Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2237)

Extraordinary Investigative Officers strengthen enforcement on Statia

SINT EUSTATIUS (ORANJESTAD) - The Public Entity of St. Eustatius has put its Extraordinary Investigative Officers to work in order to strengthen regulatory enforcement. Enforcement of regulations has been an area of concern on St. Eustastius for some time.

The Police Force and other enforcement organizations are working together to enforce Statia’s ordinances. Their mandate enables them to issue official warnings for violations such as illegal waste dumping, public health violations, animal abuse and noise disturbances. The Extraordinary Investigative Officers perform their regulatory tasks in addition to their normal duties. 

To increase enforcement capacity, the Public Entity of St. Eustatius recruited candidates. The Extraordinary Investigative Officers received training in how to approach citizens in violation and a number formal and criminal laws, for which the Public Entity is responsible. The officers can draw up a report. The official report is then approved by the Public Prosecutor, which can result in a fine.

The efforts of the new Extraordinary Investigative Officers allow the island’s Police Force to focus on their core duties of providing basic police care. The ordinances the new Extraordinary Investigative Officers will be enforcing is the Algemene Plaatselijke Verordening, (APV). Other ordinances are related to their daily profession. For instance, the officers work at STENAPA will enforce the Fauna and Flora Ordinance and the Marine Environmental Ordinance.

Common violations are violations against protected species, like killing or injuring of iguanas. EJL Services (waste plant) enforces ordinances in regard to illegal dumping. Extraordinary Investigative Officers working as Health Inspectors of the Public Entity of St. Eustatius are making sure employees have valid health cards. Compulsory Education Office School attendance office can supervise the Compulsory Education Law (Leerplichtwet BES).

Veterinarians have been appointed as Extraordinary Investigative Officers as well. Other regulations to be enforced by the officers include Labour Safety Law, Cremation Law, Fire Arms Law, Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Law and the Identity Obligation Law.

The Extraordinary Investigative Officers sat exams and were appointed in September 2018. (Statia GIS)


Criticism of ‘inconsistent’ coronavirus measures grows, RIVM survey shows

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some six in 10 people in the Netherlands now consider the government’s strategy for dealing with coronavirus to be inconsistent, according to a new survey by the public health institute RIVM.

The RIVM has been monitoring attitudes to the approach since the start of the pandemic, and the fourth survey shows mounting confusion about the measures, and reduced willingness to take them seriously.

Just 39% now say they are positive or very positive about the government’s approach in general. In April, 65% said they were positive about the official strategy. Hygiene rules, including constant hand washing, are still being respected but social distancing is being increasingly ignored.

Almost four in 10 of the 50,000 people in the survey said they had been in a busy place where it was impossible to keep 1.5 metres distance in the past week.

Coronavirus in the Netherlands: the situation from July 1 And while eight in 10 people said they considered working from home had helped in keeping the virus at bay, only 37% said it is easy to do so, and just 67% now support the government’s continued call on people to stay away from the office as much as possible.

The government has said it will review this strategy over the summer. The perceived lack of consistency in the measures is also proving a problem. Over six in 10 people said they consider some rules to be illogical or difficult to understand and 40% say they are now less motivated to stick to the rules than they were.



Bill for facemasks, gloves and breathing equipment tops €1.4bn

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands has already spent some €1.4bn on face masks, breathing equipment and other medical aids to help combat the coronaviris crisis, the Parool reported on Thursday.

In addition, the government has set aside €700m for vaccines and €300m to pay for testing up to September, according to health ministry figures. However, both figures are preliminary and depend on whether the search for a vaccine is successful and if testing is increased again toward the end of the year, the paper said.

The figures come from a revised budget for healthcare spending this year, which has been sent to parliament for review. The 2020 budget for spending on healthcare was €88bn.

As yet is is unclear what impact Covid-19 will have on health insurance premiums next year. Some health insurance companies have suggested there will be a large increase, but health minister Hugo de Jonge has said he does not want to the cost passed on to consumers.

The government publishes its guidelines on how it expects health insurance premiums to evolve every year alongside the budget on the third Tuesday in September.



No apology for slavery, says Dutch PM in bad-tempered debate about racism

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government has no plans at the moment to offer an apology for slavery and the Dutch role in the slave trade, prime minister Mark Rutte said during an often heated debate on racism and discrimination on Wednesday evening.

Two of the four coalition parties – D66 and ChristenUnie – had called on the government to take a stand but, Rutte said, a formal apology could end up increasing polarisation.

‘I understand the request and I know what an apology can mean,’ Rutte told MPs. ‘But the question is, can you hold the people who are alive today responsible for the past.

Some could experience that as painful.’ D66 leader Rob Jetten reminded Rutte that the descendants of black Dutch people have grandparents who were born on plantations.

The risk of polarisation should not be central but the ‘pain felt by black Dutch people,’ he said. Rutte told MPs that the government’s position is that of this moment. ‘The debate is certainly not over,’ he told MPs.

The cabinet has set up a special committee to look into the slavery and its impact on the presence and an apology will certainly come on board, the prime minister said.

More importantly, there is no parliamentary majority for an apology, broadcaster NOS pointed out.

Angry debate

The debate, called for by D66, Labour and GroenLinks, came just weeks after the prime minister, and the VVD’s parliamentary party leader Klaas Dijkhoff, admitted that there is a problem with racism in the Netherlands.

The parties wanted to discuss getting tough on staffing agencies which are willing to discriminate, ban ethnic profiling as practiced by the police and tax office, as well as discuss an apology for the Dutch role in the slave trade.

However, said the Volkskrant in its report on the discussion, the idea might have been noble, but in practice the debate was more of a slanging match between neighbours.

The first contribution, by Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher, degenerated into a row about ‘whataboutism, picking at old wounds and preaching to the converted’, the Volkskrant said.

GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver called Geert Wilders an idiot and Wilders called Klaver a ‘political hooligan’ with party members who voted for communist mass murderers. Kees van der Staaij, leader of the fundamentalist Protestant SGP went as far as to say that ‘unborn lives matter’ while Esther Ouwehand, of the pro-animal PvdD, compared turning a blind eye to racism with conditions in factory farms.


Despite the rancour, Rutte did agree to look into the option of having 2023 declared the year to remember slavery. It will then be 150 years since slavery was finally abolished in the Dutch colonies. GroenLinks and D66 came up with the proposal, and, said Rutte ‘it is a good idea’.



Police arrest nine in investigation into cocaine smuggling via Vlissingen

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nine people have been arrested in raids across 30 different locations in Zeeland as part of a major investigation into drug smuggling, police said on Wednesday.

Most of the raids, involving some 400 police officers, took place in and around Vlissingen port. Recently several major drugs seizures have been made at the port, often hidden in shipments of bananas or other fruit.

The aim of Wednesday’s raids is primarily to gather information into the different parts of the smuggling operation, and to try to piece together how the smugglers operate, police said.

In April, customs officials found 4.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden in a shipment of bananas from Costa Rica after a tip off by a company in the port. The haul was one of the biggest ever made in the Netherlands and the drugs had a street value of some €180m, officials said.


Meanwhile, five young men arrested by Antwerp police last Friday in connection with a major drugs haul, were all from Amsterdam, Belgian officials say.

The five were picked up with 3.4 tonnes of cocaine. In April, another eight young men were arrested at the port with 4.2 tonnes of cocaine. All are said to be part of the same gang, the Parool reported on Wednesday.



Police launch investigation into Rotterdam officers’ racist Whatsapp group

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Rotterdam police have started an investigation into a police Whatsapp group in which officers used racist and derogatory terms to describe people who have an ethnic minority background, the NRC has reported.

The closed group, in which nine police officers were involved, was shut down in February 2019 following complaints from other officers, but acting police chief Karin Krukkert has now set up an investigation following the NRC revelations.

‘Given the seriousness of the messages, we think the issue should have been taken wider at the time,’ she told the paper. ‘A far-reaching investigation is being set up.’

The police officers were commenting on a video which showed a white teenager being beaten up by a number of black teens in the Rotterdam district of Spijkenisse. They described the perpetrators as ‘cancer people and c*** Africans’ who they would like to ‘shoot’, the NRC said.

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus have added their voices to calls for action. Aboutaleb told city councillors on Wednesday that the public prosecution department is looking into the comments.

Tough Midden-Nederland police chief Martin Sitalsing, who has been charged with tackling racism within the force, has called for a ‘very tough approach’ to the Rotterdam case, and a criminal investigation.

‘These app groups are a phenomenon within the police, and you can find them everywhere,’ he told the NRC. ‘I want to get together to find out how we can tackle this as a whole, rather than on an incidental basis.’

Last year, a former team leader in The Hague’s police force said the city’s division is riddled with racism and discrimination. Fatima Aboulouafa, who is of Moroccan origin, said some officers in the city described themselves as Marokkanenverdelgers (‘eradicators of Moroccans’) and cited instances of officers using excessive violence which they allegedly lied about in witness statements.



Last daily coronavirus death toll update takes week total to nine

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A further 57 people have tested positive for cornavirus in the Netherlands, according to Tuesday’s update from public health institute RIVM.

The latest increase takes the total positive tests to 50,273. The number of hospital admissions has risen by three – although all took place earlier this month – the RIVM figures show.

There are currently 52 people with coronavirus in intensive care wards – compared with over 1,400 at the height of the epidemic. The official coronavirus death toll rose by six to 6,113, due to deaths last week and at the weekend.

In total, nine people are now known to have died of coronavirus in the week to Tuesday, compared with 24 in the previous week. Tuesday’s report is the last of the RIVM’s daily updates.

From July, the agency will report progress every Tuesday, which, it says, will give a more accurate figure of whether or not Covid-19 is being kept under control.



Dutch brands talk to Facebook about hate speech, but none have yet pulled ads

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch Association of Advertisers, which includes Jumbo, ING, and Procter & Gamble, is to hold talks with Facebook about the company’s response to combating racism and hate speech across its platforms.

Worldwide, some 160 companies have said they will not advertise on Facebook for at least the month of July. Their number includes Unilever, which said on Friday it would not advertise on Facebook in the US because of the ‘polarised atmosphere’ there.

In the Netherlands, the BvA is now calling on Facebook to take a tougher line on hate speech. ‘If you see what platforms are earning, then more intensive moderation should be part of their service provision,’ director Henriette van Swinderen said.

‘We believe it is possible to increase the control of social media content without threatening freedom of speech,’ the organisation said on its website. ‘This is the responsibility of the platforms, together with the entire communications industry.’

No Dutch brands have yet said they will stop advertising on Facebook, although is discussing the issue internally, the Financieele Dagblad reported. Telecom group KPN said it is monitoring closely what sort of messaging its adverts appear next to.

‘If they do not fit with us, or our clients, then we will take action,’ a spokesman told the paper.



Healthcare companies say red tape, difficult choices are attached to Covid-19 bonus

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The government’s decision to give a €1,000 tax-free bonus to most people working in the healthcare sector has run into difficulty because employers don’t want to administer the gift, the Telegraaf said on Tuesday.

In addition, they are concerned about being forced to choose who should benefit, the paper said. The government said last week healthcare workers, including cleaners and support staff but not doctors, are to get the bonus for their work during the coronavirus crisis.

Some 800,000 people will be eligible for the cash, which will be paid out in the autumn, health minister Hugo de Jonge said. However, healthcare companies say the sector has a workforce of 1.2 million, and the ministry budget will not cover the bill.

In addition, ‘putting this into effect is not what employers want, given that the pressure of work is already enormous,’ Hans Buijing of the nursing association said.

Trudy Prins, of the healthcare institution association Actiz, told the paper her members are not willing to choose between nurses, care assistants, cleaners and other support staff to decide who should benefit.

‘Give everyone a bonus or don’t bother,’ she said. Hospitals have also called on the government to be clearer about who should get the bonus. A spokesman for the health ministry said the precise details are still being worked out.



Teenagers guilty of starting fatal New Year fire in apartment block

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two teenage boys have been found guilty of starting a fire in a block of flats at New Year that killed a father and son. The boys, then aged 12 and 13, were setting off fireworks in the lobby of the apartment building in Arnhem’s Gelderseplein in the early hours of January 1.

The 39-year-old man and his four-year-old son died in a lift that became stuck when the power failed. The boy’s mother and sister were also in the lift but survived the fire.

Prosecutors argued that the teenagers, who lived in the block, had started the fire deliberately, but the court decided this was not their intention. No punishment was imposed, but their parents were ordered to pay €90,000 compensation to the victims.

The prosecution had demanded a 60-hour community work order. The court said it had taken into account the children’s age, their feelings of guilt and shame and the fact that they had to move to a new house as a result of the fire.

The housing association that owns the building implemented a number of extra safety measures in the wake of the fire, such as installing smoke detectors in every apartment and informing all residents about escape routes and fire safety.

However, an investigation concluded that there were no serious shortcomings in safety procedures.


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