PHILIPSBURG–Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever informed members of the Central Committee of Parliament about the state of affairs regarding the Progress Committee’s report on the Police Force and the Pointe Blanche prison, as well as proposed measures to improve the deplorable conditions at both. The minister maintained his earlier media statements that the committee’s overview was outdated.
Urgent repairs were made to the prison’s roof, corridor walls and courtyard walls. These works included project management and site supervision carried out by Independent Consulting Engineers (ICE). References made to the St. Maarten Progress Committee’s third-quarter 2018 report and published in a news article mid-February are outdated and based on the observation period by members of the committee from July to October 2018.
Justice ministry support staff said the lights in the prison border areas have been repaired; roof lights have been reinstalled; the main roof has been repaired, which stopped all leakage; all debris has been removed from the corridors; and the kitchen received new stoves and a ventilation system.
Classes for the detainees have started back up (English and general education diploma (GED)); 10 personal computers have been delivered to support the programmes; the recruitment of 10 officers has started, the interviews have taken place and the sport tests took place for 19 candidates on Tuesday.
The draft function book is in its finalised stage and will be submitted to the Council of Ministers and the committee responsible for advising of the function book GOA. The electronic monitoring bracelets have been introduced and the training took place.
This meeting was requested by MPs Frans Richardson and Rolando Brison of United St. Maarten Party, and MPs Silveria Jacobs, Egbert Doran, Christophe Emmanuel, William Marlin and Ardwell Irion of National Alliance.
A Dutch company was hired to re-install existing cameras, among other technical works. Even though its invoice was partially pre-paid, the work has not started as yet despite repeated requests for a start date.
“There is a transparent process in place for selecting companies to carry out work at the prison and we have to follow the procedures as dictated by good governance, and this plays a role in things not moving fast enough as some would like them to, but we are making steady progress and we will continue on the track embarked upon based on our adjusted improvement plan and the recommendations of the Progress Committee in order to meet our obligations as well as international treaties and conventions,” De Weever said about the pace of the work at the prison.
Police Chief Carl John informed MPs that there is a difference of opinion when it comes to the police not having enough manpower.
“The basic police (BAVPOL) officers we swore in several years ago to assist the police with combating crime are presently in the basic police course, but the progress committee does not count them as staff. That is where we differ on opinion when it comes to staff. The police, however, are content that the committee sees the improvement of the Police Force with the limited resources we have,” said John at the Central Committee meeting Wednesday.
The ministry officials also informed MPs that the ministry in its long-term goals plans to build a new prison once funds become available. The repairs and work at the prison are being financed by the island’s crime fund, but the funds are running low, according to the officials.
MPs fired questions and gave their take on the attitude of the Netherlands that De Weever is not doing enough to fix the long-standing issues of the prison. He plans to answer parliament’s questions in two weeks.