Opinion: An early idea for carnival

POSTED: 01/8/12 4:55 PM

We still have some time before Carnival is upon us, but in Aruba they kick off the party this weekend. Celebrations of this magnitude always bring out the best in people, except for those who see an opportunity to start a criminal career or to settle a score the wrong way.

Law enforcement is on the alert in Oranjestad and elsewhere on the island. For the past four years the public prosecutor’s office and the police (with at the time our Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte in command) have used a rather unique approach to keep the bad guys under control.

We’re bringing this up now, because it seems a good idea that would also work in St. Maarten. The Aruban police will apply a very strict policy towards those who break the law. Even minor infringements will be met with fines. Violators who pay their fine immediately are off the hook, but if they don’t they are served with a summons for a so-called Carnival-court session. The demand during these court hearings will be significantly higher than the original fine. If the violation concerns serious facts, like causing someone grievous bodily harm or illegal weapons possession, the violator will be sent straight to jail.

To make things more interesting, the prosecutor’s office is also going after unpaid fines. This means that anyone who is stopped by the police and turns out to have unpaid fines to his or her name will get the opportunity to settle the matter on the spot. A refusal results in one-way trip to prison and bye-bye to Carnival.

The police will facilitate electronic payment of fines at the station.

April is still a couple of months away, so we think that it should be easy to ride the coattails of this plan in Philipsburg during the Carnival. Our Chief Commissioner has experience with the system, and so does our Chief Prosecutor, now that we think about it.

To avoid public embarrassment in April, we urge all Members of Parliament who have outstanding fines (you never know) to pony up before Mos and De Witte decide to put their Aruban system in place.

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