Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (1572)

Dutch orphans, 2 and 4, brought back from northern Syria

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two Dutch children, orphaned in Syria after their IS-supporting parents were killed, have been handed over to the Dutch authorities, the foreign ministry confirmed on Monday.

The children, aged two and four, were part of a group of children removed from a camp in Syria by the French authorities and transferred to Dutch care. Their mother, who was Dutch, died earlier this year at a camp and their father, who was Belgian, was killed some time ago, broadcaster NOS said.

It is unclear from the reports exactly how the transfer was arranged. According to senior Kurdish representative Abdulkarim Omar, a Dutch foreign ministry delegation had been in Kurdish controlled territory last week.

A further 12 French orphans were involved in the transfer, Abudlkarim said.


However, Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said last week that the area where the children were was too dangerous to send Dutch representatives.

The ministry said on Monday that the rescue was a French operation and that contacts between the French and the Dutch had made it possible to transfer the two orphans to the Netherlands.

There are at least 170 children with Dutch parentage in Syria, and 55 adults and 85 children are said to live in the camps. MPs gave a mixed reaction to the news.

The CDA said the fact that the children are orphans is key, while D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma said children should not be the victims of ‘their parents’ terrible choices.’



YouTube removes Alkmaar film archive for ‘hate-mongering’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Video sharing site YouTube removed all archive material belonging to the regional archive in Alkmaar for ‘hate-mongering’ for a time this weekend, NH Nieuws reports.

The material YouTube objected to included images from World War II which featured swastikas and other Nazi symbols, which may have been the reason for its removal. Other historic images of the town of Alkmaar were also removed, however.

‘This is censorship of official material,’ archivist Mark Alphenaar told NH Nieuws. ‘They are accusing of us op inciting hate, but we are an official institution.’

The archive, which was removed on national archive day, was 10 years in the making and includes ‘often unique’ images of wartime Alkmaar. The archive’s YouTube channel is used by schools for educational purposes.

All the material is backed up on the archive’s own server. It is not the first time the archive has fallen foul of the YouTube policy on hatemongering. An archive photograph of NSB leader Anton Mussert was removed for the same reason a year ago.

‘We wrote to YouTube and complained but we never received a reply,’ Alphenaar said. YouTube announced earlier this week it was beefing up its policy against hatemongering.

The archive was back online shortly before 12am on Monday after thousands of people had protested to YouTube owner Google. ‘If videos are wrongly removed, we will take action quickly,’ spokesman Mark Jansen told the broadcaster.

‘One of the things we look at is whether the footage has educational or news value – and this context is of great importance in determining if a video has a place on YouTube.’



Maximum salaries slashed in Hema pay deal for new workers

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A new pay and conditions deal for shop workers at high street staple Hema involves slashing the maximum earnings of new employees, broadcaster NOS said on Friday evening.

The deal, agreed with the CNV trade union federation but not the FNV, means a shop worker will only be able to earn a maximum of €2,055 gross a month, rather than €2,766 as at present, NOS said.

The maximum salary of a branch manager will go down by over €1,000 to €3,148. The new pay rates will not apply to current staff. Hema admitted that maximum wages have gone down sharply.

‘The main difference is that new members of staff will join a different salary scale and have difference bonuses for irregular working hours,’ a spokesman told the broadcaster.

‘Our customers are increasingly doing their shopping during the most expensive periods. We want to keep our wage costs in balance with our income while remaining an attractive employer when compared with other retailers.

Hema was taken over by businessman Marcel Boekhoorn at the end of last year. The other measures he has taken to restore profitability including halving the size of the management board, selling the in-house bakery and rebranding stores abroad as Hema Amsterdam.



Police find cocaine lab with the help of fallen tree

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A fallen tree has revealed one of the Netherland’s largest cocaine labs ever discovered, Dutch police said on Thursday.

When residents wanted to remove the tree trunk in Oud-Vossemeer, Zeeland, they smelled a strange odour and, on investigating, they discovered a farm outhouse where cocaine was being purified.

This ‘washing’ process, typically done with chemicals such as acetone, prepares the drug for users. A large quantity of drugs was discovered when police investigated the shed, but the suspected owners have apparently fled.

A separate report revealed that the amount of cocaine discovered in the EU doubled between 2016 to 2017, to 140 tonnes. Most was found in Belgium (45 tonnes), then Spain (41 tonnes), and then the Netherlands (14.6 tonnes) – mostly being smuggled through shipping containers in their harbours.



Ministers of Tourism/Justice condemns shooting as a “senseless act”

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Ministers of Justice and Tourism on St. Maarten have united in their condemnation of Wednesday night’s shooting incident involving a Canadian tourist vacationing on St. Maarten calling it “a senseless act of violence.”

The two, Minister of Tourism Stuart Johnson and Justice Minister Cornelius De Weever, issued a press statement on Thursday evening joining the call by local authorities for the community at large to provide any information that would lead to the swift arrest of the perpetrator(s) of Wednesday heinous crime.

Minister De Weever says “The investigation of the events on June 5th, 2019 in the Beacon Hill area of St. Maarten continue with the highest level of priority from the Ministry of Justice. We fully intend to prosecute those responsible for this senseless act of violence and for compromising the peaceful and friendly nature of St. Maarten. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their family.”

In his response to the incident, Minister Johnson said, "My thoughts and prayers are with the relatives and friends of the victim." He said, "This was a senseless act of violence perpetrated against another human being, which we will not tolerate. The people of our Country have always been friendly, hospitable and welcoming we will continue to keep these as our guiding principles. Meanwhile, as the details of this incident continue to unfold, we are working assiduously to ensure the perpetrators of this crime are brought to swift justice. Our home in St. Maarten is a haven for all to live and visit, and we take seriously any acts of violence."

The male victim was walking through the Beacon Hill area with a member of his family, when unknown assailants in what police believe to be an armed robbery, approached them.

"This isolated incident saddens us, and we, as the representatives of St. Maarten's tourism sector are dedicated—together with the Ministry of Justice and the private sector—to do everything in our power to find this assailant and bring him to justice,” said St. Maarten Director of Tourism May-Ling Chun.

Police are asking for the assistance of members of the community who may have been in the area of the incident in Beacon Hill around 11:00 pm to contact the Robbery Department +1721-556-7498.

Minister Stuart Johnson 2019 MAY

Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Stuart Johnson

Min of Justice CdW

Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever




Hilary Clinton conducts 1 on 1 Interview with the Prime Minister

SINT MAARTEN/ST. THOMAS – Former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton conducted a one on one interview with Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin at the Plenary Session themed “Leaders on the Frontlines of Climate Change” at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery that was held on St. Thomas on June 3rd and 4th.

A description of the session on “Leaders on the Frontlines of Climate Change” from the CGI website reads as follows. “The Caribbean is being fundamentally altered by climate change, forcing governments, businesses and NGOs to build new and more resilient infrastructure, economies and societies.

“On the frontlines of these large-scale changes are community leaders and organizers who are tasked with the difficult job of building resilience at the community-level. How do faith-based leaders help shepherd their congregations towards adopting more resilient lifestyles? How do artisans and cultural stewards shift perspectives on climate adaptability?

“How do educators teach resilience to a new generation of students who are already facing the realities of a warming planet? In this plenary session, speakers will discuss how to foster strong and resilient community leaders and members, inspire the adoption of climate-smart actions, and incorporate a diversity of perspectives and voices into disaster response and preparedness efforts.”

Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin in her one and one interview with former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton answered a number of questions that covered topics including the recovery process almost two years following the Hurricane Irma. The leaders also discussed the biggest areas of concern on Sint Maarten as it relates to climate change, the key initiatives, and the priorities being worked on to advance the goal of becoming a resilient nation.

“I felt the interview with Madame Secretary Clinton went very well, I was able to share a number of important topics and initiatives that are important to Sint Maarten and I must say The Clinton Global Initiative conference hosted by the Clinton Foundation is very impressive. It is one of the first conferences that I have been to where public and private partnerships were promoted.

The approach is clear-cut, an issue or problem is identified, the solution is discussed and agreed upon and finally an investor is found who secures the funding to carry the necessary work”, said Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin.

The mission of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is to turn ideas into action. Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative convenes global and emerging leaders to create and implement solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.

As it relates to Climate Change and making Sint Maarten SMART & Resilient, Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin also expressed, “There is a lot of work ahead of us, preparing for climate change requires us to rethink our approach to our economic and social strategy. We must begin to have an open dialogue on what the possible effects can be and start the process of seeking viable solutions to mitigate any possible damage to our beloved country Sint Maarten in the future.  

“First and foremost we must put the needs of the people first, continue to take initiatives to build resiliency on the island. Simultaneously we must continue on the path of building meaningful Partnerships with regional and international organizations”, said Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin while reflecting on her experience at the CGI.

The entire interview of Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin and former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton can be seen on the Clinton Foundation Facebook page under the video tag - “Leaders on the Frontlines of Climate Change” (the last 25 minutes).

Additionally, during the working visit to St Thomas, Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin also met with Darryl Jaschen Director of Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency VITEMA. Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin toured the operation center, and learned about the emergency planning, emergency structure and communication tools and mechanisms used in the event of a disaster in the USVI.

The Prime Minister also met with Jacqueline Heyliger FEMA Region II, US Virgin Islands Recovery Director, during the meeting parties discussed the role of the US Federal Government with respect to disaster response and the various programs carried by FEMA in the USVI.


Second night of severe storms hits NL – and there may be more to come

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A second night of severe storms across the Netherlands again brought down trees and disrupted traffic as strong winds and heavy rain battered most of the country.

The KNMI weather bureau had first issued a code yellow weather warning but later in the evening updated this to orange for everywhere but Zeeland as the full extent of the storm became apparent.

Up to five centimetres of rain fell in some places, causing localised flooding and the emergency services were called out hundreds of times to deal with trees which had been blown down and other damage.

In Amsterdam, five people were slightly injured in the storm, including one person hit by a falling tree next to the Amstel river, local media said. Elsewhere, several fires were started by lightning.

According to weather bureau Weeronline, the strongest wind speed – 127 kph – was recorded in Utrecht.

Thursday will have calmer weather with temperatures in the high teens and some rain. Friday, however, there may be more storms with thunder, hail and strong winds in the evening, the KNMI weather bureau said.


fire truck storm ned




UPDATE: Canadian Visitor Transported Abroad for Treatment. Shooting in Beacon Hill. Police Needs Information

MAHO (UPDATE) - In connection with an ongoing investigation of a shooting incident which took place on the evening of Wednesday June 5th at approximately 11.10 p.m. on the Beacon Hill road in the Maho Beach area, the police department seeing the indications thus far has deemed this shooting as an armed robbery whereby one of the victims was shot and taken in critical condition to the Sint Maarten Medical Center, police announced on Thursday.

KPSM (Sint Maarten Police Force) has also learnt that the victim S.V. has been stabilized by the doctors at the Sint Maarten Medical Centre in order for him to be able to be flown abroad today to receive further medical treatment. 

The victim has been identified with initials S.V. (48) and is a Canadian national who is vacationing on the Island. The police department is asking anyone who may have been in the Sunset/Maho area around the time mentioned and who may have witnessed this tragic event or may have in any other way have relevant information to please contact the Police Robbery Department by calling the phone number +1721-5567498.

The caller can then speak on the basis of anonymity to a police officer who in turn will guide the caller through the process of giving their information.   

ARCHIVE, MAHO - The Police Department is presently investigating a shooting incident which took place on Wednesday June 5th at approximately 11.10 p.m. on the Beacon Hill road in the area of Maho beach.

Police, paramedics, Forensic investigators and detectives were sent to the scene to investigate what had taken place after receiving the first call. On the scene the investigating officers located the male victim who was lying on the ground and was bleeding from a gunshot wound.

Paramedics treated the victim on the scene and then transported him in critical condition to the Sint Maarten Medical Centre for further treatment. The area was immediately cordoned off for the forensic investigators to collect evidence and for detectives to speak to witnesses.

The investigation has just started and its unclear why this shooting took place and who the suspect is. The identity of the victim has also not yet been established.

More information regarding this shooting is unavailable at this time. As more information becomes available the media will be informed. (Sint Maarten Police Force)


Ministry VSA enforces level playing field for Sint Maarten businesses and workers

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Minister of Labour Emil Lee puts emphasis on adhering to the labour and tax laws, blanket exemptions for foreign entities would create an unleveled playing field for Sint Maarten businesses and workers. The Government and Ministry of VSA recognizes that the recovery and reconstruction of Sint Maarten is ongoing and requires the support of international companies. With the result of employing foreign skilled laborers, that may not be available locally. However, all businesses, local and foreign are required to adhere to the local laws and employment permit procedures.

“Exemptions put local companies and local people at a disadvantage. The rebuilding of structures is important but in our opinion, it is equally important that our economy be rebuilt. This means that local companies and local employees must be part of the process. Our philosophy is, rule for one, rule for all.” – Minister of Labour Emil Lee

Labour inspectors have and will continue to go out on controls to ensure that the laws and regulations are adhered to. The local and foreign companies must contribute and remain compliant to the applicable tax and social premium legislation while also adhering to all the mandatory employment permit requirements. In addition to enforcement, the Ministry has been working to actively train residents who are interested in participating in the reconstruction economy via the skills training program, as a means of strengthening this sector of the labour force. Minister Lee commented: “We all agree that it is in the best interest of our economy that we are flexible, so as not to delay our reconstruction processes. This flexibility also has to be balanced in making sure that we have local involvement in our projects.”

Minister Lee pointed out an example of a relief organization that has been working on Sint Maarten offering much needed aid services post-Irma. In the example, Minister Lee elaborated that the relief organization required highly skilled employees trained not only in the reconstruction process but also familiar with the specific requirements of handling the specific aid processes. In this situation, it was established that this was an expert function that was not available locally and that the training of a local worker for this function would delay the process of providing the necessary reconstruction aid services. The role of the Ministry in this situation was to facilitate in expediting the employment permit process. However, the relief organization was still obligated to meet the requirements and adhere to the local tax and labour regulations.

The philosophy of Government and the Ministry of VSA has always been that Sint Maarten businesses and people must come first. This principle is incorporated in the Governing program, the National Recovery and Resilience Program” National Recovery and Resilience Program, Section 3: Guiding Principles to enhance resilience: Inclusive people-centered approach: The people of Sint Maarten must be fully engaged in the actual implementation and monitoring of the recovery and resilience interventions. All NRRP initiatives should reflect and promote gender equity and the social inclusion of the country’s most vulnerable populations” as well as the Trust Fund Administrative arrangement” The Trust Fund Administrative arrangement signed between the Netherlands and the World Bank: Value for Money: Local labour will be used to the greatest possible extent and within the framework of the procurement regulations of the bank, attention will be given to local companies to be part of the implementation”signed between the Netherlands and the World Bank.

Minister Lee encourages fellow Ministers to continue to execute multi-disciplinary controls – in particular with the Department of Immigration. “We do recognize that there are too many people on the island without proper documentation. This poses a huge burden on the countries limited resources and so in order to secure these, we believe that a collaborative effort between the ministries in necessary to improve the compliance on Sint Maarten.” For companies who have questions or are unclear about the procedures, the department of Labour Affairs can be contacted for assistance.


Euro Investigation leads to House Search and Seizure of Vehicles, Boats and Scooter

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Asset Recovery Team Sint Maarten in collaboration with the French Gendarmerie seized a total seven vehicles, two boats and one scooter during a search at a home in Grand Case, Saint Martin on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) announced on Wednesday.

This raid was carried out in interest of the EURO investigation in which R.A.G. (39) is a suspect. R.A.G. is suspected of money laundering and tax evasion, among other things. R.A.G. was not arrested. A stolen vehicle was also found during the search.

The Asset Recovery Team Sint Maarten is a collaborative effort between the Sint Maarten Police Force (KPSM), the Sint Maarten Tax Administration, Customs, the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard and the Public Prosecutor’s Office Sint Maarten. The Asset Recovery Team was set up on the principle that crime should not pay. Proceeds generated by the Asset Recovery Team are beneficial contributions to country Sint Maarten.

asset recovery truck

asset recovery truck 2


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