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Editorial - Not the answer

Today’s meeting of Justice Minister Dennis Richardson with his Dutch counterpart Ard van der Steur and Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk could prove pivotal regarding future relations between the Netherlands and St. Maarten. The Gumbs cabinet is of the opinion that The Hague is wrongly trying to take over local law enforcement with the help of Attorney-General in Willemstad Guus Schram and Dutch National Police Chief Gerard Bouman.

An internal memo from the latter following his recent visit was leaked; in it he mentioned great concern over the criminal undermining of society and “extremely alarming” integrity issues. He also mentioned deploying two teams of 25 detectives each to the island.

This news, coming only days after policeman Gamali Benjamin was shot dead by robbers on Front Street, ruffled quite a few feathers in Philipsburg. Richardson stated during a subsequent press briefing that St. Maarten had not been afforded the opportunity to give input in the Dutch Government’s plans to strengthen the judicial system, despite a signed protocol stating that the country’s authorities would be involved.

Moreover, Bouman apparently told the minister he had not come to discuss this protocol and already had met with Van der Steur and Plasterk, who had decided their priority was combating corruption in St. Maarten. He allegedly stated, “We don’t need you” and – asked about the input of local officers – added “We don’t need them either. We have so much information on St. Maarten that it does not justify working with you at all.”

The Dutch Representative in Philipsburg was called in to complain about Bouman’s attitude. In an August 6 letter Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs even informed the two members of the Rutte cabinet in question that Dutch civil servants were no longer welcome unless part of a ministerial delegation.

On top of that, Van der Steur wants Richardson to withdraw a general instruction he issued to the Attorney-General, after the latter made changes to the Criminal Intelligence Division (CID) regulation without consulting him first. The St. Maarten minister has refused to do so, but is still willing to discuss the matter with Schram, providing they also can agree to improve the cooperation between the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST and the local police.

Whether and how the current impasse possibly can be broken remains to be seen, but ultimately the best interest of law-abiding citizens should come first. While organised and border-crossing crime are most certainly serious problems that must be tackled forcefully and decisively, excluding practically everyone living on the island from that effort does not seem the right answer either.

Note to our readers and clients

Tropical Storm Erika is expected to reach the Northeastern Caribbean early Thursday and St. Maarten has been under a Tropical Storm Watch since Tuesday morning. Considering the timeframe and forecast, management again has decided that with the safety of primarily our late night/morning personnel in mind, it is prudent not to publish on Thursday, while the office also will remain closed. A combined paper will appear on Friday, August 28, with the Out ’n About to be prepared today, Wednesday. The office will re-open as normal Friday morning.