PHILIPSBURG–United People’s (UP) Party Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger raised concerns on Friday about authorities possibly monitoring phone calls without permission to do so as is required.
Heyliger was posing questions to Justice Minister Cornelius de Weever at the time, during a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament related to a petition submitted to parliament by persons following a recent protest.
Heyliger said he understood that the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST listens to phone conversations and if anything they consider incriminating is heard, it is only then that permission from the court is requested to officially listen in on the call. He said he understood that the RST has a system installed at local telecoms companies and can “listen in live” to any conversation that anyone is having without any necessary court approval.
“If the RST is listening and they like the conversation … after listening to the conversation they then run to the judge for approval to start listening officially. ‘Big brother’ is watching and listening to us all the time so there is no real privacy laws in St. Maarten,” Heyliger said.
“Is this the case – that the RST or the OM [Prosecutor’s Office – Ed.] or whomever can listen to our conversations, follow us and take photos of us? Where is the real privacy that we as individuals should have in our own country? If you have ability to go in to telecom providers and listen to all our conversations, then you run to the court and get approval, I think this has gone haywire.”
Heyliger questioned what would stop members of the RST from leaking personal information about people’s personal lives. “Where do we go with this situation,” he asked.
De Weever said he is not aware of authorities “eavesdropping” on phone conversations, but said he will get back to the MP on an answer. According to the minister, a person’s telephone or other communication device may be tapped related to a certain crime, but only with a court order and for a maximum of four weeks, which can be extended by another four weeks.