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Dutch minister Plasterk: budget cuts should not hurt St. Maarten justice

FRIDAY, 12 APRIL 2013

THE HAGUE–St. Maarten’s justice sector should not be impaired by the proposed budget, said Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Thursday.

“I would find it worrisome if the alleged cuts at the National Detectives, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Police would indeed affect the quality of the maintaining of law and order, the investigation and prosecution of (international) crime and the execution of the Plans of Approach,” stated the Minister in a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.

St. Maarten has to sufficiently guarantee the maintaining of law and order and legal security, stated Plasterk in response to written questions that Members of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party and Pierre Heijnen of the Labour Party PvdA posed on April 2.

Bosman and Heijnen sought clarity after media reports that the 2013 budget for

St. Maarten’s Public Prosecutor’s Office would be reduced from NAf. 3.5 million to NAf. 2 million this year, the budget of the St. Maarten Police Force would go down to about NAf. 24.2 million and that only NAf. 1 million would be allocated for the National Detectives (Landrecherche).

The Members of Parliament (MPs) of the coalition parties were worried that the proposed budget cuts would hurt the current Orca investigation into the alleged bribery of Member of St. Maarten’s Parliament Patrick Illidge by Bada Bing strip club manager Jaap van den Heuvel.

However, the Minister clarified, St. Maarten is financially autonomous and the

St. Maarten Government makes its own choices where it comes to the budget and the level of services. He also said that he couldn’t give specific information on the proposed cuts in the justice sector as the budget hadn’t been approved yet.

The Prosecutor’s Office is an autonomous responsibility of Country St. Maarten as well and as such it was up to this office to carry out investigations and to decide whether a person would be prosecuted, the Minister stated.

The Prosecutor’s Office currently has sufficient capacity and the investigative capacity at the National Detectives has been temporarily increased in connection with the Orca investigation. Plasterk said he assumed there was sufficient capacity to “proceed without delay.”

Bosman and Heijnen had also asked about the effects of the possible budget cuts on the ongoing Plans of Approach to strengthen certain parts of the justice chain when

St. Maarten attained country status on October 10, 2010.

“It is and remains a point of departure that St. Maarten will continue to execute the Plans of Approach unabridged,” stated Plasterk, who promised Parliament that he would discuss the possible effects of the budget cuts on the Plans of Approach in the next ministerial consultation with St. Maarten’s Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams. He said he would urge the Prime Minister to continue the execution of these plans.

Plasterk also responded to questions by Bosman and Heijnen about the remuneration of the Members of St. Maarten’s Parliament. The MPs had asked the Minister to confirm reports that the compensation of the overseas Parliamentarians had gone up.

The Minister explained that the compensation of St. Maarten Parliamentarians was some 30 per cent higher than that of their colleagues in Aruba and Curaçao. The remuneration of the Members of Parliament is an autonomous affair of St. Maarten, said Plasterk, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he agreed with the high amount.

“I expressed my curiosity to St. Maarten’s Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges about this. However, St. Maarten’s Government considers the increase justified because the cost of living in St. Maarten is higher than in Aruba and Curaçao,” stated Plasterk.

Next week Tuesday, the Second Chamber will have a debate with Plasterk in which

St. Maarten will play a major role.

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