PHILIPSBURG–Members of Parliament (MPs) on Wednesday expressed concern about whether there were arms of the Dutch disciplined services sent to operate in the country that do not report to or fall under the responsibility of Justice Minister Edson Kirindongo.
The MPs also questioned whether Minister Richard Gibson, while in his capacity as Interim Justice Minister, signed a protocol in the Netherlands for this to occur that his successor Kirindongo is unaware of.
The MPs were at the time speaking during a plenary session of Parliament which had as the agenda point “deliberation on the Ministry of Justice and its relationship within the Kingdom.”
United People’s (UP) party MP Theo Heyliger asked whether Gibson visited the Netherlands within the first month of his installation, who he met with and what the discussions were about. He also asked about the outcome of those discussions.
Heyliger also asked whether minutes of the meetings Gibson held existed and whether these were approved by the Council of Ministers.
He asked how many different Police organisations were operating in St. Maarten and who they report to. He said it could be that these organisations were conducting police work in the country that the minister is unaware of.
Heyliger also asked how many officers worked for the Police Force of St. Maarten. He said he heard that it was approximately 125 officers plus 40 detectives, while the Criminal Investigation Unit CID has 20 officers and is expecting 55 more. This coupled with the 75 members of the RST would amount to a significant number of officers in comparison to those who work for the local Police Force.
These officers were “running around the country gathering information” and the minister is unaware of what is going on. Heyliger asked whether the people of St. Maarten have a right to know who is responsible for whom.
UP MP Franklin Meyers said former Justice Ministers Roland Duncan and Dennis Richardson came in for a lot of criticism for being against a protocol being signed for “another Police Force” to be established to operate in St. Maarten. He asked who signed the protocol for this to occur.
He also questioned whether the Dutch Government ever responded in writing to the implementation of the protocol signed for the strengthening of the law enforcement system in St. Maarten and if yes, what was the content of their reaction. He also asked what the Government of St. Maarten did to follow up for structural law enforcement change.
He asked how 55 RSTs will benefit St. Maarten when the country has its own problems. He suggested that perhaps the officers who are sent here, do not want to be supervised by someone of another ethnicity.
He also raised the issue of phone tapping and questioned what rights the people of St. Maarten have. He said there was a case where a person’s phone was tapped and permission was sought afterwards. He believes that there is a constant agenda to “ostracize” the people of St. Maarten.
He asked whether the minister thinks it is ok for another Police Force to be established in St. Maarten and not report to him; who signed the protocol allowing another arm of the force to be established in St. Maarten and not report to the Justice Minister and whether such a protocol has been signed and accepted by Curaçao and Aruba agreeing for their Ministers of Justice to be circumvented.
UP MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson expressed concerns about the Police Information System, amongst other things.
United St. Maarten (US) party MP Frans Richardson said he is also interested in hearing the answers to the questions posed to the minister.
UP MP Johan Janchi Leonard believes that St. Maarten is being targeted. He says the Minister of Justice should be in control of the justice sector and he urged the minister to “flex” his muscles. He also expressed concern about the lengthy time it takes for a police record to be granted.
National Alliance (NA) MP George Pantophlet said the process to create an alternative Police Force in St. Maarten began as far back as 1991. He called for caution and urged persons to not fight against each other so that more control can be exercised. He asked whether St. Maarten can establish its own team to investigate officers who are sent to the country.
NA MP Christophe Emmanuel said clarity needs to be given. He asked the minister to provide the document that was signed by former Minister Richardson and the document signed by Interim Minister Gibson. He also asked the sitting minister to explain both documents. Emmanuel said he is not concerned about what the Dutch Government does, he is concerned about what is being done in St. Maarten.
NA MP Rodolphe Samuel asked what happens to the information gathered by the CID. About five members operate in St. Maarten. Some come to St. Maarten via Curaçao. He said under normal circumstances a CID unit should report to the Chief of Police, who answers to the Justice Minister, who answers to the Prosecutor General. He asked the sitting minister to explain the chain of command.
He said too that it is important to know whether the CID unit can operate in St. Maarten without the knowledge of the Minister of Justice. “This is very important and when we get that answer, it will clear a lot of things up.”
Also posing questions and making comments during the meeting were Democratic Party (DP) MP Sarah Wescot–Williams and Independent MPs Leona Marlin-Romeo, Cornelius de Weever and Maurice Lake.
The meeting was adjourned after the first round of questioning and will resume when the minister has the answers ready.
Source: Daily Herald
MPs question whether new Dutch police report to Justice Minister