Opinion: St. Maarten Law enforcement budget cuts

POSTED: 12/11/13 6:29 PM

The situation at the Justice Ministry requires some attention from our decision makers when they tackle the 2014 budget. We learned yesterday that the justice budget would be the subject of serious cuts. In other words, less money for law enforcement.

Justice Minister Dennis Richardson is probably on the mark with his statement that a balanced budget has to prevail. Such a budget will give the country access to loans and that in turn could benefit the justice department.

At the same meeting, we heard a dire warning from Denise Jacobs, head of the detective department of the police force. Without funding, Jacobs said, law enforcement could fall back to where it was ten years ago.

Also in the same meeting, we heard from Court of Guardianship director Richelda Emmanuel that there is a shortage of a lot of provisions for youth rehabilitation – in terms of facilities as well as staffing.

All these signals are worrisome, to put it mildly, while at the same time we have to realize that we have to row our own boat with the oars that are at our disposal.

But members of parliament must make sure that the budget represents the right choices, that the money available to the state goes to this right ministries and projects. Against that background, a request by UP-MP Johan Leonard for a meeting to discuss the pros and cons of the Justice Park – the 100 million dollar baby of ousted Justice Minister Roland Duncan – is preposterous. The Justice Park is dead and it is not coming back.

When parliament approves the budget it has made its bed and then it has to lie in it as well. If not enough  money goes to justice, that is a choice Members of Parliament make, and they should then not come afterwards with complaints about crime statistics.

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