PHILIPSBURG–Caretaker Prime Minister Wycliffe Smith on Wednesday minced no words in expressing his firm position against the motion supported by a broad majority of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, who are in favour of starting dialogue with St. Maarten government to see if the Netherlands should take over management of law enforcement on the island.
Smith made it clear that he is “firmly against” any action by the Dutch Government that would remove the authority and management of local services from the hands of St. Maarteners to be placed under the control of others.
The motion, filed by Member of Parliament (MP) Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic party CDA last week, together with five other MPs, mustered a broad support of ten parties, representing 107 of the 150 seats in the Second Chamber.
“No consideration should be given to measures that would remove the authority and management of our local services from the hands of St. Maarteners to be placed under the control of others. Partners within the Kingdom who are truly seeking the interest of St. Maarten and her people will offer their support without seeking control,” Smith made clear on Wednesday during the weekly Council of Ministers press briefing.
The caretaker Prime Minister said he had taken note of the motion, adding that in light of the caretaker status of the current government, it is not likely that this proposed dialogue will take place with the anticipated interim government. He however shared his personal views on the matter. “Personally though, I encourage the leaders of St. Maarten to think and act in accordance with and in the interest of St. Maarten and her people,” Smith noted.
“We are a young nation and as part of our growth and development we are willing to accept assistance from more experienced partners and countries in several areas including law enforcement. However. I am firmly against any action that may infringe on the rights of the St. Maarten people.”
The parties that voted for the motion on Tuesday were: Socialist Party (SP), Labour Party PvdA, the liberal democratic VVD party, the green left party GroenLinks, the CDA, ChristianUnion, Forum for Democracy FvD, the DENK party, the reformed Christian party SGP, the Party for Animals PvdD and the member Van Kooten-Arissen.
Van Dam filed the motion last week Thursday during the handling of the draft 2020 budget for Kingdom Relations together with MPs André Bosman (VVD), Ronald van Raak (SP), Attje Kuiken (PvdA), Nevin Özütok (GroenLinks) and Stieneke van der Graaf (ChuristianUnion).
The motion mentioned the “big concerns about the enforcement of law and order in St. Maarten” and “considering that a proper functioning of the state of law and of law enforcement is a basic condition for the functioning of any society.
The motion requested the Dutch government to enter into consultations with the St. Maarten government to discuss the separation of management and authority of maintaining law and order to see in what way the Netherlands could play a bigger role in managing law enforcement for a period of five years.
State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops last week advised against the motion. He said that Van Dam’s motion went against the principle of the division of responsibilities within the Kingdom and the autonomous position of St. Maarten as a country. He said that executing this motion meant restricting St. Maarten’s autonomy and that assuming the task of law enforcement could only take place based on a consensus regulation
Immediately following Tuesday’s voting, Van Dam requested a letter from the Dutch government about how it intended to execute this broadly carried motion. The Netherlands already provides support to St. Maarten’s law enforcement with police officers, detectives, public prosecutors and through the Court of Justice, the Coast Guard and Defence.
Van Dam stated in a reaction on Tuesday that it was of great importance that the entities that gave content to law enforcement in St. Maarten – police, the courts, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Pointe Blanche prison, national detectives and others – could develop in a stable, sustainable manner. According to Van Dam, a former police officer and former public prosecutor, “meaningful steps can be set for the entire country” by organising continuity of management of these entities.
Van Dam’s second motion regarding the improving of law enforcement in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten by giving the Kingdom a bigger role was adjourned and not voted on. The motion of Van Raak (SP) and Bosman (VVD) to ensure the continuance of the Anti-Corruption Task Force TBO in the Dutch Caribbean was carried by general support with no party voting against.