St. Maarten to be reconnected to Border Management System


PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten will be reconnected to the Dutch Caribbean Border Management System by early February 2014. This was recently agreed between Justice Minister Dennis Richardson and Dutch Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten.

Richardson told Members of Parliament (MP) in a Central Committee of Parliament meeting dealing with reports from the Council on Law and Order among others that the connection will be mended allowing the country to again have online access to border information from throughout the Dutch Caribbean.

Although the reconnection will take place, the country reserves the right to review the organization and actions related to it, Minister Richardson said. The country can also opt to stay out of areas it does not want to take part in.

The minister said there should be room in the kingdom for disagreement, "because we can't have a difference of opinion without someone, in the St. Maarten terms, giving us some licks."

The country was disconnected early this year after former Justice Minister Roland Duncan raised concerns about the type of system the country was being forced to adapt and its benefits. The country was disconnected by a Dutch civil servant, a fact that enraged MPs at the time.

Richardson pointed out that in one of the reports it is stated that the country has no border management system since the disconnection. This was not true as an offline system is in use and the information is shareable via transfer when necessary.

Dealing with the reports from the Council on Law and Order, the minister pointed out that many of the improvements needed throughout the justice chain requires funding. He said the adoption of the 2014 budget is crucial to moving further with the establishment of a youth detention centre, and further upgrading of the Pointe Blanche Prison.

The quality of policing in general depends on further investments. Aside from the budget, the justice ministry is seeking ways to increase the revenues that can be used to better the functioning of the justice chain.

Head of the Detectives Department Commissioner Denise Jacobs said the reports outline what the department and the police in general have been doing well. One area of concern was the following of the legal procedures in taking statements in investigations. This has since been vastly improved with the recommendation and guidance from the Council. Improvement of service to the community has also been achieved with the establishment of information desks.

While the build-up of the police organization does not yet completely match the plan of approach, many necessary posts have been filled and training carried out. The police have enhanced their fingerprint system and plan to work with DNA. There are further plans to build a police lab.

Director of the Court of Guardianship Richelda Emmanuel pointed out the need for a youth detention centre and possibly the use of ankle tracking devices for youngsters who have broken the law. That method would keep them out of the prison system and away from hardened criminals.

Specialized youth rehabilitation officers are needed by the Court of Guardianship.

Emmanuel also highlighted the need to put the victims bureau in place. The police and Prosecutor's Office are offering ready assistance to victims of crimes and are pointing them to social organizations that can further help them, but there is a need for a centralized bureau.

MPs Dr. Lloyd Richardson, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce, Roy Marlin, George Pantoplet and Johan Leonard shared their views on developing the police and justice chain. They also raised a number of questions on other justice related topics. Those questions will be answered when the meeting resumes on this agenda point in the coming weeks. The discussions on this topic were suspended to allow a meeting of the Youth Parliament on the rights of the child to take place.

The second agenda point – approval for President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell and United People's party MP Theo Heyliger to represent parliament at Saba Day, today, Friday, was dealt with prior to the closure

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten