St. Maarten – The Coast Guard had a hand in the deaths of nine people who drowned during a human smuggling transport back in December 2010. At least, this is the opinion of Justice Minister Roland Duncan who repeated yesterday during the budget debate in parliament that St. Maarten is able to manage without the Coast Guard.
The Minister referred to the situation whereby a boat was under observation by the Coast Guard but allowed to leave the island on December 5, 2010. A DASH-8 patrol plane of the Coast Guard that was keeping an eye on the situation had to return to Curacao to refuel. The boat left and then the American authorities were alerted. “They did not arrest them, they chased them,” Duncan said. “The boat ran into a rock and 9 people drowned. The captain was later sentenced to life in prison in the USVI.”
Minister Duncan called the case “a comedy of errors” and he accused the Coast Guard of “failing to involve local authorities like the police and the customs department. “Somewhere along the line they had a hand in the loss of life,” he said. The minister said the failure to work together appears from a report from the National Detective Agency.
The Minister refuted an accusation in the Dutch Telegraaf, about which this newspaper reported, that St. Maarten had not aid its share in the costs for the Coast Guard in 2012. “It was paid on April 2,” Duncan said.
The minister repeated that he wants to get rid of the Coast Guard. “why should we make all these expenses to catch other people’s drugs? They are not destined for St. Maarten; they are destined for the European and American markets. All we are good for is sending our annual contribution.
Duncan said that he refuses to pay more than what he considers St. Maarten’s fair share. “When was the last time you saw a Coast Guard helicopter fly over St. Maarten?” he asked rhetorically.
“I question the coast Guard’s efficiency. Recently a drugs boat was caught 400 kilometers from St. Maarten, but the 3-men crew is sitting in our cells and we have to handle their extradition to the United States.”
The minister said that he wants to install cameras that face the sea and that this will be sufficient protection for the island. “We don’t have radar, because that would cost at least 25 million. But with those cameras we will be able to manage without the Coast Guard.”