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Le Grand Marché robbed at gunpoint

CUPECOY--An undisclosed quantity of cash and an iPhone were stolen by two masked men who robbed Le Grand Marché supermarket in Porto Cupecoy mid-morning Sunday.

Police officers investigating the robbery around 9:40am were told that two masked men had stormed into the establishment with guns in their hands threatening persons present.

The gun-toting robbers succeeded in stealing an undisclosed amount of cash and an iPhone, and fled the scene in "a small car" driven by a third person.

The Special Robbery Unit is investigating the robbery, police spokesperson Inspector Ricardo Henson said.

Inspectorate investigating physical abuse at Day Care

~ Owner says accusations malicious, false ~


CUL DE SAC--A day care centre in the Cul de Sac area is under investigation for the alleged physical abuse of children in its care, but the centre in question says the accusations are malicious, false and intended to damage its reputation.

Head of the Court of Guardianship Richelda Rodriguez-Emmanuel confirmed that two reports of child abuse had been reported to the Child Protection Services about the day care centre up to last week. Inspector for Day Care Centres Denise Cornet also confirmed to this newspaper that an investigation into the reports is underway.

The Daily Herald understands that more than one parent had complained about a particular teacher hitting children in various circumstances, including for them to sleep. Four of the seven teachers who worked at the facility walked off the job last week Monday because of the reported failure of the school’s owner (also a teacher) to take proactive actions against the sole teacher accused of hitting the young children. The owner of the school has confirmed that four of her teachers have left, but has denied that she hasn’t attempted to address the matter and said the teacher accused of hitting the children “would never do that.”

The owner of the school told The Daily Herald that the reports of child abuse were probably made by a disgruntled parent who had “an issue” with the school over a US $350 penalty fee (equal to a month’s tuition), which she was asked to pay for abruptly taking her child out of the school after a vacation, without giving the required advanced notice. The owner alluded to the penalty fee as “tuition” and said the parent did not want to pay the fee due to financial constraints. When this newspaper asked whether a parent hadn’t the right to remove their child from the school abruptly if he or she had concerns about the child’s safety; the owner said this was the school’s policy.  

The owner said the parent in question had complained that her son had been having “nightmares” and that he was fearful of attending the school. She said the three-year-old child had attended the school for about two years and according to the owner there were never any concerns before.

The owner said there had been another incident in which a teacher at the school, whose child is also a student in another teacher’s class, had caused a scene at the school after the child complained that a teacher had hit him. The teacher (who is also the parent) indicated that when she was bathing her son, the child said he was in pain and told his mother that a teacher had hit him. The teacher who is also the parent directly confronted the teacher accused of hitting the following day at school in the presence of other children. This teacher, whose child complained of being hit, was one of the four teachers who quit the day care centre last week.

The owner of the school said it was irresponsible for teachers to have walked off the job abandoning the children in their care and subsequently calling parents to pick up their offspring. Instead of confronting her colleague, the owner felt that the teacher should have raised the matter with her promptly. The owner accused the teachers who quit of “siding” with parents who have complained that their children had been hit. Asked whether it wasn’t possible that the four teachers had noticed a problem that she wasn’t addressing at the school, the owner said this wasn’t the case. Asked whether she had conducted an investigation looking into the complaints of the sole teacher accused of hitting children; the school owner said she asked the teacher about the complaints and they were denied. She said too that she was certain that the teacher would not do such a thing.

The owner said there was never any case of child abuse at her school in the past and noted that parents, including the one she believes filed one of the complaints, had given the school “a perfect” report in a recent survey.

The owner of the school said a parent had “threatened” her following the incident. Asked to elaborate on the threats received, she said the parent had indicated that the matter would be reported to the authorities for action to be taken and that the matter would not dissipate just like that.

The school had intended to call a parent/teacher’s meeting on Monday, but this did not proceed, due to the issues encountered that day. “Someone is trying to prank me and frame me,” the school owner said. The owner has since filed a complaint of harassment at the police station and has also visited the Inspectorate to give her side of the story and to present what she said was “proof” of her case.

In the meantime, Rodriguez-Emmanuel said no intervention will be done until the investigation is completed. She was, however, considering calling parents for a meeting on the issue.

Peace Day is marked by cultural diversity

page1a107PHILIPSBURG--Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise held a cultural manifestation in connection with International Peace Day at Philipsburg Jubilee Library’s parking lot on Sunday afternoon.

The manifestation followed a peace symposium for sustainable development and nation-building that took place at University of St. Martin on Friday with guest speaker United Nations Development Plan (UNDP) representative in Trinidad and Tobago Richard Blewitt.

Cultural organizations of various nationalities in St. Maarten displayed their cultures in arts, dances, music, fashion and peace poems during Sunday’s event. Representatives of St. Maarten, Suriname, India, Colombia and Jamaica were among participating nationalities.

Highlight of the event was representatives of different nationalities holding hands around the Peace Monument at the library parking lot to demonstrate peace and unity.

Moderated by Angelique Lake, the manifestation was a showcase of the “rich tapestry of cultural diversity of St. Maarten,” as one of the many speakers said.

Library Director Monique Alberts said the Peace Monument in front of the Library was located in a very appropriate place. “The library actively promotes the mutual understanding between nationalities,” she said.

UNDP representative in St. Maarten Okama Ekpe Brook was among officials addressing the small crowd.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) representative in St. Maarten Marcellia Henry broke a lance for the St. Maarten National Development Plan and called for a peace rally within the community.

MPs concerned about TelEm-Digicel accord

PHILIPSBURG--Members of Parliament (MPs) have expressed concern about the signing of a financial information sharing contract between the St. Maarten Telephone Group of Companies TelEm and regional telecom company Digicel.

Democratic Party (DP), National Alliance (NA) and Independent MPs Frans Richardson and Patrick Illidge expressed concerns during a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament on Friday, to handle amendments to the 2014 budget.

Neither United People's (UP) party MPs nor independent MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson were present at the meeting, which was chaired by Deputy President of Parliament, independent MP Romain Laville. Two of the five UP MPs (Gracita Arrindell and Silvia Meyers-Olivacci) submitted notices of absence.

Laville said a letter will be sent to the Council of Ministers and to TelEm shareholders to explain exactly what is happening to Parliament. Laville echoed sentiments expressed by other MPs that Parliament had passed a motion earlier this month to avoid a situation such as this one from occurring.

The motion in question had restricted outgoing ministers from making any long-term policy, financial and/or decisions of such a nature as granting lands in long lease, bus and taxi licences, concessions, hiring and placement of personnel in crucial functions.

DP MP Roy Marlin said the outgoing government should respect the incoming government and not do anything that would harm the functioning of the new administration. He said this seem to not be the case, particularly when it comes to the agreement TelEm has inked with Digicel. "Something like this could have waited until the new government came in," Marlin said, noting that the motion Parliament passed earlier this month was necessary, as experience had shown that in the past when there is a change of government and a minister "wants to do something fast" it can be present a challenge.

He called for a review of all decisions made by outgoing ministers and those that "can't see the light of day" should be reversed. He said the onus should remain on the minister who took a questionable decision to challenge the annulment in court. Marlin said jurisprudence has shown, as had occurred in Curaçao, that annulment of such decisions can be upheld in court.

Independent MP Frans Richardson said there were "a number of things" taking place and several "quick decisions" were being made by sitting ministers that would have serious consequences for the country.

He accused a minister of being busy "peddling off" land in Fort Willem that had been earmarked for a basketball court for the area to someone else. Another MP later referred to the same matter saying that the land was being given to someone for a cemetery.

"We are hearing all sorts of issues taking place," Richardson said noting that Parliament's earlier motion seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. The MP called for a serious investigation into the actions of the current government over the past weeks. "I will be holding all those responsible for these decisions being taken. I will not sit in government and let things pass by and no one is held accountable for them... If we don't bring these matters to the attention of the public then we are just as bad as those taking the decisions," he said.

The independent MP stressed that those who fail to adhere to motions and legislation passed by Parliament should be "dealt with seriously" because "it would be the public who would have to pay for their wrong."

Several other MPs including Independent MP Patrick Illidge and NA MPs George Pantophlet and Hyacinth Richardson registered concerns about the TelEm-Digicel accord. DP MP Leroy de Weever was not present at yesterday's meeting.

In the meantime, the status of talks between TelEm and United Telecommunication Services (UTS) could not be ascertained. St. Maarten is entitled to between 12 and 25 per cent of UTS' operation as a result of the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams is the shareholder representative for TelEm, while the minister responsible for telecommunications is Ted Richardson, who had been appointed by Laville.

High school students clash outside schools Thurs, Fri

~ MPC suspends two students ~

SOUTH REWARD--An undisclosed number of students had to be taken to the Philipsburg police station and reprimanded for engaging in fights in the vicinity of their school on Thursday.

Police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson said police had to intervene in at least three "big fights" amongst high school students on Thursday and Friday, noting that fracas are "again becoming an issue of concern."

Information gathered by investigating officers and the community police officer for that district indicated that a St. Maarten Vocational Training School (SMVTS) student confronted a Milton Peters College (MPC) student because the latter student "looked at him" with "a screw face."

This led to a fight between SMVTS and MPC students. SMVTS students fled the scene when police arrived. MPC students who remained on the scene were taken to Philipsburg Police Station where they were reprimanded and remained until their parents picked them up. Henson said the parents were apprised of the situation and urged to have "a serious talk" with their children.

The fight amongst the students continued on Friday morning in front of MPC and SMVTS causing what Henson said had been "major disruption." When the situation was brought under control, students and their parents were sent to the Police Juvenile Department to file an official report. "Because of these unnecessary fights and police [being – Ed] called to restore order, the focus of the police on other important issues was taken away," Henson said in a police press release.

The incident led to an urgent meeting amongst MPC management, Education Department representatives, Prosecutor's Office and the community police officer for that area on Friday. During the meeting parties discussed how best to tackle this situation before it gets worse.

In an invited comment on the matter, MPC General Director Wim de Visser said MPC decided to suspend two of its students for two to five days for fighting. He said MPC together with authorities will decide on a more definitive course of action. "Expulsion might be the follow up as we do not tolerate in any sense violence in and around our schools," De Visser said.

"We are in a process of further developing the quality of education. We offer a lot of extracurricular programmes; we have an intensive tutoring policy. We keep a close eye on to our students, we have a safety programme."

He said MPC needs the support of families in raising their children with good and positive support, morals and values. "This morning relatives of a student came to school and were about to fight outside the school. Fortunately, we could separate them and immediately afterwards the police took them to the police station. Another family went to the police station to report on the incident," De Visser said.

"This morning [Friday – Ed.], I invited the school managers, the police officer, truancy and probation to sit and discuss our policy regarding this incident. We all agreed that a firm statement must be made with expulsion as our ultimate decision.

"The next step in this matter is that the two students will be referred to probation and they will have a policy/treatment for both the students and their families. We will not accept the students back to our school, as our first and foremost importance is the safety of our students and staff," he said.

De Visser advised students to focus on the positive aspects of learning and studying and see the great opportunities education brings. "Another thing we need to do as a community (government, foundations, schools, churches) is to have an intense dialogue on the values and morals in raising children. Get this sensible subject on the table. Why is there so much (domestic) violence? Do we need to sort out discussions and differences in opinion in a fight? Why can't we as humans respect each other, meaning without getting straight into a fight? Why do many people think that violence is a solution for a difference of opinion? Bring this to the table and join forces as schools, police, government, foundations and churches. Say all together we cannot tolerate this and yes, we all, including families of youngsters, will take care for that," he said.

In the event of a fight, De Visser urged students to stay away from it instead of running towards it. "

The fewer spectators, the less it will evolve into something bigger. We have security that can deal with a situation like that. The more crowded the place is, the less overview they have. Do not encourage the incident while standing around. Violence is never beautiful, it is despicable," De Visser said. "Our schools are safe schools because we will never tolerate violence, whatsoever. The consequences will be for the violators," he said.

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