Vice-Admiral Mathieu Borsboom in St. Maarten “Fighting drugs is a fundamental issue”

POSTED: 10/8/12 2:34 PM

St. Maarten – A decision about the location of a naval support station in St. Maarten has not been taken yet, Navy commander Vice- Admiral Mathieu Borsboom said yesterday during a brief press conference aboard the Coast Guard cutter Poema in Simpson Bay. Borsboom discussed the plans earlier yesterday with Prime Minister Wescot-Williams and Governor Holiday.
The support station will not be a full-blown naval base, but it will be part of the Kingdom’s navy, Borsboom said. The station will have a permanent staff of 6, while 20 marines will serve in St. Maarten on a rotating schedule. The station will become operational in 2013.
In a practical sense, this newspaper perceived that it is possible that the permanent staff will first be housed elsewhere, for instance with the Coast Guard, until a definite location has been chosen, and the facility has been built. The station will have to meet certain security requirements, if only to safeguard the weapons the marines will have at their disposal.
Borsboom emphasized that he was on a working visit in the Caribbean for one week. He spent two days in Aruba, and two days in Curacao. Yesterday and today he is in St. Maarten.
“I visited the Caribbean for the first time 31 years ago,” he told reporters. “All combined, I have served 3.5 years in the Caribbean waters.”
The Vice-Admiral said that the support station will be established at the request of the St. Maarten government. Outgoing Defense Minister Hans Hillen said during his visit to St. Maarten in September that his Ministry will pick up the tab for the marine presence in St. Maarten. The tasks the marines will execute depend in part on the wishes of the local government, Borsboom said.
Asked whether St. Maarten will be equipped with a land-based radar system in the fight against the drugs trade, Borsboom said that such a decision should be based on a request from St. Maarten. In Curacao, the land-based radar system has caused a shift in the routes drug dealers choose to get their merchandise to the American market. There are not more over-land transports through Central America.
The establishment of social formation programs for young people is also a matter of asking the question, Borsboom indicated. “We are willing to do it and we have experience with it in Aruba and Curacao. But St. Maarten will decide what our tasks should be. To establish a social formation program there is also some legislation needed.”
The responsibility for the defense is a Kingdom-matter, Borsboom said, indicating that the naval support station in St. Maarten will also serve Saba and Statia. “It will be small –scale, we will not bring in large vessels here, but instead have some rapid interceptors.”
While there is not imminent threat to St. Maarten’s territorial integrity, Borsboom said that there is an indirect threat – the drugs trade. “That affects the community. Fighting the drugs trade is a fundamental issue.”

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