Opposition says justice minister gave no hope

POSTED: 09/28/11 11:55 AM

H. Richardson: “Do the honorable thing and resign”

St. Maarten – The opposition National Alliance says Minister of Justice Roland Duncan has not given the nation any hope for the forseeable future. This is the core of their response to his answers on Monday in the first round of debate on the crime situation. There was also pressure from within the coalition for the minister to ensure that police officers are kept happy and motivated so they can carry out their function.

National Alliance leader William Marlin considers Monday’s answers one excuse after another. He also went used a litany of the minister’s responses to show that Duncan is not able to stick to the promise of Foundation of Hope, as the governing program is titled. The list of upsetting answers includes the fact that government may not be able to support a project to install surveillance cameras until 2013, the fact that local officers are having problems collecting their rent allowance, that discussions with non-governmental organizations are “primitive” and the fact that the Center for Reporting of Unusual Financial Transactions (MOT) “is not functioning.” The fact that Duncan expressed displeasure at his draft budget allocation for 2012 is also part of the reason the opposition leader believes the government, via the minister, offers no hope for a solution to crime.

“The snatching, robberies and use of guns is not creating a foundation of hope,” W. Marlin said.

Democratic Party faction leader Roy Marlin was surprised that the opposition leader would criticize this first government of St. Maarten’s attempts to create a foundation of hope. He also said they would not have to build a foundation if the National Alliance, which had formed part of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles for two consecutive full terms, had “stood up for St. Maarten.”

“We could have been much further but we sat back and what did we do. So yes there must be a foundation of hope. And I say keep the hope up minister, because if we despair, then the criminals will truly overtake us,” Marlin said.

That foray into history concluded the D.P. faction leader urged the minister to give his attention to providing the raises, promotions and secondary benefits that the former Government of the Netherlands Antilles had promised to the officers.

“We must respect that. We cannot lay it on the Vereffenings (Liquidation ed.,-) Committee. That is not fair. If we need to negotiate payment terms with the union then let’s do that,” R. Marlin said.

The DP faction leader also asked for the minister to give attention to solving the issue around rent allowance and to reverse the decision by the last Justice Minister of the Netherlands Antilles to limit overtime to only 30 hours per month.

“Removing the standard of living the officers have become accustomed to is not fair and their motivation is dying slowly,” R. Marlin said.

Budget

National Alliance MP Louie Laveist said it grieved his heart to see the predicament the Justice Minister was in and urged him to tell his colleagues in the Council of Ministers that he needs more funds to provide manpower and tools to the force.

“If they want to help, then they will. We have one minister who is a Houdini that carries out miracle projects, while this minister can’t get cameras. I believe that if the harbor can invest in Tempo, and I’d like to know how much that costs, and beautification why can’t they invest in cameras. It makes no sense to entice people to come here and then we can’t protect them. Also maybe if we get the cameras in Philipsburg we will also be able to catch some gypsies and that solves another problem,” Laveist said.

The Harbor Group of Companies already invests in security as they contribute $150,000 per year for the Soualiga Patrol.

Later Laveist added, “We are going to have to give and take a little. I plead with the cabinet to give the minister what he needs so the police can do their job properly. Let’s not have our police feel like toy soldiers.”

Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge also wants a higher budget allocation for the Justice Ministry and proposed that the Minister of Finance Hiro Shigemoto be called to parliament so they can express their desire for him to ensure that the justice ministry has the financing it needs.

United People’s (UP) Party faction leader Romain Laville also wants to ensure that the Justice Ministry gets what it needs financially.

“The question is how much do you need. We have the budget coming up and you can tell us what you need,” Laville said.

National Alliance MP Hyacinth Richardson also urged the minister to press his colleagues for a greater allocation of the budget. He also wants his colleague MPs to play a role in securing the funding.

“This parliament, especially the coalition, should ask for help for the minister and if they (cabinet ministers) don’t give you the finances, you do the honorable thing and resign. I would do the same thing,” H. Richardson said.

United People’s Party MP Jules James, who is happy proud of the police and their work under the present circumstances and the minister’s willingness to recall retired officers as consultants, is ready to provide more money.

“It is important to remind people that their representatives are working on their behalf and we will make sure funds are available to men and women in blue have the tools they need,” James said.

National Alliance MP George Pantophlet suggested that the government shift money around to give the justice ministry more funds to continue strengthening the force so they can work on crime.

“Let us look within the budget and see how we can meet the priority of combating crime,” Pantophlet said.

Planning/Presence

National Alliance MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson stressed that finding a structured approach would be the most cost effective way of dealing with crime. He wants that structured program attached to campaigns that help people understand that the battle to prevent crime starts in each human psyche.

“I support giving money, but there must be restorative justice. We must plan jointly so that we can look at how we restore sane minds to our streets. Immigration must also be controlled. I stand ready to assist and while I want to speak out, more importantly I want to act,” L. Richardson said.

United People’s Party MP Dr. Ruth Douglas completely concurred with L. Richardson and pressed the justice minister and society to work at more prevention.

“Yes we have to restore confidence in the men in blue. We must also go back to basics and discipline our children,” Douglas said.

Independent Member of Parliament Frans Richardson is not ready to press for more money to be transferred to the Justice because it could lead to deficiencies in another ministry or to higher fees and taxes. He joined Laveist in suggesting that “if need be, the (multi-million guilder) projects should be put on hold.

“I have a simple suggestion and it won’t cost money, just presence. Be present in every district and talk to the people, so they know you are there with them and you’re their friends. It is time for the presence to be seen,” F. Richardson said.

War on crime

United People’s Party MP Johan Leonard declared war on crime during Tuesday’s meeting. He also commended the force for the work it was doing under the circumstances.

“I feel though that our minister is under attack but you can’t blame a man for trying, you blame him when he loses hope,” Leonard said.

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