THURSDAY, 09 JANUARY 2014
PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten’s Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson met with the Ministers of Justice of the Netherlands, Aruba and Curaçao on Wednesday to discuss an agenda of 15 separate points concerning Justice in the countries of the Kingdom.
After the meeting an agreement was signed between the four countries on cooperation in making available temporary detention facilities to other countries where necessary, for instance for security or medical reasons. The agreement includes detention of youths.
Another agreement which was signed regulates the transport of prisoners between the countries.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, in the Government press briefing yesterday, mentioned that she had been privileged to be at the opening of the Justice meeting, and touched upon an MOU (Memorandum of understanding) that had been signed during a previous meeting to cooperate on the issue of human trafficking, and stated that the Justice Ministers on that occasion had outlined a plan of approach to deal with the issue. She wished the Justice Ministers much success in their deliberations and stated that she hoped for concrete resolutions as to how the countries can cooperate in tackling the evermore complex issue of criminality.
The meeting is held on a regular basis in one of the four countries, and is chaired by the minister of the country where the meeting is held. Richardson spoke of a successful and positive meeting, in which the ministers succeeded in coming to a “positive conclusion” on all of the points on the agenda.
Positive outcomes were the establishment of a workgroup for the evaluation of Kingdom laws, as well as a committee to evaluate and to make recommendations to determine the outcome as a result of the evaluations.
A three-year-plan for the Coast Guard was discussed, as well as police training, and it was agreed that, rather than have a central police training facility, that police officers were to be trained in the country in which they were working.
Further improvements in law enforcement were discussed, including a plan for the coming year for the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team (RST) and plans to improve the prisons, including monitoring progress to ensure compliance with international regulations for prisons.
Richardson said that the meeting was held in a cooperative atmosphere, and that cooperation and understanding was evident in the meeting, which was held between Richardson and Ministers Ivo Opstelten of the Netherlands, Arthur Dowers of Aruba and Nelson Navarro of Curaçao.
Minister Opstelten thanked Minister Richardson for the preparation of an excellent meeting, and said that “Cooperation is the only and best way to be successful against organised crime. Together we stand strong.” He mentioned drug trafficking and human trafficking as priorities, and said that the four countries have to stand shoulder to shoulder to combat crime.
Minister Dowers praised the way that all parties work together in a constructive way to fight crime, and mentioned the benefit of sharing information. He stated that a platform had been established to continue cooperation.
Dennis Richardson used the example of the drug trade to elaborate on the subject of cooperation, between different countries as well as between the agencies in each country.
“The drug trade for the international hemisphere makes around US $80 billion,” he said. “They don’t respect international borders, so one agency cannot deal with this alone.”
When asked how St. Maarten would be able to tackle the issues of drug trafficking and human trafficking when severe cuts have just been announced in the 2014 budget, Richardson responded that choices would have to be made. A choice was made to balance the budget, and to focus on quality development.
To invest in, and to develop the quality of law enforcement, for instance by building a forensic laboratory or by investing in a CCTV (closed-circuit television) camera system is a strategy which, in turn, will lead to a decrease in crime.
“We are dealing with serious cuts, but this is a strategy.” He said. “In the end, our main goal is to catch criminals.”
The next meeting between the ministers of Justice of the Kingdom will be held in June in Curaçao.
Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten