eat it, so be it.
I am reasonably certain he will eat if he is hungry, once he understands your house rules. Or he will stop taking meals at your house – your problem solved, if not his.
As “reviews” come in from the Sea Trade Cruise Global 2017 (Seatrade), just recently concluded in Fort Lauderdale, we hear much of the same following any conference of this nature. In addition, there has been somewhat of a “to-do,” due to local reports of Members of Parliament attending the Seatrade conference. Firstly, let me make it clear that there was no representation from Parliament as such at the conference.
However, the whole discussion does raise the following questions: What was “our” message at the 2017 cruise conference? What did we learn at the conference? And most importantly, what will be done with this information? Where does Cruise feature in our National Plan or Programme?
As I look out over Great Bay harbour every day (ships or no ships), these questions inevitably pop up.
Like nearly everything else, Cruise is not a lone standing pillar, as strong as it might appear, and no single person or group “owns” this industry. There are so many topics that relate directly or indirectly to the cruise industry and that is why the positioning of Cruise on our national agenda is paramount for the simultaneous discussions on the environment, the infrastructure, energy, waste, health, crime etc.
To give a glaring example: the perils local cyclists face on the St. Maarten roads, now also daunt our (cruise) visitors who wish to make use of alternative means to tour the island. A new niche, I am sure, but this must be stimulated. I hold my heart every day as I see cyclists, especially those unfamiliar with our roads and traffic trying to manoeuvre their way around.
Bottom line: the cruise sector needs a wholesome approach to be effective, separate from the question of how far we can expand the cruise sector due to capacity limits in the complementing fields mentioned above, as well as the fact that several of these fields also offer some potential for growth, such as in the energy and health areas.
President of Parliament
There’s this guy I dated a few times and then moved on to someone else. Now my best friend is dating him and for some reason it bothers me. I told her how I feel but she’s still dating him.
Queenie, if she is really my friend wouldn’t she stop dating him, knowing how I feel about it?—Annoyed
Why does this bother you so much? Did this guy do something unforgiveable that made you dump him? If that is the case, you should tell your friend so she knows what kind of guy he really is.
But if you broke it off with him just because the two of you were not well suited to each other, why do you begrudge your friend her relationship with him? If you are really her friend, why are you not glad she has found
The administrator of the National Bank of Anguilla Private Bank & Trust (NBA PB&T), William Tacon, and perhaps others, have been publicly accused of trying to “frustrate [Anguilla’s] banking resolution process.”
I lived in Anguilla in early 2000, at the time I opened a bank account at NBA, which I kept when I left. As a part of the so-called “banking resolution process,” all my money at NBA was confiscated. There are many more like me – people who once lived on Anguilla, people who live in St. Martin and banked in Anguilla, non-belongers still living on Anguilla – who had their entire deposits confiscated as a part of the “resolution” process. Ordinary people, some who kept the bulk of their entire life savings at NBA; ordinary people, some of whom now cannot pay for their children's schooling or who were denied the payment of essential medical bills because of the “resolution” process.
Your readers may or may not be aware that what this “process” was is the total expropriation of foreign depositors; not down to our last dollar, not down to our last dime, but down to our last penny. What made the difference as to whether you got all your money back or whether you lost all your money in the “resolution” process was whether you were a belonger or a non-belonger.
What those of us who were so expropriated wish to do is not to frustrate any process at all; indeed, we wish to do nothing at all. We would much rather not be in the position we find ourselves in – and into which we have been forced by the actions of Anguilla’s politicians – at all. Many of us consider ourselves friends of Anguilla. We understand that Anguilla’s economy is in a difficult situation (but I urge you to consider that so are the economies of some of the places those of us who were expropriated live. In the last 3 years, Sark’s population has declined by 26 per cent due to economic emigration as there are no jobs. In that timeframe, most of Sark’s large employers have closed down including 67 per cent of our hotels).
All we wish is to be treated equally to all the other depositors. We understand that banks sometimes fail and when they do depositors may lose some of their money. We just don't expect to lose all our money – particularly when others walk away with all of theirs or are even able to continue to borrow money from the very same bank which claims it has no money to repay deposits (as was done at NBA). Not only is it morally wrong to treat depositors differently, the law requires that in the case of a bank's failure all depositors are treated equally and that they all lose the same proportion of their deposits. To do otherwise is not just immoral, it is fraud.
The law was flouted, brazenly, and in many cases, the expropriation has led to real and tangible hardship. We do not want to have to pursue any legal route and we did not seek to have to do so. Indeed, many who were expropriated cannot even afford to do so. William Tacon is the only champion of such depositors.
When people are pushed into a corner and have everything – absolutely everything – taken away from them and are left with nothing – absolutely nothing – to lose, what should they do? Keep quiet and die. What kind of a callous person does it take to attack and accuse such people of trying to “frustrate” his “process”?
The actions taken by politicians may be designed to endear them with their electorate in the short term, but I suggest they are not in Anguilla’s best long term interest.
Firstly, what does this do for the long term reputation and economic prospects of Anguilla and for the prospects of foreign investors investing in Anguilla in the future? If a country confiscates foreign savers’ deposits in this fashion, word will get around. This matter has already received considerable coverage in news media around the world and Anguilla’s reputation as a place in which to do business has plummeted.
If the Government of Anguilla cannot protect innocent people who trusted their money to something as supposedly safe as a bank account, how can investors in projects such as hotels in Anguilla feel comfortable with their ventures? The answer is that they cannot. If those investors stop investing in Anguilla because of this it would be a disaster for Anguilla. Hotels and other properties would likely close, Anguillians and belongers would likely lose their jobs and livelihoods could be destroyed. As a consequence, lots more businesses would close and banks very likely could fail again. Anguilla’s progress since the 1967 revolution would be wiped out and reversed. So, the jobs and livelihood of Anguillians is at risk.
Secondly, expropriation without compensation, particularly if it involves discrimination on the basis of national origin, is a very serious violation of international law by which every civilized nation including Anguilla and the United Kingdom (on Anguilla’s behalf) is bound. To illustrate, there is historic precedent for a country expropriating the assets of foreigners or of those they deemed did not belong (and of course it is much easier to expropriate the assets of those who live far away and who don’t have a vote than of those who do and whom you have to look in the eye every day). In the 20th century, a certain European country, at the behest of its “Chief Minister”, confiscated all the assets of their Jews; Robert Mugabe tried something similar in Zimbabwe. Neither did so as efficiently or as thoroughly as Anguilla has done – they both only got some of the foreigners assets under their control, while Anguilla expropriated all its non-belonger deposits in their entirety (so perhaps the banking “resolution” process would more accurately be called the “final solution” process).
To avoid such situations, after the Second World War, international conventions were signed which prohibit such expropriation and which brand it a “human rights abuse” and as a “gross human rights violation” – which of course is exactly what it is. Unless the matter is resolved either voluntarily by Anguilla or involuntarily in the local courts, it is most likely that Anguilla will find itself being found guilty of human rights abuses by the international courts in which such matters are litigated (and consequently be found financially liable too). Is such a reputation really in Anguilla’s best interest?
And thirdly, if the courts find in favour of those foreign depositors who have lost their money and livelihoods then ultimately it is very likely that the Government of Anguilla (in other words, the Anguillian taxpayer) will have to pay for this –10s of millions of US dollars, possibly more than the Government’s revenue for the whole year. Taxes, duties and levies would very likely have to be increased to a crippling degree to pay for this.
Sark, Channel Islands
My colleague is getting married. Her husband-to-be is unemployed and has been that way throughout their entire relationship. She complains that all he does is watch TV and she pays all their bills so she never has enough left over for recreation. Then she gets jealous when the girls in the office discuss what we did over the weekend. She is always stressed out, living pay-check to pay-check.
Queenie, what advice do you have for her?—Concerned co-worker
My advice to your colleague is: Dump that free-loading bum!
It may not be easy for you, but it is possible that doing so will motivate him to shape up, get a job and start carrying his own weight.
However, as long as you are willing to support him, what incentive does he have to even try to find work or pay his own way, let alone support you? What will you do if he gets you pregnant? How will you manage to work through your pregnancy and support yourself and your child once it is born?
I say it again: Dump that free-loading bum!
When journalism is at a level where investigative reporting becomes stagnated, it paves the way for politicians to be negligent, which eventually causes the entire country to suffer. Likewise, when there is a partially-functional Parliament, some ministers appear to be geniuses, while they are in fact, just testing the intelligence of parliamentarians and the public in general.
Every time the population is faced with issues that demand the attention of government, some ministers conveniently choose to pass the buck to their colleagues, or even offer words of sympathy, just to take the spotlight off them. This practice is commonplace for Social Affairs Minister Emil Lee. In the beginning, I was really impressed with his determination to see a new hospital realized. The approach that he took was different and appeared to be of a sincere nature. But when I pondered on the Minister’s relentless pursuit of something that was not his initiative, then it raises some unsettling questions.
Why would a minister neglect the rest of his portfolio and race to complete a project that was never a part of his initial vision? Nothing is wrong with the physical structure of the hospital. What’s lacking are more sophisticated equipment and highly-skilled professionals, to meet the needs of the patients. In terms of the building itself, the hospital in the North is not one that is considered state-of-the-art. Yet, the Minister is seeking continued collaboration, to avoid duplicating equipment and cut cost. So, is it the building that determines the quality of care or having modernized tools and competent human resources?
With this in mind, who will benefit the most in this consistent push to build a new hospital? Viewing the scenario from various angles, there is a lot more to this persistence, than what meets the eye. In addition, every time the Minister travels, he enquires about medical care in that specific country and the cost for sending patients there. Just the other day, it was the Cayman Islands; one of the, if not the most expensive territories in the entire Caribbean. What is the real reason behind these enquiries? Why can’t the focus be shifted towards investing in new equipment and medical specialists?
In last week’s press briefing, Minister Lee proudly publicized the success of his fieldwork. The Minister feels that he has accomplished a lot, but this exercise has only revealed his lack of interest in dealing with the social issues that are plaguing the country. This should have been his priority from the get go. Instead, he wasted more than a year talking about building a new hospital that is nowhere in sight. In all his travelling abroad, I cannot recall that Minister Emil Lee has ever returned to this country and given an account of matters affecting the handicapped, youth, seniors, labour affairs or how to reduce poverty. How come he has never had this interest, but tries to convince the public that he cares by building a new hospital?
What about the jobless, due to this discriminatory and broken labour system that supports only the elitists? Did the Minister control any of the employment agencies? Here is where a lot of the ills have originated. So, how long will this so-called noise of compliance last? It is only because the Minister came under fire on February 15th that this drive for compliance is set in motion. Prior to that, he had no interest in curbing the evils that are affecting this society. All we are getting from the Minister is pretty talk and no action to stifle this persistent rat race!
Another thing, Minister Lee has never been forthcoming with a full response. He always gives partial answers about a particular issue, until he is pressured to complete the story. This reaction has occurred on several occasions. Then it calls to question how much does this Minister really value the matter of transparency and integrity? Speaking of transparency: Was it the Minister’s decision to select the recently-appointed mediators or was it one of his colleagues in the Council of Ministers? Furthermore, how come these mediators were hand-picked, as opposed to the vacancies being advertised?
This is how the matters of integrity and transparency are being used conveniently, just to accommodate certain politicians. It is time that the public faces the harsh reality of understanding that the heart is what guides the action of this Minister and every other politician!
My mother-in-law has a key to our house in case of emergencies. I suspect she uses it when we are not at home, because little things go missing, like food and cleaning supplies and sometimes even tools, dishes and cooking utensils
I don’t want to cause a family fight, but this has to stop!
Queenie, what do you suggest?—Invaded
Change your locks! Do it at once and without telling your mother-in-law.
If she asks you why you have done so, ask her how she knows. Then, without accusing her of being the culprit, tell her what you have told me about things going missing. You will know from her reaction whether she indeed is the guilty party and whether you can trust her with a new key.
Prime Minister Berlusconi came up with a remarkable plan after the ancient town of L'Aquila was hit by a major earthquake in 2009. He wanted to pay the hundreds of millions needed for the recovery by issuing out additional slot machines. Francesco Corallo – gambling boss of the island of St. Maarten – gave Berlusconi a big gambling contract.
Corallo already owned tens of thousands slot machines in Italy with a turnover of billions of euros. Corallo was also sought in Italy for non-payment of taxes on his gambling revenues between 2004 and 2007, adding up to hundreds of millions of euros. Nonetheless, he got this new contract; even worse, one of his advisors drafted the text of the new law to regulate the slots. Corallo also would have channelled almost four million euros to Gianfranco Finni, at that time the number two of Berlusconi’s party. The banker of Corallo is Fortis Bank, a bank which was bought by the Dutch government in 2008 – in connection with the banking crisis.
What is KPMG’s role this time? Banks have a legal obligation to make sure customers aren’t criminals and that payments don’t result in fraud or corruption. Fortis Bank kept on being Francesco Corallo’s banker even though he was wanted for bribery and tax evasion. His operations were not checked by Fortis Bank, not even after it became a state bank. In these years Corallo has made many more notable payments using the Fortis Bank.
I have asked the Dutch Minister of Finance to research the actions of the state bank. Also noteworthy is the role of auditors. Corallo's auditor was KPMG Dutch Caribbean; Fortis’ auditor was KPMG Netherlands. I have previously asked for clarification on the role of KPMG in the illegal gambling industry in the former Netherlands Antilles. KPMG Netherlands always referred to its colleagues at KPMG Dutch Caribbean. In this affair with the Fortis Bank it is no longer possible for KPMG to avert responsibility. It needs to be accountable.
What is going to be the role of the elections in Curaçao? How is Francesco Corallo doing in the meantime? He was arrested in December on St. Maarten and is awaiting extradition to Italy. Curaçao and St. Maarten are further investigating this matter and more people have been arrested.
This investigation started on the initiative of VVD Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman and myself. The islands are working in close cooperation with the United States and Italy; both have a special interest in Francesco Corallo – who is of Sicilian descent. Corallo didn’t only buy politicians in Italy; he also bribed politicians in St. Maarten and Curaçao, including former Curaçao Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte. Schotte has been sentenced to three years in prison; however, he can still participate in the Curaçao elections on April 28 and he could get back into power.
This threatens this beautiful island in our Kingdom into becoming a mafia state. As MP I will continue to fight against corruption and dirty money on the islands in the coming years, and against banks and accountants who make this possible.
Ronald van Raak,
Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament for the Socialist Party
My best friend is a terrible driver. She goes too fast, passes when it isn’t safe and honks the horn and gets vexed if another driver doesn’t go what she thinks is fast enough or slows down to make a turn or wait for someone to enter the road.
I hate driving with her and I’m afraid she will cause an accident someday and someone will get hurt, especially her kids because she drives that way when they are with her too.
Queenie, I tried to tell her how I feel about her driving but it didn’t do any good that I can see. Is there any way I can get her to shape up?—Scared passenger
If your friend will not listen to what you say, there is not much more you can do but refuse to ride with her and pray for her children’s safety.
But where is the children’s father in all of this? Is he involved in his children’s lives and does he know what kind of driver their mother is? If so, he might be able to have some influence on her – such as taking custody of his children if she continues to endanger them (or at least threatening to do so).
The United People’s (UP) party has taken note of the appeal by Attorney-at-Law Geert Hatzmann where an official complaint has been filed with the Joint Court of Justice against the non-arrest of a man who allegedly severely mistreated his mother in February.
Not knowing the details of the case, we understand the frustration of the lawyer where the alleged perpetrator continues to walk free while the victim may live in fear because of this.
Victims’ rights are part and parcel of an individual’s protections and are to be treated with dignity, respect and sensitivity. A victim is usually defined as a person who has been directly harmed by a crime that was committed by another person.
Victims generally have the right to be treated with courtesy, fairness, and care by law enforcement and other officials throughout the entire criminal justice process. Victims have the right to protection from threats, intimidation, or retaliation, and we call upon the relevant authorities to adhere to the aforementioned in all cases of crimes related to a victim.
President, United People’s (UP) party
I own 2 dogs that are usually well-behaved but can get excited when I have people visiting me. Sometimes someone who doesn’t like dogs or just isn’t used to them will ask me to put the dogs outside while they are there.
Queenie, are they being rude for asking such a thing or am I being rude if I don’t oblige them?—Pet Etty Ket
Dear Etty Ket,
Many people love their pets as though they were their children, and much the same principle applies – it is your responsibility as their “parent” to teach them good manners and keep them under control.
If your guest is allergic, for example, or even just has an aversion to dogs, or if your dogs are behaving rambunctiously, I see no rudeness in asking to be spared the dogs’ presence and no reason why the dogs cannot be sent outside to play while your sensitive guest is there – assuming the visit is relatively brief, that is.
However, if the guest knows you have dogs and has an aversion to them for some reason, they should keep their visit brief and not ask you to banish the dogs for more than a few hours.
Last Tuesday, the case of Casa Blanca was heard at the Court of First Instance of St. Maarten. Casa Blanca and its principles are charged with human exploitation and tax fraud.
According to the Public Prosecutor, Casa Blanca had concluded employment agreements with its sex workers and therefore, should have reported the revenues for the sexual services by the women for tax purposes.
At first glance, this standpoint seems logical; however, there are serious caveats.
Firstly, it should be asked why a club would conclude employment agreements with sex workers because there are no obvious benefits for the club in doing so; neither the club nor the sex worker consider the contract as an actual employment relationship. The only purpose of these agreements is to acquire work permits for the sex workers. The sex workers cannot request nor acquire these permits themselves according to the current permit system that is in place in St. Maarten.
The St. Maarten government is evaluating to change this system into a system wherein the sex worker may request the work permit as an independent entrepreneur. Apparently, this system is already in place in Statia. An employment relation with a sex worker is also not morally accepted here in St. Maarten or the other Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao or BES.
Notwithstanding the above, there are even more pressing legal arguments as to why the employment contracts with sex workers should be considered null and void.
The existence of an employment agreement is condition to certain legal requirements being met, i.e. (i) the employee has to perform work, (ii) the employer has to pay salary to the employee, and (iii) the employer should have the power to give instructions to the employee. All three requirements should be met or else there is no legal employment agreement.
Casa Blanca makes its money from the room rentals to the sex workers. The revenues for the sexual services are for the women. The client pays the sex worker for her services and the club withholds rent money on said revenues as well as a small service charge fee. Under this scenario, there are evidently two separate and independent entrepreneurs at play, i.e. the club and the sex worker. This is confirmed by case law.
More importantly, however, is the moral and ethical issues surrounding the treatment of sex workers in St. Maarten, which excludes the existence of legal employment agreements. To mention a simple example, an employment contract with a slave is illegal (at least according to our laws). In the same way, employment agreements with workers whom are being treated unethically are also considered null and void.
The alleged unethical treatment of sex workers in St. Maarten has gotten so out of control that the government decided to stop the issuance of work permits for sex workers as of 2015. Local clubs, including Casa Blanca, are accused of exploitation of the women who work there. This environment is evidently not suitable for and in conflict with a legally binding and enforceable employment agreement.
The Highest Court has decided that an employment agreement with a sex worker is perfectly acceptable unless the agreement would have to be considered unethical based on the specific circumstances, e.g. in case of exploitation.
It comes down to the following – the Public Prosecutor cannot have it both ways. If it charges and prosecutes local clubs for allegedly exploiting sex workers, then it is not possible to also go after the same clubs for not having reported the revenues of the sex workers for tax purposes. By doing so, the Prosecutor assumes the existence of legally binding employment agreements, which is not the case. If there is no employment relationship for civil law purposes, then the same applies for tax purposes. Tax wise, the sex workers are independent entrepreneurs and should be separately taxed as such. This way, taxation in St. Maarten would be in alignment with reality. No double dips for the Prosecutor's Office and certainly not for the tax department.
Richie J. Kock