Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (1086)

Youth of 17 gets maximum sentence for killing 14-year-old Savannah

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A young man of 17 has been given the maximum youth sentence for killing a 14-year-old girl called Savannah last year.

The NOS reports on Friday that a court in Utrecht has sentenced him to two years in youth prison with long-term psychological treatment.

Savannah’s body was discovered in a ditch on an industrial estate three day after she disappeared on her way home from school in Bunschoten, in the Utrecht province.

The boy, whom she had met in a chat group and was meeting the day she went missing, was arrested shortly afterwards. He was connected to the location where her body was found by DNA traces, chat messages, CCTV images and a soft drink can.


It has not been established how the girl was killed but the judges said it was clear that the 17-year-old boy caused her death. He had pleaded innocent but did say he was in love with Savannah and felt that he had been cheated on.

The death, which happened in the same week as the murder of another 14-year-old girl, Romy, by a 14-year-old boy shocked the Dutch nation. (DutchNews)


Police criticized for using Taser on 73-year-old man with dementia

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch police have been criticised after using a Taser on a 73-year-old man with dementia, in breach of protocol, reports the NOS on Friday.

It is believed to be the first time that such a device has been used inside a nursing institute in the Netherlands, and has led to criticism from Amnesty International, parliamentary concern and an external investigation.

A GroenLinks proposal at the end of last year should have meant that Tasers could not be used in psychiatric institutions. Police have admitted the action was not in line with policy but said the officer was doing his best in the situation.

The incident occurred last weekend when staff at a Rotterdam nursing incident called the emergency services as a patient was becoming aggressive.


A police officer failed to calm him down with a ‘low-profile approach’, said police in a press release, and used the Taser because pepper spray was not considered appropriate.

The man had damaged a television and flower pot and was trying to break a window with a piece of metal, and bleeding from both hands. A spokesperson from Amnesty International said using a dog or pepper spray would have been better.

‘The fact that another agent could catch him immediately after using a Taser shows that he wasn’t so dangerous that they couldn’t get close to him,’ the spokesperson told the NOS. (DutchNews)


Amsterdam gets its first female mayor: Femke Halsema sworn in

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Femke Halsema was sworn in as the new mayor of Amsterdam on Thursday, acknowledging the legacy of late mayor Eberhard van der Laan and pledging to deal with the growing city’s challenges but keep its sense of freedom.  

After thanking the crowd for the trust placed in her, she added Van der Laan’s pledge of eight years ago: ‘Trust is a gift, never an entitlement, and you should always be grateful for it.

I am indeed grateful, and I know I must prove myself worthy of this trust every day for the next six years.’ By 2025, she said, the 750-year-old city’s population will have grown by 70,000, plus an expected 29 million tourists and day-trippers – a third more than this year.

She added that the ‘international village’ is becoming a metropolis, and with that come growing pains.


‘This growth spurt may produce growing pains, put our relationships under pressure, and affect the essence of our city.

By the essence of the city, I don’t mean the self-assurance, the humour, or the typical Amsterdam torrents of abuse… like when you’re cycling on the pavement and – totally by accident, of course – you knock someone flying.

‘And neither do I mean the constant roadworks, the traffic jams…the irritations about parking… or the endless discussions we have about such momentous issues as the cycle tunnel under the Rijksmuseum…

The essence of Amsterdam is the promise of freedom.’ She pledged to defend this freedom, while combating crime, listening to sometimes-ignored Amsterdammers in less prosperous areas, and protecting minorities.

Van der Laan, the last permanent mayor, died from lung cancer last October, aged 62. (DutchNews)


Dutch police reveal sorry saga of the runaway groom

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – You’ve heard of the runaway bride – but the police in Leiden Noord have told the tale of a runaway groom. The force revealed in a Facebook post that a local man missed his own wedding after speeding through a police check.

‘After a short but mad chase, the driver jumped out of his car and ran into the gardens of the Maria van Hogarijelaan,’ says the post. ‘After a short search, we found the man in a garden.’

He appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and not in possession of a valid driving license, the report continued, so he was arrested and taken to the police station.

A woman who had been left in the car was not found guilty of any punishable crime and allowed to go home. But when the man got to the police station, a sorrier tale emerged.

‘In the station, the arrested man got very emotional,’ police said in the post. ‘He told us that today he was supposed to marry the woman in the car. Unfortunately for the couple, they had to postpone their wedding.’

Police added: ‘We hope that if they do marry, their wedding won’t be as wild as the chase!’ (DutchNews)


Finance minister confirms 30% ruling cut to apply to all recipients

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Junior finance minister Menno Snel has briefed parliament that both current and new recipients of the 30% tax ruling will have their benefits reduced to five years next year.

The briefing notes that 80% of recipients do not use the break for more than five years and for those that do ‘a substantial proportion are not temporarily based in the Netherlands but are here structurally or long-term’.

It continues: ‘In that light, the cabinet has, in accordance with the coalition agreement, decided to reduce the time of the 30% ruling from the 1st January 2019 from eight to five years, for new as well as current cases’.

A transition period, requested by the PvdA and SGP parties as well as groups of campaigning expats, universities and businesses, would cost the government about €1.9 billion, the report says.


The briefing also contains information about the effects of this change. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and other organisations said in a letter to the minister that 6,000 to 7,000 researchers benefited from the ruling, which allows expats to claim the first 30% of their salary tax free.

These are typically ‘young researchers with low salaries who thanks to the 30% ruling can live and work in a relatively expensive country like the Netherlands’, the VSNU said.

Snel released data showing that university workers indeed made up 7.5% of those who take advantage of the tax break, which is granted to foreign workers who are judged to be taking a specialist job that could not be filled by a Dutch resident.

The vast majority of people who benefited from the ruling in 2016 – 77% – earned less than €100,000, but there were ‘large differences between the users’. According to the paper, someone earning €60,000 a year with an eight-year ruling would have an instant cut in net income of almost €8,000 to about €39,000 next year.

A person earning €100,000 before tax would see their net income drop from about €74,000 to €57,000.


United Expats of the Netherlands, a group formed in April, is campaigning for a transition period so that the policy only applies to new cases, saying ‘a deal is a deal’.

‘We understand the need for fiscal change, but this is going to consistently and acutely affect families, with children, a home, mortgages and lives… and with six months’ notice,’ said communications chair Jessica Taylor Piotrowski.

She said the organisation would continue to lobby politicians, publish members’ personal stories, and campaign to protect those who have based their financial plans and commitments on the eight-year period.


Bart Pierik, spokesman for the VSNU group, said the government acknowledged the importance of the tax break in universities, especially for PhD students on modest salaries of some €35,000 a year.

‘It was a disappointment, and is very near-sighted,’ he told ‘The Netherlands is not a cheap country and the 30% ruling comes in very handy. ‘To scrap it from one day to the next would be very negative and damage our reputation as a good place to do research.’ (DutchNews)


Second person arrested for missile attack on magazine building

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police investigating an attack on the offices of a Dutch magazine three weeks ago have arrested a second person in Rotterdam. An anti-tank missile was fired at the Panorama building on Amsterdam’s Teleportboulevard on June 21 in an incident linked to a criminal biker gang.

A 41-year-old man who was arrested the following morning was reported to be the president of the Woerden chapter of the Caloh Wagoh Main Triad club. On Wednesday police confirmed a report on Panorama’s website that a 25-year-old man from Rotterdam had been arrested.

Both suspects have been detained in custody. Police are still investigating the motive for the attack, but it is thought it may be a response to articles in the magazine focusing on the murder of a member of Amsterdam’s underworld who was a member of the gang.

Nobody was injured in the blast and staff are continuing to work in the building. (DutchNews)


KLM passenger numbers up by a million in first half of 2018

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – KLM carried 16.6 million passengers in the first six months of the year, an increase of one million over the first half of 2017. The Dutch flag carrier carried 3.6% more passengers in June this year, with capacity up 2.2% in available seat kilometres, according to a statement by the company on Tuesday.

Consequently, load factor for June rose to a record 90.5% (89.5%). Revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) rose by 5.4% on capacity 4.2% higher in the first six months compared to 2017.

‘The traffic figures confirm that all our hard work has paid off. KLM carried 3.3 million more passengers in the first half of 2018 than it did only four years ago in the first six months of 2014.

That’s an impressive difference and an achievement everyone at KLM may be proud of,’ said KLM president Pieter Elbers.

Air France decline

KLM’s partner in the Franco-Dutch air alliance, Air France KLM, fared less well. Air France carried 4.7 million passengers in June, a 3% increase over the year-earlier month.

There were fewer strikes which skewed monthly traffic figures earlier in the year. Air France handled 24.5 million passengers in the first six months of the year, a 0.7% decline since the first half of 2017.

Air France KLM is seeking a new CEO ever since the abrupt departure of Jean-Marc Janaillac in May. French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Monday that Catherine Guillouard, chief executive of French public transport group RATP, was being considered for the Air France KLM CEO position.

The French government has a stake of around 14% in Air France KLM, while Delta Airlines and China Eastern Airlines each hold 8.8%. (DutchNews)


Man who beat up waiter apologises for bringing ‘shame’ on Netherlands

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A Dutchman who faces several years in jail for beating up a waiter in Prague has written an open letter apologising for bringing ‘shame’ on the Netherlands.

Armin N. is currently in prison awaiting trial for the incident in April, which was filmed on CCTV camera. A group of people surrounded the waiter and knocked him to the ground, at which point N. kicked him repeatedly in the face.

‘I can’t deny it. I’m sorry and deeply ashamed, and I have apologised in a letter to the victim,’ he told AD. ‘When I heard he had a child, it broke my heart. People are dependent on him, that’s the worst thing for me.’

N. was arrested on suspicion of serious assault and will stay in prison until his trial in September. The 28-year-old, who worked as a personal trainer at a gym in The Hague before his arrest, said he became aggressive when drunk, but took full responsibility for his actions.

‘I was in the wrong and am not looking for any sort of sympathy,’ he wrote to his victim.

Unable to work

The waiter, named only as Mirek, suffered a broken jaw, severe concussion and a damaged eye socket in the beating.

The owner of Polpo, the restaurant where he worked, said he would be unable to return to work for several months. Stefan Savic said the trouble began when Mirek, 36, saw a group of men, including N., drinking their own alcohol at a table outside the restaurant.

‘Two of the men said straight away: no problem. They were friendly. But the others started swearing and spitting at other guests. ‘Mirek is one of our best staff. He’s been working here eight years and is a decent man,’ Savic added. (DutchNews)


Mother of eight-year-old girl who fell from tower block cleared of killing her

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The mother of an eight-year-old girl who fell to her death from a block of flats has been cleared of manslaughter. The district court in Assen decided there was not enough evidence to prove that Helène J. had strangled her daughter, Sharleyne, just before she fell from the 10th-floor balcony in Hoogeveen.

Prosecutors had demanded a 10-year jail sentence for J., claiming she had dropped or thrown the girl from the balcony. Sharleyne was found lying on the ground beside her teddy bear at 1.30am on June 7, 2015.

Supporters of 38-year-old J. cheered and clapped when the verdict was announced, earning themselves a rebuke from the judge. ‘This concerns an extremely serious and horrifying event,’ she said.

‘A child has died. This sort of reaction is inappropriate.’ The prosecution service initially decided not to charge her mother, but Sharleyne’s father, Victor Remouchamps, successfully challenged that decision in the court of appeal.

Remouchamps had also claimed €100,000 in compensation for post-traumatic stress and the cost of bringing the case to court. Remouchamps, who separated from J. in 2011, said he had told youth care services a few weeks before Sharleyne died that he believed she was in danger and urged them to remove her from the house.

J. had been reported to social services for alcohol abuse, neglect and domestic abuse and relied on family support workers. She admitted to the court she had been drinking on the night her daughter died but said she first knew about the tragedy when she went into Sharleyne’s room in the early hours of June 7 and saw her window open. (DutchNews)


Johnson visits Maho, says large and small hotels reopening is critical to more airlifts, visitor return

SINT MAARTEN (MAHO) - More hotel rooms, a completely remodelled pool, with a giant waterslide, are some of the improvements guests will enjoy when Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino’s Sky Tower hotel reopens in February 2019 adding 12 new rooms for a total 418 rooms.

Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication TEATT, Stuart Johnson, received a progress report on the reconstruction of the 4-star Sky Tower hotel and Sonesta St. Maarten’s signature 5-star resort the Ocean Point when he met Maho Group President & CEO Saro Spadaro Friday last week.

When construction of the Sky Tower hotel is completed, Spadaro says it will be a practically new building. Spadaro said one of the significant changes for the Ocean Point was replacing the 40-year trademark green sloped roof which restricted the ocean view from some rooms.

He said the Ocean point will also have an additional Tapas Bar above its famous Point Restaurant, and the five-star resort has also gained an extra room with the new design.

In a press release issued Sunday, Minister Johnson said, “The reopening of hotels both large and small, a major objective in the 2018-2022 governing program for the Sint Maarten United Christian Democratic Coalition. It is critical to revitalization of our economy and will result in spinoffs such as the increase of airlifts and the much-needed reduction of the cost of airline tickets to and from our destination.”

He said, “This is why I am emphasizing the importance of rebuilding our local product and getting hotels and our Airport back on track. Once we get our product back to St. Maarten’s standard, our market share comes back. Johnson said he recognized that the cost of flights increased by up to 50% in some cases and his ministry was committed to seeing this cost lowered in the interest of revitalizing the economy. He said, “But we must have a product worth promoting, which means stepping-up our cleaning efforts and a significant increase in the speed of reconstruction.”

According to the release Johnson held a “frank discussion with Spadaro” during which he commended the hotelier for his “commitment to rebuilding following the destruction of the resorts by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017."

Johnson said, “It is not said often enough, but I believe it deserves mentioning.” He also commended Spadaro for his personal efforts and the work he did to realize the establishment of the Hospitality First Training & Education Program.”

The Hospitality First Training & Education Program is the brainchild of Spadaro and the Maho Group of Companies which was presented to government in 2017. It is being held at the National Institute for Professional Advancement NIPA training Centre in Cay Hill. Spadaro’s Sonesta team was the first to participate in the program which began late in 2017 in advance of funding from the Trust Fund administered by the World Bank.

According to the release, Spadaro said he was “touched by the minister’s comment.” Spadaro also said, “There was no way I could simply put over 500 workers on the streets.” He said, “I am not just thinking about our problem now, but I am also thinking of what will happen if St. Maarten is not ready for business within a few months."

He said he also understood what it will mean for St. Maarten's ability to compete in the tourism industry "if we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to improve our product, including training our human resources.”

He told Johnson that his urgency to rebuild came from watching the increase of visitors to Jamaica, Aruba, St. Kitts and the Dominican Republic as a direct result of the fact that St. Maarten is recovering from the hurricanes of 2017.

Spadaro said marketing St. Maarten was still essential to ensure that the improvement of the tourism product including hotels reopening was consistent with increased airlifts and visitor arrivals to the destination.

Minister Johnson said his Tourism Department will continue to keep St. Maarten present in the minds of travellers.

The minister toured Casino Royal which will reopen shortly with the area that housed the former Tantra Night Club turned into two fine-dining restaurants and a 360-degree view lounge.

Spadaro said the new design of Sky Tower Hotel and the Ocean Point maximizes the use of open spaces to create an improved “Caribbean experience.”

Giving full disclosure, Spadaro explained that the use of Chinese nationals did not save cost but guaranteed 40% faster construction speed with improved technology, and availability of high-quality material.

Before construction began the Chinese contractors built two model hotel rooms in China which were critiqued by Sonesta before a final decision was made for the hotels’ new look.

Minister Johnson asked about the strength of the Sky Tower’s steel structure and was informed that 120,00 tons of steel will be added to improve the structure’s resistance to earthquakes.

This was the recommendation of engineers following tests of the building’s ability to withstand high winds and earthquakes. Part of the first stage of work has already started with the application of a high-quality fireproofing material to cover the steel structure after which will follow the installation of entirely new electrical, water and brand-new air-conditioning systems.

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