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MPs not compelled to give up other jobs

PHILIPSBURG--Parliamentarians are not prohibited by the Constitution or any other regulation from keeping the job they had prior to being elected, unlike the regulation for ministers. This is the same scenario that existed for the dissolved Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles.
Some concerns had been raised in the community about Members of Parliament (MPs) especially who have been elected to office for the first time continuing to function in their mostly private sector jobs.
Head of the Corporate Governance Council and Government Organisation Expert Louis Duzanson told The Daily Herald he found no provision or measure in the Constitution compelling MPs to give up jobs they had before being elected.
Article 51 of the Constitution states that MPs cannot at the same time be Governor, Deputy Governor, a member of the Advisory Council, a member of the General Audit Chamber, Ombudsman, a minister, Minister Plenipotentiary, a civil servant in active service, a member of the judiciary, Procurator General or Advocate General at the Common Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba.
The article further states: "Provisions may be imposed under national ordinance in relation to other public appointments, specifying that they may not be exercised at the same time as being a Member of the Parliament.
"The Parliament may not approve such a draft national ordinance and may not decide upon a reading of such a draft except with the approval of two-thirds of the votes of the sitting members."
Article 53 (1) of the Constitution states that MPs "shall abstain from voting on issues on appointments, including suspensions and dismissals, that personally affect them, their spouses, and their relations by blood or marriage up to and including the second degree, or in which they are involved as proxies." This article does not apply to decisions on the admission of members elected after the periodical demission from office.
Based on Article 53 (3), MPs may not work as a lawyer or counsel in legal actions in which the country is involved; cast a vote within the Parliament on the adoption or approval of the accounts and reports of a body of which they are board members, accept a contract for work for the country, nor stand as surety for such work or participate therein either directly or indirectly; or participate directly or indirectly in a private lease of property or rights belonging to the country.
According to Article 53 (4) if deemed appropriate in the interests of the country, the Parliament may grant a waiver of the prohibitions specified in paragraph 3 of this article in specific cases.
An MP giving up the job he or she held prior to being elected is considered as more of a moral issue than a legal one. MPs, according to experts, should make a decision about how best they can serve the people who elected them to office.
Meanwhile, ministers who are appointed by Parliament are instructed under Article 35 to refrain from debating and voting on issues or appointments, including suspensions and dismissals that personally affect them, their spouses, and their relations by blood or marriage up to and including the second degree, or in which they are involved as proxies.
Also, ministers may not fulfil any position, if it is associated with any remuneration or benefit charged to the national budget. They may not, either directly or indirectly, possess holdings in or be a director or supervisory director of any enterprise established or operating in St. Maarten.
According to the Constitution, holding shares in a public limited company is not regarded as possessing a holding in an enterprise unless the party concerned holds 25 per cent of the shares in conjunction with his relations by blood or marriage up to and including the second degree.
The ministers may not participate in any concession in the country either directly or indirectly.

Cubans released from police cells

page1c173PHILIPSBURG--The Cubans who were detained more than three weeks ago were released from police cells Tuesday. Their release was authorised by Justice Minister Roland Duncan.
The original statement issued by the Prosecutor's Office in November stated that nine Cubans had been detained. However, 10 were observed leaving the Philipsburg police station on Tuesday.
The group of Cubans – including three women – had been smuggled by boat into St. Maarten, where they were intercepted by the authorities, and had been detained since then at the Philipsburg police station where conditions have been described by their lawyer Remco Stomp as "unfavourable."
Minister Duncan told The Daily Herald, "We are not sending them back to Cuba. The asylum request has been received, but is not granted. These things take time. Mr. Stomp is disappointed with this, I know, but each individual case has to be investigated for asylum. Whether there are features that affect each individual is what matters.
"They will be required to report to the police on a regular basis depending on the needs of the prosecution department, because they are witnesses to an ongoing investigation. They have not been granted residency permits, they have just been released. The Red Cross and the Christian Council of Churches will look after their needs and help them to do what they need to do."
When the men finally were released some were met by friends and relatives for an emotional reunion. They looked relieved to be released and breathed deeply of the outside air. Some were happy to have a cigarette. When asked how they felt, the over-riding reply was "happy."
One of the men said, "Three weeks in a jail just for trying to improve our lives. This is not right." He refused to speak further following quickly-spoken comments by his companions.
Stomp, speaking briefly outside the police station about the case, said: "I asked the Minister last week to release them by midday Wednesday or I would file for an injunction. They were not released, so at 12:05pm I filed. The Minister has made a real effort to sort this matter out. It is not easy with international law. Anyway this is a nice gesture before Christmas to give these people some space.
"We have got them off the floor and now we are looking for a long-term solution. My clients are not criminal suspects. The government will not be funding the care of these people. They have to finance their own ventures. They have family and friends who can assist them, also the Christian Council of Churches and the Red Cross. They are born free people and they must now get on with their lives."
The men went to New Testament Baptist Church with Pastor Wycliffe Smith, where they awaited information about the next steps that would be taken. The media were not informed where the individuals would be billeted.

Cuban tells of risky trip in search of ‘freedom’

page3a173~ 'I'm happy I'm free now' ~

By Judy H. Fitzpatrick and David McGregor

PHILIPSBURG--Using his savings of about US $600 and his desire "for freedom," 24-year-old Yuri quit college, left his village in Holguin Province and set out on a risky trip from his native Cuba, his planned final destination the United States of America.
He and nine other persons left Cuba legally by plane on September 14 and travelled to two other Caribbean nations before being smuggled by boat into St. Maarten on November 14.
St. Maarten was scheduled to be their last stop before they were to be smuggled to their final destination, but their trip was interrupted when they were detained while in a taxi headed to a local hotel. Yuri and the other Cubans who made the risky trip were released from the Philipsburg police station yesterday, Tuesday, after 23 days in detention.
Clad in a blue T-shirt and black jeans and carrying a black backpack, a smiling Yuri said he was happy to be released, though he was still shaken from the detention and from what he said had been years of oppression in Cuba. He gave an insight into his risky trip, his detention and his future goals.

Yuri, a college student who had been in his final year of studies to become a sports scientist, told The Daily Herald he had been looking for someone who could get him out of Cuba. He met a guy "on the street' and they struck a deal.
The plan to leave Cuba went into motion and on September 14 he flew out legally. He was six years into his studies and said he had to quit and lose his credits to be "given permission" to travel.
He spent six days in St. Lucia before leaving for Dominica where he stayed in the capital Roseau. More than a month later, Yuri and the other immigrants boarded a boat headed to St. Maarten.
"We were 24 hours in the water to come here," he said in his deep Spanish accent. He said the boat trip had been without incident. They arrived in St. Maarten around 7:00pm. "After we got here, we took a taxi and then police came and took us."
Yuri said the group had taken a taxi randomly and had been looking for a hotel to stay when they were nabbed. He condemned the conditions under which they had been detained.
Contending that he didn't know much about the St. Maarten connection and that he did not know who the St. Maarten contact was, he explained that the group had been supposed to leave for the US within two days of arrival here. "I don't know which boat would have taken us [to the US, ed.], maybe another boat, I don't know the person. The person would have contacted us."
There are conflicting reports about the cost of the boat trip, which Yuri said had to be paid upfront. Yuri said he couldn't remember the exact cost, but it must have been around US $600.
However, the wife of one of the detainees, who gave her name as Yulia – the name on a chain she had been wearing – said her husband Alexandre, one of the released Cubans, had paid US $3,000 for his trip. Yulia, a legal United States resident who flew down to St. Maarten after she heard of her husband's detention here, said she and Alexandre had tied the knot five years ago. The two have one child together who lives with Yulia in New Jersey.
Yuri said his family owned a seafood company that sold seafood to tourists who visited their province. The savings he had accumulated were used for his trip.
Now that he is out of Cuba, Yuri said his intention was to continue his journey to the US. His girlfriend, who resides in the US, most will probably come to St. Maarten and marry him so they can be together in the US. His ultimate goal is to obtain US citizenship so he can return to Cuba and "tell them they can't ... touch me now."

Yuri said he had been forced to make the risky trip for his freedom. "In Cuba it's very difficult," he said. "I'm a decent person. I just want to change my life. I just want freedom. Cuba has no freedom."
Yuri, who asked at one point in the interview whether there was freedom of speech in St. Maarten and whether the report would be published in Cuba, said that although he felt "comfortable" in St. Marten, he was still petrified by thoughts of Cuba. "Even as I am talking to you I am afraid. After a long life in Cuba – 24 years living that way in Cuba – you get afraid. It's not easy to change. But I see there's freedom here."
Yuri said that apart from his wanting to be free, he also was eager for the opportunity to help his family, who he said would be "okay."
"It's hard there. It's not easy. It's terrible. It's very difficult to live there because there is no freedom. I want to help my family to have a better life to enjoy freedom so they can do things that they couldn't do now.
page3b173"In Cuba you work one month 24x7 for US $10. With that you try to eat. In Cuba you can't stay in the hotels. That's for tourists. They don't give you permission to go into a hotel. If you talk to tourists the police say you're making business with tourists and they charge you: one week in jail and 1,000 (pesos) tax.
"Before, the Cuban people couldn't even visit their own capital. If you are from the countryside and the police find you in the capital they bring you back. ...They say you are making business and they take you back and charge you.
"My wish is to go to USA and come back when I have American citizenship. When I go back [to Cuba, ed.] I will say to them: 'I go with American passport and say you cannot touch me.'"
Yuri said the United States was "the dream country and a country of opportunities."
"I'm happy I'm free now," he said at New Testament Baptist Church where the group, which includes three women, was taken after being released. The Cubans are now in the custody of the Christian Council of Churches and will receive assistance from St. Maarten Red Cross.
Justice Minister Roland Duncan said the Cubans had been released and their requests for asylum would be assessed on an individual basis (see related story).
Although Yuri and the other Cubans are safe, many persons who take the chance to be smuggled by boat into a US territory never make it. On Monday, for example, a motorboat overloaded with more than 25 persons, mostly Haitian immigrants, which it is believed had departed from St. Maarten, encountered difficulties on a reef just off the British Virgin Islands and at least six persons, including two infants, perished.

Dutch Parliament demands Curaçao, St. Maarten update

THE HAGUE--The Dutch Government must inform the Second Chamber on the latest political and administrative developments in Curaçao and St. Maarten in January next year.
The Second Chamber almost unanimously passed a motion on Tuesday which orders Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner to discuss the concerns of the Dutch Parliament about the latest developments in the countries Curaçao and St. Maarten.
The motion, submitted by Labour Party PvdA Member of Parliament (MP) Martijn van Dam, refers to "worrisome" political and administrative developments in the new countries whereby possibly the principles of good governance were violated.
According to the motion, Curaçao and St. Maarten have indicated that they want to deviate from agreements made with the Netherlands as part of the constitutional restructuring process and that the countries have tried to circumvent the Consensus Kingdom Laws and the financial supervision.
Through the motion, Parliament wants to obtain more insight into the developments in the countries since acquiring country status on October 10 this year. Minister Donner will visit the islands early January.
Parliament also passed a motion tabled by MP Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) to draft a vision on Article 43 of the Kingdom Charter, the guarantee function which makes it possible for the Kingdom Government to intervene. Four opposition parties along with the Party for Freedom PVV supported this motion.
Based on this same Article 43, the Dutch Government will have to instruct Curaçao's Government to draft a future vision on Curaçao's Isla refinery before February 1, 2011. Opposition parties, along with PVV, supported a motion of Ineke van Gent of the green left party GroenLinks, co-signed by Wassila Hachchi of D66 and Van Dam (PvdA). The future vision of the refinery should have been ready by December 1 this year.
There was broad support for the motion on financial supervision submitted by MP Hero Brinkman of the PVV, and co-signed by Bas Jan van Bochove of the Christian Democratic Party CDA and André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party.
This motion calls on the Dutch Government to ensure that the Council for Financial Supervision CFT can properly execute its task so Curaçao and St. Maarten cannot build up a new debt and the Netherlands not ever again has to pay debts of the islands. Only Democrats D66, Party for Animals and the Christian Union (CU) voted against.
Parliament unanimously expressed support for the motion of CU MP Cynthia Ortega-Martijn to establish a temporary facility in the Netherlands where the Antillean guilder can be exchanged for the euro. Dutch exchange offices and commercial banks are no longer accepting the Antillean guilder. The motion was co-signed by Hachchi of D66, Van Dam of PvdA, Van Gent of GroenLinks, Van Raak of the SP and Van Bochove of CDA.
A motion requesting government to provide half-yearly reports on the supervision executed by the CFT on the financial administrations of Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba as well as Curaçao and St. Maarten, was supported by five opposition parties plus the PVV. The motion was an initiative of MP Van Dam.
Governing parties VVD and CDA, along with four opposition parties, supported a motion of MP Hachchi of D66 aimed at making optimal use of the relation between the European Union and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.
Van Gent of GroenLinks received broad support for her motion seeking a plan of approach from the Dutch Government aimed at active support of future perspectives of pregnant teenage girls and young single mothers in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. This includes ensuring that pregnant teenage girls are not sent away from school.
Three motions were rejected. An attempt by MP Van Dam not to include an option of sending back criminal Antilleans in the proposed Movement of Persons Law stranded with CDA, VVD, PVV, D66 and CU voting against.
A motion by Van Gent to appoint Donner as coordinating Minister for Dutch policy affecting Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba didn't make it either because VVD, CDA and PVV voted against it.
A motion to promote the use of sustainable energy in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, submitted by Hachchi, Van Gent, Ortega-Martijn and Van Dam, was voted down as well.

Diamonds stolen from Caribbean Gems store

PHILIPSBURG--Caribbean Gems jewellery store on Front Street reportedly was robbed of a pouch of loose diamonds believed to be worth well over US $200,000 around 2:00pm Tuesday.
The store owner told The Daily Herald late Tuesday that playback of the store's security recording showed the culprit reaching behind the counter at the front of the store, grabbing the pouch of loose diamonds and walking calmly out of the store.
The perpetrator had a backpack and was described as having brown skin and being Indian- or Spanish-looking. He had been walking in and out of the store scanning the movements of the store clerks for about 45 minutes before he made his move.
The store owner believes the perpetrator had enough time to check out the store because it was very busy at that time. He said the perpetrator even had made contact with him while in the store.
He said he had felt very uncomfortable after the perpetrator left the store and had decided immediately to play back the recording.
Police were called and have launched an investigation.

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