St. Maarten Justice ministry announces painful choices

POSTED: 01/13/14 1:26 PM

St. Maarten – The Ministry of Justice is heading into a challenging year, due to budget restraints. The ministry’s budget had been cut from 66.9 million guilders in 2013 to 62.3 million this year.

“The ministry has significantly less resources at its disposal. At the same time much is expected of this ministry in the field of safety and security and maintaining law and order. It is unthinkable to realize all expectations and wishes from the people that are working for justice, from the citizens of Sint Maarten and from the partners within the kingdom,” the draft budget states, adding that the ministry will have to be vigilant in choosing its priorities.

There is also a need for “painful choices” for “flexibility and creativity, but also for decisiveness and guts.”

According to the draft budget, this begins with “presenting to the people and to the parliament the honest story: 2014 will be a difficult year.”

Decent levels of safety and security are important to protect the tourism-based economy. To book the same or even better results with fewer people and less financial resources, the ministry is looking into technological developments. Camera surveillance in entertainment areas and electronic supervision of inmates are two of the options under consideration.

The government is also working on a system of judicial certification that will issue quality marks to bona fide companies. Only such companies will still qualify for participation in government projects.

The government will also begin with several pilot projects aimed at improving the cooperation between police, security companies and citizens.

The Justice Ministry will put all vacancies on hold this year for all the departments that fall under its responsibility. This includes the police force, the prison, the House of Detention and the National Detective Agency. There are 78 vacancies that will not be filled in 2014.

This decision affects agreements that have been made within the kingdom and international agreements. The plans of approach will suffer directly from the budget cuts.

“It will turn out to be extremely complicated for St. Maarten in 2014 to meet the recommendations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), like strengthening the Financial Intelligence Unit (MOT). We will have to prevent at all costs that we end up on the international black list,” the draft budget states.

The budget cuts will also affect the recommendation from the TiP-report (Trafficking in Persons) from the American State Department about the fight against human trafficking. “It will be difficult to fight human trafficking more intensively,” the draft states. “Activities for the youth, especially the youth detention center in Cay Bay, will remain a priority.”

Under pressure of these financial restraints, the Justice Ministry intends to step up to the plate with revenue-increasing measures. One of the intentions is to collect outstanding fines faster. “We will examine whether Princess Juliana airport could use the same approach as Schiphol and other airports: if one wants to leave Sint Maarten all outstanding fines must have been paid.”

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