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Halley asks PM for extension, still awaits any govt response

~ Kadaster: illegally filled at own risk ~

SIMPSON BAY--Simpson Bay business owner Marlon Halley reportedly has not heard back from any Government representatives concerning his appeal to stay on or be compensated for land that he filled and to investigate matters pertaining to the adjoining family land's transfer of rights. A second letter on the matter was submitted to Prime Minister/Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Minister Marcel Gumbs on March 16.

This had been preceded by other correspondence to Minister Gumbs and a petition to Parliament submitted on his behalf that calls for an investigation into what the community has dubbed "fishy business" surrounding the transfer of rights to the land (see March 4 article "Simpson Bay: Parliament must investigate land deal").

Questions posed to Parliament by The Daily Herald concerning its reaction to the petition, which was accompanied by two pages of signatures and listed some 14 attachments of supporting documents, have gone unanswered.

Halley had been instructed by VROMI to remove his belongings from the property or face "legal measures" by Wednesday, March 18. This newspaper understands that he was not approached by VROMI or by the developers, who now have long-lease rights to the land, on Wednesday.

It had been decided in court that Government had followed the correct procedures in acquiring the land and now owns it legally.

In his most recent letter, Halley requested that 90 days be granted before Government applies "the strong arm of the law to force" him off the land, so that he can look for another parcel of land to store his merchandise and operate his business.

Halley told this newspaper earlier this month that he already was looking into alternatives and researching their availability.

Kadaster's take

This newspaper asked the Kadaster Office about the legality of filled land that has been in place for many years, as Halley's business has been set up on the family plot of land for some 28 years and the illegal filling that made the land larger was done around 20 years ago.

Kadaster Director Clemens Roos said there was essentially no timeframe that legalised the use of land if it was filled illegally. "Without a permit, the filled land will remain illegal," he said. "If someone can claim illegally-filled areas then there would become a lawless 'Wild West' where the strongest would fill everything and claim it."

On the matter of compensation, Roos said that if land was filled in, it was done at a person's "own risk" and doing so did not give the government any obligation to that person.

The Kadaster Office had been criticised by the Simpson Bay community for not researching well enough, as Melford Lejuez was "clearly" listed as the land's owner on certificates of admeasurement.

In response, Roos said, "A certificate of admeasurement is a document that only reflects the location and size of a lot of land. The further information is descriptive and at that time it was often not based on the information of the public registers.

"Whatever is mentioned on the certificate of admeasurement is only valid if it is also in accordance with the public registers of the Kadaster, but this information is no basis for claims. In this case no one was registered as title holder for that property."


Halley's recent letter expressed that he felt unfairly singled out in the situation.

"I have not been the first and probably won't be the last to fill in the waterways with the intention of being able to one day claim domain land locally. ... Many others have occupied domain land without Government's permission, but are yet to be evicted," he said.

"Why is it that I have to be singled out before given the first option to own the parcel of land I paid for to have filled in? Why are others not ordered to remove whatever they placed on domain land? Is it because of the location of the land? Or do those in certain positions within government have something against me?

"Why is it possible for non-nationals with money to get domain land over people born on this island? Why are non-nationals allowed to destroy the environment with such heavy cutting, filling, dredging and piling, in contrast to a local St. Maartener with limited resources who only needs a small piece of land to store and operate his or her small business or to live on without government's interference and in some instances with government's assistance?"

Pupil taken to police for attacking teacher

~ Elshot calls emergency meeting ~

PHILIPSBURG--A primary school pupil was taken to the Philipsburg police station on Wednesday for hitting a teacher in the face with a rock.

The incident took place at Dr. Alma Fleming-Rogers Educational Care Centre in Belvedere, which has housed pupils relocated from Prins Willem Alexander School for Special Education in St. Peters since earlier this school year.

The boy, who appeared to be around 12 years old, was seen being led calmly into the station with a woman believed to be his mother, who held his hand.

Police spokesperson Inspector Ricardo Henson was not privy to the details on Wednesday afternoon when contacted by The Daily Herald, as the police report was still in the process of being drawn up. However, he confirmed that such an incident had taken place and said the investigation was still ongoing.

It is not clear what sparked the outburst, whether the pupil normally has problems managing aggression, or what further measures, if any, will be taken by the school, police or any other party.

The school's director could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Windward Islands Teachers union (WITU) President Claire Elshot called for an emergency board meeting tonight, Thursday, in a letter sent out to the media and other board members late Wednesday evening.

"Three incidents were reported to me today of parents or students threatening or physically attacking teachers. This afternoon I got a full detailed report, but had to attend the Tripartite Meeting at the Administration Building and when I got there I also had to chair the meeting and finished at 7:00 pm," Elshot stated in the letter.

"These incidents took place at three public schools, namely Prins Willem Alexander School for Special Education, Genevieve de Weever and Charles Leopold. Similar incidents have taken place in the past also at Ruby Labega Primary School, Dr. Martin King Jr. and St. Maarten Vocational School.

"The incident at Prins Willem Alexander School was so severe that the teacher had to be taken to the emergency room in an ambulance after she was purposely hit by a boy with a rock in her face. This incident was reported late in the afternoon by DEPES to the Minister's Office.

"The WITU regrets the fact that some students and their parents have developed an attitude towards teachers in which they would display this inappropriate behaviour. This, however, should not be tolerated; under no circumstances. A zero-tolerance policy has not been put in place even though the WITU has spoken out against this illegal right that children feel that they have acquired over the last five years."

Elshot noted that Public Education authorities had terminated the services in the past years of teachers who, as part of disciplinary measures, had lashed a child, but "kept a very silent attitude when children or their parents assault or even damage the teachers' cars or property."

Elshot stated that Thursday evening's board meeting would be followed by an emergency meeting for all public school teachers.

Police shoot wanted man

page1a252COLE BAY--Police shot a man who was wanted on an arrest warrant as he evaded arrest late Tuesday afternoon. The incident occurred near Montessori School on Wellington Road, but the exact location has not been confirmed.

Paramedics treated the man on the scene for gunshot wounds and he was taken to St. Maarten Medical Center, where he received further treatment. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

A source who was at the scene said the man had been hit by three bullets: twice in the legs and once in the backside. "It was clear the officers aimed for the legs to stop the man from getting away," the source said. He said the man was wanted for stabbing a Jamaican man in 2013, although he could not give further details.

Police officers were seen searching in the bushes at the entrance of Budget Marine and were overheard discussing cutting the bushes down to help in the search for bullet shells. Budget Marine was closed already and staff was no longer on the premises.

Police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson confirmed that a man had been shot by police officers when he tried to evade arrest. He issued a press release to detail the event.

"On Tuesday, March 17, around 4:45pm, several police patrols were sent to the Cole Bay area to search for a suspect known to police as 'Bolita,' for whom a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Prosecutor's Office in August of 2013," the press release stated.

Bolita was suspected of murder and severe ill-treatment, but had managed to avoid capture, Henson explained.

"When the patrols went to the area to locate and arrest Bolita, he took off running through the neighbourhood, again trying to avoid his arrest. The police chased the suspect on foot through the area, while he kept jumping over fences into the numerous properties in the area. While the suspect was being chased by police, he was ordered repeatedly to stop and turn himself in, but he refused to do so," the press release said.

"The officers chasing Bolita fired several warning shots. However, he refused to stop and continued trying to escape. Bolita, who is considered extremely dangerous, was then shot in the upper left leg by one the officers.

"After being shot, the suspect continued running, but was apprehended shortly after by the police. The suspect was treated at the scene by paramedics and then transported to St. Maarten Medical Center for further treatment. Detectives were on the scene talking to witnesses while the Forensic Department was collecting evidence. Further details regarding this incident will follow as they become available."

GEBE, Sol look into whether equipment damaged by fuel

PHILIPSBURG--Utilities company GEBE says it is working with Sol to determine whether fuel supplied by the latter is responsible for damage caused to a fuel oil separator at GEBE's Cay Bay power plant just over ten days ago.

However, Sol says it stands by its product and "has not received any product whose Certificate of Quality indicated any element to be out of specification."

The Daily Herald received unconfirmed reports that GEBE was questioning the quality of fuel supplied by Sol and at one point had been considering requesting a refund.

GEBE did not give a direct response when asked this specific question. However, it said it was working with Sol to "identify the exact cause of the damage to the equipment (fuel oil separator), which is designed to take heavy fuel oil (HFO) of a specific grade and separates all unwanted particles from the HFO before it is used."

GEBE indicated recently that fuel-related issues probably had resulted in the malfunctioning of a fuel oil separator. The equipment breakdown resulted in several days of load-shedding, causing residents in some areas to be without electricity for several hours at a time over a six-day period.

GEBE Chief Operations Officer (COO) Romelio Maduro said, "The initial theory is that the fuel oil separator at some stage became unable to provide clean HFO. While this can mean that the quality of oil delivered to the power plant did not meet NV GEBE's specifications," Maduro said he "preferred not to speculate at the moment. We are presently in discussions with Sol on a way forward."

Maduro said one of the larger supply units had stopped working before the fuel oil separator issue had surfaced. He said the two issues were not related and the larger supply unit would be back in operation next Monday.

Maduro said GEBE had switched to light fuel oil when the problem with the fuel oil separator occurred, which was not ideal for the operation as the light fuel oil burns more quickly.

Asked whether there would be consequences for the fuel supplier Sol, Maduro said, "Before we go over and make such statements, we have to find out what caused this. First of all, we will need to analyse the fuel sample and after that we continue our discussion with Sol."

Maduro said he was confident, based on the many years Sol and NV GEBE had worked closely together, that "the discussions would yield positive fruits."

Sol General Manager Northeastern Caribbean David Antrobus said in an invited comment that Sol Antilles and its predecessor historically had been supplying GEBE with HFO and light fuel oil (LFO)/diesel fuel according to agreed contractual and industry specifications.

Sol said its operations were guided by strict industry standards and its supply arrangement with GEBE was guided by that premise.

"Prior to arrival all fuel shipments are certified by an independent laboratory to be in accordance with the contractual and industry specifications before receipt into Sol's tanks. This is known as the Certificate of Quality. Routinely, additional analyses are carried out by other independent laboratories to confirm that fuel quality meets the specifications," Sol said.

"Sol has not received any product whose Certificate of Quality indicated any element to be out of specification. Furthermore, our independent analysis related to product recently supplied to GEBE confirms our fuel quality to meet the contractually agreed GEBE specifications."

Antrobus said Sol had not received any claim from GEBE with respect to the fuel not being according to the agreed specification.

"Sol stands confidently behind its products and assures our customers of our continued commitment to ensuring a consistent and reliable standard of product to both our commercial and retail customers," he said.

"Quality and safety are paramount to Sol and we will continue to operate in accordance with Sol's health, safety and environmental policies, which are fully in line with international operating fuel standards."

Proposal for islands’ Electoral Colleges ready before summer

THE HAGUE--A proposal to establish Electoral Colleges for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be ready before the summer of 2015, Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk told the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday.

A vast majority in the Second Chamber is in favour of establishing the Electoral College(s) for the Caribbean Netherlands, which became clear during a debate of the Second Chamber's Permanent Committee for Home Affairs with Minister Plasterk. All parties present, VVD, PvdA, SP, D66 and ChristianUnion expressed support.

Both Parliament and Plasterk want to approach the issue of establishing an Electoral College (Kiescollege) in the most practical way possible. "Let's create three separate Electoral Colleges to reduce cost and limit travelling," said member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP).

Van Raak said that the dilemma of securing the voting rights for Caribbean Netherlands residents could only be solved by setting up Electoral Colleges for the islands. He called for a practical solution whereby all residents, those with the Dutch nationality and foreign nationals, would receive one ballot for the Island Council, while Dutch nationals would receive a second ballot for the Electoral College, which on its turn would vote for the members of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate.

Establishing one central Electoral College for all three islands was not deemed ideal because of the geographical distance between Bonaire and St. Eustatius, Saba, and the fact that the political systems between the islands was different. There is a possibility that St. Eustatius and Saba will have a combined Electoral College, which would be even more practical and cost-effective.

Member of Parliament (MP) Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66 announced that she contemplated submitting a motion next Tuesday, to urge Minister Plasterk to make haste with the Electoral College(s) for the Caribbean Netherlands. "The minister can get to work so we can have this arranged before the next elections in 2019. This motion would give off a clear signal that the Second Chamber supports an Electoral College," she said.

Plasterk said a motion was not necessary since a proposal for consultation to establish the Electoral College(s) would be ready before the summer. Consultations on the proposal will take place with Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba since they will also have a say in this matter.

The Electoral College(s) have to be created through an amendment of the Dutch Constitution. An adapted law proposal will be needed since the Second Chamber has already approved a proposal to adapt the Constitution in order to secure the voting rights of residents of the Caribbean Netherlands, and to adopt the special public entity status of the three islands.

The First Chamber has decided to defer the handling of a law proposal to regulate the voting rights on the islands until Minister Plasterk and the Second Chamber have looked at the possibilities of an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands.

MP Gert Jan Segers of the ChristianUnion, who was also present at Tuesday's debate, accused Plasterk in a press release of waiting too long to secure the democratic rights of residents of the Caribbean Netherlands. "The votes in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba need to be taken along post-haste in the elections for the First Chamber. We need to have equal rights for all citizens of our country. On Wednesday, 20,000 people are again excluded. This needs to change for the next elections in 2019," he stated.

MP Joost Taverne, of the liberal democratic VVD party, said during the debate that he supported an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands, but he also put a proposal on the table to establish a similar body for the one million or so Dutch nationals living abroad. He said his intention was not to have the Caribbean Netherlands Electoral College wait on the establishing of an Electoral College for Dutch citizens abroad.

An Electoral College for Dutch citizens abroad was a highly current topic, said Taverne as the Senate has attained a more political attitude. "People are asking me why they can't vote for the First Chamber. It is a legitimate question. It concerns an important, large group of voters. I would like the minister to be a bit more enthusiastic and proactive on this issue," he said.

Minister Plasterk explained that an Electoral College for Dutch nationals abroad was a "totally different" discussion. Establishing this body would require a fundamental debate on the election of the First Chamber. He also said that he did not have the mandate of the current cabinet to arrange voting rights for Dutch nationals abroad. He emphasized that it was important to separate this issue from the Caribbean Netherlands Electoral College.

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