Opinion: Wrong discussion

POSTED: 09/9/11 2:11 PM

Members of the UP/DP-coalition want a meeting with Justice Minister Roland Duncan, Chief Prosecutor mr. Hans Mos and Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte about the crime situation. It is, in a way, commendable that our parliamentarians realize that we have a problem. Reality-check: this is a very old problem.
And now our MPs want to know from Justice Minister Duncan et al what they are doing about it. It is a typical shortsighted approach to a complicated situation, and we fear that the discussion will address all the wrong issues. But since that discussion still has to take place, we’ll give a few pointers to help the people’s representatives turn their noses in the right, or at least a more fruitful, direction.
Tip number 1: don’t start about the cell capacity shortage and the lack of manpower at the police force and the public prosecutor’s office. It’s a non-issue in the sense that all the prison cells in the world combined with all the police officer and public prosecutors in the world will not be able to “solve the crime situation.” The police, the prosecutors and the prison are functions that are in place to clean up the mess that is the product of a disintegrating society.
Tip number 2: ask yourself why young people commit crimes. Ask yourself why young people join gangs. Ask yourself why young people have so much trouble controlling their anger. Ask yourself why so many kids drop out of school. Ask yourself what you have done to be part of the solution.
You see, the human condition is universal. Everybody wants a roof over his head, food on the table, and tenderness between the sheets. These things don’t grow on trees. If people want to have these basic needs at their disposal they need meaningful jobs. And to get their hands on a meaningful job, they need a proper education.
Ha! A proper education. That’s a bit like wanting a good discussion with a good glass of wine. The joke is: a good glass of wine is still available somewhere.
Is proper education available to everyone? And if it is, do our students – from primary onwards, have sufficient support at home? Now we are getting somewhere. Too many kids come from broken families. We know that in Curacao an astonishing 25 percent of all children do not know who their biological father is. How much different could the situation in St. Maarten be?
When the family structure breaks down, it tears the fabric of a whole society. Kids who do not find a family at home go out onto the streets and there they run more often than not straight into the arms of a local gang leader. The gang becomes the family; there is no escape from this network, because neighborhood kids are either for or against a gang. And if you’re against, you become a target. That’s why it is easy to lure kids into the embrace of a neighborhood gang. They behave like family – hell, they are family, and everything is okay until the gang leader decides to use his family for law-breaking activities – from street robberies and armed robberies to ill-treatment, threats and murder.
That is in brief the situation we are looking at in St. Maarten. There is no point shedding crocodile tears over it and no, falling back on that worn out “in the old days everything was better” is not exactly helpful either.
We need action, not words. Yesterday we heard from one politician how he took someone under his wings who is now doing just great as a productive member of society. We’ve heard other stories as well of people who stood up for someone, helped them along and kept them out of trouble.
So in the end, this is where a meaningful discussion about “the crime situation” ought to lead. Let the justice chain do its work, don’t even bother these people. Don’t ask what the justice system can do to improve the situation, but ask what you can do to help them.

Let’s switch to a few practical suggestions.
Number one: a buddy system. Let every Member of Parliament adopt someone who has fallen off the track and take her or him under her or his wings. They have a colleague among them who has done it already and it won’t be difficult to find out who that is. Then let each MP ask a family member to buddy with someone too, and let those family members ask someone else to follow suit ….and so on.
Number two: tackle the gang problem bring all these gangs together in a controlled environment, let them mingle, let them speak their mind, but above all, let them realize that they are all young people with the same basic needs and that there is more future in joining forces than in constantly fighting each other.
We are looking forward to a meaningful discussion about “the crime situation,” one that approaches it as a social problem, not as a game of numbers and resources.

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