Opinion: Misleaders

POSTED: 04/15/14 1:03 AM

Readers are leaders and misreaders are misleaders, so to speak. This thought came to us when we heard a reaction to the interview we published yesterday with Chief Prosecutor Rick Noordhoek. That reaction came down to this – freely interpreted: the prosecutor has said that criminals are allowed to do anything they like and that he won’t do a thing about it.

Such a reaction makes it clear why it is so important that people are able to read properly and to truly understand what they have read. Obviously, the good citizen who came up with the above mentioned faulty interpretation, could do with a few lessons in understanding printed text, but the bad news is that he (or she, we’re not sure) will tell the story the wrong way to others.

When someone tells a story of, say, 200 words, to one man and then asks this man to retell the story to someone else, who will then be asked to tell it to someone else – and so on – the original story will have completely disappeared by the time it is told for the fiftieth time.

This is the way legends are born, and it is also the way huge misunderstandings start living a life of their own. Think about the (erroneous) report about the guy who went looking for Minister Lake armed with a baseball bat.

Back to Noordhoek’s interview. What the Chief Prosecutor said was this: the available capacity in law enforcement is fully occupied with ongoing investigations and with day-to-day incidents like armed robberies and other serious crimes. He also said that the prosecutor’s office has a good insight in the criminal organizations that are active on the island. When it comes to tackling these gangs in a structural way, Noordhoek said that law enforcement has zero capacity left to do this work.

Does this mean that criminals have a free pass now? Not at all. Law enforcement will remain on top of serious crime, and it will dedicate capacity where that is necessary. But you do not have to be an Einstein to realize that, when forty police officers are allotted to the investigation of a serious crime, all the other work these people were doing will come to a full stop.

This is a serious situation and the Dutch government and Dutch politicians who cannot get enough of blaming St. Maarten for everything that goes wrong here, seriously underestimate it. The Dutch point fingers but they do nothing – or not enough – to help St. Maarten.

And then there is obviously the role of local politics. The government donates money for Carnival and gave away almost $350,000 to the Nature Foundation. At the same time, staffing at law enforcement agencies is way below par and the government has set limits for working overtime. It is not that we think supporting the Nature Foundation or Carnival is wrong, but we do think that a serious government should get its priorities right. A dollar or a guilder – it’s the same thing; you can spend it only once.

If we perceive that we have a serious problem with crime, with prison cell capacity, with the staffing at the police force and the National Detective Agency, then maybe that is where the annual budget ought to allocate more money. Only once the body politics has gone beyond its responsibility to handle the situation is there reason to look across the ocean for more help than Minister Dennis Richardson has already asked for.

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