Opinion: Privacy

POSTED: 11/16/11 4:15 AM

The crime situation on our island has been the topic of many discussions, letters to the editor, and articles, so when it came time to discuss the national ordinance on special investigation powers in the central committee yesterday, expectations were that our MPs were going to show just how tough they want to get on crime.
Sigh, we should have known better. Instead of a debate about the value of special investigation methods, we were subjected to a debate about privacy concerns. Only one MP – Ruth
Douglas – said that the legislation could bring great benefits.
All others expressed their concerns about the invasion of privacy and about who will control those who will be authorized to use the investigation methods.
We got the definite impression that the MPs were more concerned about possible consequences of this legislation for themselves, than about the impact it could have on fighting crime.
We heard some forceful expressions too. Police state. Let’s not go back to the days of the Gestapo. Overzealous law enforcement. And on and on.
This did not really come as a surprise. The Netherlands Antilles has dragged its feet with the BOB-legislation since 2008, and country St. Maarten is in the meantime well into its second year.
There is a ton of information about the BOB-legislation. The Netherlands implemented it in February 2000 – that’s right, almost twelve years ago. The Scientific Research and Documentation Center of the Justice Ministry wrote an extensive evaluation of the law in 2004. It runs hundreds of pages and it contains everything anybody ever would want to know about it.
Only Democratic Party MP Roy Marlin seemed to have hit upon part of this evaluation, and he even carried a printout with him. The other MPs seemed to be unaware of the availability of this information on the internet, and they certainly did not make their impression that they had read up on the subject.
This is why Justice Minister Roland Duncan spent part of his birthday listening to toe-curling questions and to remarks about the invasion of privacy. With the exception of one, nobody said anything about the usefulness of the legislation in the fight against organized crime.
That is telling. We suspect that the representatives of the people will use every opportunity they get to postpone a decision about the BOB. Already there is a second meeting foreseen (the answers by Duncan to questions in the first round, followed by a second round) and a next meeting with the author of the draft, prof. Hans de Doelder. After that, it will still have to go to the parliament for public debate and a final decision.
If we’re not mistaken we admit, that happens every now and then) it could still take quite some time before the special investigation methods become available to law enforcement.

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