PHILIPSBURG--Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions (WICLU) First Vice President Claire Elshot says the "drama" between Dutch and French law enforcement officers over the carrying of weapons on the side of the island where the officers are not authorised to do so has to stop.
Elshot, who said she has both French and Dutch citizenship, said officers from either side of the island should be allowed to carry their weapon on whichever side they have to, when carrying out their duties.
Elshot's comments came after two of four French St. Martin Police Aux Frontiers (PAF) officers were asked by Dutch St. Maarten police officers to go back to French St. Martin after they were found to have firearms in their possession at SXM Princess Juliana International Airport on Wednesday. The French officers were at the airport in the process of having someone deported.
Wednesday's incident followed an incident on St. Martin/St. Maarten Day when the driver of a public official attending the official celebrations on the French side allegedly was asked to leave the French side because the driver did not have permission to carry a service weapon on that side of the island.
Elshot said the focus should not be on carrying weapons, but on fighting crime and bringing the island back to the days when crime was practically non-existent and people could leave their doors open and know that their homes were safe.
She said that if the laws were antiquated, authorities should address these to enable law enforcement officers to be able to carry their weapons on whichever side of the island they were on. This can be done locally and does not need to involve Europe, she said.
"This thing should stop," Elshot said. "People who wear uniform should respect each other and work together."
She said "seeing this drama" between the French and Dutch sides "hurts my heart."
During the incident that occurred on Wednesday, PAF officers were asked whether they had any permission through the Dutch-side Ministry of Justice to carry their weapons on the Dutch side. The officers said they did not and decided to return to the French side immediately with their weapons, because they did not have the necessary clearance to have their weapons on the Dutch side.
After finalising the deportation process of the person they had brought to the airport, the investigating officers escorted the French officers to their vehicles, which were parked in front of the terminal building.
They saw that during their absence unknown people had punctured one of the tires of each of the vehicles they were driving. The detectives were informed immediately and arrived at the scene to investigate the situation. After having the tires replaced the PAF officers were escorted the border.
Police officers of either side of the island can take their firearms to the other side of the island only if that has been approved in advance.