Knops: Our stance towards St. Maarten is cooperation | THE DAILY HERALD

THE HAGUE–The position of the Dutch government where it comes to St. Maarten justice is aimed at cooperation. As such, Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops have offered assistance to help improve the situation at the Pointe Blanche prison.

Knops stated this on Thursday in response to questions of Member of the Second Chamber Nevin Özütok of the green left party GroenLinks. Özütok submitted written questions mid-April following the publication of the most recent report of the St. Maarten Progress Committee, along with a letter of the committee in which it again sounded the alarm regarding the prison.

Knops said he and the minister did not agree with the Progress Committee’s statement, referred to by the Member of Parliament (MP), that the Dutch government had not done enough to tackle the impasse surrounding St. Maarten’s prison system.

Knops explained that he met with St. Maarten Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin on a regular basis as part of the Ministerial Consultation to discuss the progress of the plan of approach for the prison. Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever and Finance Minister Perry Geerlings were also actively involved in these talks.

Knops pointed out that he and Dekker had visited all four detention facilities in St. Maarten on April 11.

“The position of the Netherlands towards St. Maarten is aimed at cooperation. The Minister for Legal Protection and I offered expertise and knowledge in various areas to St. Maarten several times,” he said.

Knops said the Dutch Representation in Philipsburg carefully monitored the progress St. Maarten authorities have been making in executing the agreements to improve the situation at the Pointe Blanche prison. “A meeting is taking place every two weeks between the Representation and St. Maarten’s Ministry of Justice,” he stated.

MP Özütok wanted to know whether the impression of the Progress Committee was correct that the Dutch government mostly focused on the return of the St. Maarten prisoners who were transferred to penitentiaries in the Netherlands after Hurricane Irma.

Knops replied that he and the minister found it important that the detention situation in St. Maarten improved. “That is the core of our efforts. Part of that is the ambition of the Dutch government to have the inmates return as soon as possible, which will benefit a proper reintegration in St. Maarten.”

Knops pointed out that the return of the inmates strongly depended on the improvement measures the St. Maarten government has to carry out. He remarked that the situation described in the Progress Committee’s quarterly reports was always a bit dated.

Knops did not agree with Özütok’s observation that the committee’s letter accompanying the latest report should have been sent to the Second Chamber.

“Personal policy opinions in documents for internal consultation are in principle not made public. It is government policy not to make documents for internal consultation a subject of the political debate, in order to ensure that the exchanging of view can take place in a confidential manner to the benefit of careful decision-taking. I lament that the letter was published on several media platforms,” he said.

Source: The Daily Herald