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Wilders calls for inquiry after claims of trial political interference

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – PVV leader Geert Wilders is calling for a parliamentary inquiry into possible political interference in his trial for discrimination and inciting hatred against people with a Moroccan background.

Broadcaster RTL Nieuws and the Telegraaf newspaper have both reported that there was contact between the then-justice minister Ivo Opstelten and the head of the public prosecution department about the case in 2014.

They also say that Opstelten was keen to see Wilders prosecuted for leading the anti-Moroccan chant at a pre-election meeting. However, current justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus is refusing to send documents detailing the meetings –which had been officially denied – to parliament, saying there are ‘no (formal) indications’ of interference by Opstelten.

Briefings

The documents, prepared as briefings for the minister, will remain secret because of the confidential information they contain, the minister told MPs.

The ‘fewer Moroccans’ case dates back to 2014 when Wilders asked a roomful of supporters if they wanted to have ‘more or fewer’ Moroccans in the country. When the crowd shouted back: ‘Fewer, fewer,’ Wilders responded: ‘We’ll take care of that.’

Guilty

In December 2016, Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination and the panel of three judges said Wilders’s comments were ‘demeaning and insulting to the Moroccan population’.

However, the court decided not to fine or sentence Wilders on the basis that a criminal conviction was sufficient punishment in itself. The original appeal began in May last year, but Wilders’ legal team successfully applied for the judges to be removed after alleging bias.

The appeal is due to resume later this month and both Opstelten and former prosecution chief Herman Bolhaar may be on the witness list.

(DutchNews)

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What does the new pension agreement really mean?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Agreement on reforming the Dutch pension system has been 10 years in the making, and still needs fleshing out in detail – a process which is likely to take several more years at least.

Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has said the plan for the transition to a new pensions system should be completed by the end of 2020 and that the cabinet aims to complete the legal framework for system reform by the start of 2022.

However, there are still several hurdles to be overcome before then, starting with the vote by FNV trade union members. Yet ministers are adamant that the deal on the table will not be tinkered with anymore. ‘There is no plan B,’ said prime minister Mark Rutte on Friday.

Three pillars

The Dutch pension system is currently based on three pillars – the state pension AOW, compulsory corporate pension schemes – either sector-wide or company based – and individual or private pension schemes.

The reform talks agreed on several issues. Firstly, the state pension age will rise less quickly than originally planned, and there will be an early retirement option, aimed at people doing hard physical work.

Secondly, the reforms aim to spread the burden of paying for pensions more fairly across the generations. Corporate pensions will no longer be on based average (wage related) contributions but on everyone paying the same.

Benefits

The under 40s will profit most from the decision to scrap average contributions and weaken the link between life expectancy and the state pension age – because they will have the most time to build up a full pension and their retirement date will be slightly earlier.

People in the 40s and 50s, however, will face a bigger challenge. The pension contributions they have made in the past have benefited the older generation and they are likely to be faced with less pension than expected because of the shift away from average earnings. It is unclear at present how this shortfall will be erased, but one suggestion is that the buffers built up by pension funds could be used to plug the gap.

Ministers, employers and unions have agreed to create a dedicated steering group to work out how the current average pensions accrual method will be replaced.

Early retirement

People in their 60s will benefit most from the changes and will be able to retire up to three years early without it costing their employers too much in fines for lost premium and tax income.

The agreement will also make it easier for freelancers and the self-employed to join a pension fund in the sector they work in, experts say. However, they will also have to take out invalidity insurance to replace income if they become unable to work through ill health.

Details

The details of how that will work still have to be thrashed out and freelancer lobby groups are furious at the idea. The government has said the plan should not cost the treasury any money but has also indicated that the insurance should be administered by a public sector body.

(DutchNews)

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50+ MAC School Students Visit Police Headquarters

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Friday 07th June the Sint Maarten Police Force welcomed over fifty students of the Methodist Agogic Center (MAC) School to have a tour of the station, police said on Friday.

“The very energetic and inquisitive group of 5-6-year olds got the opportunity to meet with several different officers and detectives as well as take the full tour of the station to learn the ins and outs of what goes on a daily basis within the walls of the station,” the police said on Friday.

The students were able to meet with the Head of the Juvenile Justice Department, Head of the Immigration, Head of the Bike Patrol, the Head of the Communication and PR department, the watch commander on duty, among many others employed here at the police station, the police statement said.

The tour ended with the students being able to check out the police patrol bikes and listen to the sirens of the police cars. “They had a terrific day and we would like to thank them for being on their best behavior while on this visit. It is always our pleasure to help groom the minds of our upcoming young people and help to guide them on the right path,” the police statement concludes. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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Jiu Jitsu Blue belt Promotion for health care professional Carl Delgado

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - On Wednesday June 5, 2019 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner Carl Delgado was promoted to the rank of blue belt at Renzo Gracie St Maarten SXM BJJ by local first-degree Black belt Melissa Bardfield.

“Carl has been training for two years at SXM BJJ. He has competed in local SMMAF tournaments and most recently played an integral role as score keeper for the last two events.

“Originally from the Philippines, Carl works full time as a dialysis nurse at the St Maarten Medical Center, proving that it is possible to juggle a busy career, family and sport,” SXM BJJ said in a press statement on Thursday.

For more information on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and self-defense training in Cole Bay please contact 721 544-4444 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Fire Dept. receives Emergency Equipment from Trust Fund

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - On Thursday June 6th, Sint Maarten’s fire fighters were surprised by Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin. A shipment of First Response Emergency Equipment arrived at the Fire Department and the Prime Minister officially handed over the equipment to the Chief of the Department, Clive Richardson.

The shipment of equipment was ordered by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) and contains 80 new helmets as well as two big boxes of batteries, tubes and maintenance kits for the compressor and the quaestor equipment. In July, a training will take place for the fire fighters on the use of some of these new materials.

Present at the handing over were Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin, Clive Richardson, Piet van Ommeren as Project Manager of the NRPB and several fire fighters. The equipment is paid for by the Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund, which is financed by the Government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank and implemented by the National Recovery Program Bureau on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten.

b fire department equipment ins1

A female fire fighter is very happy with the helmets! 

c fire department equipment ins2

Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin opens the delivered box with the helmets.

 

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Chamber invites business community to workshop “Recovery St. Maarten: Opportunities for Private Sector”

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) is inviting the business community to attend a workshop under the banner, “Recovery St. Maarten: Opportunities for Private Sector.”

Businesses will learn about World Bank procurement procedures in order to be able to submit proposals for Trust Fund projects which are part of the reconstruction process of the country post-Irma/Maria.

The workshop will take place on Tuesday, June 11 at the National Institute for Professional Advancement in Cay Hill, from 8.30am to 1.15pm.

The workshop is a collaborative effort by COCI, the World Bank, the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB), and the Dutch Representation.

Very important information will be shared such as forming a consortia/joint venture, finding partners etc.

There will be small break-out sessions that focus on a step by step explanation of the tender process; types of tenders open or to be expected; safeguards for the environment and society.

Those interested should register no later than Monday, June 10 by visiting the website: www.nrpbsxm.org/register

COCI is encouraging the Sint Maarten business community to make use of this workshop opportunity and learn more about the reconstruction opportunities that exists as it relates to the rebuilding of the country.

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Minister De Weever answers MP Leonard’s 15 Questions about National Prison System

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever on Wednesday provided to the media answer to the 15 questions that were posed by United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament (MP) Tamara Leonard about the National Prison System.

  1. When were they last updated?
  • Landsverordening tot vaststelling van beginselen van het gevangeniswezen

The original law was signed on June 27th 1996 and was enforced on August 13th 1999. The latest update of the law was signed on February 28th 2013 (AB 2013, GT no. 431)

  • Landsbesluit, houdende algemene maatregelen, houdende vaststelling van de Gevangenismaatregel

The original law was signed on August 6th 1999 and was enforced on August 13th 1999. The latest update of the law was signed on April 5th 2013 (AB 2013, GT no. 817)

  • Ministeriele regeling houdende nadere regelen ten aanzien van de uitgaanskas van gevangene,. Alsmede met betrekking tot de wijze waarop de gevangenisgelden zullen worden beheerd en verantwoord.

The original law was signed on July 2nd  1960 and was enforced on July 9th 1960. The latest update of the law was signed on March 27th  2013 (AB 2013, GT no. 333)

  • Ministeriele regeling houdende een eigen instructie voor personeel van het gevangeniswezen Sint Maarten betreffende de het aanwenden van geweld en het gebruik van geweldsmiddelen.

The original law was signed on July 9th 2001 and was enforced on July 14th 2001. The latest update of the law was signed on February 28th 2013  (AB 2013, GT no. 433)

  1. How do these policies compare to the Netherlands and world standards?
    The ministry is currently working on a comparative legal research between our national laws and policies compared to the International and European Prison Rules.
  1. When was the Point Blanche facilities built?
    The prison located at Point Blanche was built in 1990.
  1. Is it still suitable for housing human beings?
    The prison used to house 120 detainees. This capacity number dates from before 10/10/10. Beginning this year, while working on the renovations, we wanted to make sure we adhere to all (inter)national standards. This is when upon measuring the cells we came to the conclusion that Point Blanche has a maximum capacity 86 detainees (80 male / 6 female). We recommend to house 70 to 80 detainee at a time, taken into account that not all inmates can be housed closely together.
  2. When was the last time VROMI did a build inspection of Point Blanche? If they haven’t why not? If they did, what were their findings?
    After the passing of hurricane Irma, VROMI checked the outer space. There is a follow up planned for the week of May 19th, 2019.
    Also on the 19th of October 2017, Dienst Justitiele Inrichtingen and Rijksvastgoedbedrijf inspected the facility together and this led to the document ‘Schade assessment aan gevangenis Point Blanche SXM na de orkanen Irma & Maria’

  3. Is the electrical cabling and paneling up to date?
    The electrical cabling and paneling was last up dated in March 2015 by WECC
  4. When was the last time Fire Department did a build inspection of Point Blanche? If they haven’t why not? If they did, what were their findings?
  5. Is there enough firefighting equipment in Point Blanche facilities?
    Input Fire dep: During the renovations of the prison in 2006-2009 several inspections were carried out in regard to the building permits. Recommendations and requirements were given. In August-September of 2015 the majority of the prison wardens and management were given a BHV-training, both theoretical and practical. A fire drill and evacuation exercise was done at the prison as well some time ago, the exact date cannot be found, but it has been a while.
  6. When was the last time health department did a build inspection of Point Blanche? If they haven’t why not? If they did, what were their findings?
    The Inspectorate inspected the Point Blanche penal institution in 2011 and 2013 (please find the summaries of the two reports enclosed). The Inspection in 2011 was as a follow up to a complaint about the sanitary conditions in the prison. During the inspection, medical, pharmaceutical, sanitary and food safety aspects were examined.

 The 2013 inspection was part of a broader inspection investigation into the state of mental health care, in which the Mental Health Foundation and Turning Point were also involved at the time. There has been no major inspection of the penal institution since 2013, partly because the Inspectorate performs these inspections as a result of complaints received.

In addition, due to staffing limitations at the Inspectorate, priorities had to be shifted to institutions whose primary objective was health care unless complaints were received.

There are however regular consultations with the prison doctor, who reports details and incidents / calamities to the Inspectorate when they occur.

This being said inspections will occur at all detention facilities as a result of your concerns.

  1. What is the average age of inmates?
    Average age of inmates is 31.
  2. How many inmates are repeat offenders?
    SJIB cannot give an indication of the amount of repeat offenders currently in detention because they do not have insight into the inmates administration at Point Blanche or the House of Detention in Philipsburg (police station). Inmate information including judicial background is only made available to SJIB when inmates are due for VI-Early Release evaluation as early as 2/3 of their sentence. Moreover, not all ex-inmates are referred to the Probation department.
  1. What programs are in place to rehabilitees and teach them a new way of living?

During their detention inmates have the possibility to attend GED or English classes. Next to that, a MOU is signed with NIPA and the contract is being negotiated as we speak. This agreement will provide educational opportunities for the detainees in practical classes such as masonry, carpentry and pluming. The courses will also contain life skill classes and each participant will receive a certification and payment. The SJIB-Probation Department is responsible for the supervision and assistance of person who are released from prison (after detention). SJIB has contact with the inmates who are due for Early Release in the last phase of their detention. Evaluation is then being made regarding whether the process has started by the prison to regulate a form of identification for the inmate and if a request for financial assistance and medical insurance has been started up by the prison social department. This is done in order for the inmate to have a form of identification and perspective for financial assistance and medical insurance shortly after release from detention.

Once the inmate has been released, he/she must report to the Probation Department within 2 working days and will be assigned a Parole Officer who will supervise if the parolee complies with the condition stipulated in his/her Early Release Decree. This could be following treatment or therapy at Turning Point or the Mental Health Foundation, cooperation with the Social Affairs and Labor Department, following of Aggression Replacement and/or Social Skills, etc. Parole Officers meet on a regular basis with the parolee to provide assistance, advice and support where needed with the aim to prevent recidivism.

  1. How are these people to find a job when they are released?
    The re-socialization process started within the prison (GED, English classes, classes NIPA) is continued outside the prison, under the supervision of the SJIB. The first priority of the SJIB after release of the inmate is to stimulate and assist the inmate in finding a job. This is a crucial factor for the success of the re-socialization process. Having meaningful day activities such as a job and income reduces the risk of recidivism. Most clients are instructed to report to the labor department for assistance with finding a job. Parole officers help/teach clients to write their resume, help them locate potential employers and give them advice regarding applying for a job and how to prepare and handle yourself during a job interview. In some cases, parole officers will write supporting letters for clients or accompany them to a meeting with the potential employers upon their request.

Ex-offenders identify employment as an integral part of their improved overall functioning and in maintaining a crime free existence. Ex-offenders must deal with a multitude of problems where finding solutions for all problems is a prerequisite for being able to speak of a successful reintegration. In addition, the reduction of the risk of recidivism also depends on the degree of motivation and dedication of the ex-detainee. The ex-offenders are informed of their own responsibility by the probation service, but it should be added that the reintegration in the labor market does not only depend on the ex-offender and the probation department. The context of the labor market and the attitude of the employers must also be considered.

Because of the mention SJIB approached the Social & Labor Department (VSA) earlier this year and has started a series of consultation geared towards establishing a partnership in this area. We are please to say that this has resulted in the development of a draft MOU between VSA, SJIB and potentially the Prison were an Employment through Training program will be developed by the organization involved for ex-offenders. For the target group ‘inmates’, there will be a preparatory labor program during the last phase of their detention (approximately 6 months), in order to prepare inmates for their release back into society

  1. Are there any incentives for businesses to hire or give ex-inmates a new opportunity in life?
    Currently there are no incentives for businesses. For the sake of brevity, I refer to the attached memo ‘Signaalrapport’ which was drawn up by the Department Judicial Affairs of the Minister of Justice, in consultation with the Prison and House of Detention and the SJIB in 2015, in which the bottlenecks concerning the re-socialization of prisoners are explained.

 Furthermore, I would like to add that SJIB has approached businesses several times for their cooperation with employing ex-offenders. These employers have always been hesitant because of the stigma surrounding ex-offenders. SJIB also had meetings with the Chamber of Commerce several years ago where the following suggestions were made to SJIB:

-         Payment of salaries of the ex-inmate for 6 months and possibility of extension of the contract pending good evaluation.

-         Offering a tax credit to inmates who hire inmates.  

-         These options are being reviewed and will be addressed across the relevant ministries.

  1. Will ex-inmate even be able to open a bank account?
    Yes, ex-inmates can open a bank account.
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Glass recycling falls short, hundreds more bins needed

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands needs hundreds more glass recycling bins, the inspectorate for the ministry of the environment ILT has said.

Businesses are required by law to recycle 90% of their glass packaging but have been falling short of the norm, despite several warnings, the ILT said.

If the packaging industry does not install another 800 glass recycling bins before the end of 2021 it will be fined €7,000 for every missing bin.

(DutchNews)

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Government spending on external staff hits €1.4bn, despite limits

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch government ministries spent €1.4bn last year hiring external personnel, a rise of over 60% on 2011, the AD said on Wednesday.

Six of the 12 ministries are breaking guidelines which say external hires should not account for more than 10% of personnel costs and the education and economic affairs ministries are spending 20% of their staffing budgets on outsiders.

The education ministry says in its annual report the need for outsiders is ‘so great that a speedy reduction towards 10% is unlikely’. In particular, student loan group DUO is heavily dependent on outside IT experts.

The economic affairs ministry also blames the demand for IT staff. Some 40% of the government cash spent on outsiders goes on technical staff – a total of €530m last year.

By contrast, just €14m was spent on legal advice and €28m on accountancy services. Tilburg University labour market professor Ton Wilthagen told the AD that external staff are always more expensive and that he doubts the government is doing enough to attract talented IT experts.

‘The government is not a bad employer,’ he points out. ‘You get job security, lots of free days. That could be used in marketing the jobs but does not happen.’

(DutchNews)

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ROTARY CLUB PRESENTED THE DISTRICT GOVERNOR’S PLATINUM AWARD

SINT MAARTEN/GERMANY - The Rotary Club of Sint Maarten was presented the prestigious District Governor’s Platinum Award by Rotary International President, Barry Rassin, at the Rotary International Conference in Hamburg, Germany on June 4, 2019. 

The Rotary District Governor’s Award is presented to Rotary Clubs that have achieved various goals throughout the Rotary year.  The Rotary Club of Sint Maarten was recognized at the highest level possible, the Platinum level. 

Various projects were completed during the year including, a Public Medical Education session on cancer, the distribution of food baskets to those in need, toy distribution to children in need, a senior citizens lagoon cruise and the raising of funds to secure a much-needed beach cleaner for St. Maarten. 

In addition, the Club, under the leadership of President John Caputo secured a global grant in the amount of almost $400,000 to help transform the Sister Marie Laurence School in Middle Region to an Exceptional Education School. 

Accepting the award on behalf of the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten was Club President, John Caputo.  Mr. Caputo immediately addressed all members of the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten in an internal club message and said, “Our Club was presented the Platinum District Governor’s Award directly by Rotary International President Barry Rassin.  I want to congratulate all the Rotary Clubs on St. Maarten/St. Martin for their respective contributions and awards that were presented at the recent Rotary District 7020 Conference held in Jamaica”. 

Mr. Caputo continued, “It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as Rotary Club of Sint Maarten President for past two years.  Congratulations to each member of the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten.   It is your participation and membership that makes this an amazing club”. 

Finally, Mr. Caputo added, “While my term as President of the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten comes to a close, I would like to encourage anyone interested in attending our Change of Board Ceremony and Celebration this Saturday, June 8, 2019 at the Pure Ocean Restaurant at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort to contact the Club at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  We would love to have you join us on Saturday night”.

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