Decree to establish committee nowhere to be found – Oversight committee VDSM never published public annual reports

POSTED: 07/19/13 12:06 PM

Gracita ArrindellSt. Maarten – The oversight committee for the National Security Service VDSM has since St. Maarten obtained country status in October 2010 never published a public annual report, as is required by the ordinance that regulates the work of the VDSM and the oversight committee. Prime Minister Wescot-Williams did not submit – as the law requires – any report about the VDSM to parliament either during the past three years.

The oversight committee was only established on April 13 of this year, close to the moment when the first reports about irregularities surfaced within the VDSM. Drs. Gracita Arrindell, the President of Parliament and in that function a member of the oversight committee, told this newspaper yesterday that she had been informed that the committee had been established on April 13. “We have however not a copy of the decree to establish it, so we have no official information,” she said.

Arrindell said that the parliament has not received a public report about the VDSN for the year 2012/2013 either.

According to article 61 of the Ordinance National Security Service, the oversight committee composes in March of each year a public written report about the previous calendar year. The concept of this report is presented to the minister responsible for the service, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, who has thirty days to give her vision on it.

After the oversight committee receives the Prime Minister’s comments, it establishes the report and sends it before May 1 to the parliament. The report does not contain information or phrases that are reducible to individuals or institutions. The public annual report is made available to the public.

So far, none of this has happened, mainly because the oversight committee was not in place in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Article 64 reveals a shortcoming in the way Prime Minister Wescot-Williams has dealt with the VDSM. Paragraph 1 states: “The minister submits annually, before May 1, a written public report about the activities of the service in the previous calendar year.” This did not happen in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The report should contain “at least a complete overview” of the areas the service focused its attention on and the areas it will focus on in the current year. The public annual report does not contain information about resources the service used in specific cases. The secret sources it used, or the service’s actual knowledge-level. The Prime Minister has the authority though to inform faction leaders confidentially about these issues.

The stipulation in paragraph 5 gives some credibility to statements Independent MP Frans Richardson made about the investigation: “while the obligation mentioned in the first paragraph remains in full force, the minister informs the parliament on her own initiative, if there is a reason to do so.”

Richardson created a small firestorm with remarks that there had been a breach of security and he even referred to the Edward Snowden case to suggest that sensitive information could have disappeared. Nevertheless, he had a point when he stated that the Prime Minister should have (or could have) come to parliament to inform its members about the state of affairs at the National Security Service. Wescot-Williams however, may have felt that there was no reason to do so, since the investigation by the government accountant bureau Soab was underway.

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