THE HAGUE--St. Maarten and the Netherlands, in The Hague on Wednesday evening, reconfirmed their wish to work together to fight organised, undermining crime on the island.
The meeting between St. Maarten Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur and his colleague of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk was deemed “constructive.” Richardson spoke of “open” talks during which parties were able to “speak their mind.”
“I think we can now proceed in a constructive manner,” stated Minister Plasterk.
The two countries committed to execute the May 24, 2015, protocol signed by Richardson and Plasterk to strengthen the law enforcement sector in St. Maarten jointly. In that protocol, the Netherlands pledged, among other things, its support to the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM.
Richardson said in an interview with The Daily Herald and Amigoe newspapers on Thursday that parties had been able to clarify their positions and explain their intentions during the meeting the evening before. “It seemed that our views weren’t that different. The air has been cleared in our view and we can now continue working out the details of the protocol,” he said.
The urgent meeting between Richardson, Plasterk and Van der Steur followed remarks by Dutch National Police Chief Gerard Bouman, who indicated to Richardson and St. Maarten Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs during his visit to St. Maarten in July that he did not wish to cooperate with the KPSM.
In Bouman’s view, the KPSM and the St. Maarten Government were corrupt and as such their cooperation was unnecessary when the Netherlands would send 55 Dutch policemen and detectives to the island in the near future. Bouman’s remarks caused uproar in St. Maarten and were published in the Dutch media.
Richardson said the meeting at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK on Wednesday evening had not been about Bouman and the latter had not been present at the meeting either. “Bouman has a right to his own opinion and vision, but we have a problem if his words reflect that of the Dutch ministers.”
Richardson said he did not worry too much about Bouman’s opinion, but found it much more important to focus on the cooperation with the Netherlands to strengthen the KPSM. He said better communication between the two countries would have prevented what had happened.
Better communication also would benefit the relations with Attorney-General of Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands Guus Schram, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting. The distance to Curaçao where Schram is located is an obstructive factor in the working relations and regular contact with the Attorney-General, said Richardson. He again emphasised that St. Maarten should have its own Attorney-General, just like Aruba and Anguilla.
Richardson said that when the Netherlands has actively given content to the earlier agreement to help strengthen the KPSM, and in anchoring cooperation between the law enforcement agencies and doing this based on cooperation and the sharing of human resources, then would he accommodate the setting up of a separate Criminal Intelligence Unit (CID) for St. Maarten.
“That will happen when the actual cooperation has been secured. That means, as an example, a Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST that consists of detectives of the KPSM and the Netherlands,” he said.
According Richardson, it is important to continue giving content to the May 2015 protocol between St. Maarten and the Netherlands to support the KPSM, amongst other things. He said it was up to the KPSM Police Chief Commissioner to indicate the desired assistance.
Agreements also should be made about the exchange of police personnel at the various departments. “Making people available for the RST, for example, will result in shortages in other departments which will need to be covered,” said Richardson.
In his opinion, the Netherlands should not only make people available for the RST, but also for the Police Force itself. The programme to deploy Dutch policemen to the KPSM, which ended early this year, was a success and should be continued pending the build-up of the capacity of KPSM itself.
Richardson hoped that The Hague would not maintain its focus on corruption and fraud solely, but also would see the need to tackle other forms of crime such as armed robberies and border-transgressing crime.
High impact crimes have a detrimental effect on the local community and could threaten St. Maarten’s main economic pillar, tourism. The signed protocol also allows for assistance in these areas.
In conclusion, Richardson said the St. Maarten Government would stand by its decision that it will receive on a ministerial level only Dutch civil servants who are part of the delegation of the Dutch minister.
Instead, Dutch top civil servants visiting without their minister will meet with their St. Maarten counterparts, as is customary in other countries around the world. He said the perception that St. Maarten would be blocking Dutch civil servants from entering the island was “absolutely incorrect.”