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St. Maarten parliamentarians want clarity on effect of cuts in justice budget

POSTED: 04/10/13

St. Maarten – Cuts to the Ministry of Justice’s budget for 2013 continue to be a cause of growing concern and several Members of Parliament are questioning the government’s approach to spending for on the justice department. While all ministries received cuts to satisfy the Cft’s provision for the balanced 2013 draft budget, the 0.8 percent decrease in the Justice Ministry’s coffers have apparently caused quite some alarm. In 2012, that Ministry was allocated 67,440.40 guilders while this year 66, 919.10 guilders is on the books.

The Ministry has lost a little over 521 thousand guilders and there is a great deal of uncertainty about the ambitions plans that that Ministry crafted for itself as well as its compliance with the Plans of Approach agreement. Throughout the two day first round of deliberations on the draft budget, searching questions have been asked on which particular areas will be most affected by the slimming of justice money. Justice Minister Roland Duncan is set to respond today as the Central Committee meeting continues from 1:00 pm.

Yesterday United People’s Party Member of Parliament Gracita Arrindell asked the Justice Minister to identify which cuts would seriously comprise the safety and security of the nation. She indicated that just over 500 thousand guilders was allocated to the Voluntary Korps of St. Maarten (VKS) in the previous fiscal year while that institution only utilized 325 thousand guilders. Arrindell questioned the rationale behind giving the VKS such a large sum when St. Maarten Police Force had to undergo budget cuts and still desperately needs finances.

“The difference of almost 200 thousand guilders (is seen) while the regular police organizations needs funds,” Arrindell said.

She questioned whether the government had taken into account the increase of relational and domestic violence that the police have had to deal with and wondered whether the possibility existed for a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist to be employed by the police force. Arrindell’s reasoning was that the remaining money left over by the VKS could be rechanneled to the police force.

She further requested explanation on how much money is still in the crime fund, how much of it has been used so far and what will future priority areas for the fund’s usage, since it was not mentioned in the budget.

Border Management System

St. Maarten is still awaiting an update on its fair share of the Border Management System, Arrindell stated and since no mention was made in the budget of the purchase of an immigration and border control system that Duncan had previously said could cost as much as $150 thousand, Arrindell asked how the system would then be secured.

“How are we going to secure the safety of our citizens if this item is not a priority on the list? It is not reflected in the elucidation of this budget.”

Arrindell asked whether the minister was open to securing funds from his counterparts in the Netherlands to purchase the BMS. She suggested that because of pride the minister may further delay the implementation of the system by not reaching out to the Dutch.

“It is good to have pride but it is better to have common sense in terms of safe guarding our people.”

St. Maarten’s disconnection from the border management system whose data was stored in Curacao on  November 24, means that the borders are porous until the government installs a system that can track and store all arrivals and departures through the various ports of entry.

Minister Duncan feels that all of the blame should be laid squarely at the door of the Kingdom government for allowing Kingdom partner Curacao to proceed with the disconnection.

Arrindell suggested that Duncan continue to engage the Kingdom government.

“If there are funds because of agreements within the Kingdom that are rightfully due to the people of St. Maarten; then we cannot shut the door,” Arrindell said.

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