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DATE ISSUED: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 12:00 LST (16:00 UTC)
VALID UNTIL: Thursday midday (12:00 LST) May 25, 2017

PHILIPSBURG--A police officer is currently under investigation by the National Detective Agency (Landsrecherche) for threatening a person last weekend. The Daily Herald understands that the officer made a death threat towards a man who he had a heated argument with while being off-duty. This newspaper contacted Police spokesman Chief Inspector Ricardo Henson, who said that indeed an incident did take place and that the officer is being investigated. An official complaint was filed with the Police against the officer earlier this week.

St. Maarten granting its first economic licence for an airline since becoming a country is no doubt big news. SXM Airways got the nod of approval from the Civil Aviation Department but also the Central Bank, which deemed the company’s overall plan feasible, with the required means to cover the initial six months of operation.

Obtaining an air operator certificate (AOC) needed to actually fly commercially is the next step. The intention to start with a nine-seat aircraft and deliver on-demand charter service to surrounding islands in any case seems like a realistic approach.

However, the goal is obviously to add more planes and flights in the near future. The latter would be most welcome, as regional airlift has been far from ideal of late, with InselAir but also LIAT experiencing problems.

Important is that this involves private initiative and Government plays only a facilitating role. Experience particularly in the Caribbean has shown that the use of public funds for so-called national carriers is ill-advised.

But if SXM Airways – or any other local airline – is to help increase access to the destination’s main tourism source market in the US, reversing the downgrading of the airport to Category II by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) remains imperative. That should continue to be given top priority.

The situation in Curaçao, where various wholesalers and supermarkets have been caught selling expired items, including meat, should not go unnoticed locally. There are indications of similar practices here that could present a major health hazard.

Some are now calling for more inspections in St. Maarten too, but it's also about the consumer. Too many automatically assume that what they buy from well-known businesses is always fresh and safe, so they tend not to pay much attention to the expiration date stamped on the products.

Recent experience in Curaçao indicates that shoppers must think twice and check, when making their purchases. It is important to understand that these limits are applied for food safety reasons and to monitor quality prior to consumption. Stores often have meat departments do their own labelling, which means that if an item is set to expire and still looks okay they could move the expiration date up one or two weeks.

When one, for example, opens up a package of raw meat and it smells funky or feels slimy, it’s advisable to take it back for a refund. The business is responsible for the food it transports, stores and sells.

Generally, if food changes colour or appearance, or develops a bad smell, it is no longer safe. People used to feel comfortable scraping mould off the top of food and continuing to eat it, but nowadays that's not considered safe, as mould is believed to contaminate food beyond what's visible to the human eye.

Consumer rights must be protected, so what happened in Curaçao should serve as both an eye-opener and wake-up call. People are entitled to fight back against abusive practices and hold providers of goods and services accountable to avoid being taken advantage of

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico--A man from the Dominican Republic who was wanted on homicide charges was among seven Caribbean nationals caught trying to get back in the United States (US) via Puerto Rico after being deported.

KINGSTON, Jamaica--The Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) will be assessing the impact of torrential flood rains which lashed the island last week to determine whether its inflation forecast needs to be revised.

WASHINGTON--The U.S. government filed a civil lawsuit on Tuesday accusing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of illegally using software to bypass emission controls in 104,000 diesel vehicles sold since 2014.

CARACAS--Venezuela on Tuesday announced a new foreign exchange auction mechanism to complement its currency control system, the fifth such plan in four years by a socialist government that has repeatedly balked at reforming its state-led economic system.

LONDON--Actor Roger Moore, who earned international fame playing British secret agent James Bond in seven movies, died of cancer on Tuesday at the age of 89, his family said.

MANCHESTER--Ariana Grande returned to the United States on Tuesday, one day after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at the singer's concert in Manchester, England, as questions lingered over whether she would continue her European tour.

WASHINGTON--Former CIA director John Brennan said on Tuesday he had noticed contacts between associates of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and grew concerned Moscow had sought to lure Americans down "a treasonous path."

WASHINGTON--U.S. President Donald Trump asked lawmakers on Tuesday to cut $3.6 trillion in government spending over the next decade, taking aim at healthcare and food assistance programmes for the poor in an austere budget that also boosts the military.

LONDON/MANCHESTER, England--Soldiers will be deployed to key sites in Britain to boost security as the country raised its terror threat to the highest level of "critical" following a suicide attack in Manchester that killed 22 people, including children.

GENEVA--Ethiopia's Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus won the race to be the next head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday, becoming the first African to lead the Geneva-based United Nations agency.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) drives between Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) and forward Jae Crowder (99) in the first quarter in game four of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena in Ohio. Cavaliers won 112-99 to take a 3-1 series lead. Game five is set for Thursday. (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports.)

MARIGOT--More than 300 persons, including First Vice-President Valérie Damaseau, watched the Caribbean Street Workout Cup on the Marigot waterfront on Saturday, the second edition of which was hosted for the first time by St. Martin. The event, held every two years, was last held in Martinique in 2015.

Dear Editor,

  First let me thank Algemeen Pensioenfonds St. Maarten (APS – General Pension Fund St. Maarten) for putting together an informative pension seminar on May 19, 2017 with the theme “Your Future is Our Day to Day.”

  The conference was opened by Ms. Rachael Geerlings followed by opening remarks by the Honorable Minister of Finance Mr. Richard Gibson Sr. Mr. Gibson opening speech gave a bleak picture of trillions of underfunded pension obligations in various states in America. He referred to an article in the Financial Times with the headlines “US faces crisis as pension funding hole hits $3.85 trillion”.

  The article mentions that for Chicago it has been estimated that they are underfunded as far as pension liabilities are concerned with an amount that equals 19 years of the total tax revenues Chicago expects to receive. Mr. Gibson went on to say that this is a looming crisis that not only Chicago is facing, but it is a looming pension problem that keeps increasing.

Dear Editor,

Last week Wednesday, the Central Committee of Parliament, once again, invited the Independence for St. Martin Foundation (ISMF) to give a presentation regarding holding a referendum to determine whether the people of St. Maarten desire to become independent or not. This is the fourth time that the ISMF was in Parliament presenting its case. The first presentation was held in March 2016. Hereafter, the Central Committee reconvened, in September 2016, to give the ISMF the opportunity to answer questions that the MPs had posed in the first round in March. The Chairlady of the Central Committee then advised ISMF to submit a petition, requesting Parliament to convene a consultative referendum at the earliest possible date. In January 2017, the ISMF submitted said petition which was debated in March 2017 during a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee of Petitions. After deliberating whether the petition met the necessary criteria, the Committee of Petitions eventually decided to send the petition to the Central Committee of Parliament for further handling.

In her role as Chairperson of the Central Committee and as a member of the Committee of Petitions, MP Sarah Wescot-Williams, made it very clear that to be able to convene a referendum, Parliament must approve a national ordinance regulating referenda. She mentioned that, there are only two ways by which such a national ordinance can be presented to Parliament. Either, it is initiated by one or more Members of Parliament, or it is proposed by government to Parliament.

Prior to last week’s meeting with the ISMF, Members of Parliament had three occasions to deliberate the matter of holding a referendum. Hence, one would have expected that, when the Central Committee met last Wednesday, Members of Parliament would have been able to discuss and deliberate strategically on the way forward as far as holding a referendum is concerned. After all, the Central Committee should be the body that gathers pertinent information and then submits its recommendations to Parliament, so that the necessary preparations can be made for a public meeting of Parliament where binding decisions are taken.

The ISMF’s petition was simply requesting Parliament to hold a consultative referendum within this term of office, thus, no later than 2020. However, instead of dealing with the topic at hand, our honourable MPs, once again, felt the need to deviate from the subject and to grandstand and give lip service to the topic of independence.

They should have known by now, that, for a referendum to be convened, the first thing that must happen is the drafting of a national ordinance. The draft then will need to be reviewed by the Council of Advice before it can be presented to Parliament for approval. The only way for the draft national ordinance to get to Parliament is if the government prepares such a draft, or if one or more parliamentarians take the responsibility to have the ordinance drafted.

In the Central Committee, members of parliament are expected not only to grandstand and to give lip service but also to ask pertinent and critical questions. Questions such as: will Parliament initiate the draft ordinance or will Parliament pass a motion charging the government with the drafting of the national ordinance? What about an awareness-campaign to enlighten the people about the pros and cons and what independence would mean for St. Maarten, so that they can make an informed and intelligent choice? How much will such a campaign cost? How much will the referendum cost? Is their money on the 2017 budget to cover the cost of the awareness campaign? Will Parliament allocate money on the upcoming budgets for the campaign and for the referendum? Do we need a referendum steering committee? What role will the ISMF play in the preparations leading up to the referendum? What is the target date for the referendum? What is the anticipated trajectory leading up to the referendum?

These are the issues, questions and concerns that I expected our parliamentarians to discuss during this meeting with the ISMF. Instead, Members of Parliament strayed from the topic of the referendum and repeated what they had already said about independence. Only MP Rodolphe Samuel came close to raising the critical questions.

Are our Members of Parliament serious about holding a referendum or about St. Maarten becoming an independent country? I do not think so for the following reasons: The first meeting between the Central Committee of Parliament and the ISMF was held in March 2016 yet the parties of the MPs, who now boast about being long-time ardent advocates and supporters of independence, did not include the topics of referendum or independence in their 2016 manifestos. The very comprehensive 2016-2020 governing programme “Stability for Prosperity” of the current Red, White and Blue coalition is also totally silent on the issues of referendum and independence.

During the 2017 budget debate, not one Member of Parliament requested that funds be allocated towards a referendum awareness-campaign or a nation-building campaign or for the planning and organizing of a referendum. Furthermore, during the meetings in the Central Committee with the ISMF not one MP volunteered to accept the responsibility to initiate the required draft national ordinance that would lead to parliament eventually approving the convening of a referendum. Consequently, SMCP concludes that Parliament is not really serious about Sint Maarten convening a referendum or becoming an independent country in the near future.

Wycliffe Smith

Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party

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