PHILIPSBURG–Stiffer punishment for violent crimes will be one of the focal points of the newly sworn in Council of Ministers supported by the red, white and blue coalition.
Prime Minister William Marlin said in a speech at a reception held at the Government Building on Pond Island to toast the swearing in on Tuesday evening that while this Government will consider stiffer punishment for violent crimes, it sees the most effective way of combating crime being via education and other preventative measures.
The coalition will, therefore, put a lot of emphasis on education and equipping the country’s youth to take their place as the “true leaders of tomorrow … who are proud of their heritage.” Youngsters taking their place and being educationally equipped will lead to “less expatriates” coming into the country to work.
“The increase in criminal activities in recent times on our island is unacceptable, not just because we are a tourist island, but because it undermines the very fabric of our society,” Marlin said to well-wishers.
Marlin did not give a timeline as to when Government will submit amendments to the Penal Code for Parliament’s perusal and approval nor details of how much stiffer the punishment will be for criminals compared to what is in place now.
Youth unemployment and the numbers in Pointe Blanche Prison show that “the system is failing our youth. We cannot build a nation where our young men and young women are marginalised … Too many have been left behind with no hope,” he said.
To combat the inequality and other societal ills, Government will “actively pursue a public private-partnership … considered necessary to establish just and fair labour conditions … a partnership that is obviously critical to our economic development.”
“We can’t turn our backs on well-meaning investors no matter where they come from,” Marlin said, adding that sustainable tourism is very much needed to boost the economy. “We have to pay maximum attention to reviving our economy and attract foreign investment.” He added that any investment in the country must have the people at the centre.
Finances to strengthen the justice chain is also very much needed to tackle crime and ensure public safety, he noted.
Government plans to work together with French St. Martin as it sees the two sides as one island. “We will never turn our backs on our brothers and sisters on the French side,” Marlin said, but said any relationship must be based on “mutual respect.” Both sides will also have “to resist any division” whether from within or outside of the island.
“The next four years will be full of challenges, not just for the new Government but also for the people of St. Maarten,” said Marlin, who is convinced the country will persevere as long as a culture of good governance, fiscal sustainability, fair and open governance are the foundation for moving forward.
“This coalition will deliver stability [to the country – Ed.],” he said. “The St. Maarten we are trying to build has to rest on a foundation of safety and security.”