GREAT BAY – In early August, the Progress Committee sounded the alarm over the lack of progress with the plans of approach in the justice chain. This week, the committee is back on the island for talks with law enforcement stakeholders; they also met with Dutch Representative Chris Johnson at his office on Front Street.
On Wednesday, Minister Ronald Plasterk (Kingdom Relations) sent the latest reports from the Progress Committee to the Dutch parliament. In the accompanying letter he basically reiterates the concerns committee-chairman Nico Schoof expressed at a press conference in St. Maarten in August.
Plasterk confirms that the plans of approach for the prison and the police force have not been completed “on essential points” and that the AMvRB (general measure of kingdom governance) has been extended until October 10, 2018.
With the progress committee, Plasterk is of the opinion that the lack of financial resources in the budget is “not an acceptable explanation for the state of the prison and the police force.”
“The government of St. Maarten has to abide by the agreements we made and set the necessary (partially financial) priorities for it.”
Plasterk says that it will quickly become apparent whether the new government accepts the plans for improvement on a political level and whether “executive services will be enabled to implement the necessary improvements.”
Schoof said in August that the police force intends to grow with 20 officers per year; that would bring the total strength per 2020 to 250 personnel, still a far cry from the 350 officers the force needs. These numbers indicate that the current strength of the force is around 150, just 43 percent of the desired formation.
Suspensions, detachments and illness are plaguing the staff at the Pointe Blanche prison. There are 107 people on the payroll, which is actually above the formation of 98, but only 50 of these employees are actually working. “The rest is sick, weak and nauseous,” Schoof said in August. The prison staff gets assistance from a private security company.
The Progress Committee also identified management at the prison as a problem. According to Schoof vacancies at the top are not filled and the director (Edward Rohan) “does not have things under control.”
Photo caption: From left, members of the progress committee Terrance Rey (deputy-secretary), Michel Marijnen, Nico Schoof (chairman), and Gert Jan Stortelers (secretary) with Dutch Representative Chris Johnson. Photo contributed