Published On: Sun, Apr 16th, 2023

StMaartenNews.com exclusive interview with Minister of Justice Anna Richardson

~ In an open and frank conversation the minister talks about the latest developments surrounding the justice workers function books, salary scales and placement positions ~

PHILIPSBURG – In an exclusive interview with StMaartenNews.com, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson had the opportunity to explain the dynamics surrounding the justice workers function books, their legal positions and salary scales and the placement process.

“I’m always grateful for the opportunity to just be alive and be able to positively contribute to the community of St. Maarten.” were the opening statements of the minister as she was welcomed to the interview.

Asked about her term in office and the fact that she is now entering the last year, the minister had the following to say: “I complement this coalition for being able to withstand the turbulence that we’ve experienced thus far. I think that this government has been able to achieve a lot because of the stability that this coalition has brought for St. Maarten. So, I commend on both sides of the spectrum for the opportunity to be in this capacity to serve without interference and looking forward to completing this.”

The Minister of Justice was recently on a working visit to Copenhagen in Denmark for the signing of an agreement with UNOPS regarding the construction of a new prison system on St. Maarten. UNOPS, United Nations Office for Projects Services, is a United Nations agency dedicated to implementing infrastructure and procurement projects for the United Nations system, international financial institutions, governments and other partners around the world. We asked the minister to tell us about this. “This was the next phase and final phase of being able to seal the deal with UNOPS.” she explained. “Having the United Nations work along with our little rock within this world is a great achievement for St. Maarten and opens new opportunities.”

Last year, the Minister of Justice signed the agreement with UNOPS for the St. Maarten to be able to move forward with establishing a new prison facility on the island. With the trip to Denmark, the Minister of Justice accompanied the Prime Minister for the signing of the host country agreement which would enable UNOPS to establish itself on St. Maarten to proceed with its first project and that being the establishment of our new prison facility.

This led to the question for an update on the prison situation in terms of the function book, a situation that not only affects the prison, but all the departments within the justice chain as well. “I’m happy that you stated it like that because some were under the impression that it was only for the police. But as Minister of Justice, I have a responsibility to the entire law enforcement structure. Indeed, that does incorporate the prison facility, because one of the things that I need the public to understand is that every agency within the Ministry of Justice is valued. Each and every one of these agencies has a role and responsibility within our justice chain and to the community of St. Maarten in terms of law enforcement, safety and security.”

The minister explained that the function book is for the entire Ministry of Justice with all the relevant departments within the organization. The exception is the Court of Guardianship because the LIOL (Landsverordening Inrichting en Organisatie Landsoverheid), the national ordinance on structure and organization for that entity, has to be updated.

“That is a whole legislative process that has to go to Parliament to finally incorporate an agency such as the Court of Guardianship that does fall under the Ministry of Justice, but just on a foundation aspect. So, we’re busy trying to change that.”

“But overall speaking, the function book is about establishing the description of everyone’s function and what weight that carries. The ministry has never had that, and it was approved in December 2021 by His Excellency and my person in this capacity. But it is pending to be activated or enacted, which will accompany the new police law. And I say new because the police do have a law. It is the Rechtspositie KPNA that the court has removed, and it is now KPSM that is currently active.”

“What we are introducing now and seek to be signed by the Governor, within short, is the ‘rechtspositie’ or the police law for all agencies that have police tasks, so that incorporates KPSM, Landsrecherche and the aspect of the mobile unit and immigration at our borders. And then eventually, we want to incorporate Customs Department as well as the Prison because prison guards as well are outfitted with weapons. And anyone who’s carrying out such tasks should be incorporated in the structural benefits that come under the new police law. So that is where we are in establishing the function book.

Asked to confirm that her ministry is one of the biggest ministries on the island, the minister confirmed that there are over 700 persons within nine departments. “But there are also subparts that also fall under the ministry.” the minister explained further. “Those are foundations that also get subsidies directly from the Ministry of Justice. So, for example, our probation department is not particularly a department, but it is subsidized solely by the Ministry of Justice.

Below you can watch the full interview recording at your convenience.

In a part two of our review of the interview, we will look at the endeavors of the Minister of Justice, Anna Richardson, to make sure that the justice workers be fully and fairly compensated.

To be continued…. Part 2 – Minister Richardson: “My intention is that the staff will be fairly compensated”