Duncan: No need for alarm on 2012 allocation yet

POSTED: 09/28/11 12:13 PM

St. Maarten – Even though he does not believe the draft budget allocation for 2012 is adequate Justice Minister Roland Duncan has not yet sounded the alarm bell with his colleagues that it won’t be enough to carry him through the year. Duncan was responding to concern among Members of Parliament about the lack of human resources and tools to do their job.

“We will be revisiting the budget because it’s not been approved yet (by the Council of Ministers edi.,-). The police is the largest section and we also need to pay for the new recruits we want to take into the BAVPOL program in January, because we give them a stipend. There’s also a possibility that education will prevail in the coming talks,” Duncan said.

Duncan also announced that he’s projecting to raise 4.5 million in revenue for government through increasing the price of residence permits in 2012. That money will go to the general budget though.

Camera system

The minister has also told parliament that there was no way the government could have included the installation of cameras in the 2010 budget as they met that when they took office or in the 2011 budget because there was no space. Duncan also did not include the purchase and installation of the cameras in the 2012 budget because Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto has said there should be no new policy and because he’s trying to defend keeping the budget he’s already submitted for 2012.

There are two other possibilities for the camera project to be implemented but one still includes waiting.

“In the IBT project for the police we will set up a facility that includes a single response center for police, fire department and the ambulance service. This was originally planned for Cay Hill, but the space there is too small and so we’ve decided to put it into a facility we’re acquiring in Sucker Garden that will also be a shooting range and a training center. This room, which will be technologically advanced, will create the possibilities for cameras,” Duncan said.

“Yes I have had meetings with the Chamber of Commerce about cameras, but government’s lack of participation does not stop the Chamber of Commerce and the private sector from doing a project and we would look forward to them submitting a project. One concern however is that we can’t privatize the system to a large extent. So really we’re still ironing it out,” Duncan said.

Financial Information Unit

Duncan also confirmed that the Center for the reporting on unusual financial transactions (MOT) is not fully operational. The center is receiving the required reports and doing a “small amount of analysis” but is short two of the required staffers. Duncan had attempted to strengthen the organization by asking the Finance Minister of Curacao George “Jorge” Jamaloodin to second the Director of the MOT Curacao and a staffer, who is originally from St. Maarten, to the MOT St. Maarten, but that became too cumbersome in terms of conditions and costs.

Duncan is also contemplating turning the MOT into an inspectorate and asked the office to prepare for the country’s assessment by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFTAF) assessment that will take place between January and March.

Crime Fund

Duncan has also told MPs he hopes the most recent agreement he signed with Curacao’s Justice Minister Elmer “Kade” Wilsoe for St. Maarten to get two million guilders from the Crime Fund of the Netherlands Antilles will lead to the actual fund transfer. Duncan protested the amount because the 7.9 million in the fund before 10-10-10 came from the Slipachenko case, which was tried here. Money out of that was spent, leaving it at 5.3 million guilders which is now being divided with Curacao (2.7 million) and Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (200, 000 guilders each).

“I’ve taken the position that all is mine, but Curacao and the Netherlands say it must be divided. I argue that it’s not part of the country’s budget, but now all my colleagues, especially the Minister of Finance has told me to behave myself and take the money,” Duncan said.

Promotions and secondary benefits

Duncan also reiterated that the Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto is not willing to commit to the payments of secondary benefits accrued before 10-10-10 because those are the responsibility of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles and because there is no indication of what the amount would be.

“I know it’s not pleasing to hear, but we have to look at our legal position. I have my Chief of Staff going through the claims, but as a Council of Ministers we do not want to take over the responsibility. The Minister of Finance objects and I respect his position because while I can understand the frustration I’m not going to go out there, say I acknowledge it and create a problem. I am respecting salary increases and other benefits starting on 10-10-10 though,” Duncan said.

The minister also said that paying out Rent Allowance remained problematic because of an issue at either the Finance Department or the Personnel Affairs Department due to a lack of written contracts. He also announced that the system may change from where the rent allowance was given because the minister had mandated a person live in a particular area of the island. This was done when the Netherlands Antilles existed because officers who grew up on other islands were being sent here to live and work and the Minister of Justice would have a hand in them finding a place to live and then assisting with paying the rent

Laws

Duncan also announced a concept law left behind by the Netherlands Antilles to regulate security companies will be sent to Parliament before October 10, 2011. The law is being amended to beef up the training elements and to allow them to carry defensive weapons like batons, tasers and sprays. This new law will also improve the position of security officers who work alongside prison guards. As an example Duncan has been reticent to allow the security at the prison to do more than basic tasks, because they need more training, which won’t be possible until the law is approved.

The minister has also inserted a Victims Bureau into the new Penal Code. The agency will allow victims more say in the prosecution of offenders, allow them to seek restitution and have access to counseling. The new code also strengthens the community service aspect of sentencing but Duncan wants that to be integrated further.

The Law on Self Defense is also under review and work continues to finalise and publish the new policy on the issuance of gun licenses, which is slated to take effect on January 1, 2012.

“I believe that every citizen has the right to defend himself and that includes by having a weapon. Interestingly enough there’s been no rush on my ministry for gun licenses. Last year roughly 110 people had guns, and the figure is probably 200 now. I should also point out that my policy states you must have a reasonable interest. We’re not opening the flood gates and we don’t want people intentionally hurting other people,” Duncan said.

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