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Marines in trouble for giving ride to bikini girls

page1b249PHILIPSBURG--A group of Netherlands Royal Marines of the rotational detachment in St. Maarten found themselves in hot water after giving a group of scantily-clad young women a ride on a Fast Raiding Interception Special Forces Craft (FRISC) during the Heineken Regatta on Saturday. A marine in the back of the vessel appeared to be filming the incident on his cell phone.

They were spotted by a boat full of photographers and a well-known local photographer snapped a shot which he placed on his Facebook page, causing a lot of comments in reaction, ranging from abusing taxpayers' money to integrity being compromised.

"Seemingly they have adapted themselves quite quickly to the wide-spread dominant parasitical culture of seeking personal pleasure using taxpayers' money and government resources," a local man commented underneath the photograph.

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," commented a woman. Others thought the men should be given a break, as they were only having a bit of fun along with everyone else at the Regatta.

The men were part of a multidisciplinary operation organised by the Coast Guard to keep the waters of St. Maarten safe. At the time of the incident, the FRISC was sailing under the Coast Guard flag.

"This has caused a lot of problems," a source stated. "They were part of a Coast Guard operation. However, the Netherlands Royal Marines had said that they could not take any Coast Guard officers on board the FRISC. Someone from Curaçao has been sent to St. Maarten to investigate the matter."

The Netherlands Royal Marines Headquarters in Curaçao is aware of the incident.

Roderick Gouverneur, who normally speaks for the Coast Guard, but also is acts as spokesman for the Netherlands Royal Marines, said: "The only thing I can say about this incident is that the Netherlands Defence Force regrets the incident very much. At this time, appropriate measures are being taken. I cannot give any further comment." He added that the consequences of the incident were an internal affair.

Massive control

page6a248As promised police began a massive control for motorists who had not paid their 2015 motor vehicle tax on Wednesday, which continued at various locations in the country on Thursday. These photos show officers controlling at the Kim Sha Beach area. The Daily Herald witnessed at least 10 vehicles being towed during the 40 minutes it was on the scene of this particular control. Motorists whose vehicles did not have the plates on had to put them on at the scene. (Photos by John Halley)

Islands blamed for foiling cooperation in healthcare

~ Minister Schippers to attend Aruba health congress ~

THE HAGUE--Closer cooperation in healthcare in the Dutch Caribbean is possible and desirable, but is frustrated by developments in especially Curaçao and St. Maarten. The latter country is accused of obstructing the medical evacuations from St. Eustatius and Saba.

Dutch Minister of Public Health, Welfare and Science Edith Schippers sent a letter to the Dutch Parliament on Thursday, in which she confirmed her attendance to the Kingdom Health Congress which will be held in Aruba from June 1-4.

The letter was accompanied by a five-page paper on healthcare containing advice, an analysis and strategy for the Aruba congress as well as the Kingdom Congress, which will take place in Curaçao probably on June 16, where healthcare will be on the agenda as well. The paper is part of the preparation of the Dutch delegation for the two congresses.

The need for closer cooperation among the Dutch Caribbean countries was stressed in this paper. Different interests and care systems have prevented the countries from arriving at agreements on healthcare.

According to the paper, St. Maarten has been complicating evacuations of acute patients from St. Eustatius and Saba because "St. Maarten wants to earn more," former Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams was quoted as having said.

"St. Maarten wants the Caribbean Netherlands health insurance to purchase the helicopter services in St. Maarten, despite the costs which are more than twice as high. They have even resorted to creating regulations that forbid foreign operators from deploying services," it was stated in the paper.

The paper also stated that St. Maarten has "insufficiently invested in its only hospital." The St. Maarten Medical Centre (SMMC) has half of the budget that it actually needs for a basic medical facility, it was stated in the paper that was sent to Minister Schippers and her colleague Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk early February this year.

"The tariffs have remained unchanged for 10 years and they are too low. Government doesn't want to adapt this. The hospital can insufficiently exploit basic specialties. The capacity and quality is below par. This makes the many medical referrals to Colombia and Guadeloupe necessary."

In Curaçao, cooperation is thwarted and the hold on the cost and quality on healthcare lost by the local care system, which allows medical specialists to operate their own clinics outside the hospital. This results in a waste of money in healthcare with people having to pay a lot for expensive, unnecessary treatments and mostly inferior care; it was stated in the paper.

The current care system in Curaçao has foiled cooperation between Curaçao and Bonaire. The Curaçao Government has not been able to change this system so far. Cardio invasive treatments (catlab) are being set up in both Aruba and Curaçao, which are only profitable with an adherence of more than 300,000 residents. "So far parties have refused to arrive at an agreement on this."

According to the paper, the Dutch Caribbean countries are too small to each carry their own sufficiently covering, high quality care system, which is why cooperation is essential. Differentiating of healthcare offered in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten presents a solution.

For example, by developing oncology in Curaçao, which makes it possible to purchase expensive radiation equipment and making it also more interesting for oncologists to establish on this island. This gives the other countries space to focus on, for example, cardiologic surgery, orthopaedics and neurologic surgery.

The people on the three islands, but also residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, would benefit from this approach. The cost of healthcare would go down, medical referrals to Colombia and Guadeloupe could decrease and the overall healthcare system would improve and become more sustainable.

The healthcare issue was a highly current topic, it was stated in the paper, because Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten were simultaneously making irreversible steps where it came to their (new) hospitals.

Minister Plasterk has promised to discuss the topic with the overseas countries at the Kingdom Conference in Curaçao in June. Minister Schippers has offered to help the countries with know-how and expertise; however, it is up to the countries to define their specific request for assistance and to make clear choices where it comes to differentiation of their healthcare specialties.

In her letter to the Dutch Parliament, Schippers stated that she supported the concept of closer cooperation in healthcare. The success of this cooperation largely depends on the willingness of the governments and local healthcare authorities to make choices. "It is in the interest of the people that this happens," the minister stated.

Schippers confirmed that she would be attending the Kingdom Health Congress in Aruba early June. Together with Minister Plasterk, she will work on realising more cooperation in healthcare in the Dutch Caribbean. Schippers said she hoped that the congress would yield fruitful results.

SMHDF finance manager questions investigation

~ Says wrong persons investigating ~

 

PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) Finance Manager Emilio Kalmera – in the midst of negative publicity, a court case and questions being posed concerning his credibility – has issued a press statement too long for The Daily Herald to print in its entirety that highlights what he calls questionable actions and says, “The reasoning for all this fiasco is more personal than anything else.”

Amongst other concerns, Kalmera said someone had been assigned to the board on the same day he and his colleagues were suspended; the audit was being carried out and supervised by the wrong persons; and former Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Maurice Lake had not stopped the investigations by Government Accounting Foundation SOAB.

Kalmera said he wanted to clear the air, especially after the March 11 article in this newspaper with the headline “SMHDF dumps Lynch for financial mismanagement” was published based on a press release by SMHDF attorney Jairo Bloem in which he announced that Director Henry Lynch’s service agreement had been dissolved as of February 4.

Kalmera focused criticism on how Bloem and the board “conducted their affairs,” adding that he had more concerns and documents in his possession to discuss, but that this was not the forum for doing so. He also told this newspaper he did not want to discuss too much, as the court case is still pending.

Kalmera said he, Lynch and another colleague had been notified on August 12, through a letter signed solely by Bloem, with regard to their suspension pending an investigation by SOAB.

“All three of us received a letter with the same contents as if the director, myself and my colleague formed part of general management. … As far as I am aware I have a labour agreement with the foundation, which the director signed off on. If I was appointed by a board, I wish they would have told me so and not left me in the dark all this time. A wise attorney would have written either three separate letters or two with different wording,” Kalmera said.

In line with criticism published previously on the basis of a leaked document by attorney Cindy Marica, Kalmera described an unjustified suspension, as Bloem should not have had the right to take such action on his own.

Using Marica’s statement for brevity: “… the decision would need to be taken by the board according to SMHDF statutes. A meeting should have been held with all members in attendance, and another one, two to four weeks later if all were not present for the first meeting. A two-thirds majority backing is required. This did not happen and no resolution was received by Lynch.”

Kalmera adds, “At the time of Bloem serving his letter, the board was not present. To date, I have yet to see a resolution from the board in regard to the suspension of Mr. Lynch, much less myself and my colleague.”

He said, “Bloem acted as though he was both the board and a public prosecutor” and acted “above the law and against corporate governance.” He said the letter only had Bloem’s signature and described assertive behaviour, including the changing of locks to the office.

“All of this drama was concocted by the board instead of doing what should have been done, which was to call a meeting with management to discuss matters before taking such extreme measures as though we are criminals,” Kalmera said.

He said later, “Two senior, seasoned board members had resigned leaving two newly appointed board members on the board and they took it upon themselves to bypass the director to talk and conduct meetings directly with employees and used this as basis, without having any discussion with the director to act in the manner they did.

“I understood that there was no resolution at that time as there were only two members on the board after the additional two senior, seasoned members had previously resigned. …”

Of those, two, “One had to travel for medical treatment. It appears that Bloem advised the remaining board member to appoint someone to the board in a hurry, as when you check the Chamber of Commerce information, a young person with the initials J.P., who conveniently works in a similar capacity in the same ministry in Government as the board member who had to travel due to medical reasons, was put on the board the same day of the suspension.”

This newspaper had no way of verifying this in time for publication. Kalmera said that although he did not have a copy of this proof, attorney Marica did.

“Even if they signed a resolution after the fact (by back dating), J.P. could not have had sufficient time to read the many documents to form an adequate opinion to sign off on a resolution with far-reaching consequences,” Kalmera said.

“If he did sign, then he is a fool and it would be questionable if sensitive documents were given to him to read prior to becoming an official board member, which would also be a breach of confidentiality.”

On another topic, Kalmera said, “The prior chairman had convinced the board to engage the services of HBN Law for a retainer fee. The agreement officially expires at the end of March 2015, so it behoves me why Bloem was chosen to represent the board to incur additional legal expenses.”

March 12 marked three months since suspension, while Kalmera and his colleague “are still awaiting the opportunity to be heard, but in the meantime, the director was fired based on an internal investigation which no clarity until this date was sought by my person, who functioned in the capacity of Finance Manager.”

Kalmera asserted that they had been told by former Minister Lake during a recent meeting with Parliament to which the board also had been invited, but did not attend, “that he did not stop SOAB from conducting any forensic audit.”

However, at the time the news of the suspension broke, Minister Lake issued a press release that stated: “I have requested the management of SOAB with immediate effect to withdraw the current process because it does not have my blessing and goes against proper procedure. …”

Kalmera also questioned why accounting firm BDO, which conducted audits for KPMG, which assisted in cleaning up administration and carried out a quick-scan, was not used to investigate. He said findings by both companies never had been discussed with the board despite pressure to do so by Lynch and both firms were in a position to carry out unbiased investigations.

Kalmera said the director had plans to terminate labour agreements with interim management as they were “long-standing non-performing employees,” yet the same employees “conducted the internal investigation with a newly-appointed financial supervisor hired in December of 2013.”

The supervisor was said to have “abandoned the organisation in 2012 by going on vacation to Holland and never returning. … She had not only abandoned the organisation when it needed her most, but she is also a contributor to why the administration was in a mess in the first place. In other words, the internal investigation is biased, as these persons do not possess the competence to conduct a forensic audit. …

“I can only conclude that the board, the two interim managers and attorney Bloem acted out of personal or biased reasons, but they were only part of a bigger plot from higher powers.”

D66 chapters champion voting rights of Dutch nationals abroad

THE HAGUE--Various chapters of the Dutch Democratic D66 party will submit a motion to party members at the April 18 D66 congress, to arrange the voting rights of Dutch nationals in the Caribbean Netherlands and abroad through an Electoral College.

Persons with Dutch nationality living outside the Netherlands, and those residing in the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are currently excluded from active voting rights for the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate.

This is an unfair situation that needs to be changed according to the D66 chapters in, among others the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, and also the D66 chapters in The Hague, Maastricht-Heuvelland, Sittard-Geleen, Nijmegen and the Foreign Region chapter.

The Senate handles affairs that touch Dutch citizens abroad, including the Dutch Caribbean countries and in the Caribbean Netherlands, yet these nationals have no say in that same Senate, Secretary of the D66 Foreign Region chapter Arthur van Benthem stated in a press release. This creates a situation of unequal treatment.

Van Benthem, who lives in Philadelphia, said that the current VVD/PvdA government has barely displayed any effort when it comes to the (rights of) more than one million Dutch nationals living abroad. This group has been facing difficulties in the areas of nationality, government's digital personal identification system DigiD, voting by internet, elections and those with a foreign partner.

In an effort to address this situation, and in light of next week's indirect elections for the Senate through the Provincial States, the D66 chapters will be presenting a motion to the D66 members at the April 18 party congress.

In the motion, the D66 chapters ask the party's representatives in the Second and First Chamber to urge the Dutch Government to accomplish indirect voting rights for Dutch nationals abroad and in the Caribbean Netherlands in the next Provincial States/First Chamber elections of 2019.

This could be achieved by setting up an Electoral College (Kiescollege) that would be established every four years with the sole purpose of electing the members of the Senate. Only persons with the Dutch nationality would be able to vote for this Electoral College for which the Dutch Constitution has to be amended.

The Senate and also a majority in the Second Chamber are in favour of an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands. The subject is the sole agenda point of a debate of the Second Chamber's Permanent Committee for Home Affairs and Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk next Tuesday.

Eelco Keij, a candidate on the Democratic Party D66 in the 2012 Second Chamber elections, who worked as an entrepreneur and fundraising strategist in New York and now works as fundraising specialist at the University of Nijmegen, said the motion served as a "strong signal" for The Hague to take the voting rights of all Dutch nationals abroad very seriously.

"With this motion we want to prevent that the focus on achieving these voting rights is not lost. Dutch nationals abroad are the golden alumni of this country. We need to do something with that," he told The Daily Herald. He expected the motion to be adopted at the D66 congress.

Keij presented his political manifesto "Fortunate Connections, the case for new political representation of Dutch nationals abroad" in The Hague in February last year. He has been actively championing the (voting) rights of Dutch nationals abroad for several years now.

The liberal democratic VVD party has clearly expressed its preference to establish an Electoral College for all Dutch nationals abroad. The Second Chamber approved a proposal of VVD Member of Parliament (MP) Joost Taverne in September last year, to ask Minister Plasterk to give his view on setting up an Electoral College for Dutch nationals living abroad. The minister sent this paper to Parliament in December 2014.

Plasterk indicated during that debate in September that he did not fancy setting up an Electoral College for Dutch nationals abroad so they could vote for the Senate. He reconfirmed in a letter to the Dutch Parliament last February that the Dutch Government did not see the need for a fundamental discussion on the elections of the First Chamber and the influence of Dutch nationals abroad.

In a meeting with the First Chamber in December, Plasterk said that creating an Electoral College for Dutch nationals abroad would "rock the very foundation of the Constitution" since this exercise would effectively separate the elections of the Senate from the provincial aspect.

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