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Lake debunks talk about breaking UP

PHILIPSBURG--"Untrue and baseless" is how United People's (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Maurice Lake described rampant "rumours" in the community about him being "involved in a plot to throw down government and send home the Cabinet of Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs."

Since Friday, there has been persistent talk that spun into blogs about Lake breaking with this party over differences. The MP, who is off island on family business, issued a press statement on Sunday afternoon debunking the rumours.

He wanted to make it "very clear" that he did not have any discussions about a change in government with anyone. "Any issue that I have with my party, I discuss internally and try to seek solutions there. I won't go and throw down government to put the country in jeopardy just like that. My allegiance lay with the United People's party, the people of this country, and the coalition."

Lake said he is for the development of St. Maarten's people and the country. "That is my primary focus, economic development, job creation and building homes for our people, and continuing to raise the quality of life."

"We need the finalization of the two additional ministers to the cabinet. The execution of the governing programme also needs to move forward, because the people want to see things happening. I was elected to work in the interests of the small man, and I intend to fulfil that obligation," he said.

Pointing to the government changes in the past that occurred around Carnival time, Lake said, "I know its Carnival time, and the Carnival fever is getting hotter ... This is basically the start of fictional stories. Probably in the weeks to come you will hear more, which is unfortunate."

Lake reminded the community that no one is authorized to speak on his behalf other than himself. "If I have something to say, I will say it directly to the person. I do not know where this rumour started, or who started it, but it's the figment of somebody's imagination."

The use of social media and fake names "to write all kinds of untruths" was decried by Lake. Troublemakers use this method "to create hysteria amongst the population, which is very unfortunate and irresponsible."

Further, such rumour-mongering "creates uneasiness amongst the populace" and "is not good for our investment climate. Investors won't be interested in investing in a country that gives the perception of political instability," said Lake.

Based on Lake's statement and indications from other quarters, the ten-seat UP-led coalition appears to still be intact, in spite of persistent talk since last week about one or more members breaking away due to differences with UP leader Theo Heyliger.

Even if Lake had opted to leave the coalition, the UP-led coalition would still have a majority in Parliament with nine seats. It would take at least three MPs to break with the coalition to cause the government to fall and leave the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet without majority support in Parliament.

There has been talk of another UP parliamentarian wanting to break with UP. This is MP Silvio Matser.

Talks about Matser wanting to leave UP are not new. There were indications earlier this year of talks about breaking the coalition and forming a new government with opposition National Alliance (NA), Democratic Party and United St. Maarten Party (USP).

Matser is also off-island.

On January 14, UP leader MP Theo Heyliger had publically stated that Matser was being courted by NA officials to leave the coalition, while that party's board made a fervent call for Matser to resign immediately from Parliament.

The call for Matser's resignation came after his sentencing earlier in January by the Court of First Instance last week to 24 months, 18 of which were suspended, on three years' probation and 240 hours of community service, for tax evasion. Matser has appealed his sentence.

Following those "talks" in January, Heyliger brokered inclusion of USP leader MP Frans Richardson into the coalition, strengthening it to 10 seats. That inclusion makes the coalition more difficult to break, as three MPs must withdraw their support for the government to collapse.

Tourist dies after falling

DAWN BEACH--A man died after falling and hitting his head on a rock at the entrance of Princess Heights Hotel in Dawn Beach, Saturday night.

A source stated that the victim was a tourist who had been driving his car despite being heavily intoxicated. He did not manage to drive his car up the hill at the junction of Oyster Pond Road and Princess Heights, so he got out of his car and continued on foot. However, shortly after getting out of his car he lost his balance and fell, hitting his head.

Despite paramedics being called to the scene, the man could not be revived.

St. Maarten Police Force officers also attended the scene of the accident. A police press release said that around 11:20pm "a police patrol was directed to Princess Heights to investigate a case involving a man who, after stepping out of his car, had fallen and injured himself and was showing no signs of life.

"On the scene the investigating officers encountered the body of the male victim, who had suffered severe trauma to the back of his head.

"According to witnesses the victim was severely under the influence of alcohol and when he stepped out of his vehicle he lost his balance, causing him to trip and fall over a low wall with a drop on the other side of some six feet."

Forensic medical officer Dr. Douglas was called to the scene and pronounced life extinct.

The Forensic Department attended the scene collecting evidence, while detectives were busy questioning witnesses to determine what exactly happened. The victim was transported to a morgue. The investigation is ongoing.

Princess Heights Hotel Director Emil Lee said in an invited comment: "Out of consideration for friends and family of the deceased, who may not have been apprised of the tragic incident, we believe it would be inappropriate to comment in any detail. We can confirm that the deceased was a middle-aged American male who rented a unit for a short stay at Princess Heights, directly from the owner of a condominium unit.

"Management and staff would like to express their condolences to the friends and family of the victim."

SXM Doet a success, nearly 500 volunteer

PHILIPSBURG--Some 494 volunteers on the island were mobilized to take part in around 37 projects all across St. Maarten, on March 20 and March 21, for SXM Doet the local leg of the kingdom-wide volunteer effort, in an effort to make St. Maarten a better place for everyone.

St. Maarten Zoo received additional manpower for its ongoing facelift. An army of volunteers flocked to the zoo in Madame Estate on both days to upgrade and paint the fence as part of SXM Doet. RBC Bank used the zoo project as a team-building opportunity and turned out in force with more than 35 volunteers.

Sponsors of SXM Doet, TelEm Group and partners BDO Accounting and Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) said they had received a tremendous response from St. Maarten's shopping public at Le Grand Marche and Sunny Foods during a food drive Saturday for New Start foster home.

The project also included the building of a gazebo at the foster home, which despite a slow start Saturday morning, picked up speed on Sunday and volunteers from Telem and partners were praised for their hard work.

The White and Yellow Cross was one of the most active organisations during the event, with a food drive for its food pantry which serves 16 local families; the creation of a vegetable garden at the St. Martin's Home for the elderly together with Island Gems and other volunteers, and a beach clean and picnic with clients of the Sister Basilia Centre and Group Seven of the Sister Borgia School.

The White and Yellow Cross also organised a food drive with the St. Maarten body building federation, a make-over of the day centre for psychogeriatric clients together with the same bodybuilders and KPMG staff, and the creation of an exercise obstacle course with materials donated by GEBE, course by Martijn Trading and once again the bodybuilders. The atmosphere was reported to be great with a festive lunch and music adding to the fun.

The K1 Britannia Foundation hosted a Sports/ Fun Day for the foster children of the New Start Foundation and the Hope Outreach Foundation with the help of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme year one class of the St. Dominic High School; more than 30 volunteers and nearly 40 children participated in obstacle courses, kick ball, and other fun group games at the De Weever Estate on Saturday.

Volunteers included a group from the Laser 101 team, students of the IB programme, other St. Dominic High students, the De Weever family and other individuals who decided to sign up. Lunch, sponsored by Domino's pizza, was followed by water games and the day ended with cupcakes and goody bags.

The Coast Guard, including Director Glen Werleman, showed that it contributes to St. Maarten on the land as well as on the sea. A group of Coast Guard volunteers contributed with painting and tidying up the Rupert I. Maynard Youth Community Centre in St. Peters.

A team of staff members of the Public Prosecutor's Office, including Chief Prosecutor Ton Maan along with other volunteers, worked hard to paint and tidy the garden at the Sister Regina School. Maan has, since his recent arrival in St. Maarten, already shown his dedication to making his new island a better place in more ways than one.

Animal Defenders St. Maarten built dog houses together with students of Milton Peters College, Harley Davidson riders and the Nature Foundation, whilst St. Maarten Archaeological Centre (SIMARC) planted 15 Mimosa trees at the Pond Fill.

Unfortunately, certain projects also had to be cancelled because not enough volunteers applied for that particular project. One of the projects that had to be cancelled was the painting of lines at the library car park.

De Weever, Bosman face-to-face in court

page1a255   page1b255By Suzanne Koelega

THE HAGUE--In what can be called a historic case, Members of Parliament Cornelius de Weever of St. Maarten and André Bosman of the Netherlands faced each other in court on Friday on allegations of slander. De Weever took Bosman to court to have the latter retract his statements of bribery in a rectification in the newspapers.

Main reason for the court case, which took place in The Hague in De Weever's presence, was an article of the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf published on September 29, 2014, headlined "Corrupt St. Maarten needs to be probed."

In the article, Bosman, Kingdom Relations spokesman for the liberal democratic VVD party, was quoted as saying that De Weever was "simply bought" by United People's Party (UP) Leader Theo Heyliger to leave the Democratic Party (DP) and support the UP so it would have a majority in the new St. Maarten Parliament, following the elections in August that same year.

Bosman later said that De Telegraaf had taken his words out of context as he had merely stated that "it appeared" that De Weever had been bought. De Weever's lawyer Jairo Bloem, also present at Friday's court case, summoned Bosman to voluntarily rectify his statement. Bosman didn't do so, and instead told the media that the fact that they were "trying to shut him up" indicated that he was "on the right track." Last month Bosman was summoned to court.

The big issue in Friday's case was whether Bosman could use his immunity as a Member of Parliament (MP). According to Bosman and his lawyer Michaël van Basten Batenburg, the MP has immunity of prosecution, based on the Dutch Constitution, because he made his statement to the media within the building of the Second Chamber.

The Dutch Constitution specifically links immunity to statements made as part of a debate of Parliament. But in Bosman's opinion it didn't make much difference whether he made his statement in a debate or, as happened in this case, in the corridors of the Second Chamber building.

De Weever's lawyer Annemarie Ludwig said Bosman had given a broad interpretation to his parliamentary immunity and that in this case his statement to the press didn't resort under this law. "Not parliamentary immunity, but proper media training would have been the answer to this," she said.

Ludwig said Bosman's statements had created a negative perception of her client as a corruptible, untrustworthy and incorrect person. "My client was characterised as a corrupt politician, who could be bought for a lot of money to form a new government," added Bloem.

Bloem stated that De Weever was a young politician with a promising career and that Bosman's statements caused him material and immaterial damage. He said that an "attack on someone's integrity automatically meant an attack on the person in question."

As a Dutch politician, Bosman should have been more aware of the effect that his words would have on a small community, where people tended to look up to people with authority and were quick to take the words of a Dutch politician to be true, Bloem said. He said Bosman was a well-known person in St. Maarten.

Bosman's lawyer Van Basten Batenburg explained that a VVD spokesman for Kingdom Relations, his client had the right to make statements relating to developments in St. Maarten. He said that seasoned politicians, such as Bosman and De Weever, should be able to tone down criticism, even if it concerned fierce, personal criticism. He said it was the task of an MP to address wrongful issues.

"The question is why De Weever was so bothered by Bosman's criticism. De Weever is angry over nothing. It is a tropical storm in a glass of water. He deserves a correctional slap," said Van Basten Batenburg, who added that De Weever instead should direct his energy towards improving governance and fighting corruption.

Van Basten Batenburg suggested that De Weever had political motivations to take Bosman to court. "His attack on Bosman will impress others in the political arena. He wants to show his muscles, show that he has come all the way to The Hague to personally take Bosman to court."

Lawyer Ludwig contended that criticism by a fellow Parliamentarian was acceptable, but that Bosman had "crossed the line." Besides a rectification in De Telegraaf and the St. Maarten newspaper, De Weever also sought a NAf. 11,000 advance for his expenses. The Court will rule on April 3.

Inspectorate on the lookout for recalled Kraft products

PHILIPSBURG--Although Kraft Foods Group has informed St. Maarten's Inspectorate of Public Health that the batch of recalled macaroni and cheese products were not exported to St. Maarten, the Inspectorate's Food Safety division "will still be on the lookout" for the items in local mini-markets and supermarkets as a precautionary measure.

Inspector General Dr. Earl Best said in a brief press release on Friday that the recall only applies to macaroni and cheese 7.25-ounce boxes of the original flavour of Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner. With "use by" date of September 18, 2015-Oct 11, 2015 with a code of "C2" at the lower end of the container.

Kraft Foods Group voluntarily recalled approximately 242,000 cases of the product due to the possibility that some boxes may contain small pieces of metal. The product was distributed in the US, including Puerto Rico and to some Caribbean and South American countries, but not to Canada.

The "C2" refers to a specific production line on which the affected product was made. Some of these products have also been filled in multi-pack units that have a range of different code-dates and manufacturing codes on the external packaging (box or shrink-wrap), depending on the package configuration.

The recalled product was shipped to customers in the US and several other countries, excluding Canada. The affected dates of this product were sold in only these four configurations: 7.25-oz. box, original flavour; 3-pack of those 7.25-oz. boxes, original flavour; 4-pack shrink-wrap of those 7.25-oz. boxes, original flavour; 5-pack shrink-wrap of those 7.25-oz. boxes, original flavour.

No other sizes, varieties or pasta shapes and no other packaging configurations are included in this recall. No products with manufacturing codes other than "C2" below the code date on the individual box are included in this recall.

Kraft had received eight consumer contacts about this product from the impacted line within this range of code-dates and no injuries have been reported. Consumers who purchased this product should not eat it. They should return it to the store where purchased for an exchange or a full refund.

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