Arrindell: Duncan’s statements on Coast Guard insulting

POSTED: 04/17/13 1:41 PM

ArrindellSt. Maarten – United People’s Party Member of Parliament Drs. Gracita Arrindell chided Justice Minister Roland Duncan for Monday’s pronouncement that he wanted to get rid with the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard stationed in Simpson Bay. During yesterday’s public debate on the Draft 2013 Budget, Arrindell said that herself along with other MPS were uncomfortable with the statements made by Duncan on Monday.

She categorized Duncan’s statements as “insulting, demoralizing for workers under his charge and sends the wrong signals to the management team of the Coast Guard.
On Monday, the minister repeated that he wants to get rid of the Coast Guard. “Why should we make all these expenses to catch other people’s drugs? They are not destined for St. Maarten; they are destined for the European and American markets. All we are good for is sending our annual contribution.”

Duncan said that he refuses to pay more than what he considers St. Maarten’s fair share. “When was the last time you saw a Coast Guard helicopter fly over St. Maarten?” he asked rhetorically.
“I question the Coast Guard’s efficiency. Recently a drugs boat was caught 400 kilometers from St. Maarten, but the 3-men crew is sitting in our cells and we have to handle their extradition to the United States.”
The minister said that he wants to install cameras that face the sea and that this will be sufficient protection for the island. “We don’t have radar, because that would cost at least 25 million. But with those cameras we will be able to manage without the Coast Guard.”

Arrindell retorted yesterday, “If the Minister of Justice feels the Coast Guard is a thorn in the side of the minister then there are ways to pull this thorn out but it should not be at the expense of the people. You must have a backup plan and a camera project is not a backup plan.”

Calls were also made for Minister Duncan to provide statistics on how effective the Coast Guard has been to date; the amount of drug transshipments that were intercepted, the amount of people arrested and the countries that drugs had been destined for.

The MP said that if extradition is not in the Justice Ministry’s budget of the Coast Guard, then Parliament should be advised of how they can help to ensure that funds are allocated to this item or how they can engage the Dutch government.
“Apply a different strategy for a change like silent diplomacy to resolve the situation,” Arrindell pleaded.
She added that St. Maarten constantly trading words with the Dutch government or following up on “unsubstantiated” statements made by Dutch MPs is not helping the island’s position.

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