Few agreements at four way justice talks

POSTED: 06/20/12 12:28 PM

ORANJESTAD/GREAT BAY – Tuesday’s meeting between the Justice Ministers of Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands has “covered what they needed to cover” and did not explode into major clashes between the parties. Several controversial issues, like the Coast Guard, were deferred to December 12, 2012 when the ministers meet again in the Netherlands. By then a new Dutch minister of justice could be in office. As it stands the current minister could not make new agreements because the current Dutch government is demissionaire. Elections will be held on September 12.

The matter of the Coast Guard remains controversial because while the Dutch minister of justice can make agreements with his colleagues on the Coast Guard’s judicial policy, the body is actually managed by the Dutch Defense Minister. The current minister Hans Hillen has reportedly refused to renegotiate how things are done and drawn the ire of the Caribbean justice ministers for that position. Curacao’s Justice Minister Elmer Wilsoe has written a letter to express his disapproval and Duncan has indicated that St. Maarten backs in his position. The Justice Minister of Aruba Arthur Dowers has given some support.

Another point that will return to the agenda of these talks is requests for judicial assistance. At the moment ministers are discussing updating a mandate that was given to then Chief Prosecutor Dick Piar by then Justice Minister Suzy Camelia-Romer in 1993. One of the key things Duncan wants inserted is a clear reporting line on how that mandate is used.

“The Public Ministry (Prosecutor’s Office) must understand that it cannot withhold information. You must allow the minister to have input and knowledge, because at the end of the day he is politically responsible. And that is something that certain civil servants and the court are discarding – ministerial responsibility. That can’t continue, because at the end of the day it is the minister that needs to give account,” Duncan said.

Duncan used Tuesday’s meeting to inform Opstelten that, at this stage, he sees no reason to renew the assistance between the government of St. Maarten and the Dutch government on the marachausee. The two main issues are that he’s hard time getting the marachausee to supplement the Customs Department and because the officers assisting in border control are “stirring up trouble” around taking the task for immigration away from the police force and putting it in the hands of a fully fledged immigration department. Support to the detectives is “good.”

“I have told the police that their detective department must be able to replace the marachaussees and the Kingdom Cooperation Team (RST) by 2014. As it looks to day that is not possible because I need people with expertise in things like cross boarder and organized crime, but a lot can happen in two years,” Duncan said.

Duncan also informed the meeting that he is ready to receive St. Maarten’s share of the software of justice information before July 1. The Kingdom Council of Ministers recently decided to hand over the country’s share, but Duncan says the hardware is important. Both those statements preceded a harsh criticism of what is being taken over.

“I want new software, but in the meantime I need a transition. The software I’m getting is made for old computers that cost like 300, 000 guilders. The software itself will cost me 400, 000 guilders per year in maintenance and 200, 000 guilders per year in license fees. That money for something that won’t work and when it does is very user unfriendly. I am going to take it, because I have some local software people, who might be able to wield it for me,” Duncan said.

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