Duncan anticipates debate about legalizing abortion

POSTED: 06/27/11 2:13 PM

“I tend to favor a woman’s right to decide about her own body”

St. Maarten – Justice Minister Roland Duncan tends to favor a woman’s right to decide about her own body and therefore, under supervised conditions, to legalize abortion in St. Maarten. In Radio Soualiga’s Sunday morning broadcast On the Record, the Minister told interviewer Eddie Williams that the discussion about abortion is “extremely fundamental” and that he is working on presenting the topic for discussion.

Duncan said that he will probably be ready towards the end of July to present proposals for the new criminal code and for the code of criminal procedures to the Parliament. Especially the new criminal code covers a wide range of issues – from abortion and euthanasia to legislation relevant to the fight against money laundering and human smuggling.

The Minister said that his colleague in Curacao, Elmer Wilsoe, told him that his conscience does not allow for the legalization of abortion and euthanasia. “I do not want to be bound by his morals,” Duncan said, “I want to be bound by the morals of the people of St. Maarten.”

“Euthanasia is currently illegal,’ the Minister continued. “I want to put the question whether this should be made possible under supervision. The same goes for abortion. Our Parliament needs to discuss this issue.”

Duncan said that he welcomes the opinion of the Council of Churches. “They will get the opportunity to voice their opinion. The discussion is extremely fundamental, but if we allow it, it will have to be under supervision.”

The Minister made his remarks after Williams quizzed him about American criticism that St. Maarten does not do enough to combat money laundering and human smuggling. The new criminal code and the code of criminal procedures contain provisions – for instance – for special investigation methods that investigators currently are not allowed to use because current legislation does not offer a legal basis for them.

“Curacao has made a demand that phone tapping and surveillance should be put under the supervision of the Common Court of Justice. The perception is that a lot of illegal tapping and surveillance is taking place. I share the concerns about this issue because it amounts to an invasion of privacy.”

Duncan referred to the Patriot Act the United States established after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, indicating that this legislation had far-reaching consequences for people’s privacy. “We need measures to combat serious crime, but we need to debate the kind of measures we need,” he said.

The Minister more or less dismissed the American criticism, saying that after seven months of country status it is too early “to blame St. Maarten for the failures of the Netherlands Antilles.”

Duncan said that he does not see the solution attorney Sulvaran has suggested in Curacao (to put special investigation methods under the Common Court’s supervision) as the right solution. “We have agreed however that the code of procedure needs to be uniform, though within the Kingdom the requirement is that these codes need to be as uniform as possible.”

The Minister said that the Netherlands is part of this discussion, but that The Hague did not worry too much about uniformity in legislation when it came to the BES-island. In Saba, Statia and Bonaire, euthanasia, abortion and same sex marriage stand to become legalized.

“Bear in mind that we have the same court,” Duncan said. “They are not consistent.”

Duncan also touched upon his earlier criticism of the Coast Guard. “The Coast Guard should play a major role in the fight against human smuggling, but they are there to assist us at sea and in the air. They fall under my jurisdiction, but the Coast Guard has set itself up as an independent body. They do their own thing and they’re happier playing with the big boys down in the south than they are helping us in St. Maarten.”

The Minister said that St. Maarten should have had a helicopter for surveillance purposes at its disposal already ten to twelve years ago. “But we don’t have one. Curacao has two, and they also have two planes. I need planes, and I need a boat.”

Duncan illustrated what he calls Cost Guard’s inadequacy with an example, when they were tracking a boat suspected to be involved in human smuggling. “When the plane ran out of fuel, they went back to Curacao to refuel, instead of doing this in St. Maarten. When they came back a couple of hours later, the boat had obviously disappeared.”

The Minister said that Curacao and Aruba also have filed complaints about the Coast Guard’s functioning. “If I call on the Coast Guard they say that I have to talk to the Minister of Defense in The Hague. They say – we don’t work for you guys. I don’t want to plunk down 3.2 million guilders just because they say so. I have to manage my funds, and I am not going to back down.”


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