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Support for traditional Piet declines, Dutch paper calls for a truce

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Support for the traditional blackface version of Zwarte Piet is declining and more people are now open to change, according to a poll of 55,000 people for television current affairs show EenVandaag.

The poll shows that 68% of the population back keeping Zwarte Piet black, while 26% are open to change. In 2013, the traditional version of Sinterklaas’ helper had 89% support, last year 74%.

At the same time, three-quarters of those polled said they could understand why supporters of the traditional Piet had stopped anti-demonstrators travelling to Dokkum this weekend by blocking the motorway.

Meanwhile, the AD newspaper devoted its Thursday front page to a call for a ‘Sinterklaas truce’. ‘We do not want to get involved in the Zwarte Piet discussion and we are certainly not taking a stance.

We just want the discussions to take place at the right time and the right place,’ editor Hans Nijenhuis said in an open letter to readers. ‘But could we agree not to harass each other from the time that Sint sets foot in the Netherlands to the time he leaves. This is all we are asking for, a Sinterklaas truce.’

Support

The paper’s campaign has the backing of prime minister Mark Rutte who told the paper: ‘All over the country children had a great time during the parades. And this is how it should be in the Netherlands…

‘In the Netherlands you can make your opinions plain without spoiling a children’s party or damaging other people’s property.

That’s not what we do in the Netherlands.’ Actor Bram van der Vlugt, former politician Jan Terlouw and a string of other celebrities and politicians have also signed up to support the paper’s campaign.

Skin colour

Vlogger Steven Brunswijk, who vlogs under the name Braboneger and also backs the AD, said he knew of children who had come home in tears because they had been asked by the teacher to be Zwarte Piet, because of the colour of their skin.

‘White people who support Zwarte Piet have probably never felt the pain of discrimination on the grounds of skin colour,’ he said, before calling for discussions to be kept away from children. (DutchNews)

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Man gets into altercation at SZV-office with two staff members and security guard

PHILIPSBURG - Police were called Thursday morning on November 23rd at the SZV- office, to intervene in a problem between a client and the staff at that office. Police spoke to the suspect identified with initials O. A. who stated that for some time now he has been given the “run around” by management and staff of the SZV regarding medical attention and treatment for his physically impaired child.

This morning at the SZV-office the situation got of hand according to the suspect as again he was given the run around. The situation got heated and broke out into a fight involving the security guard and at least two other employees. The suspect had his child with him during the incident.

The employees along with security-officer that were involved in the incident went to the Detective department and filed official complaints against the suspect for destruction and ill treatment.

Witnesses to then incident also gave statements to the investigating officers. The suspect has not turned himself in nor has been arrested as yet.

The case is under investigation and no other details are available at this time. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Urgent Plenary Session of Parliament about Appointment of a new first and second Vice Chairperson of Parliament

PHILIPSBURG – The House of Parliament will sit in an urgent plenary public meeting on Thursday, November 23.

The urgent plenary public meeting will be held on Thursday, November 23, 2017 at 10.00 hrs in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda point is:

Appointment of a new first and second Vice Chairperson of Parliament.

The current first Vice Chair is Member of Parliament (MP) Rodolphe Samuel from the National Alliance and MP Frans Richardson, second Vice Chair from the United St. Maarten Party.

This meeting was requested by MP P.F.M. Geerlings, MP C.E. Brownbill and MP S.M. Bijlani.

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. 

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

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Building tycoon Dik Wessels, 3rd richest Dutchman, dies at the age of 71

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dik Wessels, one of the most successful businessmen in the Netherlands, who formed construction giant Volker Wessels, has died at the age of 71.

He was ranked third on the Quote 500 rich list in 2017 with his assets estimated at €4bn. Wessels had been in poor health for some time and had recently undergone a bypass operation, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Tuesday afternoon.

‘I never set out to be rich. I got a lot of pleasure out of being a businessman,’ Wessels told the paper in an interview in 2015. Wessels liked to keep things simple, but he built up VolkerWessels to an international construction company with 14,500 employees.

He was also a major supporter of FC Twente, sinking millions of euros into his local football club. Wessels grew up in Rijssen in rural Overijssel province. His father had a building company with three on the payroll.

His older brother had little interest in taking the company over because Wessels senior wanted to keep it small. Aged just 14, Dik got involved.  It was only after Wessels senior’s death in the 1980s that the company really grew.

Dik Wessels brought the company to the stock exchange twice, the second time earlier this year when the Wessels family cashed in 30% of their shares, earning €600m on the transaction. (DutchNews)

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UPCOMING CHRISTMAS CAR SHOW, MARK YOUR CALENDAR

COLE BAY – It’s all happening at Motorworld on December 2.  The public is invited to mark your calendars in order to view all makes and models of automobiles sold by Motorworld.  Check out the details and be ready to make your way to Motorworld in Cole Bay for that opportunity to drive away with your ideal automobile.

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Police retrieve fire-arm after chasing three suspects

DUTCH QUARTER - On Friday, November 17th at approximately 09.10 p.m. a unit from the police department was directed to Manila drive after there were reports of shots being fired in the vicinity of Marina bar.

While approaching the scene the investigating officers saw three men hastily walking towards the back of the bar. The patrol attempted to make contact with these men however they took-off running in different directions.

A foot chase started through the neighborhood streets. During the chase one of the officers saw when the suspect he was chasing threw an object over the wall while he continued fleeing.

After a while the officers stopped the foot-chase. A search of the area where the suspects was seen throwing an object was done. During this search a Glock .40 caliber pistol was found and confiscated. No suspect was arrested as yet in this case. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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The white elephant in your passport: EU borders have never checked a fingerprint

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Eight years since European citizens were first required to include a fingerprint scan in their passports, the technology has never been used to check a passenger crossing a border, according to a Dutch media investigation.

Compulsory fingerprinting was introduced in 2009 across the European Union as part of the new biometric passport, which was intended to improve border security. The measure aimed to stop ‘lookalike fraud’, whereby somebody travels on the passport of someone who strongly resembles them.

Dutch local authorities have spent €32 million installing 4,800 scanners which have taken 20 million prints in the last eight years. But according to an investigation by NOS, border control agencies are still unable to use them to verify passengers.

European nations have not yet agreed on a way to share access to the ‘key’ – the digital signature that allows other countries’ border guards to read their fingerprint information – making the exercise redundant.

No information shared

The Dutch interior ministry admitted to NOS that it had not shared its ‘key’ with any other country or received the necessary information from any foreign government.

Schiphol airport also said that its machinery for reading fingerprints had never been tested for security – and so cannot be used. Biometric security expert Max Snijder said the project had been a comprehensive failure.

‘The fact that we have to supply fingerprints that can’t actually be used is incomprehensible,’ he told NOS. However, the Netherlands cannot opt out of the scheme because it is a binding agreement between the signatories to the Schengen open borders agreement. Within the EU only the UK, Ireland and Denmark are able to opt out.

9/11

Passport applicants who refuse to submit their fingerprints can be refused a passport under a ruling by the Council of State last May, which said that the Dutch government’s obligation to comply with European agreements outweighed personal privacy concerns.

The idea to include fingerprints in passports was a response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Politicians argued that adding extra layers of security to passports would make it harder for terrorists to pass through airports undetected.

Within a month the Dutch government had come forward with a plan to include fingerprints. The measure was also intended to reduce identity fraud. But local authorities said they had only used it in a handful of cases.

A sample of fingerprints in passports also found that around 20% were invalid, either because the quality was too poor or because of an administrative error such as saving the image upside down.

A spokesman for the interior ministry told NOS that it was hopeful that Europe would manage to arrange for the exchange of biometric information ‘within a number of years’. (DutchNews)

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November 20 is Universal Children’s Day. Community encouraged to play a role in making day relevant for children

PHILIPSBURG - The United Nations' (UN) Universal Children's Day, which was established in 1954, is celebrated on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness and awareness among children and improving children's welfare.

It is a date on which parents, teachers, nurses and doctors, government representatives and civil society activists, religious and community elders, corporate moguls and media professionals as well as young people and children themselves are encouraged to play an important part in making Universal Children's Day relevant for their societies and communities.

It is also the date on which the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959. Thirty years later the UN General assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on that same date.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as any human person who has not reached the age of eighteen years.

The convention defines that children specifically, have the right to equal protection, which means that every child is entitled to the same treatment at the hands of authority regardless of race, gender, disability, or religion.

The Charter of Child Rights is built on the principle that "all children are born with fundamental freedoms and all human beings have some inherent rights".

This in turn is to guarantee the health, well-being, and safety of children and youth.

The question remains if children know what their rights are. Among the fundamental rights of the child is a right to non-discrimination, whereby kids should be allowed to be who they are and be treated equally to everyone else.

Then there is the right to life, survival and development.

In St. Maarten, numerous entities look after and advocate child and youth rights in daily life. The Court of Guardianship is one such organization. Another one is the department of Youth Affairs, which is charged with the monitoring and reporting on the Rights of the Child to the United Nations.

For St. Maarten, Universal Children’s Day can additionally be an opportunity to further look at the plight of children, particularly in the wake of the passing of hurricane Irma and María in September of this year. 

As could be remembered, discussions about children in St. Maarten was recently at the forefront, among others, because of serious damages sustained to schools, in addition to the thousands of home structures.  Many parents opted, among other things, to evacuate children to Curacao, Aruba, and Holland to attend school.

But discussions about the country’s children have been ongoing for some time. This is visible in the various laws and policies that are in place, such as the Law on Compulsory Education, the Integrated Youth Policy, that is presently being updated, and the National Early Childhood Development Policy, that is now being drafted.

The passage of the storm has cemented the need to review all policies in order to update them to include areas pertaining to disaster, amongst others. Research and reading up on these policies will help the community to better meet the needs of children as the most vulnerable among us.

Around the world, many schools and other educational institutions make special efforts to inform children of their rights according to the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Teachers are encouraged to stimulate their pupils to think about the differences between themselves and others and explain the idea of “rights”.

Every year on St. Maarten, the Department of Youth Affairs in collaboration with the Court of guardianship, St. Maarten Youth Council, the St. Maarten National Commission for UNESCO, St. Maarten Early Childhood Development Association (SECDA) and the Department responsible for youth affairs on the French side of St. Maarten organize activities (like presentations in song, dance, poetry, debates, panel discussions) to inform youth of St. Maarten about their rights. Events are also held to commemorate this international day.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), like the Millennium Development Goals before them, are playing a significant role in determining the global approach to international development. Though goals focus on sustainable development, they are inseparably linked to human rights generally, and the rights of children specifically.

When asking ourselves what we can do for children, we can look at the SDGs, whether poverty (Goal 1), hunger (Goal 2), health (Goal 3), education (Goal 4), gender equality (Goal 5), climate change (Goal 13) or violence against children (Goal 16.2) and find targets and indicators which can help us to support and monitor the children rights situation on Sint Maarten, starting by making children and parents aware of those fundamental rights.

In the current context of St. Maarten recovering from the September 2017 hurricanes, November 20 should be seen as an opportunity to give consideration as to how to continue giving content to promoting and protecting children’s rights. Points for discussion can always vary, but can include topics such as social protection and support for children as well as prevention of overweight and obesity among children through healthy weight-programs in districts and schools.

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Man arrested in shooting incident Saturday evening

MIDDLE REGION - One man identified with initials F.S. was arrested by police on Saturday November 18th shortly after 6.30 p.m.

According to the reports the Emergency Dispatch received a call informing them that man had fired shots and threatened to shoot someone in the vicinity of Bobby’s Bar on Middle region road. Immediately police patrols were sent to investigate what had taken place.

On the scene the investigating officers learnt that the suspect was hiding in his home to avoid being arrested by police. The home of the suspect was surrounded by police and shortly after the suspect surrendered to police and was immediately arrested.

The suspect admitted to have fired a nail gun. The reason for doing this is under investigation.

The suspect remains in custody for questioning and further investigation. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Be aware of Trucks with Ministry VROMI sign on the windshield

POND ISLAND - The Ministry of VROMI would like inform the general public that trucks with a VROMI sign on the windshield are no longer working for the Ministry.

If anyone is approached by a truck operator informing them they are working for the Ministry, please inform the Department of Infrastructure Management as soon as possible.

The Ministry of VROMI thanks the general public for their cooperation. 

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