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Police union NAPB accuses minister Duncan of holding St. Maarten Police Force hostage

MONDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2013

~ Says minister refuses to deal with important police issues ~

PHILIPSBURG–The NAPB police union has accused Justice Minister Roland Duncan of holding the St. Maarten Police Force “hostage” and of refusing to handle important matters relating to the Force.

In a lengthy press release on Sunday, the police union said it appears as if anyone who disagrees with the minister and his “hostile” manner of doing things will be “sidelined immediately and forever.” They also accused the minister of “might above right.”

“It is no public secret that this Minister of Justice is doing what he feels [like-Ed.] doing and is looking at the benefits and the big picture here,” the union said. “It is unfortunate how one person can hold such a prestigious institution as the Police Force hostage all by himself, and no matter which door you knock on, nothing is being done whatsoever. Then the sole question arises: What does this honourable Minister of Justice have against the [St. Maarten Police Force-Ed.] KPSM?” the union asked.

The union said that before St. Maarten became a country within the Kingdom, three police work groups were installed, including one for St. Maarten. The latter consisted of liaison officer for Justice Richard Gibson Sr., then Lt. Governor Franklyn Richards, representatives of the local prosecutor’s office, top brass police officers of The Netherlands, the local Police Force’s management team, the NAPB and ABVO unions and Windward Islands Civil Servants Union/Private Sector Union (WICSU/PSU).

Although negotiations were not easy, the work group managed to come up with “the best workable organization plan” and job matrix for the Police Force, which included the ideas of all parties in the work group, NAPB said in its release.
Based on this organization plan, which had been approved and signed at the political level, St. Maarten had obtained its new status as Country within the Dutch Kingdom, NAPB explained.

The union said the police organization structure details outlined how the Police Force should be structured, while the job matrix outlined the number of police officers needed for the Force to function optimally. Once the job matrix was made up, job descriptions, job evaluations and a placement plan were also devised. Police salary scales were also devised by the Personnel and Organisation Department of the Police Force, which the union said are very essential, and along with all the other documents, are still to be approved by Duncan.

The union said the minister believes that as he was not included in the St. Maarten police work group, he will not agree with decisions made by the group. The union said the police work group consisted of many prominent persons in the community and the minister should make haste in approving these documents. The union said the minister had been told that he should implement the documents as is, and if he sees it necessary, he can “change certain things with the approval of the unions.” However, NAPB said the minster still did not react. “Up until this date he is [still-Ed.] re-writing the organization plan. Who knows if his vision will work once it is implemented, but by his doing, he is just keeping back the entire process,” the union contends.

The union said that on June 1, 2011, the legal status (“rechtspositie”) of the local Police Force was “hurriedly sent” to the unions representing police, to be ratified. The union said before a law can be ratified, it has to be published and this was never done. The union said ever since August 4, 2011, when it had disagreed with Duncan and had stated that it would not accept the minister’s version of the legal status KPSM, the minister had never met with the union on this issue or any other issue.
The union is questioning whether the rechtspositie of June 1, 2011, was ever ratified. The union said the rechtspositie, which Duncan wanted to implement as of June 1, 2011, is the same as the one ratified in 2000 in the former Netherlands Antilles, and contains so many flaws that in 2005 it was re-negotiated with the unions, and adjusted to suit the Force.
The union was also told before the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles that the Force would go over as is into the new constitutional status. The union contends that the minister’s move to change the rechtspositie without negotiating with the unions is “bluntly disregarding good faith, transparency and good governance.”

The union said Duncan had also requested it to submit changes it would like to see in the rechtspositie for the Police Force, which it did in October 2011.The minister did not inform about the persons who would be conducting the negotiations on his behalf. NAPB said on October 31, 2012, it received a letter from a lawyer who said she would be negotiating the rechtspositie on Duncan’s behalf, and that NAPB should submit its remarks no later than November 8, 2012. NAPB said the time span was too short and it needed at least two weeks before the date of negotiations, as this was a serious matter. “If we could have waited an entire year, why rush it now? At no time did the NAPB refuse to sit around the table to negotiate as was portrayed in the domestic committee meeting,” the union said.

All the unions representing the police (NAPB, ABVO and WICSU/PSU) met on February 6, and came to the conclusion that as long as the organization plan, the job matrix, the placement plan, the job description, the job evaluation and the salary scales for the Police Force are not approved by the minister, “it makes no sense to sit at the table with him for any negotiations.”

“Just like the honourable Minister of Justice has legal minds working in his cabinet, giving him advice, the unions in St. Maarten representing the KPMS, in particular the NAPB, would like to have their legal advisors present during these negotiations also. I don’t think that we are asking for too much here and on top of all this, by perusing the rechtspositie at hand, you can notice clearly that [in the-Ed.] the changes NAPB would like to see made, certain words were left out or added, making it so that the Minister of Justice wants to micro manage the KPMS.

“If we approve this rechtspositie as is, many of our local police officers will not be placed in functions that we can occupy, because this minister is busy trying to portray the entire KPMS as incompetent, which is totally not the case, because we have some competent police officers ready to occupy positions and function up to par, to make St. Maarten a better place for each and everyone, including the Minister of Justice, to live,” the union said. “Someone should call him to proper order!”

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