Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and
Welcome to this two-day conference on the topics of Border Control and the recovery of the local Justice-chain post Hurricane Irma.
Today marks precisely one week since my swearing in as Minister of Justice of Sint Maarten and my team and I have literally had as they would say in Dutch “een vliegende start” (a flying start).
Immediately after having been sworn in on Monday January 15th, 2018 – I swore in six officers and then traveled to Curacao to participate in the biannual meeting of the four Ministers of Justice of the countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, usually referred to as the JVO. I make mention of this as I experienced the JVO as particularly successful, it was clearly evident that there is truly a desire to work together on improving the Justice Chain, border control and overall Law enforcement within the Kingdom.
Hurricane Irma was an unavoidable natural disaster which was followed by a political disaster because of a lack of communication, coordination and cooperation. Safety was a huge concern and many people left the island or sent their families away to ensure that they were safe. Safety and security will always be an issue for our residents and visitors and we all have to stay ahead of any potential wave of crime by strengthening our justice chain. Despite Irma’s physical/material damages to the Police Station and its substations, the Custom Department, the newly acquired Justice Institute of Sint Maarten, the Foundation Judicial Institutes St. Maarten, the Ms. Lalie Center and as I am sure was evident during your tour of yesterday afternoon the Prison at Point Blanche our law enforcement continues to function at its best given the circumstances.
Yesterday afternoon before the tour of the Point Blanche facility I swore in three additional officers as well. These various forms of assistance from our Kingdom partners are playing a crucial role in our recovery. Sint Maarten is very grateful for all the assistance we have received.
Sint Maarten’s government is cognizant of the fact that working together to combat the drug trade, to halt the running of arms, to stop human trafficking and smuggling, terrorism as well as other crimes has never been more important than it is today. This two-day conference is of utmost importance in efforts to rebuild and strengthen essential components of Sint Maarten’s Justice Chain in order to improve, the overall safety and security of our society.
There is no individual, or island or country that has all the solutions but coming together, like we are today, creates the platform to find solutions, learn from best practices and put them all in a recovery and reconstruction plan but more importantly to execute them.
These efforts however must be based on the principles of mutual respect and equality. The autonomous constitutional rights and responsibilities of Sint Maarten must be maintained. At the same time Sint Maarten must take responsibility for its affairs, identify and acknowledge the challenges the Justice Chain faces and address these in an effective and responsible manner.
I assure you that Sint Maarten’s Government is prepared to take that responsibility and is committed to working together towards achieving the aforementioned. I am grateful for your presence here today and trust we will make every effort towards pleasant and productive discussions.