Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (895)


SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – “On February 26th the people of Sint Maarten spoke by means of the ballot. They said that they do not trust one party with an outright majority and that they still prefer to have a national parliamentary coalition,” Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) Wycliffe Smith said on Monday in a statement.

“With the 15 parliamentary seats now distributed among four parties in a 7-5-2-1 composition, the voters have given the political parties a tall order. Listening to the general public, I am hearing that the people of Sint Maarten would prefer a national government, which includes all parties.

“The Governor, in his assignment to the “informateurs”, referred to the broadest possible based government, which includes as many parties as possible. Of course, each party would have preferred to have obtained 8 or more seats in order to have a majority in Parliament. However, the people have spoken and their voice, according a popular Latin saying, is the Voice of God. “Populi Vox, Populi Dei”!

“It is important to note that the formation of government after an election consists of two very distinct yet very interrelated phases. Phase one is the formation of a parliamentary coalition in order to obtain a majority of seats in the parliament or the legislative branch of government. This phase is finalized with a government accord or agreement. Phase two is the formation of the executive branch of government. This phase is finalized with a governing program and the appointment of Ministers.

“At present, Sint Maarten is going through phase one. In the past, phase one was usually skipped. It became normal that almost immediately after the election results were announced political parties, would sign an agreement to form a coalition purely based on numbers. This practice has proven not to be effective, because within a matter of months coalition members would realize that they were unable to work together in the coalition. This realization then brought about shifts in parliament which resulted in collapses of government. In the last eight years we have had several coalition changes in parliament which has led to some seven different governments.

“Being very concerned about the recurring instability in parliament and government, the SMCP included stability in its Manifesto as its first point of departure. For SMCP, everything hinges on stability! SMCP went even further and outlined various steps that could lead to stability in parliament and in government. Step one was simply following the procedure of utilizing an informateur in phase one and a formateur in phase two.

“The informateur’s role is to gather information from all of the winning parties concerning their vision, philosophy, principles, plans and projects, etc. He/she would then be able to ascertain fundamental differences, compatibilities and common aspects, non-negotiables, etc. among parties. After compiling all relevant information it would be much easier to ascertain which parties would be best able to form a durable coalition for the next four years.

“SMCP is pleased to see that the Governor is following the in/formation procedure. On March 1st, 2018, he appointed two informateurs, namely Mr. Jan Beaujon and Dr. Nilda Arduin who are to report their findings as well as their recommendations no later than March 12th. People are so accustomed of hearing which parties “form the government” the day after elections that they are all wondering now what is going on. Let me assure you that even though you do not hear anything, a lot of work is going on behind the scenes.

“Parties are now required to reflect on how they intend to move Sint Maarten forward once in parliament. The Governor has presented some serious questions which need answers. Questions related to the reconstruction of Sint Maarten, the relationship with the Kingdom, the next hurricane season, the landfill and waste management as well as how to involve the social partners in the rebuilding of Sint Maarten. In addition, SMCP is of the opinion that phase one can also serve as a cool-off period. After all, political parties and their candidates have just campaigned against each other.

“They may have said negative and disparaging things about each other. If such is the case it is impossible to immediately forge a relationship. Hence, there needs to be a time of reflection and reconciliation. Phase one of the formation process enables party leaders to do this as well as concentrate on what mandates they will give to their MPs in parliament with regard to legislation, supervision of government, budgetary control and interaction with the public of Sint Maarten.

“After March 12th the people will hear which parties agree to form a parliamentary coalition and why they believe that they can work together during the coming four years. SMCP is hopeful for a national parliamentary coalition, if this is not possible then the broadest possible based coalition. In any case, SMCP is ready to serve the people of Sint Maarten for a change in both the legislative as well as the executive branches of government.

In the following article, I will elaborate on phase two of the government formation process namely, the formation of the executive branch of government, i.e. the Council of Ministers!!,” Wycliffe Smith, Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party said on Monday.


Troubleshooter Stef Blok returns to cabinet following Zijlstra’s fall

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Five months after quitting politics, Stef Blok has returned to the Dutch cabinet to replace Halbe Zijlstra as foreign affairs minister. It is the second time Blok, 53, has been asked to step in to clean up after a colleague has fallen from grace.

Two years ago he took over as justice minister following Ard van der Steur’s departure in the midst of the bonnetjesaffaire, in which three ministers lost their jobs after a multi-million guilder deal with a major league drug dealer and informant was not cleared with the tax authorities.

Zijlstra resigned on February 13 after it emerged that he had lied about being at a business meeting at Russian president Vladimir Putin’s dacha in which Putin was said to have spoken of his ambitions to absorb countries such as Ukraine and the Baltic nations into a ‘greater Russia’.

Others who attended the meeting said Zijlstra had misrepresented Putin’s remarks, which were made in a historical context. Previously Blok spent five years as housing minister.

In October last year he announced he was leaving national politics after being overlooked for a post in Mark Rutte’s new coalition government. Despite having little direct experience of foreign affairs, Blok will be responsible in his first month for chairing meetings of the UN Security Council as part of the Netherlands’ six-month membership of the council.

An MP for 14 years for the Liberal (VVD) party before entering government, Blok has a reputation as a colourless, almost invisible politician who is hard-working and dependable.

He succeeded in keeping the justice department out of the headlines following years of turmoil under Ivo Opstelten and Fred Teeven. As such he fits the description Rutte gave two weeks ago of the ideal successor to Zijlstra: ‘Someone who knows how The Hague works, a person with a small ego who approaches MPs rather than receiving them at the ministry.’

Blok is seen as a pragmatist within the VVD, on the right of the party but adept at the kind of trade-offs needed to get business done in The Hague.

During his tenure as minister for housing he pushed through a number of reforms designed to liberalise the rental market and arrange for the Netherlands’ giant housing corporations to sell off a sizeable share of their stock. (DutchNews)


38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Winners Take to the Stage

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) – A burst of breeze from the west made for a spectacular grand finale of racing at the 38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and with lead positions still up for grabs in several classes, many teams were eager to make their final claims on class victories.

To capitalize on the 18-knot breeze, organizers sent Maxi and Ocean Racing Classes on a counter clockwise race around the island while the rest of the CSA, Ocean Racing, Bareboat and Melges 24 fleet dazzled spectators from the shore off Simpson Bay, racing a series of windward leeward courses. In the end, winners were crowned in 16 classes.

Taking home the coveted St. Maarten - St. Martin Cup for Most Worthy Performance Overall was Jan van den Eynde’s Wanna B.

“We won this trophy in 1999, and it feels wonderful to do it again,” said van den Eynde who has raced in the Heineken Regatta since its inception in 1980 and lost his previous boat to Hurricane Irma. He returned this year with a new boat, Esse 850 Wanna B. “It moves surprisingly well and this was only the fourth time we had sailed it.”

The J/122 El Ocaso was also down in the Caribbean during the hurricane, but the boat made it through and went on to take the overall win here in the competitive CSA 3 Class. “We had a really tough class, so for us to be on top today means a lot,” said Bob Hillier who raced onboard with owner Chris Body. “There was no one dominant boat in the fleet, and taking the overall win came down to the last race.”

After fighting tooth and nail in the Maxi Class, Kialoa III was able to pull ahead of the Brazilian team Camiranga to take first place overall. “We had a great race going counter clockwise around the island, which was something I hadn’t seen before,” said Navigator Skipper Stephen Stewart. “It was good to do it in such a fast time. It’s nice to see.”

The Polish team racing the Volvo Ocean 70 Green Dragon and Chris Swallow’s team aboard the Pogo 12.50 Akouavi were able to hold on to their leads in the event’s two Ocean Racing Classes. “This was the first time in history for our club that we won both the Gill Commodore’s Cup and the Heineken Regatta,” said Green Dragon’s Przemyslaw Tarnacki who has been racing with his team at the event for six years now. “We are already looking forward to returning again next year.”

And after some serious racing, came some “Serious Fun” and competitors went from the docks to the Regatta Village to join friends and locals for libations, final prize giving and a performance from Grammy Award winning musician Shaggy.




Supermarket fruit and veg will be ‘PlanetProof’ from next year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch supermarkets are poised to launch a new quality label for fruit and veg which will require growers to use fewer pesticides and fertilizers and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases.

The new label PlanetProof, which will replace the current Milieukeur label from next year, was two years in the making, Trouw reported on Friday. Participating supermarkets include Jumbo, Aldi, Lidl and Superunie outlets such as Spar, Plus and Coop, who share two thirds of supermarket sales between them.

Market leader Albert Heijn has not opted into the new system because it has its own, comparable, agreements with environmental organisation Natuur & Milieu, Trouw said. Gijs Dröge, director of Milieukeur, which formulated and checks the new PlanetProof requirements, said AH’s stance complicates matters for growers.

‘If a grower sells to Albert Heijn as well as to other supermarkets and both have different sets of requirements then that is not straightforward,’ he told Trouw. Dröge says the new label will be an important step towards sustainable agriculture in the Netherlands.

Until now, less than 10% of potatoes, fruit and vegetables carried sustainability labels, such as the Max Havelaar label for sustainable bananas. Dutch produce, of which 80% is exported, will also carry the label abroad.

Greenpeace said the new label is a step in the right direction but would prefer if consumers opted for organic produce which has to comply with even more stringent requirements.

Not all farmers are happy either because the requirements came late and were communicated to them when the growing season was about to begin, Trouw said. PlanetProof is another addition to a growing number of sustainability labels consumers have to contend with.

According to Milieu Centraal, there were some 90 at the last count. (DutchNews)


Cyclist gets community service for hitting woman, 83, while using her phone

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 24-year-old woman from Arnhem has been given 150 hours community service for causing a fatal accident while using her mobile phone.

The young women cycled into an 83-year-old woman who was using a walking aid, knocking her to the ground. The elderly woman sustained a skull fracture and a broken pelvis and died in hospital two days later.

The defendant told judges in Arnhem during the trial two weeks ago that she had been putting her phone away when the woman appeared from nowhere on the cycle path.

However, one witness told the court they had seen the woman on the cycle path before the accident happened. The public prosecution department had called for 180 hours of community service or a 90 day jail term.

The court opted for a shorter sentence because the defendant was a first time offender. (DutchNews)


Food firms, ngos launch plan to half food waste by 2030

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands is to launch a plan to cut back food waste by half by 2030 in compliance with EU and UN guidelines, RTL Nieuws reports.

The plan, formulated by the agriculture ministry, businesses and environmental organisations, will be launched officially later this month. Some 25 companies have committed to the plan so far.

Multinationals Unilever, Ahold Delhaize and McDonalds have pledged to report annually on how they have disposed of surplus food, while supermarkets have promised to make more room on their shelves for food that would otherwise be destroyed, RTL writes.

Stop wasting food: six Dutch initiatives Chairman of the team of consultants behind the plan, sustainable food chain expert Toine Timmermans, said the participation of 25 companies was ‘a start’.

‘We aim to recruit a 100 by the end of the year. And then we’ll set our sights on 200, and so on,’ he told RTL. The plan also includes a campaign to raise awareness among consumers, who, RTL writes, are the greatest source of food waste with 40 to 45% of the total amount.

According to figures from Milieu Centraal every household throws away some 41 kilos of food and 57 liters of liquids, such as milk and juices. More details of the plan will be made public on March 20. (DutchNews)


The Dutch are feeling safer and are less likely to be a crime victim

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch are feeling safer and are victims of fewer crimes, according to the latest edition of the CBS public safety monitor, which covers both reported and unreported incidents.

In total, 15% of the 150,000 people questioned said they had been the victim of some sort of crime in 2017, such as vandalism, theft or physical violence. Five years previously, 20% said they had been the victim of a crime.

The number of property crimes reported to the police has gone down 30% over the same period while the number of violent crimes has shrunk by 24%. People are also more likely to feel safe at home and on the streets.

In 2017, 34% of those polled said they occasionally felt unsafe, compared with 37% in 2012. (DutchNews)


SCDF reminds about season pass and booth payments

PHILIPSBURG - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation on Wednesday reminded booth holders of Carnival Village and registrants for Carnival 2018 Season Passes that their deadlines for full payments are quickly approaching.

Season pass registrants has until March 15 to make payment in full to obtain the pass. The price of the season pass remains US $250.

It has been the same for the past three years. If the fee isn't paid by March 15, registrants will not be able to obtain a pass.

As for Booth holders, the SCDF extended the date for booth holders to make final payment until April 1.

The foundation is asking all booth holders to ensure that payment for their allotted booth is made by then to avoid any misunderstandings.

The SCDF office is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm and is located on Illidge Road above the Windward Islands Bank. The office is also open on Saturdays from 10:00am until 2:00pm. 


No plastic soup allowed: Amsterdam gets plastic-free supermarket aisle

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A pop-up plastics-free organic supermarket opens its doors in Amsterdam on Wednesday with 680 products on offer.

The store is attached to the Jan Pieter Heijestraat store of the Ekoplaza organic supermarket group, which has 74 supermarkets nationwide, and is an initiative of British-based campaign group Plastic Planet.

Ekoplaza hopes the store within a store, known as the Ekoplaza lab, will be a success and that it can roll it out nationwide by the end of this year. The plastics free line includes meat, rice, sauces, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.

Products are packed in biodegradable packaging as well as glass. From bubbles to boats: five Dutch initiatives to beat the plastics crisis ‘We know that our customers are sick to death of products laden in layer after layer of thick plastic packaging,’ Ekoplaza chief executive, Erik Does, told the Guardian.

‘Plastic-free aisles are a really innovative way of testing the compostable biomaterials that offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic packaging.’ (DutchNews)


The Kingdom gets a new prince, as court says he can use his father’s title

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The illegitimate son of a Dutch prince has won the right to use his father’s title after a lengthy legal battle. Hugo Klynstra, 21, is the son of Prince Carlos, one of the children of Princess Irene, who is a sister of former Queen Beatrix.

He was born to a childhood friend of Prince Carlos, named Brigitte Klynstra, when the two had a relationship. Carlos insists that the couple agreed the child would receive no royal title or other rights and that Klynstra made ‘an independent decision’ to have a child.

However, when he turned 18, Hugo Klynstra decided to challenge that arrangement and has fought a series of legal battles to be granted royal status since then.

Now the Council of State, the highest Dutch administrative court, has ruled that the youth can use the title prince de Bourbon de Parme and has the right to be addressed as ‘royal highness’.

However, although he can use the title, the ruling does not mean that Klynstra is a member of the house of De Bourbon de Parme, the Council of State said.

The formal name change still requires a royal decree. Prince Carlos has always refused to comment on the case. (DutchNews)

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