Prime minister explains proposal to change composition of VDSM (Secret Service)

POSTED: 08/12/13 12:31 PM

St. Maarten –  Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams gave further explanation on the amendment to the law to the Security Service VDSM on her weekly radio program ‘One on One with the Prime Minister’ on 98.1.

The prime minister said that although the discussions which were held in parliament after her elucidation of the proposal were healthy and necessary, it is important that proper information be given regarding the proposal.

“I thought that it was a good meeting because that is how meetings of parliament should take place. On the other hand several members of the opposition made an issue about the proposal which was not centered on the issue. But I must say that these types of debates are healthy and necessary but that the proper information and explanation has to be given in order to avoid politicking,” the prime minister said.

“The National Security Service is a very particular service. It is not a regular government department; especially considering that a lot of what happens at the department is actually confidential. However again considering that nothing can function completely on its own without checks and balances in place that is the reason why we have a law stipulating that there has to be a supervision committee overseeing the operations of the VDSM. The first task of this commission ensures that the National Security Service executes its tasks in a legitimate way. The second task is to advise the minister, in this case the minister of general affairs, either on their own or via request of said minister. Additionally, the third task of that commission is to assess complaints. So considering this the task of the commission is quite clear. The National Security Service does not investigate or persecute; it is called to guard the security of the country. It is called to analyze study and gather information. They do not investigate anyone, that is the job of the prosecutor and saying that this office has been working very closely in collaboration with the police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.”

The prime minister reiterated that according to law the commission exists by a chairperson nominated by the Joint Court of Justice, a member who holds the function as the vice chair of the council of advice and, when the law was passed, the chairperson of parliament. “Going back to 2011 when the legal minds looked at the composition of that commission it was stated that there were two issues regarding the chairperson of parliament being a member of the commission. One: in the constitutional relationship it would be skewed to have the chairperson of parliament reporting to the minister of general affairs considering the political responsibility of that minister is to parliament and the chairperson of parliament. In addition to that you do not want to put anyone in a position that people could feel, or perceive, that that person is political and that they might look at the handling of the secret service with a political eye.”

“Members of the opposition took it in the wrong context. They said that if the chairman of parliament is removed, which is in fact not the case; it is a change in the law, the powers of parliament is being reduced. This is not the case. The chairperson of parliament is a member of the committee. The faction leaders have a responsibility to inform parliament on issues regarding the VDSM and not a member of the commission. Because some parliamentarians considered this as a point to politick on it took a lot of time in that discussion rather than focusing on the fundamental issue which was the composition for the supervisory commission of the National Security Service. We of course defended the position as was put forward by government and hope that members of the opposition can put politics aside and make decisions that would bring the country forward,” the prime minister concluded.

 

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