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Swift action, evacuation for 2nd KLM bomb hoax

page6e041AIRPORT--Another KLM plane was the target of an apparent bomb-scare hoax on Friday afternoon. An anonymous caller phoned airport check-in counter 46 and said that there was a bomb on KLM flight 785. Although no bombs were found after thorough searches of both the plane and the airport building, this is the second such costly and disruptive bomb-scare in a matter of months.

Another scare, also pointing to a bomb on KLM, prompted a mass evacuation of Princess Juliana International Airport SXM on Saturday, December 6, 2014.

Friday’s threat was called in at 11:45am, airport Special Projects Coordinator Robert Brown relayed during an impromptu press conference held jointly with Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication Claret Connor and Chief Inspector Police spokesperson Ricardo Henson.

Emergency procedures started after the agent to receive the call informed a security guard. By 11:48am the evacuation started and by 11:59am the building was cleared of passengers, Brown said.

The evacuation was said to have run smoothly and passengers were directed to safer locations, especially to the east of the airport because of high winds.

Nearby roads between the Causeway roundabout and Maho roundabout were blocked by the Police minutes after noon as emergency vehicles including a bomb squad made their way to the airport to search the aircraft and then the rest of the premises.

The Department of Communication issued an emergency media release at 1:02pm which on-air media outlets were able to share.

The release informed the public of the threat, the roads blocked by police checkpoints, and that “air traffic movements or scheduled flights have been re-routed to other destinations until further notice.

Roads were reopened and the airport resumed operations at 2:15pm, after authorities gave the all-clear sign.

Brown said that passengers were given regular updates and water. The perceived lack thereof had been a complaint expressed by some of the less patient passengers during the last evacuation, although most passengers had been understanding of the situation.

The impromptu press conference was held for media present, members of which were not allowed past the roadblock at the Causeway roundabout, at 1:33pm. By that time, Henson said that the aircraft and building had been searched, and that procedures were being rounded off.

Both Henson and Minister Connor acknowledged the inconvenience – which included backed up traffic which reached to Cole Bay – but urged the public to understand that safety takes priority and that various protocols had to be followed according to international civil aviation regulations.

“Obviously this is never pleasant to deal with but we have to take all necessary measures to ensure the public at large is safe,” the Minister said, adding that the procedures were taking place swiftly so that the island is not kept at a standstill and so that passengers needing to leave can do so and so that planes hovering would be able to land. He commended the professionalism.

The representatives were unable to ascertain how many flights had been diverted or delayed on Friday, but both Delta and AirFrance could not land. AirFrance went instead to Guadeloupe, and both were said to be on the way back shortly after 3:00pm.

Friday seemed less busy than the last evacuation, although it can be assumed that the typical hindrances would still arise such as having to delay further flights because of crew’s rest time regulations and having more aircraft land within shorter spaces of time.

The incident also hindered airport personnel including key officials from entering without hindrance. Both Managing Director Regina LaBega and an Air Traffic Controller were spotted being held up at the checkpoints.

In the December incident, there were a number of irate KLM passengers stranded after a Friday, and then a Saturday KLM flight had been cancelled following a technical fault in the plane’s cockpit instrumentation system, sources revealed. The unconfirmed theory is that one of the irate passengers had called the threat in.

However, both airport Special Projects Coordinator Robert Brown and Prosecutor’s Office Spokesperson Tineke Kamps said that there were no updates on finding the last culprit, when asked by The Daily Herald.

Court orders Housing Foundation to pay damages to Kalmera, Williams

PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) was ordered by the court on Friday to award damages to Financial Controller Emilio Kalmera (38) and Executive Assistant Miurica Williams (30).

Both had challenged their suspensions without pay by SMHDF’s Supervisory Board as per December 12, 2014. In both cases the court found it proven that the Housing Foundation had been in default, and ordered it to pay damages to the tune of NAf. 56,268 to Kalmera and NAf. 45,400 to Williams.

Their cases were related to Managing Director Henry Lynch, who saw his service agreement with SMHDF end on February 4, based on a host of allegations concerning financial mismanagement and embezzlement.

Representing Kalmera and Williams in their legal action, attorney Cindy Marica had called her clients’ suspension invalid and illegitimate. Marica said furthermore that SMHDF had not worked diligently in dealing with the cases against her clients and called the allegations against them unclear.

She demanded payment of the litigants’ salaries until their labour agreements were terminated legally and demanded rectification of a press release by SMHDF’s lawyer Jairo Bloem that was sent to the media on March 11 in which Bloem had summed up a large number of allegations.

Kalmera was appointed as financial controller as per August 1, 2012, on a three-year contract, expiring on July 31, 2015. Williams has been working as a secretary with the foundation since 2004; and on a permanent basis from 2006.

Both were suspended pending the outcome of forensic investigations by Government Accountants Bureau SOAB into allegations of “fraud, embezzlement, violation of human-resource procedures, forgery of documents and deliberate mismanagement of funds and assets of SMHDF,” according to the foundation’s attorney in his letter of December 12, 2014.

Lynch was also suspended on the same date and was dismissed later. The case caused a lot of commotion, which led to SOAB halting its investigations. In the meantime, SMHDF has commissioned another forensic investigation by a different institution.

In its ruling, the Court stated that both Kalmera and Williams had been confronted with “serious but up to date unfounded allegations,” which was considered a violation of the principles of a good employer.

SMHDF’s statements in the media had harmed their good names and reputation. The Court, therefore, arrived at the conclusion that there was a serious breach in confidence and an unworkable employment relationship between the Housing Foundation and its two management team members.

In its ruling, the Court attached much weight to the fact that the allegations and reproaches against both litigants had been insufficiently substantiated. According to SMHDF, Kalmera and Williams must have been aware of Lynch’s actions and wrongdoings. It was held against them that they had not done anything to prevent this.

According to Kalmera he had, on occasion, spoken with Lynch about these irregularities, but he had also pointed out that it was not his task to “control and deal” with his Director. He said his main task had been to control the budget. He refuted statements that he had travelled to Belize for private reasons, as it, in fact, was considered a business trip to view projects in connection with future plans in St. Maarten.

Williams had pointed out that she was subordinate to Lynch and had never facilitated or been aware of any malpractice. She also contested that she had received any unauthorized favours, such as loans.

Blogger remains in pre-trial detention

~ Judge: ‘no reason’ to release now ~

 PHILIPSBURG--Blogger J.R. (40), who was arrested on June 30, for a number of offenses, will remain behind bars in pre-trail detention to give police a chance to interrogate her on the charges against her.

R. appeared before a Judge of Instruction on Friday. Prosecutor Tineke Kamps said in a press release that the Judge deemed R’s arrest and pre-trial detention to be “lawful as it relates to stalking.” Kamps said the Judge of Instruction found “no reason to release the suspect immediately.”

Kamps said the blogger was arrested after several persons pressed charges against her for various offenses from January 2014 to now. The reports cover slander, defamation, insult, threat, harassment (stalking) and extortion.

The offenses were committed via social media and in person, Kamps said. “Given the particular circumstances in this investigation, namely the activities of the suspects and the limited resources and manpower of KPSM (St. Maarten Police Force) to conduct an investigation into cybercrime, a mediation process, rather than a criminal investigation, was initiated,” she explained.

“During this mediation officials from KPSM as well as the Prosecutors Service spoke to the suspect… After several months, it has shown that the agreements made during the mediation were not respected by the suspect. Above that, new statements against the suspect were done. Eventually, the Prosecutor was forced to proceed to arrest J.R.”

R’s arrest was followed by a house search at her home in St. Peters. Data carriers such as phones, laptops and computers were confiscated for further investigation. Animal Welfare Foundation was called in to provide care for R.’s dog and cats.

Kamps said “it turned out to be very difficult to find a lawyer” who was available to assist R. during her pre-trial detention. The judge of instruction had to appoint a lawyer, which Kamps said is necessary since R., just as any other suspect in pre-trial detention, is entitled to legal assistance.

The Prosecutors Service expects that the police need a couple of additional days to interrogate the suspect on the charges against her for its investigation into this matter. During this investigation R. will remain in pre-trial detention. Kamps said “no abuse of J.R. took place during her detention.”

Gumbs supports Aruba's call for independent investigation

PHILIPSBURG--Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs has written to Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman expressing support for Eman's call for an independent investigation in connection with the recent death of Aruban Mitch Henriquez (42) while in Dutch police custody in The Hague.

St. Maarten is prepared to support the inclusion of an Aruban on the independent commission, according to the letter sent on Thursday.

Gumbs expressed condolences on behalf of the government and people of St. Maarten to the Aruba Government and people as well as Henriquez's family and friends.

The letter was also copied to Aruba Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague Alfonso Boekhoudt.

Blogger remains in pre-trial detention

~Judge: ‘no reason’ to release now~

PHILIPSBURG--Blogger J.R. (40), who was arrested on June 30, for a number of offenses, will remain behind bars in pre-trail detention to give police a chance to interrogate her on the charges against her.

  R. appeared before a Judge of Instruction on Friday. Prosecutor Tineke Kamps said in a press release that the Judge deemed R’s arrest and pre-trial detention to be “lawful as it relates to stalking.” Kamps said the Judge of Instruction found “no reason to release the suspect immediately.”

  Kamps said the blogger was arrested after several person pressed charges against her for various offenses from January 2014 to now. The reports cover slander, defamation, insult, threat, harassment (stalking) and extortion.

  The offenses were committed via social media and in person. Kamps said “it turned out to be very difficult to find a lawyer” who was available to assist R. during her pre trial detention. The judge of instruction had to appoint a lawyer.

  The Public Prosecutors Service expects that the police needs a couple of additional days to interrogate the suspect on the charges against her for its investigation into this matter. During this investigation R. will remain in pre-trial detention. Kamps said “no abuse of J.R. took place during her detention.”

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