PHILIPSBURG:— Minister of Justice Rafael Boasman told reporters that the print media on the Dutch side have not been reporting the facts on the lawyers that are striking for a lack of payment from government. Minister Boasman said that when he first took office he met with the representatives of the lawyers and he made a commitment to them that they will be paid.
He said when he was contacted on Monday he informed the lawyers that government made the payments and assured them that the monies were paid out. Minister Boasman said that the lawyers told him that unless they see the monies on their account they would not be working and will not be representing the prisoners that need their representation. The Minister said later that same day he did get a message from the lawyers informing him that they were paid for February and March but they were not paid for December 2016 and January 2017.
The Minister said he had an agreement that they will move forward and if the lawyers were not paid for those two months they could have contacted him and allow government to work on paying them, he said that when he was contacted it was Easter Monday. The Minister considered the actions to be hypocritical since they took government to court in order for inmates to get certain things and yet they refuse to grant those very inmates the much-needed services they need while being incarcerated.
Minister Boasman said the inmates did not do the lawyers anything and they do not need to be punished for the lack of payment by government. He said that the lawyers did not work for government instead they provided services to inmates who cannot afford legal fees and while its government responsibility to pay these lawyers for the services they rendered he believes if the lawyers wanted to punish anyone then they should punish government by taking government to court for the lack of payment.
He said that the lawyers that are working as picket lawyers offered their services, government did not solicit their services. The Minister said because of the actions the lawyers have taken he began discussions with other law firms to see how many of them will render the same services because what transpired now will not happen again. He said that every lawyer on St. Maarten that enters the bar has the right to work as picket lawyers.
Minister Boasman even apologized for being emotional when addressing the issue on Wednesday at the Council of Ministers press briefing. He said that the actions taken by the lawyers hurt because he met with them and did his part yet they chose to hurt people that need their services. The Minister said he is a firm believer that when people work they must be paid and he did pay the lawyers for the past two months.
Prison hiccups — lack of prison guards caused discomfort to inmates.
Another issue the Minister of Justice addressed is the situation at the prison which he said again was wrongly reported. The Minister said that at least two prison guards did not show up to work, they called in sick and as such the prisoners had a few hours of discomfort. The Minister explained that while the guards called in sick he cannot say if they were really sick or if the carnival festivities played a role in it, however, the management team of the prison is busy investigating.
As for the lack of prison guards, the Minister of Justice said he got the green light from the Prime Minister William Marlin to begin recruiting VKS officers to work at the prison to help with the manpower issues they are having.
Asked by SMN News if he as Minister managed to get the prison guards that are out on sick leave back to work since several of them were not going to work because of the working conditions. Minister Boasman said several of those prison guards returned to work but there are still some who did not return. He said he cannot say if those prison guards that did not return to work are indeed sick or not but the next step he intends to take is to ask for a complete physical in order to determine if the guards are fit for working at the prison.
He made clear that he cannot just “fire people” because certain procedures must be followed, besides that he said just moving the guards to other locations also cannot work because they were hired to work as prison guards. However, with a complete physical it will help government determine if those workers are fit to work at the prison and those that are not fit would have to make their positions available which would then allow the prison management to begin hiring more staff.
The Minister said with the recent discomfort the inmates suffered for a few hours he personally apologized to them.
Source: St. Martin News Network
Striking Lawyers are irresponsible — Minister negotiating with other law office to find picket lawyers.