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Code of Conduct signed during Integrity Ceremony

page3b117PHILIPSBURG--The Ministry of Justice and its various departments held a ceremony at University of St. Martin on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the completion of a six-month Justice Integrity Programme that led to the development of a Code of Conduct.

The Code of Conduct, in its introduction, states that it "provides a common framework to perform the important tasks within the field of Justice in a responsible manner and with integrity" and explains that it "applies to all those employed by the Ministry of Justice, both directly and indirectly." Its aim is to raise awareness of the necessity of displaying integrity and to provide employees guidance on dealing with integrity.

The Code of Conduct is based on six key principles of behaviour: Incorruptibility, trustworthiness, perceptibility, being meticulous, fairness and public interest, and expands by giving examples of how to deal with matters such as relationships at work, gifts, favours and bribes, confidential information and side jobs. It also gives a five-step action plan on how to deal with difficult decisions.

The Integrity Programme saw consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) work with members of the various Justice Departments, starting out with a vision on integrity that came to life through the development of materials, the appointment of "persons of confidence" and, more recently, the development of the programme, which consisted of various components, ultimately resulting in the development of the Code of Conduct.

Members of the various organisations contributed to this process through surveys and consultation sessions, and people were trained as facilitators to deliver the programme.

The programme started with an Integrity Training at the Ministry of Justice in April, followed by a number of sessions at the Justice Academy. As a result of the first session, six principles of behaviour were developed. More sessions were dedicated to discussing dilemmas and grey areas, how to reach decisions and where to go for advice.

Sessions were held onsite at the police station, the prison and the Coast Guard headquarters, followed by sessions with the Persons of Confidence and facilitators. Newsletters and surveys were utilised for sharing information and ideas, and a steering committee was instated, consisting of heads of the various departments and a USONA representative. The project was finalised with specific sessions about the Code of Conduct,

Some 80 members of organisations in the Justice System took part in the programme and were awarded certificates in a Justice Integrity Ceremony.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said in opening the ceremony that integrity was a "timely topic." However, she stated that the programme, in which the Ministry of Justice played an important role, had not come about as a result of recent politics. She explained that the necessity of an integrity programme had been recognised both before and since 10-10-10.

"You have reached this far, but there is still a lot to be done," she said, and thanked funding organisation USONA, PWC, those who had recognised the necessity of the programme and those who had participated in it.

The Code of Conduct developed through the Integrity Programme then was presented to her officially by acting Secretary-General Udo Aron.

Ruben Goedkoop of PWC also commented on the programme's timeliness. "No topic is being discussed as much as integrity is today," he said, and emphasised that action is much stronger than words.

"Today, we celebrate an important step in the integrity process. I urge you to utilise this momentum by taking the next step swiftly," he advised those present. He stressed that the Integrity Programme was not related to any Integrity Report and had run independently from any other research or investigation.

He congratulated St. Maarten, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, USONA, the department heads and the participants in the programme.

An explanation was given on the programme, and on how the Code of Conduct had been developed, after which all department heads were called forward to sign and state that their departments would adhere to the new code. Then the names of all those who had participated in the programme were called out and each received a certificate.

UP answers Dutch MPs’ statements, claims would infringe on democracy

~ Calls statements rhetoric~

PHILIPSBURG--The board of the United Peoples (UP) party says it "strongly believes" that the recent statements made by members of the liberal democratic VVD party and Socialist Party (SP) in the Netherlands is "rhetoric," and it "infringes on the fundamentals of St. Maarten's Parliamentary democracy."

The VVD and SP had been very critical of in particular UP leader Theo Heyliger, with both saying they would be calling for an instruction to have a criminal investigation focusing on Heyliger, during the handling of the draft 2015 budget of Kingdom Relations in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday.

UP said in a press release on Wednesday that St. Maarten voters "did not vote for Dutch MPs," adding that "no Dutch politician will determine who governs St. Maarten, our people have that say and our Governor, appointed by the crown, sees the process through."

UP said there had been numerous integrity and corruption cases that Dutch political parties have had to deal with in the past two years alone. "Provincial Councillors hired themselves as their own party workers, Mayors falsified taxes and party deputies have been convicted of corruption, money laundering and fraud for arranging kickbacks. Why is it that in the Netherlands their political parties, commissions and the legal system are allowed to execute due process while the same, in the opinion of a few, is not applicable for St. Maarten?," the release said.

"In the first instance corruption has to be proven under rule of law and integrity accusations justified. There will be no witch hunt simply because two Dutch MP's said there should be. These views by certain Dutch MP's are undemocratic and by calling St. Maarten a banana republic is an insult to all St. Maarteners and the solid foundation of hard work and sacrifice this country has been built on."

According to UP, St. Maarten "continues to be confident in carrying out the integrity programme and that the majority of the recommendations of all three integrity reports, the PwC report, the report that the Wit-Samson Committee drafted in July this year and the integrity report of St. Maarten's General Audit Chamber, would be implemented."

"These sorts of superficial comments by certain Dutch MP's who are not solution oriented serves no purpose other than catering to their base and garnering colourful headlines. We have seen this before throughout the Kingdom by the same Dutch MPs, who, as their statements betray, do not see us as equal partners," the release said.

UP said the incoming Council of Ministers and Parliament should be given the opportunity to govern St. Maarten "without attempts of distraction, childlike insults and character assassination attacks by external influence."

The party said the people of St. Maarten "do not expect us to be distracted by Dutch MP's practicing wilful ignorance... While we look forward to a solid working relationship with the Netherlands and further identifying many areas of cooperation, St. Maarten will defend its right to govern autonomously and will not accept blatant forms of interference by any Kingdom partner."

In the meantime, Second Chamber Member André Bosman of VVD wants an investigation into Heyliger sooner rather than later. He said it could not be that someone gets away with election fraud and bribery. St. Maarten will receive assistance if that is needed to get this done, he noted. "But only on our conditions, which means broad prosecution authority and providing of information. Otherwise it makes no sense. Improvement is in sight for the island, so let's tackle this together."

Second Chamber Member Ronald van Raak (SP) considers it unheard of that "a man who buys votes and possibly even a member of the St. Maarten Parliament" will be taking over power. "A man of whom even the judge says that it is a shame that he is not being prosecuted," he said.

Policy expanded to grant four new casino licences

~ Airport and Harbour to get licences ~

PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ted Richardson has expanded the casino policy to grant four additional casino licences – two for land-based casinos and two for vessels, the minister's Chef de Cabinet Ludwig Ouenniche told The Daily Herald last night.

The Harbour Group of Companies and Princess Juliana International Airport SXM already have submitted applications for casino licences, according to a press release from the minister's cabinet. It said the policy review process had started late last year when Richardson received a request from SXM Airport in October 2013.

Ouenniche said the request was about the possibility for the airport to have a licence to operate a casino facility in the departure hall, after the immigration and security checkpoints. Consultation and discussions started with the relevant departments since then to see how such request could be handled, Ouenniche said.

"This decision was also in line with our collaboration with the Finance Ministry to see ways to increase government income," he added.

After several rounds of consultation, the department then submitted a first draft of the policy amendment in June 2014 that will give the possibility to allow the two ports of entry – harbour and the airport – the possibility to apply for a casino licence. In the case of the harbour, he said this was in keeping with its drive to offer additional activities to cruise visitors, especially to the ones who do not leave the ships.

The harbour also discussed the possibility to have a small entertainment vessel with limited seats to offer tours to the cruise visitors. Ouenniche said a substantial number of visitors did not leave the ships or port premises, while by law the ship's facilities must be closed while berthing at St. Maarten.

He said the only changes to the policy were for the four additional casino licences. The new policy will go into effect after its publication.

Asked whether the change to the policy was in contravention to the motion recently passed by Parliament restricting outgoing ministers from making any long-term decisions that could affect the incoming government, Ouenniche said this was not about issues and matters that were initiated just before the last election. He said the process for the policy had begun in October 2013.

When the same question had been put to Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams earlier in the day during the Council of Ministers press briefing, she said this determination would have to be examined on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration the motivation behind the decision.

"I think the substantiation of decisions would have to prove whether it was something that would be the explanation we have gotten and will be getting from the different ministers. The incoming Parliament and government will have to decide if this was the case or not," she said.

Wescot-Williams said she had "heard on the streets" that changes had been made to the policy and when she enquired from the minister she had been informed that the policy had been expanded to include "other types" of casino licences, although no new licences had yet been granted.

She said she had asked to see exactly what changes had been made, but had not yet seen the document up to yesterday morning. She said Richardson had indicated that the policy had been expanded "for further economic growth" and for "the opening of economic possibility" to include the granting of additional licences to locations that would not be patronised heavily by the resident population.

Wescot-Williams said she had heard reports about "the airport" to this effect and even of a "floating" casino, hence her queries to the minister. She said the casino policy was a prime example of an issue that was a ministerial responsibility and unless it were taken note of "via, via" or as a result of the minister in question bringing it up, the Council of Ministers "will not see it."

Plasterk wants intervention in St. Maarten justice system

page1a116THE HAGUE--A special white-collar crime unit from the Netherlands at the Philipsburg Prosecutor's Office, an Integrity Officer appointed by the Dutch Government, more direct supervision of The Hague on immigration and border protection through the strengthening of the Royal Dutch Marechaussee, National Detectives/RST, Customs Department, the Royal Dutch Navy and the St. Maarten Police Force.

These are the measures that Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk will be proposing for St. Maarten at the next Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting later this month to tackle corruption and to strengthen the integrity of the island government.

Plasterk announced the measures on Wednesday in effort to soothe the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. Several parties in the Second Chamber, including the governing liberal democratic VVD party, demand action by the minister. St. Maarten was the highlight in Wednesday's handling of the draft 2015 Kingdom Relations budget in the Second Chamber.

The measures announced by Plasterk are the result of the findings of the Integrity Inquiry Team of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), published in a report and ordered by the Kingdom Council of Ministers via an instruction to St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday.

In a first reaction to that report, Plasterk told the media that he found its results "disturbing." He said that there was "rottenness in all layers," including in the St. Maarten Government. He said that the report clearly showed the "abuse of power" by members of government. "The situation is very bad. We cannot have that in the Kingdom. Action is needed regardless of which government takes over," he said.

The minister said he hoped to get the support of Philipsburg for these measures though he had not spoken with incumbent St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams yet. "If it is up to me, we will be doing this together. It is in the interest of the St. Maarten people. Measures are necessary and it is going to happen."

The details of Plasterk's proposal still have to be worked out and discussed by the Kingdom Council of Ministers. On Wednesday he told reporters at the Second Chamber that in general he wanted more control on the justice sector in St. Maarten. The measures should go into effect mid-November.

Special unit

The minister proposed setting up a special unit at the Prosecutor's Office which would focus on white collar crime, which includes fraud and corruption also by members of government. The unit would be manned by persons of the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office.

Also new is his proposal to appoint an Integrity Officer who will supervise the implementation of integrity enhancing measures. This person will be appointed by the Netherlands and not by the St. Maarten Government.

Plasterk wants to improve the border control on the island. "It is the external border of the Kingdom." He wants to realise this through the strengthening of the Coast Guard, Royal Dutch Marechaussee, Customs, Royal Dutch Navy and the St. Maarten Police Force, under direct supervision of The Hague.

The Kingdom Cooperation Detective Team RST will attain a permanent base in St. Maarten so it can offer structural assistance to the National Detectives Department. The jurisdiction in St. Maarten will be strengthened as well.

Asked if this meant that St. Maarten was finally be getting the support for its justice sector, a request that had been done almost a year ago, the minister said that the Netherlands would provide the assistance that was needed.

Guarantee function

It is not clear what legal base the Kingdom Council of Ministers will use to implement these measures in St. Maarten. Article 43 of the Kingdom Charter states that good governance is ultimately a responsibility of the Kingdom; the proposed measures can be seen in light of that guarantee function, said Plasterk. "We will not look the other way. We have to do it together in the Kingdom," he told the media.

The minister officially informed the Second Chamber of his proposed measures for St. Maarten during the Kingdom Relations budget debate Wednesday evening. He agreed with the observation of the Second Chamber that there had been signals that things were "not going well" in St. Maarten for several years.

According to Plasterk, the Kingdom Council of Ministers does not have enough confidence that the recommendations of the PwC integrity inquiry report will be sufficiently carried out. "So action will be taken. The Kingdom Government has asked me to come with a proposal."

The minister said the situation in St. Maarten was sufficiently "acute" to warrant measures. "It is so acute that we have decided to proceed with this matter. There cannot be any doubt about good governance in a country. We have to take joint responsibility."

Firm action

Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party said that he was happy that the minister was taking up the matter. "Firm action by the Kingdom Government is needed. It is now up to St. Maarten to seriously get to work and to realise a good and transparent government. If they fail to do so, they should not be surprised that an instruction is given," he said.

Bosman said he supported direct supervision of The Hague on the justice sector in St. Maarten. "Only sending people down there makes no sense. I agree to provide assistance, but only with a clear mandate." Bosman said he was giving St. Maarten six months to get things in order.

Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA said he had confidence in the solid package of measures proposed by the minister. He said it was important to discuss this with the St. Maarten government to create a bearing surface. But, he added, "It is time for a big clean-up in St. Maarten."

Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66 said she too shared the severe concerns about integrity in St. Maarten, but criticised the manner in which Plasterk had gone about the matter. She pointed out that St. Maarten had requested assistance in the justice sector and that this request had not been honoured so far.

Last resort

According to Hachchi, intervention should be the last resort. She questioned whether the minister had done everything possible to avoid this. She said the minister behaved like "an elephant in the porcelain cabinet" and that he allowed things to escalate. She said the minister should work on good relations in the Kingdom throughout the year and not only act in crisis situations.

Peter Oskam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA said he supported the minister's proposed measures. "The debris really needs to be cleared in St. Maarten." He said the additional manpower from the Netherlands was surely a good idea as there were many cases waiting to be investigated.

Gert-Jan Segers of the ChristianUnion (CU) called the situation in St. Maarten "very worrisome. There are indications of bad governance, corruption. The state of law is at stake. This affects the guarantee function of the Netherlands. It is a good thing that the minister is taking action," he said.

Roelof Bisschop of the reformed party SGP said the PwC report gave him the "chills." He said that The Hague had powerfully intervened long time if it had been a Dutch municipality. He called on the minister to establish a Delta Plan for St. Maarten together with the island government. "An integral plan of approach, otherwise the people will continue being the victim of irregularities and bad governance," he said.

Dutch intervene in St. Maarten

THE HAGUE--Minister Plasterk of Kingdom Relations is intervening in St. Maarten. This is after a report done by auditor PwC, examining the integrity within the Government of St. Maarten.
  Plasterk announced that the Public Prosecution is being strengthened to tackle white collar crime and the border control is being taken over by the Netherlands. He called the situation on the island "shocking."
  The additional manpower of the Public Prosecution will focus on corruption in the government and politics. An integrity supervisor will also be able to do independent investigations and serve as a contact to (for example) whistle-blowers.
  The Netherlands is sending additional military police to strengthen the borders and to help fight against drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
Plasterk also intervened in Aruba earlier this year.
  

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